Monday, July 13, 2009

7/14- I John 1:8-10 the universality of sin

(Roman Catholic confessional- Calvin said we confess directly to God through Christ removing some of the power of the priest)
Devotional using scripture, quote from John Calvin and thoughts for the day each day- on the 500th anniversary of Calvin's birth.

8 If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us. (TNIV)

Calvin abridged: 1:8- “If we claim to be without sin”- Because no one is free from sin, he infers that we are all lost and undone unless the Lord comes to help us with his forgiveness. Thus he is commending grace as a necessity for us. “Sin” here refers not only to our corrupt and viscious inclination but the fault or sinful act which really makes us guilty before God. Because this applies to everyone none of the saints have been or shall be exempt from sin. Augustine wisely used this passage against the Pelagians [who said we’re not tainted by original sin] saying that the confession of guilt is not just for humility’s sake but so we would not deceive ourselves. “and the truth is not in us.” This is a repetition but it adds the idea that they are deceived who glory in falsehood.
1:9- “If we confess” Here he promises to the faithful that God will forgive them if they acknowledge themselves to be sinners, and there is reconciliation with God ready and prepared for us. Otherwise, we shall always carry a hell around within us. When there is no peace with God then hell reigns through our doubting conscience. “he is faithful and just”- This means that God keeps his promises out of his truth and justice. The writer is not talking here about God’s justifying us freely as much as his justice in forgiving us because he has promised- binding himself to his Word. Any true confession must be made out of our new life in Christ, and must be sincere. Thus in any confession repentance is involved, otherwise God’s mercy becomes and enticement to sin. “and to cleanse us”- This cleansing is different from when he said we are cleansed by the blood of Christ (which implies our sins are imputed or laid upon Christ). There are two fruits that come from our confession- we are forgiven and he renews us and reforms us. Some may object and say that as long as we travel in this world we will never be completely cleansed from sin. That is true, but John doesn’t refer to what God is doing now in us. This is not talking about this life today or tomorrow; as long as we are living on earth we ought to be in a continual state of progress; but what he has once begun, he goes on daily to do, until he completes it. So Paul says we are chosen that we may appear without blame before God (Col. 1:22) and that the Church is cleansed that it might be without spot or wrinkle ( Eph. 5:27).
1:10- “We make him a liar” This means that those who claim purity apart from God blaspheme God. The whole human race is guilty of sin. Whoever tries to escape this accusation carries on war with God accusing God of falsehood- like God condemned the undeserving. To confirm this he adds “and his word is not in us” We learn here that we make progress in the knowledge of the word of the Lord when we become really humbled, so as to groan under the burden of our sins and learn to run into the arms of the mercy of God.

Calvin here acknowledges the universality and deep-rooted nature of sin. This passage speaks specifically against the idea that we can pull ourselves up to God by trying to be good (which is a Pelagian idea). We need God’s forgiveness and cleansing. It is interesting in how Calvin uses the word “hell.” Here hell is clearly lack of peace with God that we carry around with us. Calvin certainly believed in a physical hell, but he also believed that we can taste a bit of hell by our guilt here and now. We must confess, but mix our confession with repentance. Basically, this section teaches us that we cannot find purity or peace apart from God.

Prayer: We need you, O Lord. We need your grace to forgive us, cleanse us, and give us your peace. Help us to draw closer to you today.

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