In 1 John 1:5–10, John is speaking to believers, those who “have fellowship with one another” and God (1 John 1:7; cf. 1:3). In 1 John 1:9 it is these believers who “confess” (homologeō) their “sins,” obviously to God. Broken apart, the Greek verb homologeō literally means “to say the same thing,” and its use in context indicates who is agreeing and what the matter of agreement happens to be. The matter of agreement here concerns sins, and the two that should agree about this matter are God and believers. To “confess our sins” is to agree with God about our sins, which is more or less the same as repentance.
Many understand 1 John 1:9 to speak of unbelievers who confess their sins in order to be saved and have fellowship with God. According to this understanding, if the confession of sins is necessary to having fellowship with God, then this fellowship can apparently be lost by engaging in acts of sin after salvation. Stated another way, walking the darkness puts believers out of fellowship with God (1 John 1:6).
From this understanding, the application for the believer is that he can lose his fellowship through sin after the point of salvation. If fellowship with God is equivalent to salvation (i.e., possessing eternal life; cf. 1 John 1:1–4), then those who hold to eternal security (once saved, always saved) must redefine fellowship in order to avoid having a believer lose his salvation through sin. The solution typically involves creating a category of believers who apparently have no fellowship with God and walk in darkness (cf. 1 John 1:6). Fellowship effectively becomes something less than salvation and something only enjoyed by believers who have confessed any sins committed after salvation. Practically, this understanding of confession and fellowship can tend towards methods that pressure Christians for crisis moments of confession in order for them to regain their fellowship with God.
As stated above, however, a correct understanding of 1 John 1:5–10 identifies believers as those who confess their sins in 1 John 1:9. Since fellowship involves sharing God’s eternal life and is thus equivalent to salvation (cf. 1 John 1:1–4), those who hold to eternal security naturally hold that this fellowship cannot be lost. This being the case, the sins to confess in 1 John 1:9 must be occasional and something less than a habitual walking in darkness that is only true of unbelievers who have no fellowship with God (cf. 1 John 1:6).
When we as believers occasionally sin, we hinder our relationship with God but do not lose our fellowship with Him. When we think of these sins as God does, “we confess our sins” to God so He can “forgive us our sins” and “cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9), something distinct from the once-for-all forgiveness and cleansing given at the initial point of salvation (cf. 1 Cor 6:11).
For more articles by Pastor Huffstutler, go to ProclaimChrist.org.
Our current Men's Bible Fellowship is a study on elders and deacons and made practical for all who attend.
Study Book: Merkle, Benjamin L. 40 Questions about Elders and Deacons. Grand Rapids, MI; Kregel, 2008.
July 17, Chapters 4 and 6
August 7, Chapters 11 and 14
August 21, Chapter 15
September 11, Chapters 16 and 17
September 25, Chapters 26 and 27
October 16, Chapters 30 and 33
November 6, Chapters 34 and 35
November 20, Chapters 36 and 37
December 11, Chapters 38 and 39
Bible Study Description
You may object to a lengthy study on this topic because it seems to narrow. It focuses on two offices in the church, and not everyone can or even wants to be an elder or a deacon. However, for our church, a pressing need to have qualified men to serve in these positions, something for all the men to consider. Also, we all need to be reminded of these matters, especially as gifted and godly men join our church. Last, the responsibilities that are formally given by a congregation to its elders and deacons are shared informally by the congregation as a whole and especially by good men who may not formally serve as officers. Let us all learn what is to better serve the church of God so that its ministry may abound!
Our ladies welcome any guests who would like to join them our for current Ladies’ Bible Fellowship as they study the book of Colossians. The ladies will work through a portion of a study guide each week, going through Colossians passage-by-passage.
Colossians Bible Study Schedule:
Week 1 ~ Intro & 1:1-2, June 26
Week 2 ~ 1:3-14, July 10
Week 3 ~ 1:15-23, July 24
Week 4 ~ 1:24-2:5, August 14
Week 5 ~ 2:6-15, August 28
Week 6 ~ 2:16-3:4, September 18
Week 7 ~ 3:5-11, October 9
Week 8 ~ 3:12-17, October 23
Week 9 ~ 3:18-4:1, December 4
Week 10 ~ 4:2-18, December 18
**There will be no ladies Bible study on November 13, as originally scheduled.**
Pastor David Huffstutler
Pastor Huffstutler regularly writes articles for our Sunday bulletin. See his bio on our pastoral bio page.