Confession of Sins, 1 John 1:9

1 John 1:9 – The Confession of Your Sins

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1 Peter 3:15, “But sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence.”

As it does from time to time, the Doctrine of The Confession of Sins for the believer in Jesus Christ based on the application of 1 John 1:9, has come under attack once again. Some call this the Doctrine of Rebound. Because of the significance of this Doctrine to every aspect of the spiritual life, it is out of love that I present the following, in the hopes that all will come to have an understanding of 1 John 1:9 and its correct application.

1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

What Did Jesus Say About Confession of Sin?

In Mat 6:9-13, the Lord clearly taught the necessity for the confession of our sins. This is our Lord’s “template” prayer as it were, as He instructed in vs. 9, “Pray, then, in this way.” It has been misnomered as “the Lord’s Prayer.” Even though Mat 5-7 is teaching about “kingdom life,” R.B. Thieme Jr. correctly states in his teaching on Mat 6, “Matthew chapter six is really a prophecy which anticipates the Church Age as well as briefing the disciples with regard to the operation of serving the Lord. In this chapter, we have a subject primarily for those who have personally accepted Christ as savior, and that is service. This is the application: if you are a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ you are in full time Christian service whatever you do in life.”

In verse 12 our Lord said, “And forgive us our debts.” Our “debts” refers to the sins we commit, post salvation. The point in this template for prayer is that the believer’s post salvation/conversion sins are forgiven. He is clearly teaching the confession of sins for the believer, (not for salvation), and uses the same Greek word for forgiveness, APHIEMI as does John in 1 John 1:9. Keep in mind that our sins were paid for at the Cross once and for all time, and the confession of your sins in 1 John 1:9 is a reminder of that fact.

Keep in mind that our sins were paid for at the Cross once and for all time, and the confession of your sins in 1 John 1:9 is a reminder of that fact.

Jesus also illustrates confession of sin and the extraordinary forgiveness of God in the parable of the prodigal son in Luke 15.11-32. In verse 18 the prodigal son says, ““I will get up and go to my father, and will say to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in your sight.” This is the son’s prayer of the confession of his sins, (i.e., Rebound). If this passage is speaking of the unbeliever who repents for salvation, then you must also say that in order to be saved, we must confess our sins for salvation, as some say 1 John 1:9 does. However, there is only one command for the unsaved, namely believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, John 3:16-18; Acts 16:30-31.

Later, in the Upper Room 0n the night before Jesus went to the Cross, as He was instructing His disciples and preparing them for the Church Age, He washed their feet. Remember what our Lord told Peter and the other disciples in the Upper Room on that Passover night in which he was betrayed in John 13:10-11, “Jesus said to him (Peter), “He who has bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean; and you are clean, but not all of you.” 11For He knew the one who was betraying Him; for this reason He said, “Not all of you are clean.”

Although this passage was clearly instructing them to serve one another, there is a lesson within the lesson. Here our Lord used two distinct words, LOUO for “bathed” and NIPTO for “wash.” This is the distinction. The unbeliever needs a bath, that is, to be cleansed from all their sins. That occurs when he accepts Christ as His Savior. Yet, the believer needs only to wash his feet. Why? Well, even though he has salvation, he still has a sin nature, and he still sins on a daily basis. When we sin, we are picking up the filth of our Old Sin Nature and Satan’s Cosmic System. To be cleansed of the filth and garbage, the believer needs to only wash his feet. The unbeliever first needs a LOUO for the cleansing of his body – Salvation, but clearly the believer needs a NIPTO for the cleansing of the filth picked up in his daily walk – post-salvation / post-conversion.

In John 13, “you don’t need a bath – LOUO” (means you are already Positionally Sanctified), but “you do need Me to wash your feet – NIPTO” (for Experiential Sanctification), and “as I have done to you, do to each other” (AGAPE Love).

John 13:14-15, “If I then, the Lord and the Teacher, washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15“For I gave you an example that you also should do as I did to you.”

Notice Jesus says “Lord and Teacher.” Here He is acting in two ways, first as our “Lord,” who is the only one who can forgive and cleanse our sins, and secondly as “Teacher,” to instruct them as to what they need to do to each other.

This is the same picture and same lesson as taught in Mat 6. The Lord washes the dirt we pick up in our daily walk off our feet (our sins), as the result of confessing our sins to the Father. We in turn are to forgive each other. This is in line with our Lord’s “template” for prayer, and we are able to do both because of the Union/Position we have in Christ based on His completed work upon the Cross. (See commentary on this by L.S. Chafer below.)

In addition, in our Lord’s Parable about the “Prodigal Son” in Luke 15, He identified how restoration of fellowship occurs between a righteous father and a wayward (sinning) son.

Luke 15:18, “I will get up and go to my father, and will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in your sight.”

