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1 John 1:5-2:2: Confession and Forgiveness
Individuals: Take time to think back about your past week. Where have you seen God work in your life or answer prayer? Write down any prayer requests you have.
Group: Open the study by sharing life updates, reviewing highs and lows of your past week, or sharing prayer requests and praises.
Icebreaker: When was a time in your life that you knew you made a mistake or sinned, but you refused to admit it?
All: Begin the study with a word of prayer, asking God to open your heart for today’s study. You can also pray for any prayer requests now, or save that for the end.
Read today’s passage: 1 John 1:5-2:2.
5 This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. 6 If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.
8 If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us.
1 My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. 2 He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.
What is the context for this passage?
1 John was written by John, one of Jesus’s apostles. He also wrote the Gospel of John, 2 John, 3 John, and Revelation. The book of 1 John wasn’t written to any particular church or person, as Paul’s letters often were, but many churches would have read this letter. This letter was written later in John’s life, and many of the other apostles had already been martyred. Therefore, anything John wrote would have been highly received by the Christian churches.
The book of 1 John starts very similarly to the Gospel of John—from the very beginning.
John 1:1: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
1 John 1:1: That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life.
Both books then both go on to talk about God as the light.
John 1:4-5: 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
1 John 1:5: This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all.
What other similarities do you see between John 1 and 1 John 1?
Read the passage again.
Explore a different version if you have one available. If you are online, here is 1 John 1 in NIV through Bible Gateway. You can change the version by using the dropdown menu at the top right of the page.
Try to summarize the passage in your own words.
Answer these three questions about the passage:
1. What does the passage say about God?
God gives his people a message to share (1:5). Even though God could reach out to each individual person himself and invite them to follow him, he gives that responsibility to humans. He has entrusted his people—Christians—with the message of Christ’s atoning sacrifice for our sins. Our responsibility is to share that message with others.
God is light (1:5). We often associate light with good and dark with evil. One reason for this is that God is both purely light and purely good. He has no darkness and no evil in him. The only way we can have fellowship with God is to also walk in the light and to stay away from sin.
Jesus’s blood purifies us from sin (1:7). Just as the sacrifices of a perfect animal temporarily atoned for the sins of the Israelites, Jesus’s blood purifies us from sin. However, because Jesus was the perfect sacrifice, his blood covers the sins of all people for all time. This passage tells us that Jesus’s blood will purify us from sin if we walk in God’s light.
God is faithful (1:9). When God says he is going to do something, you can count on him to follow through. In this passage, that means that if God says he will forgive your sins when you confess, then he will forgive them. There are no qualifications on this. It doesn’t say that he only forgives the little sins, or only those that fall within his approved categories. This means that if you confess, he will forgive, no matter what your sin is. Big or small, he will forgive.
God is just (1:9). When we think about God being just, we think that God will give each person the rewards or punishment they deserve based on their actions. In our court system (in the U.S.), if we confess to breaking the law, we receive the just punishment for that in terms of a fine, a jail or prison sentence, or some other punishment. In this passage, we find that part of God’s justice is that when we confess our sins, his just response to that confession is not punishment. It is forgiveness. God certainly has a different system of justice than we do!
God is forgiving (1:9). Even though God cannot leave sin unpunished, he also has a desire to reconcile with his people. Therefore, God is also forgiving. If anyone is covered by the blood of Christ, who has atoned for our sins, then God will forgive their sins and walk with them in the light.
Jesus is our righteous advocate before God (2:1). If we would stand before God in our present state, he would see our sin and punish us accordingly. However, someone stands between us and God—Jesus. If we have made Jesus Lord of our lives, as we saw in last week’s study, then Jesus will approach God on our behalf. God will see Jesus’s righteousness instead of our sin, and we will stand as righteous before God.
Jesus is the atoning sacrifice for the sins of the whole world (2:2). We discussed earlier that Jesus was the perfect sacrifice for sins. This sacrifice was powerful enough to cover the sins of the whole world, if only we will accept that sacrifice on our behalf.
2. What does the passage say about people?
People have the responsibility to share God’s message (1:5). God has entrusted his message of the good news of Jesus Christ to his people. God could have chosen so many other ways to spread his message, but he chose us. We have the responsibility to share this message with others. Other people are the only things we can bring with us into eternity.
People who continue to intentionally sin after they claim to follow Christ are not living in the truth (1:6). Many people say they believe in God, or even that they believe in Jesus, but their lives do not reflect this belief. They continue to live their lives as if they don’t believe—as if their sins have no consequences. The Bible calls these people “lukewarm,” and it says that God will spit them out of his mouth (Revelation 3:16). If the word of God does not cause you to change your life and leave your sin behind, then you are not living in the truth.
People who claim to be without sin are lying and are calling God a liar (1:8, 10). Many people in today’s society freely live a life of sin (according to what the Scriptures call sinful), and if we speak against that lifestyle, then we are intolerant and hateful. They won’t admit that what they are doing is a sin, and they don’t like to hear other people call it a sin. Sounds like not much has changed in the hearts of people since Bible times! If we live a life of sin but refuse to call it sin, then we are calling God a liar. The Bible states that God is truth, so we are clearly the ones in the wrong here.
