10 If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.
The last verse of the first chapter of 1 John brings the section and discussion about what it means to walk in the light to a close. It also draws one final implication regarding those who claim to know what Jesus’ sacrifice means, but who have not acknowledged their sin.
What makes this verse even more interesting, in light of verse 8, is the way it makes God the target of our self-deception. Look at what John writes. He informs his reader that if they believe that they have not sinned at all, that they are not guilty of committing even one sin, then they are not just delusional, they have made the testimony of God about them a lie as well. Jesus entered into the world because without him we could not have a relationship with God. Without Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, there is no forgiveness of sin and no reconciliation with God. Therefore, to argue that we have not sinned is to say that Jesus’ death was unnecessary and even unwarranted.
Now, we have to ask ourselves, why did John even go there? Was there someone in the church that received this letter arguing that they had not committed sin? That would seem difficult to imagine, and yet John did not bring this up in a vacuum. In the early days of the church, there were some who had imported ideas from the other philosophies into the Christian church. One of those ideas was that the physical world was evil or corrupt, but that spiritual things, in this case, the human soul or spirit, was not contaminated by evil in any way. This idea led some people to believe that they were not really sinners or even sinful. And, because of this, they really did not need the redemptive work of Jesus on the Cross.
The problem with this line of thinking was that those who held this belief were, in effect, undermining the Gospel, while at the same time, trying not to deny the reality of God. What makes this situation even more ridiculous is that it did deny what God had said about the human condition and thereby denied the trustworthiness of God. To dismiss that humanity had fallen from perfect fellowship with God in the Garden of Eden choosing a dangerous road. Ignoring what the prophet Jeremiah said regarding the fact that the human “heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked” is utterly foolhardy (Jer. 17:9 KJV). We must never forget that without Jesus there was no possible way of becoming a part of the family of God.
To claim that we have never sinned is to throw our sin in the face of God and reject the means of salvation Jesus died to provide through his sacrifice on the cross and resurrection from the grave.
If we claim to be followers of Jesus Christ, we have to take great care that we understand what God has said about Jesus, Himself, and about us. If we get any of these realities wrong, or even distorted in the slightest, we make ourselves susceptible to false teaching and significant errors.
One of the greatest challenges we face on our journey of life and faith is hearing the truth about our condition and agreeing with God that we are what he says we are. We are sinners. And, if we ever want to be sons and daughters we have to accept that we cannot make ourselves sons and daughters. God must adopt us, and this he wants to do. But, if we are going to become what God wants for to become, we have to start where he starts. And where God starts is at the cross. Jesus is the way to the God. In Jesus, we see the truth of what is wrong. And, with Jesus, we experience what life with God should have been all along.
John seems to think that people can believe that they have not sinned. Why do you think that is? Are there any situations you can think of where you have seen this behavior or attitude?