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1 John 1:52:2 comment (0)

June 19, 2014

By Kenneth B.E. Roxburgh, Ph.D.

Related Scripture: 1 John 1:52:2

Bible Studies for Life 
Chair and Armstrong Professor of Religion, Samford University

God is Forgiving

1 John 1:5–2:2

Billy Graham once said “forgiveness is the greatest word in the English language.” At the heart of all God’s dealings with us is eternal love and infinite patience. Our pilgrimage of faith is made in the company of the one whom Julian of Norwich called “our courteous Lord.” There are many times when we falter and fail, but our obedience to Christ is lived out in an environment of grace. That mercy does not nullify the call of God to holiness. Our pilgrimage is one of both moral and spiritual growth, but it is growth in grace — on the basis of grace and by the resources of grace. 

Confession Is Good for the Soul (1:5–10)

Bishop Stephen Neil, who served in India for many years with the Episcopal Church, used to say that whenever he came across a book on psychology he would always turn to the index to see if there was an entry under “forgiveness.” It troubled him that it was invariably absent, a fact he found deeply disturbing.

David tells the Lord he “did not cover up his iniquity” and thus he declares “happy is he whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sin is covered.” John encourages us to stop deceiving ourselves by thinking we are better than we are and rather “confess our sins.” Interestingly enough the words the psalmist uses in Psalm 32 for “hide” and “covered” are from the same Hebrew root. It is spiritually fatal to try and cover up areas in our lives we know to be wrong — otherwise we will never experience the liberation of being forgiven and being set free from our sinfulness. Without a realistic and honest appraisal of our human sinfulness we will never be able to experience forgiveness and liberation from the power of sin in our lives.

The Bible reminds us over and over again that sin is not an abstract notion but a personal experience, a breakdown in the nature of relationship, a moral breach that always has consequences, however small they may appear to be, and damages the way things are meant to be among ourselves and with God. Prayers of confession enable that relationship to be straightened out, restoring the relationship, repairing the breach, releasing the floods of God’s mercy and grace to forgive us.

Forgiveness Is Freely Available Through the Cross of Calvary (2:1–2)

John’s hope and greatest aspiration for his readers is that they will turn from sin, not in the sense that we will ever be perfect without sin but that godliness would more and more characterize our lives. However, when we do sin we “have an advocate with the Father.” John is reminding us of the way in which, through His resurrection and ascension, the Lord Jesus has ascended in His humanity as our High Priest and our apostle. He thus speaks the word of God to us concerning the grace of God and speaks our words of confession, of faith and prayer to the Father on our behalf. Thus John assures us of the grace of God, not being in any way dependent on ourselves but on Him who loved us and gave Himself for us.

The reality of that love is further seen in John telling us He “is the atoning sacrifice for our sins and not for our sins only but also for the sins of the whole world.” His death is not meagerly offered for only some but for all. In the words of Charles Wesley: “This is the ground of all our hope, the fountain this of all our good, Jesus for all was lifted up and shed for all His precious blood.”

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