In 1 John 1:8, we are told that “if we say that we do not have sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us” (LEB). Often in my upbringing, that has been used as a license to continue in sin. Yet, 1 John also makes it clear that the “one who does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in this person” (1 John 2:4, Lexham English Bible). So, what is going on here?
Perhaps the answer is found in a verse which John alludes to. Jeremiah 2:35 says the following: Look, I am entering into judgment with you because of your saying, ‘I have not sinned’ (LEB, Jeremiah 2:35). Contextually, Jeremiah is speaking of people who claim innocence even though they rebel against God with their actions (Jeremiah 2:29). In other words, they claim innocence and righteousness without any repentance, change in there action to be obedient to the Father.
Interestingly enough, 1 John 1:9 says that “if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just, so that he will forgive us our sins and will cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (LEB, 1 John 1:9). So, what is the point?
Based on the context of John’s reference to Jeremiah 2:35 and John’s emphasis on our obedience as evidence of our walking in the light as contrasted to walking in the darkness, the claim that we are have all sinned is not a license to sin. Rather, it is a call to repentance. It is a call to confess and turn to obey the Father faithfully with the greatest teacher, Jesus.