by Shawn Brasseaux
The Bible says, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9 KJV). Should we believers in this the Dispensation of Grace practice this verse? Must we keep “short sin accounts,” as religion claims? Do we have to confess our sins to be saved? Must we Christians confess our sins daily to keep fellowship with God? If so, must we confess our sins to a preacher or priest, or to God? Let us be Bereans, and search the Scriptures to see whether these things are so (Acts 17:10,11)!
Before we attempt to follow 1 John 1:9, we must first consider who John is and why he wrote what he did. The greatest blunder of the professing Church the Body of Christ has been to use the Bible, but not to rightly divide it. To “name and claim” verses, but to ignore their context (author, audience, dispensation, et cetera). To fail to understand the divisions God has made in His Word, and to combine all of the Bible’s instructions to result in one giant mass of confusion!
“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15 KJV). All of the Bible is for us, but not all of the Bible is to us or about us. Dispensational Bible study is the key to understanding 1 John 1:9.
PAUL, NOT JOHN, IS OUR APOSTLE
The Bible tells us in Romans 11:13 KJV that Paul is our apostle: “For I speak to you Gentiles, inasmuch as I am the apostle of the Gentiles, I magnify mine office:”
God’s spokesman to us is not Matthew, Mark, Luke, John (Christ’s earthly ministry), and it is not Peter and the eleven. The man God sent to us is the Apostle Paul.
Paul wrote, “If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord” (1 Corinthians 14:37). The test for spirituality today is not how often one prays, gives, or attends church. According to the Bible, a spiritual person in this the Dispensation of Grace will acknowledge that God’s instructions for us are the Pauline epistles, Romans through Philemon. Just because you follow the Bible does not mean you are spiritual. You are spiritual only if you follow the Apostle Paul as he follows Christ (cf. 1 Corinthians 11:1).
Circa A.D. 51, James, Peter, and John met with Paul and Barnabas in Jerusalem. They reached an agreement, as found in Galatians 2:9: “And when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given unto me, they gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship; that we should go unto the heathen, and they unto the circumcision.” Paul and Barnabas would go to “the heathen” (this is not simply Gentiles, but unbelieving Jews too) and James, Peter, and John would go to “the circumcision” (these are born-again Jews).
When we come to the little epistle of 1 John, we see that John is not writing to us Gentiles. He is writing to Jews. Dispensationally speaking, John is writing to Jews living beyond our present-day (post-Dispensation of Grace). John is not our apostle, so this is the primary reason why we do not practice 1 John 1:9.
WE ARE ALREADY FORGIVEN IN CHRIST
We have no need whatsoever to confess our sins to anyone, to God or to men (a priest or preacher). According to the Gospel of the Grace of God, our salvation and fellowship with God are independent of our performance. We are forgiven in Christ, apart from anything we have done.
In Colossians 2:13, our Apostle Paul explains that we are “forgiven of all trespasses [in Christ].” Ephesians 4:32 says, “God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.” We are forgiven (past tense), not because we confess our sins, but because of Christ’s finished cross work on Calvary. In Christ, we have unbroken fellowship with God forever and ever. To say that we have to do something to gain God’s forgiveness—in this case, confess our sins—is to make void (cancel) God’s grace. Grace what God can do for you because you can do nothing for God. God has already paid for all of our sins, so why rehash them over and over again? How many times can we be forgiven of “all unrighteousness?” Only once.
In Christ, now and forever, we are forgiven of all sins—past, present, and future!
SO, WHAT IS 1 JOHN 1:9 ACTUALLY TEACHING?
What John wrote about in 1 John 1:9 was nothing new for Israel. Confession of sins was Israel’s doctrine under the Mosaic Law.
In Leviticus chapter 26, the LORD warned Israel: “But if ye will not hearken unto me, and will not do all these commandments; and if ye shall despise my statutes, or if your soul abhor my judgments, so that ye will not do all my commandments, but that ye break my covenant: I also will do this unto you…” (verses 14-16a KJV).
From verse 16 and following, God lays out a five-fold plan of chastisement and judgment (punishment) for Israel’s breaking the Mosaic Covenant of Law. The LORD clearly instructed Israel regarding the “fifth course of judgment” in verses 38-42:
“38 And ye shall perish among the heathen, and the land of your enemies shall eat you up.
39 And they that are left of you shall pine away in their iniquity in your enemies’ lands; and also in the iniquities of their fathers shall they pine away with them.
40 If they shall confess their iniquity, and the iniquity of their fathers, with their trespass which they trespassed against me, and that also they have walked contrary unto me;
41 And that I also have walked contrary unto them, and have brought them into the land of their enemies; if then their uncircumcised hearts be humbled, and they then accept of the punishment of their iniquity:
42 Then will I remember my covenant with Jacob, and also my covenant with Isaac, and also my covenant with Abraham will I remember; and I will remember the land.”
The final series of judgment on wicked Israel would involve deportation (exile) into foreign/Gentile lands (Leviticus 26:27-46, the context of the above verses.)
Gentile armies would come and destroy Israel and scatter the Jews amongst the nations. If Israel would acknowledge and confess her sins (that is, breaking the Mosaic Covenant), then God would restore national Israel to fellowship and bring them back into the Promised Land (verses 40-42).
Daniel, while Israel is deported amongst the Medes, prayed and confessed his sins and the sins of Israel (Daniel 9:3-20, particularly verses 5-7,10,11,16, and especially verse 20). Ezra and Nehemiah, during the Persian exile, did the same as Daniel (Ezra 9:5–10:3; Nehemiah 1:4-11). In Nehemiah 9:1-3, repentant Jews confessed their sins and the sins of their fathers.
Even in the “New Testament,” Jews who admit their national failure to keep the Old (Mosaic) Covenant confess their sins and are baptized of John the Baptist (Matthew 3:6; Mark 1:5): Israel is under the fifth course of judgment by the time of John the Baptist. This is where 1 John 1:9 fits.
There are two groups of people in 1 John: some saved (forgiven), and some lost (not forgiven). In 1 John 1:9 John urges lost Jews to confess their sin of breaking the Old Covenant, so they can receive salvation (entrance into Christ’s earthly kingdom): this is exactly what John the Baptist preached.
To those Jews who had trusted Jesus Christ as Messiah-King, John wrote, “I write unto you, little children, because your sins are forgiven you for his name’s sake” (1 John 2:12). Thus, 1 John 1:9 is not a practice for any believers, Jew or Gentile. It is for lost Jews because it is Israel’s plan of salvation in her prophetic (kingdom) program.
In addition, we Gentiles have never had any covenants with God (Ephesians 2:11,12). Consequently, it would be utterly pointless for us to confess our sin of breaking the Old Covenant like Israel did. Again, 1 John 1:9 is not written to saved Gentiles—it is written to lost Jews.
When we approach the Bible dispensationally, we understand that 1 John 1:9 has nothing to do with us. John is not writing to us Gentiles in the Dispensation of Grace (mystery program). He is writing to the nation Israel in the prophetic program (Galatians 2:9. Paul, not John, is God’s spokesman to us (Romans 11:13): Paul never tells us to confess our sins (for salvation or for fellowship). Furthermore, 1 John 1:9 is not written to saved people; it is directed to lost Jews (see 1 John 2:12).
In this the Dispensation of Grace, we understand that Christ Jesus has already dealt with our sins fully and completely at Calvary’s cross. Why do we have to confess our sins for forgiveness if Christ Jesus already forgave us of all of them at Calvary? We do not, for 1 John 1:9 is not for us to follow.