And again, in Luke 15:21a, “And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight’.”

So, our Lord taught on the necessity to confess our sins to God the Father.

What Does the Old Testament Say About Confession of Sins?

The confession of sins for forgiveness is not a doctrine exclusive to the Church Age and New Testament, or to any other Age for that matter, except for the eternal state, when we will never again have to. It is a universal doctrine. Numerous passages in the Old Testament point to the believer to confess their sins to God. Here are a few.

The Law taught confession of sinLev 5:5, “So it shall be when he becomes guilty in one of these, that he shall confess that in which he has sinned.” Cf. Lev 16:21; 26:40; Numb 5:7. These are typology for the confession of sin for the Church Age believer.

David acknowledged confession of sin in Psalm 38:18, “For I confess my iniquity; I am full of anxiety because of my sin.”

Psalm 32:5, “I acknowledged my sin to You, and my iniquity I did not hide; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD”, and you forgave the guilt of my sin. Selah.”

Note that in Psalm 32, David begins by acknowledging the covering of our sin by God at salvation that results in our positional sanctification, but then continuing in vs. 3, he laments about not confessing his sins for experiential sanctification, and how he suffered for it in vs. 4. Then in vs. 5, we see him rebounding and recovering due to the confession of his sins that results in experiential sanctification. And finally, the concluding verses speak to walking experientially sanctified and being able to petition the Lord in prayer, as a result of first confessing your sins.

See also Psalm 51, which is David again rebounding and speaking of the consequences. Please read at least vs. 1-4.

Therefore, David, a believer confesses his post-salvation sins and God forgives Him of those sins, just as in 1 John 1:9 for the believer.

Solomon states in Prov 28:13, “He who conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses, (rebounds) and forsakes them (recovers) will find compassion.”

In the dedication of the temple in 2 Chronicles 6, Solomon again applies the doctrine of confession of sin as a prophetic supplication.

2 Chron 6:36-39, “When they sin against You (for there is no man who does not sin) and You are angry with them and deliver them to an enemy, so that they take them away captive to a land far off or near, 37if they take thought in the land where they are taken captive, and repent and make supplication to You in the land of their captivity, saying, ‘We have sinned, we have committed iniquity and have acted wickedly’; 38if they return to You with all their heart and with all their soul in the land of their captivity, where they have been taken captive, and pray toward their land which You have given to their fathers and the city which You have chosen, and toward the house which I have built for Your name, 39then hear from heaven, from Your dwelling place, their prayer and supplications, and maintain their cause and forgive Your people who have sinned against You.”

Daniel uses confession of sin in Daniel 9, especially in vs. 18-20, “O my God, incline Your ear and hear! Open Your eyes and see our desolations and the city which is called by Your name; for we are not presenting our supplications before You on account of any merits of our own, but on account of Your great compassion. 19O Lord, hear! O Lord, forgive! O Lord, listen and take action! For Your own sake, O my God, do not delay, because Your city and Your people are called by Your name. 20Now while I was speaking and praying, and confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel, and presenting my supplication before the LORD my God in behalf of the holy mountain of my God, 21while I was still speaking in prayer, then the man Gabriel, whom I had seen in the vision previously, came to me in my extreme weariness about the time of the evening offering.”

Notice Daniel states in vs 18, “not on any merits of our own.” There we see that confession of sin is a non-meritorious act of faith, just as believing in Jesus Christ is a non-meritorious act of faith.

Isaiah used confession of sin in Isa 55:7, “Let the wicked forsake his way and the unrighteous man his thoughts; and let him return to the LORD, and He will have compassion on him, and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon.”

In fact, Isaiah noted that unconfessed sin was an hindrance to the spiritual life in Isaiah 59, cf. Psalm 66:18; John 9:31.

Nehemiah used confession of sin in Neh 1:6-7; 9:33-35.

Neh 1:6-7, “Let Thine ear now be attentive and Thine eyes open to hear the prayer of Thy servant which I am praying before Thee now, day and night, on behalf of the sons of Israel Thy servants, confessing the sins of the sons of Israel which we have sinned against Thee; I and my father’s house have sinned. 7We have acted very corruptly against You and have not kept the commandments, nor the statutes, nor the ordinances which You commanded Your servant Moses.

Ezra used confession of sin in Ezra 9:5-15; 10:1.

Ezra 9:6, “And I said, “O my God, I am ashamed and embarrassed to lift up my face to Thee, my God, for our iniquities have risen above our heads, and our guilt has grown even to the heavens.”

Ezra 10:1, “Now while Ezra was praying and making confession, weeping and prostrating himself before the house of God, …”

What Does the New Testament Say?

