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The Conditional Promises of God

One familiar “if / then” passage, often called the “believer’s bar of soap,” is found in the first chapter of the first letter of John.  In it, we find one “if” condition and two implied “then” promises God grants to those who meet His one “if” condition.  And the two promises of God encompass the totality of salvation this side of heaven, both our justification and our sanctification.

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness – 1 John 1:9


What Does it Say?

Let’s see exactly what it says.

If (the condition, something we must do in order to receive the promise) we (this includes you and me, make it personal, put your name here) confess (homologous – to admit, concede, to affirm or agree) our (it is inclusive, everyone has something to confess to a holy God) sins (hamartía – offense, wrongdoing, failure, fault, it is an act or feeling that transgresses something forbidden or ignores something required by God’s law, whether in thought, feeling, speech, or action.  Literally, it means to miss the mark or the true end and purpose of our lives, which is God.  And note, the word is plural, as in more than one sin),

This is the condition prescribed by God.  It is something we must do, a non-negotiable, if we want to receive the promise that comes from meeting the condition.  And, by His grace, it is something we can do.

Next, the Spirit, through John, lists only two of God’s infinite attributes as proof of the truth of His promise: faithful and just.

He (God, the Sovereign One, Eternal, All-Powerful, All-Knowing, Always-Present, Creator of All, of which there is no One higher, no One more glorious, no One more beautiful or of greater worth, and there is no more lofty goal in which to devote one’s life than to have a deep, intimate, relationship with Him) is (His current attributes) faithful (pistós – worthy of belief, trust, or confidence, sure, steadfast, of true fidelity) and (of all God’s immeasurable attributes, the Spirit, through John, lists only these two, as if they are enough, already more than we can handle) just (díkaios – righteous, correct, perfect, upright in everything, without error, free from favoritism, self-interest, bias, or deception)

And now, after stating His conditions and His attributes, the Spirit reveals the two promises or results we can rest assured of after we meet the conditions.  Note, because He is “faithful and just” and does not show favoritism or bias, these promises are for everyone, including you, who “confess” their sins, no matter how great those sins may be, how unworthy you may feel, or how many times you have tried and failed in the past.  To Him, it doesn’t matter— every day is a new beginning.

First Promise: Forgiveness (Justification)

to forgive (aphíēmi – to send forth or away, to stop blaming or taking an offense into account, to leave, release, let go, dismiss. God, in effect, chooses, based on our confession, to send our sins and the consequences of them away from Himself and us, to no longer blame us for our offenses, to release, let go, and dismiss the consequences of our sins as if they never happened.  We are now free from their condemnation, guilt, and shame – see Romans 8:33-34) us our (again, inclusive, which means you and me.  Make it personal, put your name here) sins (plural, the sins we confess are the sins He forgives, and there is no sin you have committed that is too great for Him to forgive)

Second Promise: Holiness (Sanctification)

and (in addition to forgiveness) to cleanse (katharízō – to purify and cleanse from the pollution and guilt of sin, to make innocent, pure, and undefiled once again, literally to clean from leprosy) us (inclusive, make the promise personal) from all (pás – as in each, every, everything, the whole, in totality without exception.  Note: there is nothing that does not fall under the word, pás) unrighteousness (adikía – injustice, what ought not to be, that which is wrong, wickedness, failing to adhere to moral principles, commands, or laws).


What Does it Mean?

In this conditional promise, the Lord shows us the breadth of His salvation, by forgiving us of our sins— which is justification, and also by the promise of living a Christ-like, holy life— which is sanctification.  When He “cleanses us from all unrighteousness” as a result of our confession, He does this not only positionally— how God sees us, but also in our practical lives— or how we allow Him to live through us daily.  And this, for me, is the great blessing in this passage.

You see, not only does God forgive our sins, but He also empowers us to live a life pleasing to Him, in all holiness and righteousness, since we have “put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness” (Eph. 4:24).  So through surrender and faith, we can experience in our lives what Jesus commanded when He said, “Therefore you shall be perfect (without defect or blemish, complete, wanting nothing), just as your Father in heaven is perfect” (Matt. 5:48).  This is the essence of the surrendered life, or the life of consecration to Him.


Your Turn

So, we have looked at what this conditional promise says and, to a lesser degree, what it means.  Plus, you have been encouraged to take it at face value and make it personal by putting your name as the one needing to confess their sins and as the recipient of all His promises.

Are you ready to do that?  If so, then do it now.  Don’t wait another minute.

And, after you have experienced His forgiveness and the blessing of allowing the Spirit to sanctify you and daily conform you into the likeness of Christ (Rom. 8:29)— then, on a personal level, deep where few are allowed to go, honestly answer this question:  What does this passage mean to you?  And, has this one conditional promise become real to you?


Quick Take-Aways

Four truths to take with you (for those who are strapped for time).

•   The Importance of Confession.  God will forgive the sins you confess— all the sins.  So, confession is the key.

•   God’s Faithfulness and Justice.  His promise to one is His promise to all, including and especially, you.  He does not play favorites or consider your sins too great to forgive.  How do we know this?  Because, “He is faithful and just.”

•   The Possibility of Forgiveness.  Ah, the question of the ages: Can God forgive sins?  And now you know the answer.  Yes, He can.  And not only that, but He will.  All you have to do is confess your sins and ask for His forgiveness.  So do that today.

•   Transformation and Renewal.  Finally, we can be changed, transformed, and renewed into what we long to be and not what we have become.  I don’t know about you, but nothing sounds better than that to me.  Would you agree?  Good.  Then, let’s get started.


The Higher Christian Life

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