Forgive us because You’re Just??!

January 10, 2010

1 John 1:9 “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”

At first this verse seems like any other collection of Christian words strung together. Confess. sin. Faithful. Just. Forgive. Purify. Unrighteousness. But if we think about it, it doesn’t seem to make sense. Forgive us our sins because He is JUST? If He really is a Just God, shouldn’t He PUNISH us rather then forgive us for our sins?

Maybe this sentence should be read as a parallel structure. His faithfulness is why He will forgive us, and His justice is why He purifies us. But this still does not solve the problem of the seeming contradiction of God forgiving us in the first place at all if He is indeed just.

The answer is in the earlier section of the chapter (and rest of the letter, actually. This book is so God-centered, which makes it awesome.) It is the blood of Jesus, His Son, that purifies us from all sins. So God’s faithfulness and His Justice is expressed fully in Christ, in His sacrifice.

I remember going to hear a debate between a former-christian-turned-atheist and a christian. The atheist talked about his experience as a christian, and how he couldn’t understand why God couldn’t just forgive everyone. His reasoning was that since God is just closing his eyes on some sins anyway, since God is holding His nose and letting some smelly people in anyway, why couldn’t He do that for everyone? why is hell necessary? But he had it all wrong. NO ONE GETS INTO HEAVEN THIS WAY. God is JUST. He does not just excuse some sins. He does not excuse ANY sin. Only through the work of the cross, are any of our sins forgiven.

The second part of the verse, then, fills us with hope. He is the one who will purify us! Because He cannot stand to see sin in us, because He is a Just God, He will purify us of our unrighteousness. So when we try and fail, try and fail, over and over again, we hope in the One who will sanctify us.

Later on in the letter, we read about how love drives out fear. I think about how before we come to know Christ, we fear God because He is Just, because we know we will be punished. But afterward, this fear goes away, for exactly the same reason! It’s like the parable of the servants, given the same amount of money. The servant who buried the money in the ground does it for the same reasons he could have used to invest that money elsewhere.

How do you feel about the Justice of God? Does it strike fear into your heart? Do you tremble upon the mere thought that God will punish you for each and every sin you’ve committed and will commit? Good; fear is beginning of knowledge. But don’t stop there. Examine and reflect upon the work of Christ, and trust in Him alone, and hope in His sanctifying work. Let perfect Love drive out all fear.


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