What does 1 John 1:10 mean?
ESV: If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.
NIV: If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us.
NASB: If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us.
CSB: If we say, "We have not sinned," we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.
NLT: If we claim we have not sinned, we are calling God a liar and showing that his word has no place in our hearts.
KJV: If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.
NKJV: If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.
Verse Commentary:
This verse offers the fifth and final conditional ("if") statement in this passage. Sticking to the positive / negative pattern, this one is negative. Verse 8 stated that those who claim to have no sin—presently—are deceived (1 John 1:8). Verse 10 includes prior sins, using the phrase "have not." This verse adds two negative traits of those who claim to be without sin. First, it directly contradicts the word of God, which is the same as calling God a liar. Then, as now, this was considered a great blasphemy.

Second, this claim implies that the truth of the gospel is not in such a person. In other words, a person who claims to be without sin, at present, is not speaking the truth. A person who claims to have never sinned not only speaks a lie, but directly contradicts the gospel. Only Jesus is without sin (Hebrews 4:15). Even most unbelievers acknowledge that they have fallen short of whatever moral code they believe in. Only a person who is deeply deceived would make the claim of being without any sin.

One sect John likely had in mind were the Gnostics, who claimed that all matter was evil and all spirit was good. This led some to believe that sin in the material body was separate from the spiritual person. This is false, as humans are "one" being in multiple parts. Those who make these kinds of excuses for sin are simply living a lie.
Verse Context:
First John 1:5–10 opens the main topic of John’s letter. God is entirely goodness and truth, and those who follow God cannot also follow evil and falsehood. John offers a pattern of “if” statements, comparing each to the truth. In particular, John mentions those who claim to be entirely free from sin, or to have never sinned. Such a belief is literally the opposite of the gospel. No person is sinless other than Jesus Christ.
Chapter Summary:
Chapter 1 re-states the fact that Jesus is the eternal Son of God. John confirms that he has personally seen and heard the things he is teaching. God’s truth is presented as “light,” while false teachings are presented as “darkness.” Those who hold to the truth are saved from sin; those who claim to have no sin at all are self-deceived.
Chapter Context:
Chapter 1 sets the stage for the rest of John’s letter. The concepts of truth vs. falsehood, light vs. darkness, and rightness vs. self-deception are explored in more detail later on. By claiming to be an eyewitness, and marking the difference between God’s truth and error, Chapter 1 gives a sense of how serious this subject is. In fact, the distinction between truth and error is a primary marker used for spiritual self-reflection.
Book Summary:
First John seems to assume that the reader is familiar with the gospel. Rather than re-state these facts, John is concerned with building confidence in Christian believers. At the same time, his words encourage believers to examine their own lives for signs of their relationship with Christ. This letter also challenges false teachers and their incorrect claims about Jesus. Many themes are shared with the Gospel of John.
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