People who confess their sins will be forgiven (vs. 9). We already know from above that God is a forgiving God. But he won’t forgive that sin if we won’t admit that we are sinners and confess that sin to him. However, if we do confess our sin, we can be assured that God will forgive.
People who claim to be without sin do not follow God’s word (1:10). One mark of walking in the dark and not following God’s word is if we will not admit our own sin. If we think that what we are doing is not sin, then we are not recognizing the truth of God’s word. This disbelief in God’s word becomes a barrier to being reconciled to God.
People who follow God should do their best to not sin (2:1). Just as we saw in our studies on Romans 5 and Romans 6, being assured of God’s forgiveness if we confess our sins does not give us permission to not even try to not sin. If we are truly wanting to follow God, then our lives should reflect that by turning away from sin.
Because we are humans, we will inevitably sin (2:1). God knows us all too well. He knows that as long as we are humans living in a broken world, we will inevitably sin. That’s why he has a contingency plan for that. He gave us an advocate in Jesus, who will speak to God on our behalf when we do sin.
3. What does the passage say about God’s plan?
God’s plan is that we cannot both follow him and continue to live in sin (1:5, 2:1). If we choose to follow God, we should turn away from our sin. If we continue to live in sin willingly, then we are not truly following God. God demands that we choose one or the other.
God’s plan is for Christians to live in fellowship with one another (1:7). The Christian life was meant to be lived together with other believers. We are not intended to live life alone. We need the encouragement, support, and teaching from other believers.
God’s plan is that people who confess their sins to God will be forgiven and purified (1:9). The only way that sinful humans can live in a right relationship with God is for them to be pure and righteous. We cannot do this on our own because we are sinful and have no power to remove our sins. However, if we confess our sins, God will do the work of forgiving those sins and purifying us as if they had never happened.
God’s plan is that when his people sin, he has provided an advocate to speak for us (2:1). Because we are not holy and righteous, we cannot approach God’s throne on our own. However, God has provided someone who is righteous to speak to him on our behalf. When we confess our sins, Jesus, our advocate, implores God to see his righteousness rather than our sin. And when Jesus speaks for us, God will do whatever he asks.
How does the passage fit into the overarching story of the Bible?
Sometimes it’s easier to understand a passage if you have a little outside knowledge from other passages in the Bible. This section will help provide that outside perspective.
Many of the themes we see in this week’s passage are the same as we’ve seen in other passages in this series. Themes such as light vs. dark, righteous vs. unrighteous, sin and atonement. I won’t go into those these much here because we’ve already discussed them. But there is one theme we haven’t talked about much—forgiveness.
What do we learn about forgiveness from this passage? First, we have to be honest with ourselves about the sin in our lives. If we refuse to admit, even to ourselves, that we are sinful, then we are stuck in our sin. Second, we need to confess those sins to God. We must admit before the Almighty and Righteous God that we have not measured up to his standard.
And you know what happens then? Not condemnation. Not punishment. Amazingly, we find forgiveness. We find that he wipes away all of those sins and purifies us from them. He does this because we have an advocate—Jesus, the Righteous One—who stands before God and speaks on our behalf. I don’t know about you, but when I think about the sin in my life, both past and present, I am completely humbled by this Savior who speaks on my behalf before God.
Individual: Answer the following questions thoughtfully for yourself.
Group: Pose these questions for discussion.
All: If you are willing to share, I’d love to hear your thoughts to these questions. Feel free to use the comment section to start a discussion about this passage.
What else strikes you about this passage?
How does the passage affect how you view God? How you view yourself?
How does this passage affect how you will live your life?
For additional study related to this topic, read John 1:1-18.
For Bible Essential studies, you can use my thoughts as your devotional, or you can download and use the journaling sheet to work through the passage on your own. If desired, you can then compare your thoughts to mine. Journal sheets can be downloaded and used now or later. They can be printed and filled in by hand or saved and filled out electronically. Journal sheets are available for individual or group use.
If you plan to lead a group study, a PowerPoint presentation is also available.
You can access these resources by clicking here: 1 John 1 Resources
Lesson 20: Acts 2:1-47: Giving of the Holy Spirit
The last lesson in this series is a repeat. However, when I originally wrote this lesson, my focus was on the giving of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. This time, I want you to focus on something different—the command to repent in Acts 2:38. The passage in 1 John that we just studied tells us we must confess our sins in order to be forgiven—we must admit our sins to God. Acts 2 tells us to go one step further: repent. Repentance doesn’t just mean to confess you’ve sinned. It also means that you want to turn away from your sin and follow a different path.
This ties in nicely with what we learned in 1 John—we cannot follow God and continue to live in sin. When we know the truth about what Jesus has done for us, it should transform our lives. We should not be living in darkness anymore. We should desire to walk in the light. And when we walk in the light, we should also desire to stay away from sin. We should be done with sin—we repent and walk away from the sins that once held us captive. This is the freedom we receive when we follow Christ.