The primary context is 1 John 1:5-22. The primary issue here is, “Is this written to believers or unbelievers?” To answer that question, please note that the “we” in 1 John 1:9 does not refer to unbelievers but to believers. John the Apostle was writing in the Church of Ephesus. To understand this, I present the writings of Dr. Daniel Wallace, Professor of NT Greek, Dallas Theological Seminary, the author of “Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics,” one of the greatest Greek grammarians and scholars of our day, who notes on pg. 689, regarding, 1 John 1:9, “This verse is frequently seen to be a more probable future condition. As such, it is sometimes viewed as referring to unbelievers who have not yet confessed their sins (though the “we” is problematic). More likely, it is a present general condition in which the subject is distributive, (“if any of us”).”

Then in footnote 35 on the following page he states, “To see “we” in 1 John 1:9 as referring to unbelievers would be to take the pronominal referent to mean, “you, but not me.” Such is not impossible, of course, but it is highly unlikely and apparently otherwise unexampled in the N.T.”

Therefore, one of, if not the greatest Greek scholars of our day, is stating that the “we” in 1 John 1:9, does not refer to unbelievers, because it has to include John the Apostle. Therefore, 1 John 1:9 is a prayer for believers only. Please see the end of this paper for more on this with a piece from Pastor Bill Wenstrom.

Other passages regarding confession of sin for the believer includes Mat 6:12, (which we noted above), 1 Cor 11:31-32 and James 5:13f.

In addition, please note that the first and third of the six basic Doctrines of the Bible in Heb 6:1-2 have something to do with all of this. In that book, the writer also warns against the misinterpretation or application of the basic doctrines, or even simply forgetting them in Heb 5:11-14.

Then in Heb 6:1-2 we are told, “Therefore leaving the elementary teaching about the Christ, let us press on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, 2of instruction about washings and laying on of hands, and the resurrection of the dead and eternal judgment.”

So, in two of the first three “basic doctrines,” we have application for 1 John 1:9, “repentance from dead works,” which is first achieved by being saved. Nevertheless, believers who walk in sin also have dead works, John 15:1-6; Hebrews 9:14, compared with 1 Corinthians 3:10-15. Then, when it says “instruction about washings,” it too is related to these passages plus John 13, when our Lord washed the feet of the disciples.

Just after giving instructions for the Communion Supper, Paul notes in 1 Cor 11:28-32, “But a man must examine himself, and in so doing he is to eat of the bread and drink of the cup. 29For he who eats and drinks, eats and drinks judgment to himself if he does not judge the body rightly. 30For this reason many among you are weak and sick, and a number sleep. 31But if we judged ourselves rightly, we would not be judged. 32But when we are judged, we are disciplined by the Lord so that we will not be condemned along with the world.”

Examining and judging are both acts of self-reflection, using the Greek words DOKIMAZO and DIAKRINO. First, we are commanded to look introspectively to see if we have sin upon our soul or not, and then to make a judgment upon ourselves; are we guilty of sin or are we not guilty of sin? Who is Paul talking to here? Believers! 1 Cor 11:33. The context here is, we need to examine ourselves to see if we have any sins that we have committed, especially before partaking of the communion supper, the most solemn act of our worship of Jesus Christ during the Church Age. So, we must judge whether we have sin or not. When it says, “judge yourself rightly,” it means acknowledge that you do or do not have sin. And because of prior teachings of the Old Testament regarding the confession of sin and Jesus’ statement in Mat 6:12a, etc., the known conclusion was to confess it to God. When you do, you avoid God’s Divine discipline, as also taught in the Old Testament. Because of the abuse of confession of sins for the believer, John much later had to write to the church at Ephesus to clear this up. That is why we have 1 John 1:9.

What Do Some of Our Early Church Fathers Say About Confession of Sin?

Epistle of Barnabas 19:12, “Thou shalt not make a schism, but thou shalt pacify those that contend by bringing them together. Thou shalt confess thy sins. Thou shalt not go to prayer with an evil conscience. This is the way of light.” (Brn 19:12 APE).

Ignatius of Antioch was among the Apostolic Fathers, was the third Bishop of Antioch, and was a student of John the Apostle. “Moreover, it is in accordance with reason that we should return to soberness of conduct, and, while yet we have opportunity, exercise repentance towards God.” (ISI 9:1 APE)

Soberness of conduct reminds us of Eph 5:18, “do not get drunk with wine for that is a waste of life.” Then it goes on to say, “But be filled with the Spirit.”

Hermas of the 1st or 2nd century, considered a valuable book by many Christians, and considered canonical scripture by some of the early Church fathers such as Irenaeus. The Shepherd had great authority in the 2nd and 3rd centuries. It was bound with the New Testament in the Codex Sinaiticus, and it was listed between the Acts of the Apostles and the Acts of Paul in the stichometrical list of the Codex Claromontanus.

