by Shawn Brasseaux
How should Christians handle sin? What are we to do when tempted to sin? After we do something wrong, should we confess to God (or a priest) in order to get God’s forgiveness? These are the questions we want to consider in this week’s Bible study.
Just recently, a woman who professes Christ told me she no longer sins. As I talked with her, she explained to me that it was “her flesh” that sinned. She, on the other hand, did not sin. (?) What is equally absurd is when others avoid taking responsibility for their actions by saying “the devil made me do it.” No one wants to be held accountable for evil things they do; they blame the devil or “their flesh” for their sin, but their prideful attitude refuses to acknowledge they sin. (Tell me if I am wrong, but is not lying a sin?)
So, what should we do when we sin (and yes, we Christians sin too!)? Ask the common professing Christian, and immediately they mention 1 John 1:9 KJV: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” As the saying goes in religion: “Keep short sin accounts, or God is going to judge you for any unconfessed sin!” Years ago, I went to a church where that was taught. But, what if I told you that the true meaning of 1 John 1:9 had nothing at all to do with “short sin accounts?”
We need to apply the principle of “right division” (dispensational Bible study). The epistle of 1 John is written by the Apostle John, one of the twelve men the Lord sent to the nation Israel (Matthew 10:5-7; Galatians 2:9). John is an apostle of Israel; he had no ministry to the Body of Christ or to the Gentiles. Whatever John writes is not directed to us in this the Dispensation of Grace. He is writing to Israel. My first point is that 1 John 1:9 has absolutely nothing to do with anyone today. It was for the Jews of time past.
The second point I want to make in regards to 1 John 1:9 is that it is not written to Jewish believers. It is written to Jewish unbelievers. Compare the verse with Matthew 3:6: “And were baptized of him in Jordan, confessing their sins.” If a Jew wanted to receive salvation in that kingdom program/economy, one of the requirements was he or she had to confess his or her sins. John is writing this verse for the benefit of those Jews who are not saved (those Jews that have not yet embraced Jesus of Nazareth as their Messiah/King). They were to confess their sin of breaking God’s Old Covenant (see Leviticus 26:40-42; 1 Kings 8:33-35; 2 Chronicles 6:24-27; 2 Chronicles 30:22; Ezra 9:10-15; Ezra 10:1; Nehemiah 1:4-11; Nehemiah 9:1-3; Daniel 9:3-20).
Now that we have dispelled the myth of religion’s “short sin accounts,” it is tantamount for us to look into the Scriptures to see what verses are written to us as members of the Church the Body of Christ. Israel and her prophetic program are currently suspended. Paul is God’s spokesman to non-Jews; he is our apostle (Romans 11:13; Romans 15:16; 2 Timothy 1:11). If we want to understand what we should do when we are confronted with sin, or what we should do after we sin, we need to see what Paul writes. In the Pauline epistles alone we find what God says to us today as members of the Body of Christ living in this the Dispensation of Grace.
Five times, Paul writes that God the Father has already forgiven (past tense) us our sins for Christ’s sake. We are not worthy of forgiveness because of our good deeds, but we are forgiven because the Lord Jesus died and shed His blood for us!
- Ephesians 1:7 KJV: “In whom [the Lord Jesus Christ] we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace;”
- Ephesians 4:32 KJV: “And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.”
- Colossians 1:14 KJV: “In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins:”
- Colossians 2:13 KJV: “And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses;”
- Colossians 3:13 KJV: “Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.”
If we are already forgiven in Christ, and we are, then there is no reason to practice 1 John 1:9. Do not let religion convince you that you need to do something to gain forgiveness or that you need to get in right standing with God. Jesus Christ already did everything needed for your forgiveness—you play no role whatsoever in your forgiveness! You have nothing to confess (to a priest or to God), because you are under the blood of Christ: your relationship with God solely depends of Jesus Christ’s finished work on Calvary. Understand that 1 John 1:9 has nothing to do with us. Remember also that grace is not license to sin (Romans 6:1,2).
