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1 John 2:12 by Robert Dean
Series:1st John (2000)
Duration:58 mins 6 secs

Forgiveness and Cleansing; 1 John 2:12


1 John 2:12 NASB "I am writing to you, little children, because your sins have been forgiven you for His name's sake." "Little children" is the Greek word teknion [teknion] and it a technical term to refer to the whole congregation. John looks upon them as his children in the faith because he has pastured them, taught them, nurtured them along spiritually through the feeding of the Word. That is how believers grow: through the teaching of the Word under the filling of God the Holy Spirit. It is only from feeding on the Word of God that we can advance as children of God to maturity and glorify God.

"…because your sins have been forgiven you for His name's sake." This is not the best translation and we have to pull out some emphases, otherwise it would seem as if John is saying that because you are little children your sins are automatically forgiven. There are some people who believe that and teach that, i.e. that because Christ died on the cross for our sins that our sins are not only paid for but all sins, past, present and future, are forgiven, and so we never need to confess our sins. That is not what this is implying or saying. The phrase hoti aphiemi [o(ti a)fihmi]. hoti is the causal particle and it can refer to cause, but it also can introduce either a direct or indirect quotation and it also has an explanatory force. This is not a causal hoti and it shouldn't be translated "because." He is giving a reason, but a reason is not always a cause. There is a distinction between cause and effect. He is not writing because their sins are forgiven. That would means that "their sins are forgiven" directly caused his writing. He is not writing to them because their sins are forgiven, he is writing to them because they are being impacted by false teaching. He is writing to them since their sins are forgiven; he is writing to them in light of the fact that their sins are forgiven. We might even say "for your sins are forgiven; "for" implies an explanation. The word for sins is the standard word hamartia [a(martia] which refers to sin, missing the mark of God's standard. Every single sin, past, present and future, was paid for by Jesus Christ on the cross. In the English it says "your sins" but that implies a genitive construction—the sins of you, possession. That is not what the Greek says, it says "the sins to you are forgiven," the sins that you have committed. Literally it should be translated: "because the sins are forgiven to you." It is a dative of advantage.

Then the final phrase: "for His name's sake." That doesn't mean a whole lot to us, partly because we don't use the word "name" in the same sense that the writers of Scripture used it, but also because the translators—especially of the NASB—shifted the two words. They put "for" at the end—"for His name's sake"—as if they are explaining a reason, and they put "because" at the beginning as if that was cause. They got it reversed.  It is "because of His name," the preposition dia [dia] plus the accusative for "name." That is important because dia plus the accusative means cause, and what this is saying is that the cause for our forgiveness is Him. It is His name, and name in the Bible relates to the character of somebody. So what John is saying here is: "I am writing to you … for the sins are forgiven to you because of His character." The basis for forgiveness is His character, it is not based on the fact that we were shocked and remorseful.

The important verb here is aphiemi [a)fihmi], third person plural, perfect passive indicative. This is the key to understanding what John is saying. The indicative is the mood of reality, of fact, so it is stating a fact about our sins, that they are forgiven. The passive voice means that the subject receives the action of the verb. The third person plural is because it is talking about their sins. The sins receive the action of the verb. The perfect tense is where we have to be careful in the Greek. There are various nuances to the perfect tense in the Greek; it is not like the perfect tense in the English. It emphasises action that is completed in the past with results that go on. It can either emphasise the completedness of the action or it can emphasise the abiding results of the completed action. If the emphasis is on the continuing or abiding results of the action, that is what is called an intensive perfect. There is another nuance to the perfect which is typical of most verbs and that is a gnomic aspect. Gnomic refers to something which is the proverbial, something that is normative characteristic, a general principle; something that is envisioned on many occasions or for many individuals, something that is generally true at all times. The interesting thing about the syntax of the perfect tense is when there is a gnomic perfect tense it doesn't do away with either the intensive or the extensive nuance of the verb. So what we have here is that it is still extensive, it is a general principle emphasising the present ongoing reality. What this means is that he is writing to the congregation and is saying that "your sins are continuously now (present tense) being forgiven you as a general matter of course because of a past completed action. That past completed action is what he referred to back in 1 John 1:7 which states the basis for our cleansing; 1 John 1:9 states the occasion for the application of that forgiveness—If we confess our sins. If we are automatically cleansed of our sins just because we are saved then 1 John 1:9 is irrelevant and we don't need to confess our sins.

On the temporal side we still sin. When we are filled by the Holy Spirit and walking by means of the Holy Spirit is where we are enjoying fellowship. We can never get out of our eternal relationship with God but we get out of our temporal fellowship whenever we sin. We still have a sin nature and can commit any sin, and when we do we are out of fellowship and walking in darkness. But when we confess our sins (1 John 1:9) we are restored to fellowship and we start walking by the Holy Spirit again. The point is to stay walking in the light, to continue to abide, because that is the status of being cleansed. The issue in 1 John 1:9 is cleansing.

Exodus 29:1-6. When the high priest was installed in the high priesthood he was washed from head to toe. In the LXX the word louo [louw] to describe that. It lectured salvation. But the priest would do things and go places that were wrong and sinful, so every time after that when the priest went into the tabernacle or the temple he had to go to the golden laver to wash his hands and wash his feet, but not his whole body.

John chapter 13 is the beginning of the upper room discourse. Jesus us preparing them for the meal and He is going to wash their feet. [7] "What I do you do not realize now, but you will understand hereafter." In other words, this isn't a vital principle for right now because you are still under the Mosaic Law. It is going to be in the church age ministry of God the Holy Spirit that they were going to understand the significance of what he was getting ready to do. [8] Peter said to Him, "Never shall You wash my feet!" Jesus answered him, "If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me." The Greek word here for wash is nipto [niptw], the same LXX word used for hand washing and foot washing of the high priest when he went into the tabernacle or the temple, not the word luo used for the overall washing. In Jesus' response to Peter we have the word meros [meroj], a technical word used in legal testamentary literature (a will) in order to indicate the inheritance, share or portion given to the heir. What He is saying to Peter is, "If you don't let me forgive you for your post-salvation sins by washing your feet [that is the symbolism] you are not going to have an inheritance because all your obedience between here and the time you die is going to be in the flesh, and human good not divine good, because you are not going to be in fellowship at all. [1] "Jesus said to him, 'He who has bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean [katharizo /kaqarizw]…'" katharizo is the same word as used in 1 John 1:9.

Revelation 3:14 begins the letter to the church at Laodicea, a church made up of lukewarm believers. They are useless, neither hot nor cold, nevertheless they are still saved. In verse 19 Jesus says, "Those whom I love [filew], I reprove and discipline; therefore be zealous and repent." Only believers are the objects of Jesus' filew love. He tells these believers to repent, to change their minds about their carnality. [20] NASB "Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me." This is a picture of fellowship. [21] "He who overcomes, I will grant to him to sit down with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne." How do we overcome? By staying in fellowship. Verse 21 is talking about rewards, inheritance, the meros. If we are going to have gold, silver and precious stones at the judgment seat of Christ then that is only produced by staying in fellowship, and that is an ongoing, continuing thing in the believer's life.