Hermas Similitude 9 23:4, “If our God and Lord, who rules over all things, and has power over all His creation, does not remember evil against those who confess their sins, but is merciful, does man, who is corruptible and full of sins, remember evil against a fellowman, as if he were able to destroy or to save him? (HSI 23:4 APE) I, the angel of repentance, say unto you, As many of you as are of this way of thinking, lay it aside, and repent, and the Lord will heal your former sins, if you purify yourselves from this demon; but if not, you will be delivered over to him for death.” (HSI 23:5 APE)

The phrase “Remember evil against a fellowman,” reminds us of Mat 6:12b, “as we also have forgiven our debtors.” That continues into verses 14-15“For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15“But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.”

The phrase “Lay it aside, and repent, and the Lord will heal your former sins,” reminds us of 1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

The Late L.S. Chafer, Co-Founder of Dallas Theological Seminary.

In his Systematic Theology, Chafer states that we never pray for the filling of the Holy Spirit because it happens when, “He (God the Father) awaits the requisite human adjustments, He is waiting for the believer to yield all to him,” (page 222, bottom of the page.) [Brackets mine]

On Page 240 at the bottom of the page and the top of page 241, we see that indeed Chafer taught confession of sins resulted in the filling / fellowship of the Holy Spirit, but making it clear that we do not ask for the filling, we just adjust to God’s justice through the non-meritorious act of faith in confession of our sins, and thereby avoid the Father’s discipline, as he notes 1 Cor 11:31-32, which is another way of saying, “confess your sins,” with the terms, “examine and judge yourself rightly.” To confess your sins, you must first examine your souls and judge if you have sinned or not. Then you can name them to God.

“However, if the sinning child of God will not thus judge himself by a full confession, it becomes necessary for the Father, being the perfect disciplinarian that He is, to bring His child into judgment. This is the force of the Apostle’s words: “If we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged.” The voluntary act of self-judgment satisfies every divine demand and no judgment from the Father will be imposed. It is only when the Christian withholds his confession, and by so much assumes the attitude of self-justification concerning his sin, or through love of it refuses to be adjusted to the holy will of God, that the Father must bring him into the place of correction. It will be recognized again that the issue is not one of sustaining union with the Father, which union, like sonship, when once established can never be broken; it is rather the issue respecting communion and fellowship. Accordingly, it is asked: “Can two walk together, except they be agreed?” (Amos 3:3). God cannot walk in the dark with the believer, nor can fellowship be experienced when the believer is calling black white and white black. The Christian must agree with God that white is white and black is black. Having come into agreement with God, there remains no obstacle to hinder and fellowship is restored by the gracious forgiving and cleansing from God.”

In L.S. Chafer’s Systematic Theology, (Volume 5, page 148, at the bottom of the page), he explains the Lord’s washings of the disciple’s feet in the Upper Room, distinguishing the difference between “bathing” and “washing,” and then concludes at the bottom of the page, “For the Christian, (believer’s only here), there is cure for sin constantly and instantly on a basis of faith in Christ’s blood, which cure is secured by confession of sin.”

In Chafer’s Systematic Theology, (Volume 6, page 238-240), regarding 1 John 1:5-2:2, he notes the right application of 1 John 1:9. This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: but if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. My little children, these things I write unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: and he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.”

John is the experienced witness in regard to an unbroken fellowship with the Father and with the Son, as indicated by the first verses of 1 John. In the first chapter of this epistle, a message is brought forward directly from Christ’s earthly ministry which does not appear in any Gospel record. The message has to do with maintaining communion with the Father and with the Son. In contemplating such a relationship, it should be remembered that “God is light,” which phrase refers to moral or holy perfection, and it’s with such a One that the believer is to have fellowship. The bringing of the Christian into communion with God is not achieved by lowering that which pertains to God; it is rather gained by lifting the believer up to the level upon which communion with God is possible. For one to say that he has fellowship with God while at the same time he is walking in darkness is to lie and to do not the truth; but if the Christian walks in the light as God is in the light, it is to experience fellowship with God, the fellowship which is the normal experience of all who are saved. Such fellowship is not a special concession from God, but is rather that which is provided for all who are rightly related to God. All this immeasurable blessing is conditioned on “walking in the light.” To walk in the light is not to become the light, which would be sinless perfection; it is to be adjusted to the light. When the searchlight, which God is, reveals needed changes in one’s life before God, then in order to walk in the light one must adapt one’s self to the will of God thus revealed. When thus adapted, the blood of Jesus Christ goes on continuously cleansing from all sin. Fellowship does not depend upon an impossible sinless perfection, but on the willing compliance with all that God desires and makes known. Thus confession, which is the outward expression of an inward repentance, becomes the one condition upon which the child of God who has been injured by sin may be restored to unbroken fellowship again. Not only will that restoration be absolute to the extent of infinity, but the divine grace that forgives and cleanses is accomplished on a basis which is righteous to the degree of infinity. Since it is God’s own child that has sinned to whom He is bound with eternal ties, He is “faithful” to those relationships; and since Christ has met all the righteous judgements against the sin which is in question, He is “just” to cleanse and forgive. It was thus in the Old Testament order and it must ever be thus wherever God the Holy One deals with human sin. The Israelite brought his sacrifice and it was after the priest offered the sacrifice that the comer therewith was forgiven. Leviticus 4:35 declares: “And he shall take away all the fat thereof, as the fat of the lamb is taken away from the sacrifice of the peace-offerings; and the priest shall burn them upon the altar, according to the offerings made by fire unto the LORD: and the priest shall make an atonement for his sin that he hath committed, and it shall be forgiven him.” Great emphasis is placed on the fact that the one condition to be met for restoration of a believer to fellowship with God is confession of sin. Too often prayer for forgiveness is substituted; but prayer for forgiveness is not an adjustment to the Light which God is. Prayer for forgiveness really assumes that God Himself needs to be changed in His attitude toward the one who has “sinned.”