Now, what about repentance? We hear religionists scream about repentance (or its variation “penance” or “penitence”). The Protestant doctrine “penitence” means, “to feel sorry for one’s sins.” The Roman Catholic sacrament of “penance,” or “suffering/paying for your sins,” is also found in religion. Neither the Protestant nor the Catholic view is correct. Biblical repentance is “a change in mind”—Biblical repentance is not penance or penitence.
When a Christian is confronted with the option to sin, or has already sinned, he or she needs to repent. Please keep in mind when I say, “repent,” I am referring to God’s definition of repentance—not some religious definition. Paul defines repentance in two places. First, Romans 12:2 KJV: “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” And Ephesians 4:23 KJV: “And be renewed in the spirit of your mind;”
We sin because we are sinners. Negative thoughts/bad thinking processes will result in sin. Our natural minds are corrupt, so we need an outside source on which to think. If we dwell on the things that are listed in Philippians 4:8, this will build sound doctrine in our inner man: “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.”
If we genuinely place our faith in Galatians 5:24,25 KJV, we will walk in the Spirit: “And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.” As long as we place our faith in verses such as those two, we will not sin (Galatians 5:16). We sin whenever we allow the old man, the sin nature, to rule us. As long as we allow the Holy Spirit to accomplish His will in our inner man, we will not walk in the flesh and sin.
I am sure you are familiar with the “circus” going on in Corinth. These believers were acting worst than lost pagan Gentiles, so Paul had to write an epistle to admonish them. When we come to 2 Corinthians, some time has passed since the first letter, and Titus has since told Paul that the Corinthians repented. Turn to 2 Corinthians 7:8-11 KJV:
“8 For though I made you sorry with a letter, I do not repent, though I did repent: for I perceive that the same epistle hath made you sorry, though it were but for a season.
9 Now I rejoice, not that ye were made sorry, but that ye sorrowed to repentance: for ye were made sorry after a godly manner, that ye might receive damage by us in nothing.
10 For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death.
11 For behold this selfsame thing, that ye sorrowed after a godly sort, what carefulness it wrought in you, yea, what clearing of yourselves, yea, what indignation, yea, what fear, yea, what vehement desire, yea, what zeal, yea, what revenge! In all things ye have approved yourselves to be clear in this matter.”
Notice these Corinthians had a “godly sorrow.” This was not feeling sorry for their sins (“worldly sorrow” that leads to “death”). It was not confessing their sins and then paying for their sins through self-denial (fasting, for instance). “Godly sorrow” will lead to God’s Word transforming your inner man as you place your faith in it! In the passage above, repentance will lead to salvation. Now, “salvation” here does not mean eternal salvation, because the Corinthians were already saved (1 Corinthians 1:1:6-10). This is referring to salvation from defeat, intense sorrow, and self-pity. The behavior of the Corinthians suddenly changed because they placed their faith in the letter Paul wrote to them regarding their behavior! This is Biblical repentance.
So, if you are a child of God today, and you are a member of the Body of Christ who has completely trusted in Paul’s Gospel of Grace (Christ Jesus crucified for your sins, buried, and raised again for your justification; 1 Corinthians 15:1-4)….
- WHAT SHOULD YOU DO WHEN TEMPTED TO SIN? Stop, and contemplate on sound doctrine. Remember what you read in Galatians 5:24,25. Philippians 4:8 is another good verse to use. Thinking on and placing your faith in sound doctrine will allow the Holy Spirit to lead you to do right. When you begin to doubt what God said, you go back to the negative sinful thinking habits you have inherited from Adam, and then the sinful act begins. It seems impossible to resist sin, but you can do it with God’s help! Trust in the Lord.
- WHAT SHOULD YOU DO AFTER YOU SIN? Do not practice 1 John 1:9. God has already forgiven you all trespasses. You have nothing to confess because Jesus Christ’s righteousness has been applied to your account. You are blameless in God’s eyes because you are in His Son. Remember, grace is not license to sin!! After you sin, you need to view the sin as God does: DO NOT BEAT YOURSELF UP. “Man, what a dumb move that was. This is exactly why God had to die for me! I need to let the Holy Spirit work in me; if I am to be an ambassador for Christ, I need to let Christ live His life in me. I am dead to sin, and alive unto God: my life needs to reflect the sound doctrine in God’s Word rightly divided.”