Meditations in 1 John : 8 : Not a Sinner?
1 John 1:10 If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives
Previously we considered verse 8 – “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.” There we suggested that John was saying that anyone who thinks they have not been tainted by Sin is misguided and unknowing. In that verse ‘sin’ was a noun and describes the cause of our behaviour – a contagion. Every one of us is infected by this ‘disease’ called Sin. As we noted two meditations back, that Sin was the thing that drove us to commit sins before we came to Christ, but since we have come to Christ, our goal is to avoid stumbling and falling to temptation and sin.
But John, here in verse 10, seems to go back over the things we’ve considered so far and reiterate them but with a different emphasis. Before we consider the emphasis let’s consider the first part a little more, because it does bear further scrutiny. I don’t know if you have ever been talking with a non-Christian, and they have suddenly burst out with, “Don’t you call me a sinner! I’m as good as the next man!” Well that’s funny in one way because it assumes that the ‘next man’ is good! But what we see there is a commonly held belief that actually we are quite good. I will always remember Bill Hybels telling a story of how he joined a Squash league. He actually thought he was quite good at Squash and one day he played another man and was thoroughly beaten. It turned out that the man was actually only in one of the very lower levels of the league and recognized that if he played someone in the next level up, he would be thoroughly beaten himself, and as for then playing someone in the next level up… well! We really don’t know ourselves. Merely because we have not killed someone or raped someone or burgled someone’s house, we think we’re quite good. I’ve often wondered how scary it would be if someone invented a form of x-ray machine that picked up bad attitudes or bad thoughts in us. Pride, jealousy, envy, hostility, etc., etc. There they all lurk and we ignore them or pretend they are not serious, and we say, “I haven’t sinned!” Religious people are particularly prone to this!
But there in John’s day, there were these people we refer to as Gnostics, who claimed to have advanced beyond sinfulness and said they had arrived at perfection. I have actually come across Christians who claim to be perfect – and they were the most egotistical people I’ve ever encountered!
When we considered this before, we observed a variety of verses from the New Testament that denied this claim to sinless ness. Perhaps we read the New Testament and don’t realize what is there sometimes. For instance when Jesus was teaching his disciples on the mountainside (Mt 5-7) he gave them a prayer structure which included, “Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” (6:12) Luke’s version of that renders it, “Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us.” (Lk 11:4). However you take it, it is a recognition by Jesus that we will fall short of perfection, get it wrong and need to confess it. Remember that he was teaching that to his disciples (Mt 5:1,2) – believers, us!
But now John brings that axe down: if we deny this, we are claiming that God is a liar! How come? Read the Old Testament: “All have turned aside, they have together become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one.” (Psa 14:3) and “Everyone has turned away, they have together become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one.” (Psa 53:3) and “There is not a righteous man on earth who does what is right and never sins.” (Eccles 7:20) and in the New Testament Paul expands on those (Rom 3:12-18). No, without doubt the Bible is clear, we are part of a Fallen World and it is ‘fallen’ because we have fallen and are sinners.
But there is yet another aspect of this. If we say we are sinless and, as John says, deny what God has said, then “his word has no place in our lives.” In other words, if we say this we show that we have little or no understanding of His word and the Bible’s teaching is meaningless to us. The truth is that if we hold this position we are deluded or deceived. We have got a wrong understanding and it is probable that Satan has led us astray and we’ve fallen to his lies. Modern relativistic thinking does just this very thing by denying wrong. The doing away with absolutes does this very thing. All around us we find this very thing that John is speaking about – people who, by a variety of means, deny they are sinners. Do away with the concept of sin and you do away with the concept of sinners. Do away with these concepts and you do away with any need for justice and judgment. That’s how Satan and the world try to spin it, but the Bible – and John – speak the truth clearly to reveal the lie. Have nothing to do with ‘their’ way of thinking. Realise that God and the Bible are clear that disobedience to God is sin, and sin needs dealing with.