" Then in classic apostolic fashion, John gives to those unbelievers and invitation to come into the true fellowship, verse 9. Now he says, you've been faking it, how would you like to be a real part? Here's how. "If you we confess our sins, He's faithful and just," to what, "forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from," how much unrighteousness, "all unrighteousness."
Now, some people say well that refers to a Christian and if a Christian confesses His sins, then he's forgiven. How much is he going to be forgiven of? What does it say? All, so if he did it once, how many times would he have to do it again? If he's forgiven of all unrighteousness, you see once you confess your sins, what are you forgiven of and cleansed of? All unrighteousness. Doesn't leave a whole lot left. Verse 9 is an invitation to the counterfeit fellowship, to come into the real fellowship by confessing sin, then in turn God forgives and cleanses and the verb there is linear -keeps on cleansing. Keeps on cleansing. Keeps on cleansing from all unrighteousness.
To say that a believer has to keep on confessing for forgiveness, is to make forgiveness contingent on confession. Did you get that? If that's a believer, then it means every time you sin, you have to confess to be forgiven. And I read several books this week that said that. That you have to confess to be forgiven. I don't believe that. I don't believe a Christian has to go through his life constantly, constantly, constantly, asking God please forgive me, please forgive me, please forgive me. You know what you're doing, you're making a mockery out of the cross. Jesus said at the end of the cross, "It is finished." Once you confess and ask forgiveness, He cleanses you from all sin.And to deny that I believe is to deny the full work of the cross and the word that says all our sins are under His blood. Now let me show you something interesting. You say well, gee, I didn't think 1 John was written to an unbeliever. Well, the first chapter has applications of an unbeliever, obviously, we've just seen that. But now watch how he changes and talks to the believer in verse 1 of Chapter 2.
Are you ready for this? Now, "My little children, these things write I unto you." Do you see a transition there? Sure. "That ye sin not. If any man sin we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ, the righteous." Does he say that we need...we little children need to confess? Does it say that there?
It just says, "Now, getting to us, little children, we have an advocate." You see the difference? So that you don't stack up two sins in a row. Every time you sin, it's under the blood, just as fast as it happens. You say that sounds like license. No, no, it doesn't work that way.
Now look at verse 12 of Chapter 12. "I write unto you little children because your sins," what? What's the key word there? "Are." "I write unto you little children because your sins are forgiven because you confess them." Is that what it says? What does it say? "For His name sake." Just because of who Jesus is and what He did little children they're all forgiven. You see that in the life of a believer, forgiveness is not contingent upon confession. You don't need to ask God to forgive you. He did.
Confession...you say, well shouldn't I ever talk about my sin? Of course, you should You just go to Him and say God I'm sorry and I repent. But you don't have to say please forgive me, please forgive me, please forgive me, He already did. He already did." - John MacArthur
To John MacArthur's credit, he states this in his study bible concerning 1 John 1:9, "Continual confession of sin is an indication of genuine salvation. While the false teachers would not admit their sin, the genuine Christian admitted and forsook it. The term confess means to say the same thing about sin as God does; to acknowledge his perspective about sin. While verse 7 is from God's perspective, verse 9 is from the Christian's perspective. Confession of sin characterizes genuine Christians, and God continually cleanses those who are confessing. Rather than focusing on confession for every single sin as necessary, John has espcecially in mind here a settled recognition and acknowledgement that one is a sinner in need of cleansing and forgiveness." commentary from MacArthur's study bible
It seems that perhaps John MacArthur has changed his view somewhat on 1 John 1:9, but I cannot be for certain. If he has, the sermon I read needs to be removed from his GTY website.
Now, I want to include commentary on this text, starting with Matthew Henry...
"The apostle then instructs the believer in the way to the continued pardon of his sin. Here we have, 1. His duty in order thereto: If we confess our sins, 1Jo_1:9. Penitent confession and acknowledgment of sin are the believer's business, and the means of his deliverance from his guilt. And, 2. His encouragement thereto, and assurance of the happy issue. This is the veracity, righteousness, and clemency of God, to whom he makes such confession: He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness, 1Jo_1:9. God is faithful to his covenant and word, wherein he has promised forgiveness to penitent believing confessors. He is just to himself and his glory who has provided such a sacrifice, by which his righteousness is declared in the justification of sinners. He is just to his Son who has not only sent him for such service, but promised to him that those who come through him shall be forgiven on his account." Matthew Henry
It seems Matthew Henry sees 1 John 1:9 as being directed to believers; let's look at more commentary..
" If, from a deep sense of our guilt, impurity, and helplessness, we humble ourselves before God, acknowledging our iniquity, his holiness, and our own utter helplessness, and implore mercy for his sake who has died for us; he is faithful, because to such he has promised mercy,
Psa_32:5; Pro_28:13; and just, for Christ has died for us, and thus made an atonement to the Divine justice; so that God can now be just, and yet the justifier of him who believeth in Jesus." Adam Clarke
And lastly, John Gill...
If we confess our sins
,.... Not to one other; for though it is our duty to confess our faults to our fellow creatures and fellow Christians which are committed against them, yet are under no obligation to confess such as are more immediately against God, and which lie between him and ourselves; or at least it is sufficient to confess and acknowledge in general what sinful creatures we are, without entering into particulars; for confession of sin is to be made to God, against whom it is committed, and who only can pardon: and a man that truly confesses his sin is one that the Spirit of God has convinced of it, and has shown him its exceeding sinfulness, and filled him with a godly sorrow for it, and given him repentance unto salvation, that needeth not to be repented of; and who, under such a sight and sense of sin, and concern for it, comes and acknowledges it before the Lord, humbly imploring, for Christ's sake, his pardoning grace and mercy; and such obtain it:
he is faithful and just to forgive us
: forgiveness of sin here intends not the act of forgiveness, as in God, proceeding upon the bloodshed and sacrifice of Christ, which is done at once, and includes all sin, past, present, and to come; but an application of pardoning grace to a poor sensible sinner, humbled under a sense of sin, and confessing it before the Lord; and confession of sin is not the cause or condition of pardon, nor of the manifestation of it, but is descriptive of the person, and points him out, to whom God will and does make known his forgiving love; for to whomsoever he grants repentance, he gives the remission of sin; in doing of which he is faithful to his word of promise; such as in Pro_28:13; "and just"; in being "true", as the Arabic version adds, to his word; and showing a proper regard to the blood and sacrifice of his Son; for his blood being shed, and hereby satisfaction made to the law and justice of God, it is a righteous thing in him to justify from sin, and forgive the sinner for whom Christ has shed his blood, and not impute it to him, or punish him for it; though the word here used may answer to the Hebrew word צדיק, which sometimes carries in it the notion and idea of mercy and beneficence; hence mercy to the poor is sometimes expressed by righteousness; and the righteous acts of God intend his mercies and benefits unto men; see Dan_4:27; and so forgiveness of sin springs from the tender mercies of our God, and is both an act of justice and of mercy; of justice, with respect to the blood of Christ, and of pure grace and mercy to the pardoned sinner: the following clause,
and to cleanse us, from all unrighteousness
, is but the same thing expressed in different words; for all unrighteousness is sin, and to cleanse from sin is to remove the guilt of it, by an application of the blood of Christ for pardon. The antecedent to the relative "he" in the text, is either God, who is light, and with whom the saints have fellowship; or his Son Jesus Christ, who is the nearest antecedent, and who, being truly God, has a power to forgive sin. John Gill
Men of old see 1 John 1:9 as being written to believers, and I wholeheartedly agree.