“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (I John 1:9).
This familiar promise is often quoted as a sort of pat formula for dealing with sin in a believer’s life. Simply identify and acknowledge the sin, and all is forgiven.
This is gloriously true, so far as it goes, but the last part of the verse is also vitally important. The Lord wants His people to be cleansed from all unrighteousness. “If we walk in the light, as He is in the light, . . . the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin” (I John 1:7).
In these and other verses, the verb translated “cleanse” is the Greek, katharizo, from which we get such English words as “cathartic.” It is a strong word, sometimes translated as “purify” and even “purge.” The sin not only is to be confessed, it must be purged!
The Lord Jesus Christ “by Himself purged our sins” (Hebrews 1:3), so that God can be perfectly “faithful and just to forgive us our sins” on the basis of His cleansing blood and sanctifying word. But this is far more than an academic formula, for this cleansing, purifying, and purging must become a real experience in one’s life, and the Lord will do whatever is necessary to make it so. He “gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify [same word as ‘cleanse’] unto Himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works” (Titus 2:14).
We must learn to “walk in the light” and to be “zealous of good works,” as He “purgeth us from all unrighteousness” when we “confess our sins.” It is necessary that we be constrained to become more “like Him,” for “when He shall appear, . . . we shall see Him as He is. And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as He is pure” (I John 3:2,3). Thus, His forgiveness of our sins is inevitably accompanied by a purging of our lives. HMM