“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
Verse 9 is the reverse of verse 8. Confession of sin is the opposite of the claim that we are not guilty of sin. This verse is a counter-claim to verse eight that Christians are not guilty of sin. The Christian who denies guilt deceives himself.
Verse 7 is cleansing from the principle of sin, whereas verse 9 is cleansing from the practice of sin.
The “if” here is hypothetical. Maybe we will confess, and maybe we will not confess. It is conditional on our will or volition.
The word “confess” means to speak the same thing, to assent, accord, agree with, concede, acknowledge. The idea is to confess by means of admitting guilt. Confession is saying what God says about our sins – that they are violations of God’s character. Sins are not blunders or mistakes but the desecration of the character of God. There is a danger in losing fellowship with God if we conceal our sins.
Confession based on the blood of Christ is our authority for fellowship with God because it acknowledges any violations of His character.
Walking in the light involves increased consciousness of our sinful unrighteousness and taking active steps to rid ourselves of that sin by claiming God’s forgiveness and cleansing through open confession of sin before God.
Believers who desire to walk with God confess their sin openly and frankly to God. We make the judgment that our sins are awful before God. We agree with God in condemning sin.
Confession does not mean to plead with God for forgiveness, feel sorry for sin, to pray for forgiveness, to feel sorry for sins, or to make restitution for our sins. No, the idea is to accept the idea that our sins violate an absolutely holy God and that our only solution for sin is the death of Christ on the cross.
Some claim that there is no need to confess sin because we already have forgiveness (Ep 1:7). This idea confuses positional forgiveness with experiential forgiveness. God finally and fully forgives us in our positional forgiveness. In this sense, we never need forgiveness again. God forensically forgives us forever in positional forgiveness. However, when it comes to fellowship with God, we need to confess specific violations to God’s character.
The forgiveness of 1:9 is experiential forgiveness. God always bases our experiential forgiveness on our positional forgiveness. A son may fall out of favor with his family, but he is still a member of the family. The issue in experiential forgiveness is not acceptance by God but fellowship with Him. Continual forgiveness allows us to fellowship with God on an ongoing basis.
We always view sin for what it really is – a violation of God’s character. That is why God will forgive our sin based only on the cross of Christ. God forgave sin when Christ paid the penalty for that sin. Jesus meets all of the Father’s holy demands by His payment for sins on the cross. Jesus died in the sinner’s stead; He died in our place. It cost Jesus Christ a great deal to qualify us for forgiveness.
For a detailed study of 1 John 1:9, go to this link: http://versebyversecommentary.com/articles/running-exploration-of-1-john-1/