Chafer goes on to say on page 249-250, “The cure of the effects of sin on the spiritual life of a child of God is promised to the one who in repentance of heart makes a genuine confession of his sin. Sin is always sin in the sight of God. It is no less sin because it is committed by a Christian, nor can it be cured in any case other than through the redemption which is in Christ. It is because the redemption-price has already been paid in the precious blood of Christ that God can save sinners who only believe and restore saints who only confess. Not one degree of the punishment that fell upon our Substitute can ever fall on saint or sinner. Since Christ bore it all for us, believing or confessing is all that can righteously be demanded. Until confession is made by the one who has sinned, he is contending for that which is evil and thus is in disagreement with the Father. “Can two walk together, except they be agreed?” God cannot agree with sin. The child can agree with the Father, and this is true repentance which is expressed in true confession. Again, let it be said: repentance is a change of mind. By it those who have sinned turn unto God from sin. The blessing does not depend upon sinless perfection; it is a matter of not grieving the Spirit. It is not an issue concerning unknown sin; it is an attitude of heart that is willing always instantly to confess every known sin. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” The Christian who fully confesses all known sin will have removed one—if not all—of the hindrances to the fullest manifestation of the Spirit. “And grieve not the holy Spirit of God whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption,” (Eph. 4:30).

From the foregoing discussion, it may be determined that one of the conditions upon which the believer may be Spirit-filled is met when that which grieves the Holy Spirit is removed by complete confession, which confession is the expression of a contrite heart. The secret by which this aspect of responsibility may best be maintained is to keep short accounts with God. Let the first impression of spiritual depression be a signal to ascertain at once the cause and as readily to apply the remedy–confession to God.”

Therefore, in relation to 1 John 1:9, it is not a passage for unbelievers but for Christians. We look back to the Cross of Christ when we recognize we have sinned and confess them knowing they are forgiven, which results in the filling / fellowship of God the Holy Spirit.

The Late R.B. Thieme Jr. Regarding the Confession of Sins:

In his book “Rebound Revisited,” He notes the following, “The apostle Paul, above all men, completely understood the importance of rebound, i.e. naming sins privately to God the Father. When rebound is neglected carnality is perpetuated and the spiritual life self-destructs. Without rebound the filling of the Holy Spirit is grieved and quenched; the Christian way of life disintegrates.”

He goes on to say, “Rebound is the divine solution for recovering fellowship with God and defeating fear in life. Just as faith in Christ for salvation is accomplished in the status of spiritual death, so rebound for the recovery of the filling of the Holy Spirit is accomplished in the status of carnality. In each case God does all the work. That is grace…. Our responsibility is to simply acknowledge sins to God. We never earn or deserve the wonderful recovery of fellowship God provides for us.”

In his book “Rebound and Keep Moving,” he states:

WHY REBOUND? If all sins were blotted out at the cross, why is sin still an issue? If all sins are already forgiven, why must you rebound? The penalty for sin is removed once and for all at the cross, but repercussions of personal sin in the life of a believer must be confronted. When a believer sins, the initial repercussions are loss of fellowship with God and loss of the filling of the Holy Spirit, the empowerment for the Christian life. No member of the Trinity can fellowship with a believer having sin in his life. Sin destroys our temporal fellowship with the Lord, but cannot jeopardize our eternal relationship with Him. Rebound, confessing or naming our known sins to God the Father, is the only means compatible with grace for restoration of fellowship with God and recovery of the filling of the Holy Spirit. Rebound is our access to intimacy with the Lord, the gateway to divine power in our life, our license to serve the Lord.”

