Study Guide

Johannine Epsitles (1-3 John) Sin

Sin

The blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. (1 John 1:7-10, NRSV)

The blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin. If we say that 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 that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. (1 John 1:7-10, KJV)

We're starting off with some weighty stuff on sin. According to the elder, Jesus' death is a bridge to Forgivenesstown. Yeah, we all still sin, but now we can get a do-over with God.

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; and he is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. (1 John 2:1-2, NRSV)

My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world. (1 John 2:1-2, KJV)

It would be way better not to sin, right? But since we're probably gonna do it anyway, the elder wants us to know that Jesus has our back. And not just the backs of Christians—he's got everyone's backs.

I am writing to you, little children, because your sins are forgiven on account of his name. (1 John 2:12, NRSV)

I write unto you, little children, because your sins are forgiven you for his name's sake. (1 John 2:12, KJV)

Put your faith in Jesus and all is forgiven, says the elder. He makes it sound pretty easy.

Everyone who commits sin is guilty of lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. You know that he was revealed to take away sins, and in him there is no sin. No one who abides in him sins; no one who sins has either seen him or known him[…] Everyone who commits sin is a child of the devil; for the devil has been sinning from the beginning[…] Those who have been born of God do not sin. (1 John 3:4-6, 8-9, NRSV)

Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law. And ye know that he was manifested to take away our sins; and in him is no sin. Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not: whosoever sinneth hath not seen him, neither known him[…] He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning[…] Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. (1 John 3:4-6, 8-9, KJV)

Now we do a kind of about-face. Before, the elder said that even believers sin, but now he seems to be saying that if you really believed, you would never sin. So which is it?

[God] loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins. (1 John 4:10, NRSV)

[God] loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. (1 John 4:10, KJV)

Lots of big words here (propiti-what?!), but all the elder is saying is that God dug the people of earth so much that he sent his son to die for them.

If you see your brother or sister committing what is not a mortal sin, you will ask, and God will give life to such a one—to those whose sin is not mortal. There is sin that is mortal; I do not say that you should pray about that. All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin that is not mortal. We know that those who are born of God do not sin, but the one who was born of God protects them, and the evil one does not touch them. (1 John 5:16-18, NRSV)

If any man see his brother sin a sin which is not unto death, he shall ask, and he shall give him life for them that sin not unto death. There is a sin unto death: I do not say that he shall pray for it. All unrighteousness is sin: and there is a sin not unto death. We know that whosoever is born of God sinneth not; but he that is begotten of God keepeth himself, and that wicked one toucheth him not. (1 John 5:16-18, KJV)

Here, the elder seems to be dividing out classes of sins. Some are run-of-the-mill sins (like stealing or lying), but some are mortal sins. The worst sin for the elder is breaking off from the Christian community, so that's probably what he's referring to. In other words, you can pray for thieves and liars, but don't even bother putting in a prayer for outsiders.

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