One of the most reassuring passages from the New Testament is 1 John 1:9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If you’ve attended church for a while, you’ve no doubt heard it. But if you leave it hanging out there all by itself it lacks some of the punch of its context. Here’s the whole thing from the English Standard Version:
(5) This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. (6) If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. (7) But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. (8) If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. (9) If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (10) If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.
Darkness Versus Light (or vice versa)
First, let’s grasp the symbolism of “darkness” and “light.” Jesus said, “I am the Light of the world.” (John 8:12) Later, when he was breaking the news of his necessary death, he added to it, “As long as I am in the world, I am the Light of the world.” (John 9:5) Then, in Matthew 5:14 he brought you and me into the picture, “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden.”
So, we’ve established that Jesus is the Light, and in his physical absence, his spiritual presence in us is the light. Without him we walk in darkness. You can often tell when people are walking in darkness by their actions; they just seem … dark. Mind you though, judging people by their actions is verboten. But discerning is another thing; God’s Word commands us to do that. (1 John 4:1; Philippians 1:9-10; Hebrews 5:14)
While some people telegraph their inner darkness, others disguise it by wearing masks of altruistic or religious niceness. Often they’re so good at mask-wearing that you really can’t tell who their lord is until life’s (forgive the idiom) “excrement” hits the fan. It goes without saying that distance from said s****y explosion is called for.
While 1 John 1:9 is a truly wonderful promise for believers who do their best to walk in Christ’s Way, it can lull fakers into false security. God’s promises are not fix-alls, as they always either state or imply “ifs.” Yes, salvation is free, but it cost God more than you can imagine. Can you expect him to give it away willy-nilly? “If” is a conditional conjunction that occurs 571 times in the ESV New Testament. Does that make God’s promises “iffy?” Not at all, if you do your homework.
My friend Mirriam says “if” is —
—used to talk about the result or effect of something that may happen or be true
—used to discuss the imaginary result or effect of something that did not happen or that is or was not true
—used to say that something must happen before another thing can happen
The last function is what I’m talking about. That’s a condition, right? Here’s an unpopular passage to demonstrate its use: For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. (Matthew 6:14-15) Jesus gave that “if” to clarify part of his formula for prayer. Admittedly, Grace came into play after the cross, but do you really want to press the issue?
For your educational edification, here’s a verse that uses Mirriam’s first “iffy” function: But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? (Matthew 6:30) And, Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? (Matthew 7:10) uses function number two.
Now we get down to the business of salvation’s “ifs:” Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. (Romans 6:8) Lots of folks don’t wanna die in any way, shape or form, even if it’s to enjoy life with Christ.
You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you. (Romans 8:9-11 ESV)
You may want to quote Ephesians 2:8-9 at this point: For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. While this is another of God’s beautiful promises, it’s also a favorite of those who don’t want to work, those who conveniently forget the next verse in this section: For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. No salvation = no good works! How do you like them apples?
God doesn’t make rash promises, so if you really want to take them to the bank, make sure they aren’t written on rubber checks.