Regarding the Filling of the Holy Spirit in Eph 5:18, “And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled [PLEROO] with the Spirit.” He states, “In the imperative mood the Greek verb PLEROO designates a divine mandate, a command that involves our choice. God would not mandate a status we already possess. We must choose to be or not to be filled with the Spirit. PLEROO means “to fill up a deficiency, to fully influence, to fill with a certain quality.” No believer has the ability to obey God’s mandates through human power. The Holy Spirit fills up this deficiency by giving us the power to live the Christian way of life. But why, if we are filled with the Spirit at salvation, is this command necessary? The reason is our old nemesis, the sin nature. The filling of the Spirit is lost when we sin. In carnality, we are no longer controlled by the Holy Spirit, but by the sin nature. How can we escape this control? REBOUND!”

“Rebound is for believers only. If you have not accepted Jesus Christ as Savior, confession is utterly useless. Judas Iscariot confessed his sins, felt sorry for his sins, and even made restitution (Matt. 27:3-4). He did everything except believe in Christ. His confession was futile. He was lost and died an unbeliever.”

Concerning the misuse of 1 John 1:9, he states, “Often those with legalistic tendencies become upset because they think rebound is a license to sin. Some believers who fail may use rebound for exactly that purpose. But rebound restores the believer to a position where he can live his spiritual life and serve God, not excuse or rationalize sin. No believer can be in God’s plan apart from the divine power which comes only through the filling of the Holy Spirit. Rebound is the only way to recover from sin and regain the filling of the Holy Spirit.”

Regarding Our Spiritual Heritage:

As Pastor Bill Wenstrom puts it so eloquently, “The position of not having to confess our sins is not the orthodox position. In fact, it was considered false doctrine. Many great men of God throughout the church’s history have taught 1 John 1:9 is to believers. This is significant. It doesn’t mean we settle this issue by seeing what other Bible teachers have taught. Of course. this issue is to be resolved by the Scriptures. However, we cannot ignore what men like Chafer, Pentecost, Chrysostom, Thieme, Swindoll, Luther, Calvin, etc., said about 1 John 1:9. We stand on the shoulders of giants. We are part of a community led by the Spirit as you know. Seminaries such as Dallas, Trinity, Chafer, and others do not interpret 1 John 1:9 as written to unbelievers.”

Regarding Sanctification:

Now, what does all of this really have to do with our sanctification? You see, there are three sanctifications the believer receives, Positional, Experiential, and Ultimate Sanctification. Positional Sanctification is your eternal and secure position in Christ from the moment of your salvation. This is something you cannot lose.

Experiential Sanctification or as L.S. Chafer calls it, “experimental,” is your daily walk in Christ. This can come and go. Ultimate or Final Sanctification is when the Lord brings you home to eternal glory, and you receive your resurrection body.

The believer who does not truly understand and distinguish between these three, many times misinterprets scripture. They take scriptures related to Positional Sanctification, such as John 8:12; 12:46 or Luke 7:38-50 and apply them to Experiential Sanctification, and therefore come to the conclusion that they do not need to confess their sins to walk by means of the Holy Spirit.

For example, notice the context of the picture in Luke, of a woman who washed Jesus’ feet, kissed him, and anointed his head with oil. It says clearly in Luke 7:50, “And He (Jesus) said to the woman, ‘Your faith has saved you; go in peace’.” And the feet being washed were Jesus’, not the woman’s, so this lesson has to do with Positional Sanctification.

This is a similar problem as that of those who do not understand Dispensationalism. When they do not understand the difference between the Age of Israel and the Church Age, they mix up the scriptures and come to wrong conclusions.

Is 1 John 1:9 for Believers or Unbelievers?

Kenneth Wuest, in “In These Last Days, Studies in the Greek Text of II Peter, I, II, III John, and Jude,” notes, “Now John instructs the saints what to do about sins in their lives. The “we” includes John here, and it would seem that he is speaking of believers; for in other places he gives directions to the unsaved as to what they must do with relation to their sinful state and their sins. The sinner is to believe (John 3:16) – The saint is to confess. The word “confess” is homologeo, from homos, “the same,” and lego, “to say,” thus, “to say the same thing as another,” or, “to agree with another.” Confession of sin on the part of the saint means therefore to say the same thing that God does about that sin, to agree with God as to all the implication of that sin as it relates to the Christian who commits it and to a holy God against whom it is committed.”

Unfortunately, because some people have misunderstood the application of 1 John 1:9, or misused it, it has led others to question the doctrine, and in some cases, attempt to refute it all together. For example, just because someone believes, “I need to confess my sins before I die so that I do not lose my rewards in heaven,” should not give rise to the doubt of the doctrine and scripture. The doubt should rightly be placed in that persons understanding and misuse of the doctrine. Just because the Catholic believes they need to take communion before they die to help them get into heaven, does not mean the Doctrine of Communion as rightly taught by our Lord in Mat 26:26-29; Mark 14:22-25; Luke 22:17-20, and Paul in 1 Cor 11:23-26, is a false doctrine. It is just their understanding and use of it that is wrong.

