John's Epistles

 •  3 min. read  •  grade level: 7
* * * As to we "cannot sin," John always looks at the truth abstractedly; so he says, "he that is begotten of God keepeth himself, and that wicked one toucheth him not." But both are as born of God; he cannot sin because he is born of God. But the flesh is not born of God, but is of the flesh; and if we let it act we sin.
You may remark that there are two assertions in chapter 1 "If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar," for indeed God says all have sinned. Then "if we say that we have no sin"; this is more our state, not what we have done. If Christ be in us as the power of truth we are conscious that, though it may be inactive at the moment through grace, there is another element in us which is not of God—which is sin. If we say there is none, "we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us." We may have it in our heads, but it is not in us. Further, you may remark in the beginning of chapter 2, the case is supposed of our sinning, and the way grace then works in our behalf is stated: "If any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father." The righteous One and the propitiation are still before God, so that there is no imputation, but sin is not allowed; the work of God, humbling us and bringing to lowly confession, is wrought in the soul—if need be, chastening employed—to restore communion with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ our Lord. When we confess we are forgiven.
This is always the state of soul to which forgiveness applies (for here also John speaks abstractedly). When first brought to confess my sin, I receive forgiveness of sins viewed as guilt against God. I am forgiven my sins. But there is an administrative forgiveness—what the church can forgive. If one is excommunicated for some wickedness, it is not in this sense forgiven. (2 Cor. 2:7-107So that contrariwise ye ought rather to forgive him, and comfort him, lest perhaps such a one should be swallowed up with overmuch sorrow. 8Wherefore I beseech you that ye would confirm your love toward him. 9For to this end also did I write, that I might know the proof of you, whether ye be obedient in all things. 10To whom ye forgive any thing, I forgive also: for if I forgave any thing, to whom I forgave it, for your sakes forgave I it in the person of Christ; (2 Corinthians 2:7‑10).) So God may forgive me in His government over me as a child, or chasten and punish me, though still loving me, yea, because He loves me. This is what is taught in Job. The friends made it a question of righteousness, which was false, but it was discipline, and when he bowed, God's hand was taken off him. Now when we have failed, our part is to humble ourselves and confess our fault, not with any thought that He imputes it to us as guilt in respect of eternal judgment. But God is always displeased with sin, and Christ's name dishonored, and the grace of Christ and work of the Spirit in our hearts is, to lead us to bow our hearts before God and confess it. If one asks for forgiveness, as of a father whom we grieve to have displeased, it is all well, provided it is not mixed with the thoughts of God judging our persons for imputed guilt, because in this sense Christ has borne it and we shall not: but the great point is thorough confession and humiliation, and He does forgive. Asking forgiveness in such case is not spoken of in scripture, and it is apt, when our place in Christ and His work is not clearly known by divine teaching in the soul, to be mixed in the mind with the imputation of guilt.
[Date uncertain.]