Sunday, April 24, 2011

Not to Lie

1 John 1:10 If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

ἐὰν εἴπωμεν ὅτι οὐχ ἡμαρτήκαμεν, ψεύστην ποιοῦμεν αὐτὸν καὶ ὁ λόγος αὐτοῦ οὐκ ἔστιν ἐν ἡμῖν.

This ends one of the more confusing chapters for the English Bible reader. It looks like it is contradicting itself because previously John told us that if we go on sinning then we are not Christians. Now here we see that if we say that we have not sinned then His word is not in us. What do we do with this?

The answer comes from the verbs. Here the verb is ἡμαρτήκαμεν which is in the indicative perfect. However, the word in verse 8 is περιπατῶμεν, which is in the subjunctive. In other words, what John is getting at here is that if we are living in a continual state of habitual sin then we should not call ourselves Christians. However, if we say that we never have times of sin then we are lying. Confessing sin is at the heart of the Christian life. We can't call ourselves Christians and say that we do not sin.

This is a passage that really puzzled me until I learned Greek. I'm not saying that you need to know Greek to read 1 John, but if you don't know Greek this is where a good commentary really comes in handy.

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