As for 1 John 1:9, the correct application of the scripture and Doctrine of Rebound, is that the believer examines himself to see if he has any sin upon his soul, and if he does, he simply names them, “confesses” them to God the Father. As a result, the Father forgives him of those sins, and the believer receives a cleansing of his soul. When someone applies 1 John 1:9 correctly, they are recognizing the fact that all their sins were paid for at the Cross of Jesus Christ, and are simply recognizing that fact.

Wuest also notes, “To forgive” is hina aphei, “in order that He may forgive.” Aphei is second aorist subjunctive, speaking, not of a process, but of a single act here. In 1:7, we have durative action, “keeps on continually cleansing,” referring to the constant cleansing of the saint from the defilement of sins of ignorance by the blood of Jesus. These are habitual in the life of the believer. But sins we confess, as in 1:9, are not habitual. No child of God knowingly sins habitually. These sins for which confession is required are infrequent, isolated instances in the well-ordered life of a believer. Therefore, the aorist tense is used here, speaking of a single act of forgiveness. The word is the second aorist subjunctive form of aphiemi, “to send away, dismiss,” hence of sins, “to remit” as a debt, “to put away.” All sin was remitted, paid for, put away on the basis of the satisfaction offered for the demands of God’s holy law which sinners broke, when the Lord Jesus died on the Cross. The law was satisfied. All the sins the believer commits, past, those in his unsaved condition, and future, those in his saved state, were put away on a legal basis at the Cross, and are in that sense forgiven the believer the moment he places his faith in the Lord Jesus. But, the forgiveness spoken of here has to do, not primarily with the breaking of God’s law, for “who is the only one who can forgive and cleanse our sins?”, and secondly as, “that was taken care of at the Cross and recognized as such at the time the sinner placed his faith in the Savour. Therefore, sin in a Christian’s life is a matter, not between a lawbreaker and a judge, but between a child and his father. It is a matter of grieving the Father’s heart when a child of God sins. The putting away of the believer’s sin upon confession is therefore a forgiveness granted by the Father and a restoration to the fellowship that was broken by that sin. When the saint confesses immediately after the commission of that sin, fellowship is not broken except for that time in which the sin was committed.

Not only does God forgive the believer, but He cleanses him from the defilement which he incurred in committing that act of sin. Here the verb “to cleanse” is aorist subjunctive, speaking of a single act of cleansing, for known sin in the life of a saint is not habitual, but the out of the ordinary thing.”

In addition, the confession of sin is not a “work” of human good, as some have falsely accused it of being. It is a non-meritorious act of faith in the Cross of Jesus Christ, recognizing that He paid for the sins we have recently committed and just confessed. Although, some may have falsely believed the confession of your sins is a work, again, that does not mean the doctrine is false.

Regarding 1 John 1:9, Pastor Bill Wenstrom writes, “Is the “We” in 1 John 1:9 a Reference to Believers or Unbelievers?

Is the “we” in 1 John 1:9 a reference to believers or unbelievers? The context would indicate it refers to believers exclusively. The apostle John calls his readers “my little children” in 1 John 2:1, which is still connected to John’s thought in 1 John 1:5-10, because like 1 John 1:5-10, 1 John 2:1 is discussing sin. There is no chapter break in the original. 1 John 2:2 is also still connected to John’s thought in 1 John 1:5-2:1. John says, “and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.” In this passage, John is distinguishing he and his readers from the rest of the world, and the world in this passage is an obvious reference to unbelievers. So, because he is discussing sin in relation to fellowship throughout 1 John 1:5-2:2, my little childrenin 1 John 2:1 and John’s statement in 1 John 2:2, would indicate the “we” in 1 John 1:7-10 is a reference to believers.

The issues John discusses throughout 1 John also make clear that the entire epistle is written to believers and not unbelievers. In this epistle, he was attempting to protect the church in Ephesus from false teachers who were teaching false doctrines. One of the issues was that some were denying that our Lord was a human being (early form of Gnosticism). Thus, the reason for John’s statements in the prologue of the epistle in 1 John 1:1-4. John is saying if you deny the incarnation like the false teachers, then you can’t have fellowship with God because fellowship is made possible because of the God-Man, Jesus Christ and His death on the cross. Another false teaching John was addressing was that you don’t have to confess your sins to be restored to fellowship, which is indicated by his statements in 1 John 1:5-10.

