June 22 Bible Studies for Life: God is forgiving
Jun 26, 2014
By W. WILEY RICHARDS
1 JOHN 1:5-2:2
You may have heard the anecdote of the little boy about to sit down at the kitchen table when his mother told him to go wash his hands to get the germs off. The little boy blurted out, “Germs! Germs! Germs! Jesus! Jesus! Jesus!” That’s all I hear around this house, and I’ve never seen either one of them!” We can sympathize with his frustration, but in a few years if he should become ill, he will be grateful that somebody studied about germs, and they may even have found a cure for his illness. Give him a few more years and he will find himself burdened with moral failures and not know what to do. If he is lucky, someone will tell him about the crucified Man from Galilee who paid the debt of sin on His cross. The sinful boy, now a man, need not be broken in mind and body with his sins. God offers forgiveness for the repentant.
The answer begins to unfold when one sees the light (vv. 5-6). John’s epistle leans heavily on the teachings about Christ in his Gospel. An outstanding verse occurs in John 1:4, “In him was life: and the life was the light of men.” Whatever else it may mean, this much is clear. He has placed in every human, no matter how ancient or modern, the awareness of the supernatural world. Anthropologists have never discovered a tribe so primitive that it had no belief in gods, spirits or other aspects of the supernatural. One philosopher, Augustine, phrased that urge in this way. “Thou hast made us for thyself O God, and our souls are restless until they finally rest in thee.” But there is more to God’s internal witness of Himself. Once enlightened to His glorious act on the cross by His only begotten Son, the believer experiences fellowship with Him.
Our transfer from membership in the kingdom of darkness ruled by Satan to the kingdom of light under Christ’s governance (Col. 1:13) is accompanied by a new citizenship. We have fellowship with the Son and with each other. In fact, it is a three directional fellowship involving the believer, the Father and the Son (1:3).
Forgiveness of sins is wonderful, but it ought to be accompanied by cleansing (vv. 7, 9). Verses 7 and 9 refer to being cleansed of our sins, but verse 9 says we are forgiven our sins and cleansed from all unrighteousness. The Jewish laws requiring the rite of cleansing of a leper from the act of being healed (Luke 5:14 with Lev. 13:49, 14:2) may provide a helpful insight. After we are saved, we find ourselves still in the clutches of habitual sins. A person who uses profanity may be chagrined that bad habits die but gradually. Negative thoughts may continue to crop up. We call upon God to cleans us from all our unrighteous acts and thoughts.
So, we must continually confess (v. 9). Campus Crusade for Christ has a helpful spiritual routine called “spiritual breathing.” As we exhale the bad air moment-by-moment confession we get rid of sin. In inhaling we submit ourselves anew to Christ and put Him back on the throne of controlling our lives. We grow spiritually, breath by breath. It is neither profitable nor truthful to claim that we do not sin after receiving Christ as our Lord and Savior.
In short, it is impossible to live sinless lives (2:1-2). For the background to this passage we need to fill in some historical background. Toward the middle of the first century, a belief system known as Gnosticism was gaining adherents. The Gnostics constructed an elaborate system that held that all humanity is divided into three groups. Those at the bottom live in the flesh. Those in the middle—soul-oriented—could go down or rise to new heights—to the spiritual. That level, they claimed, would be reached by secret rituals. Those who reached the third level were immune from sin. It was not that they did not sin, but they could not. Lawlessness results.
John roundly denounced them. For believers who sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ. He intercedes for us. He is qualified to be our advocate because He propitiated for our sins on the cross. He took all the wrath against sin, enough for the whole world. Whosoever will may come.
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