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Charismatic Puritan

Right doctrine leads to right thinking, and right thinking leads to right living.

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Location: Gaithersburg, MD, United States

Jealous for the truth, beauty and majesty of our glorious risen Savior.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Faith and Repentance

A friend from church read my blog (HOORAY!). Really that's enough for me, I could stop there. But actually, she mentioned a conversation she was having with someone about to 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.) and actually asked for my opinion, even said she'd like to see it on my blog. I’m very excited. “Lemme sum up; no, there is too much. Lemme esplain.”

If I remember correctly the conversation Laura was having was about whether 1 John 1.9 was a formula or ritual for salvation, an “if, then” proposition by which God seems to be obliged to forgive us in response to a particular action we perform. (Laura, if I'm getting the details wrong or don't answer your question please let me know. I'll try again.) At first blanch this may seem so, but the larger context of verses 5 through 10, and even to 2. 2 (quoted at the end), establish a context which opposes truth and light with darkness and lies. If we are walking in the light, that is the light of the Gospel, our sin should be painfully evident to us, and if we are walking in the truth, the truth of God's infallible Word, we should have some appreciation for how terrible that sin is. Not only should we see our sin, and have some appreciation for our sin, we should also recognize that in the face of a holy and righteous God we have absolutely no other recourse than to throw ourselves on His mercy for the forgiveness of that sin.

Verse 9, in the larger context, demonstrates God's response to our right response from the Holy Spirit's conviction of our sin and regeneration of our dead hearts. When we confess our sin, meaning not just that we say, “Hey, God, these are my sins,” but truly confess them, we identify them as what they are, violations of God's holiness. In the same way that we must confess Jesus as Christ, that is identifying him as who He is, the man-God Messiah, with full faith that He will save us from our sins, so to our confession of sin must be to name our sins as offenses that are worthy of wrath and that can only be pardoned by the propitiating sacrifice of our Savior.

In this fact there is the union of repentance and faith; we confess our sins with the intention of turning from them, not merely unloading them, and simultaneously trust in God to fulfill His promise of redemption and forgive us. As Calvin says, "But this confession, as it is made to God, must be in sincerity; and the heart cannot speak to God without newness of life: it then includes true repentance. God, indeed, forgives freely, but in such a way, that the facility of mercy does not become an enticement for sin." This confession of sin comes from the burden of knowing that we have sinned and having some idea of what that sin means to God, namely a violation of His honor so grievous that only the sacrifice of His own Son could turn His anger away from it. But thanks be to God, He has done that, and so John can declare that “Jesus Christ the righteous… is the propitiation for our sins (1 Jn 2.1b-2a).”

Because of that propitiation, the fact that God has imputed all our sin onto His perfect Son and simultaneously imputed Jesus’ perfect righteousness to us, we can have complete faith that He is faithful to forgive us our sins in accord with His legal declaration of our justification through faith in Christ. Not only that, not only does God forgive the sins that we've confessed, but He cleanses us from all unrighteousness, that being every sin from our whole lives even the ones we don't see or recognize as sin. This doesn't mean, however, that we have immediately become holy and perfect in this life, but rather, that God has made the promise that He has legally declared us righteous and will, on the last day, bring that promise to its completion when we are perfectly united with Him in Christ. Again, a little J. C. (John Calvin, that is): “Were anyone to object and say, that as long as we sojourn in the world, we are never cleansed from all unrighteousness, with regard to our reformation: this is indeed true; but John does not refer to what God now performs in us. He is faithful, he says, to cleanse us, not today or tomorrow; for as long as we are surrounded with flesh we ought to be in a continual state of progress; but what he has once begun, he goes on daily to do, until at length he completes it… that we may appear without blame before God (Col 1.22, Phil 1.6).”

Also, a little Matthew Henry: “The Christian religion is the religion of sinners, of such as have sinned, and in whom sin in some measure still dwells. The Christian life is a life of continued repentance, humiliation for and mortification of sin, of continual faith in, thankfulness for, and love to the Redeemer, and hopeful joyful expectation of a day of glorious redemption, in which the believer shall be fully and finally acquitted, and sin abolished for ever. The denial of our sin not only deceives ourselves, but reflects dishonour upon God. It challenges his veracity. He has abundantly testified of, and testified against, the sin of the world. But God has given his testimony to the continued sin and sinfulness of the world…and to the continued sinfulness of believers themselves by requiring them continually to confess their sins, and apply themselves by faith to the blood of [Jesus’] sacrifice.” OK, a lot of Matthew Henry.

One final note. If we confess with the intention of sinning again under the assumption that God must continue to honor His promise to be faithful and forgive us, well clearly the truth is not in us and we have no right understanding of either our sin, or the cost of our forgiveness, and so cannot expect God’s mercy. This is not a matter of effort, but of intention.

“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. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. 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. If we say 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 we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.” 1 John 1.5-2.2


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12/10/05 03:04  
Blogger Kim Lackey said...

Dana, I just spent 30 minutes writing a response, and I lost it as I was trying to create an account. Grrrrrr. I'll try to remember the gist of what I said. I believe I'm the person referred to in this post who had a question about 1 John 1:9. I asked the question with the presupposition that that the passage in question is *not* a ritual or formula for salvation. Based on context and John's audience, these verses are being addressed to Christians, so I concluded that vs. 9 refers to sanctification and not justification, which is where my question arises. If, as a result of Christ's work on the cross, we are completely and perfectly forgiven and cleansed, what role does forgiveness (not confession) have in the believer's life? What is happening exactly when I ask for forgiveness? And I can't see how one can't get a legalistic reading from this very strict "if...then" statement. What am I not getting?

Okay, that's my edited version--hope it's clear.


24/1/06 19:33  
Blogger Charismatic Puritan said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

24/1/06 20:17  
Blogger Charismatic Puritan said...

Actually, the person was Laura (whose husband is Steve, but whose last name I'm not so sure of but I think is Byerly? Are they in your care group?)

Anyway, yes I think this is more about a sanctification process as well as a relational process. Legally, we have been forgiven through Christ's sacrifice, once for all, but relationally, we need to continue to humble ourselves before God and confess our sins in order to restore the relational stress that we cause. That relational stress will one day be eliminated, but in this "here, but not yet" age, we must continue with mortification, the first step of which is recognizing what we must kill. This is a relational, Fatherly forgiveness, not a legal judicial forgiveness.

Grant Layman talked about this in our series on the Lord's Prayer.


24/1/06 20:19  

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