In 1 John 2:7, John calls his readers beloved and little children” (1 John 2:12), “children” (1 John 2:13, 18), he tells them they have an anointing in 1 John 2:20 and in 1 John 2:26, he mentions these false teachers, trying to deceive his readers. In 1 John 2:15-17, he warns them to not love the world. Then, in 1 John chapter 3, he is talking to his readers about loving one another as Christ loves, which is something an unbeliever cannot do, because they don’t have the Spirit. In John chapter 4:1-6, he tells his readers to “test the spirits,” since they have the capacity to discern error in teaching, because they have the Spirit who is called the “anointing” in 1 John 2:20. Then, in 1 John 4:7-21, he is talking to them about love again. In 1 John 5, John talks to his readers about overcoming the “world” i.e., the cosmic system of Satan. These are all things he would never discuss with unbelievers, since he would simply command them to believe on the Lord Jesus to be saved, if he were talking to unbelievers.

All of this makes it highly unlikely that in 1 John 1:7-10, John is addressing unbelievers and then the rest of the book, he addresses believers, because he gives no indication he is transitioning from addressing unbelievers to believers. In fact, as mentioned above, in 1 John 2:1, he calls his readers my little children and that verse is clearly connected to 1 John 1:5-10, because he is still speaking on the subject of sin. So, when he addresses his readers as my little children, he is addressing believers with regard to the subject of sin. This would make clear that the “we” in 1 John 1:9 is a reference to believers and not unbelievers. To say he is addressing unbelievers with the “we” is not supported by the context, both the immediate context and in the context of the entire book.

The obvious problem with interpreting the “we” in 1 John 1:9, as a reference to unbelievers, is that one would be telling the unbeliever that they have to confess theirs sins to have fellowship with God. There is only one command the unbeliever needs to concern himself with, namely, believe on the Lord Jesus and be saved, (John 3:16-18; Acts 16:30-31).”

Recognizing that 1 John 1:9, as Pastor Wenstrom and Daniel Wallace have aptly confirmed, is a verse for the believer ONLY, we can move on to understand how the filling of the Holy Spirit occurs. When we confess our sins, we have adjusted to the justice of God, (who is holy and absolute righteousness), and receive forgiveness and cleansing experientially of those sins, where our soul is experientially holy and righteous once again. If we have sin upon our soul, even though positionally we are in Christ, experientially we have unrighteous (sin, evil, human good, “darkness”), in our souls and cannot have fellowship with The HOLY Spirit. That is why Rom 6:13 says, “And do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God.” Compare: Rom 12:1; Eph 4:22-24; 5:14; Heb 12:1, 9, 13.

Eph 4:22-24, “That, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, 23and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, 24and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.”

Synonymous terms for the Filling of the Spirit in Eph 5:18 include:

– Walking in the Spirit, Gal 5:16

– Walking in the Light, 1 John 1:7

– Imitating Christ, Eph 5:1

– Being partakers of the Divine Nature, 2 Peter 1:4

– Fellowship of the Holy Spirit, 2 Cor 13:14; Phil 2:1

In contrast, when we have sin upon our soul, we are said to grieve and quench the Holy Spirit, Eph 4:30; 1 Thes 5:19, which correlates with 1 John 1:6, 8, 10.

The way to rectify grieving or quenching the Spirit is 1 John 1:9, as emphasized in 1 John 2:1-2, “My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; 2and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.”

With the Filling of the Holy Spirit you are, strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man”, Eph 3:16-19. This also means, you are being led by the Spirit, Rom 8:14. A soul that is full of sin cannot be strengthened with power or led by the Spirit. Yet, the cleansed soul of the believer can produce the Fruit of the Spirit, John 15:1-5; Gal 5:22-23.

Gal 5:25, “If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.”


You see the correct application of 1 John 1:9 is the result of the believer recognizing that they have been walking in sin before God, and now desire to change their way of thinking so as to walk in the light of Jesus Christ. As 1 John 1:9 states, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” The confession of your sins is based on a decision you have made to stop walking in sin and instead walk in Christ. With that decision, we are commanded to name and sight those sins, with the result that we have forgiveness and cleansing of those sins, experientially.

Just because our Lord asks us to confess our sins for forgiveness, does not nullify the Cross, it actually accentuates it in the mentality of our soul, because we remember that all of our sins were paid for there. It is not a “work” but a non-meritorious application of God’s Word, just as our faith for salvation is non-meritorious in Eph 2:8-9.

Eph 2:8-9, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.”

If 1 John 1:9 is a prayer for salvation, whether it be a one-time act or multiple acts to regain salvation, it would contradict the clear teaching of the Word of God that the unbeliever has one command to obey, namely believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and be saved”, John 3:16-18; Acts 16:30-31.

Salvation is the non-meritorious act of faith, whereby you believe that Jesus Christ died on the Cross for your sins, was raised on the third day, ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of the Father. To add confession of your sins to salvation is not Biblical and is heretical. Therefore, 1 John 1:9 cannot be a salvation prayer but is one for the believer to apply, when necessary, to regain fellowship with God, walk in His light, abide in Christ, walk by means of the Spirit, Gal 5:16, and be filled with the Holy Spirit, Eph 5:18.

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