There was no “Delete” key in the first century. So, when John wrote: “and the blood of Jesus, His Son, purifies us from all sin” (1 john 1:7b), he needed to clarify what he meant. John knew people would read that and ask if he was claiming that followers of Jesus become sinless. So he explained:
If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:8-9)
There are people who claim to follow Christ and also claim to be sinless. John says those folks are deceiving themselves. More than that, he says “the truth is not in [them].” It’s important to understand that John is warning such people that they have not truly begun a relationship of faith with Jesus. How can he be sure? Jesus gives the Holy Spirit, the “Spirit of Truth,” to everyone who truly believes and follows Him (John 14:17). Jesus promised his followers, “But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth.” (John 16:13a). Someone who is self-deceived about sin is almost certainly also self-deceived about his relationship with Jesus.
But those who have the Spirit of Truth, will experience His Truth as it pertains to their condition, whenever they sin. They will be painfully aware that they have sinned again (and again)!
John reassures such people that, as we acknowledge our sin (confess, or agree with what the Spirit has shown us), God is faithful to forgive us. “Faithful” means we can count on Him to do so. God also is “just.” How can it be just for God to keep on forgiving us? God forgives us with complete and perfect justice because “the blood of Jesus” (v.7) has paid the full penalty for our sin. Do you struggle to wrap your mind around that? Me too. But it is the truth.
And it gets better: John says, God, Who faithfully forgives us with justice, then “purifies us from all unrighteousness.” When you screw up and sin, don’t you feel dirty? Don’t you feel as though you are smeared with a stain that you cannot wash away? Despite how you feel, the truth is, God lovingly washes you clean. He restores you and gives you a clean slate. It is hard for us to feel clean, and yet, in truth, we are clean. Amazing…
But, you may be wondering, how often can we expect God to keep doing that for us? Look back to the quote above and see it for yourself: He cleanses us from “all unrighteousness.” The word, all, literally means “each and every one.” More amazing…
The more the Spirit makes us aware of how often we sin, the more the message of God’s forgiveness, His justice and His washing seems. Amazing and very, very humbling. But true.