“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)
The Bible says unmistakably in many places that one who receives Jesus as Saviour has eternal forgiveness for all sins: past, present, and future. Colossians 1:14 is one such place: “In whom [Jesus] we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins:”
Jesus offered “…one sacrifice for sins for ever,” (Hebrews 10:12) That phrase means exactly what it says: ONE sacrifice for all sins FOR EVER. So one who has received Jesus as Saviour can rest in the truth of God’s Word that all his sins are eternally forgiven. Thank God!
So why does John say in this verse that God forgives us our sins and cleanses us from all unrighteousness IF we confess sins? This verse is not a contradiction. The Bible actually talks about two senses of forgiveness: eternal forgiveness and earthly forgiveness.
Eternal forgiveness is what people get when they receive Jesus as Saviour. That means they are no longer condemned to hell for their sins. Colossians 1:14 refers to eternal forgiveness. So does John 5:24, which says one who believes on Jesus as Saviour “…hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.” Ephesians 1:7 and 1 John 2:12, which you can look up, are also plain statements of eternal forgiveness through Jesus.
One who receives Jesus as Saviour also becomes a child of God: “For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:26) So by receiving Jesus as Saviour, we have a relationship with God as our heavenly Father. Yet we also, unfortunately, still have a sinful nature.
This is where earthly forgiveness comes in. When a Christian sins, he does not lose salvation or his relationship with God, but he loses his fellowship. The Christian life is to be characterized by fellowship with God: “God is faithful, by whom ye were called unto the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord.” (1 Corinthians 1:9) We have fellowship with our Saviour by reading and meditating on His Word, by prayer, and by serving Him and sharing the gospel with others.
Yet when we sin, we still offend a holy God: “Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil, and canst not look on iniquity:” (Habakkuk 1:13) When we sin, things aren’t right between us and God. If a kid mouths off to Mom or Dad, he’s still their kid, but things aren’t right between them until he apologizes. In the same way, when we sin against God, we need to ask His forgiveness. Our verse assures us that God does forgive us and cleanse us when we confess sin.
Now some may wonder, “If my sin won’t send me to hell, why can I not just enjoy sin?” Good question. The Bible has answers which can be discussed in another essay. Meanwhile, if you want to know how to have eternal forgiveness of sins, please go to www.clevelandbaptist.org, click “Helpful Links,” then “How Do I Go to Heaven?”
Brian Miller 8/26/2021
Cleveland Baptist Church 4431 Tiedeman Road, Brooklyn, Ohio 44144 216/671-2822