If We Say We Have No Sin: What Does 1 John 1:8 Mean?


1 John 1:8, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” King James Version (KJV)

Translation1 John 1:8
ESVIf we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.
NASBIf we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us.
NIVIf we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.
NLTIf we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth.

If We Say We Have No Sin: Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary

1:5-10 A message from the Lord Jesus, the Word of life, the eternal Word, we should all gladly receive. The great God should be represented to this dark world, as pure and perfect light. As this is the nature of God, his doctrines and precepts must be such.

And as his perfect happiness cannot be separated from his perfect holiness, so our happiness will be in proportion to our being made holy. To walk in darkness, is to live and act against religion. God holds no heavenly fellowship or intercourse with unholy souls.

There is no truth in their profession; their practice shows its folly and falsehood. The eternal Life, the eternal Son, put on flesh and blood, and died to wash us from our sins in his own blood, and procures for us the sacred influences by which sin is to be subdued more and more, till it is quite done away.

While the necessity of a holy walk is insisted upon, as the effect and evidence of the knowledge of God in Christ Jesus, the opposite error of self-righteous pride is guarded against with equal care. All who walk near to God, in holiness and righteousness, are sensible that their best days and duties are mixed with sin.

God has given testimony to the sinfulness of the world, by providing a sufficient, effectual Sacrifice for sin, needed in all ages; and the sinfulness of believers themselves is shown, by requiring them continually to confess their sins, and to apply by faith to the blood of that Sacrifice.

Let us plead guilty before God, be humble, and willing to know the worst of our case. Let us honestly confess all our sins in their full extent, relying wholly on his mercy and truth through the righteousness of Christ, for a free and full forgiveness, and our deliverance from the power and practice of sin.

1 John 1:8 | Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary

The confession of sins is a necessary consequence of “walking in the light” (1Jo 1:7). “If thou shalt confess thyself a sinner, the truth is in thee; for the truth is itself light.

Not yet has thy life become perfectly light, as sins are still in thee, but yet thou hast already begun to be illuminated, because there is in thee confession of sins” [Augustine].

that we have no sin—”Have,” not “have had,” must refer not to the past sinful life while unconverted, but to the present state wherein believers have sin even still. Observe, “sin” is in the singular; “(confess our) sins” (1Jo 1:9) in the plural.

Sin refers to the corruption of the old man still present in us, and the stain created by the actual sins flowing from that old nature in us.

To confess our need of cleansing from present sin is essential to “walking in the light”; so far is the presence of some sin incompatible with our in the main “walking in light.”

But the believer hates, confesses, and longs to be delivered from all sin, which is darkness. “They who defend their sins, will see in the great day whether their sins can defend them.”

deceive ourselves—We cannot deceive God; we only make ourselves to err from the right path.

the truth—(1Jo 2:4). True faith. “The truth respecting God’s holiness and our sinfulness, which is the very first spark of light in us, has no place in us” [Alford].

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