If we say that we have no sin - It is not improbable that the apostle here makes allusion to some error which was then beginning to prevail in the church. Some have supposed that the allusion is to the sect of the Nicolaitanes, and to the views which they maintained, particularly that nothing was forbidden to the children of God under the gospel, and that in the freedom conferred on Christians they were at liberty to do what they pleased, Revelation 2:6, Revelation 2:15. It is not certain, however, that the allusion is to them, and it is not necessary to suppose that there is reference to any particular sect that existed at that time. The object of the apostle is to show that it is implied in the very nature of the gospel that we are sinners, and that if, on any pretence, we denied that fact, we utterly deceived ourselves. In all ages there have been those who have attempted, on some pretence, to justify their conduct; who have felt that they did not need a Saviour; who have maintained that they had a right to do what they pleased; or who, on pretence of being perfectly sanctified, have held that they live without the commission of sin. To meet these, and all similar cases, the apostle affirms that it is a great elementary truth, which on no pretence is to be denied, that we are all sinners. We are at all times, and in all circumstances, to admit the painful and humiliating truth that we are transgressors of the law of God, and that we need, even in our best services, the cleansing of the blood of Jesus Christ. The fair interpretation of the declaration here will apply not only to those who maintain that they have not been guilty of sin in the past, but also to those who profess to have become perfectly sanctified, and to live without sin. In any and every way, if we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves. Compare the notes at James 3:2.
We deceive ourselves - We have wrong views about our character. This does not mean that the self-deception is willful, but that it in fact exists. No man knows himself who supposes that in all respects he is perfectly pure.
And the truth is not in us - On this subject. A man who should maintain that he had never committed sin, could have no just views of the truth in regard to himself, and would show that he was in utter error. In like manner, according to the obvious interpretation of this passage, he who maintains that he is wholly sanctified, and lives without any sin, shows that he is deceived in regard to himself, and that the truth, in this respect, is not in him. He may hold the truth on other subjects, but he does not on this. The very nature of the Christian religion supposes that we feel ourselves to be sinners, and that we should be ever ready to acknowledge it. A man who claims that he is absolutely perfect, that he is holy as God is holy, must know little of his own heart. Who, after all his reasoning on the subject, would dare to go out under the open heaven, at midnight, and lift up his hands and his eyes toward the stars, and say that he had no sin to confess - that he was as pure as the God that made those stars?
If we say that we have no sin - This is tantamount to 1 John 1:10; : If we say that we have not sinned. All have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; and therefore every man needs a Savior, such as Christ is. It is very likely that the heretics, against whose evil doctrines the apostle writes, denied that they had any sin, or needed any Savior. In deed, the Gnostics even denied that Christ suffered: the Aeon, or Divine Being that dwelt in the man Christ Jesus, according to them, left him when he was taken by the Jews; and he, being but a common man, his sufferings and death had neither merit nor efficacy.
We deceive ourselves - By supposing that we have no guilt, no sinfulness, and consequently have no need of the blood of Christ as an atoning sacrifice: this is the most dreadful of all deceptions, as it leaves the soul under all the guilt and pollution of sin, exposed to hell, and utterly unfit for heaven.
The truth is not in us - We have no knowledge of the Gospel of Jesus, the whole of which is founded on this most awful truth - all have sinned, all are guilty, all are unholy; and none can redeem himself. Hence it is as necessary that Jesus Christ should become incarnated, and suffer and die to bring men to God.
There is no one, however earnestly he may be striving to do his best, who can say, “I have no sin.” He who would say this would be under a dangerous deception. “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8). How then can we escape the charge, “Thou art weighed in the balances, and art found wanting”? We are to look to Christ. At infinite cost, He has covenanted to be our representative in the heavenly courts, our Advocate before God.—Manuscript 23, February 8, 1906, “A God of Knowledge by Whom Actions Are Weighed.” UL 53.4Read in context »
God's character has not changed. He is the same jealous God today as when He gave His law upon Sinai and wrote it with His own finger on the tables of stone. Those who trample upon God's holy law may say, “I am sanctified”; but to be indeed sanctified, and to claim sanctification, are two different things. SL 68.1
The New Testament has not changed the law of God. The sacredness of the Sabbath of the fourth commandment is as firmly established as the throne of Jehovah. John writes: “Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law. And ye know that he was manifested to take away our sins; and in him is no sin. Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not: whosoever sinneth [transgresseth the law] hath not seen him, neither known him” (1 John 3:4-6). We are authorized to hold in the same estimation as did the beloved disciple those who claim to abide in Christ, to be sanctified, while living in transgression of God's law. He met with just such a class as we have to meet. He said, “Little children, let no man deceive you: he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous. He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning” (verses 7, 8). Here the apostle speaks in plain terms, as he deemed the subject demanded. SL 68.2
The epistles of John breathe a spirit of love. But when he comes in contact with that class who break the law of God and yet claim that they are living without sin, he does not hesitate to warn them of their fearful deception. “If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: but if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us” (1 John 1:6-10). SL 68.3Read in context »
Some time after this, the characters of these persons were developed before the people, and the vision given in reference to them was fully vindicated. LS 84.1
“Believe in Christ,” was the cry of these claimants of sanctification. “Only believe; this is all that is required of you. Only have faith in Jesus.” LS 84.2Read in context »
Errors will come in, and strange doctrines will be advocated. Some will depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of devils. As far back as the establishment of the first sanitarium these things began to appear. They were similar to the errors that manifested themselves soon after the disappointment of 1844. A strong phase of fanaticism appeared, calling itself the witness of the Holy Ghost. I was given a message to rebuke this evil work.—Letter 79, 1905. Ev 595.1
Beware of Doctrine “Just Believe”—We shall meet with false doctrines of every kind, and unless we are acquainted with what Christ has said, and are following His instruction, we shall be led astray. One of the most dangerous of these doctrines is that of false sanctification. There are those who claim to be holy, and yet are breaking God's commandments. Their assertion that they are sinless is false and should not be received.... Ev 595.2Read in context »