What does 1 John 1:9 mean?
ESV: If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
NIV: If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.
NASB: If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous, so that He will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
CSB: If we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
NLT: But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.
KJV: If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
NKJV: If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
Verse Commentary:
In this fourth "if" statement, John refers to confession of our sins to God. The pattern of positive / negative statements once again sets up the reader to expect a positive "if" statement in this phrase (see notes in 1 John 1:8). Confession of sins has always been seen as a godly practice among those who turn to the Lord (Leviticus 5:5; 16:21; Numbers 5:7; Ezra 10:1) and has been seen as a source of healing (James 5:16).

Those who confess sins are reassured that God will forgive, and remove that sin's impact on fellowship. Note that even though this passage is written to believers, John states that those who confess sins are both forgiven and cleansed. Though believers are forgiven at the point of salvation, there is also an ongoing sense in which believers need to confess sin and experience forgiveness and cleansing. Cleansing was an important part of the Mosaic Law, mentioned some 14 times in the book of Leviticus alone. It was the goal of those who brought a sacrifice to the Lord in the tabernacle and temple.

When we have an argument with others, it creates a barrier to fellowship. Since a barrier between us and God will always be our fault, our need for confession is important for our relationship to God.
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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