In 1 John 1:9 who confesses their sin? Who is God faithful and just to forgive their sin? Who is the “we” and “us” in 1 John 1: 9? This may seem a unusual question to ask but if a letter, email or text was sent to you from someone else and you read it thinking it was for you, when it was not, it could change everything. If you thought it was from one person and it was from another, that also would make a huge difference. That is why we should distinguish the author from the recipient. The Apostle John is the writer who represents Christ, his fellow apostles and the church that Jesus started. He is an original follower of Jesus, and his very close friend (John 13:22-24).
He begins the first five verses of chapter one with the pronouns “we” and “us.” John the Apostle refers exclusively to the testimony of the life of Christ that he and the other Apostles had witnessed (v. 1-3). He speaks of Jesus Christ whom they have seen, heard and touched (v. 1-2). They were the people who knew Christ more personally than any of us because they saw him physically. They saw everything that Jesus did and heard everything that he said and he gave them the power of the Spirit so they could give perfect evidence to defend his claims (John 14:28; 15:26-27; 16:13-15).
John was one of those Apostles who was directly commissioned by Christ to carry the gospel message to the entire world (Matt. 28:19-20; Mk. 16:15). The Apostles were made responsible by Christ to communicate their testimony about Him to the Christians of their day and now we read their writings. Thus, the biblical Christ is the only real Christ. The purpose for his writings according to John was so that people in his day and in ours may have the joyful fellowship which they had with Christ and his Father (v. 3-4). Got it? We were those people that believed in Christ through their word (John 17:20) which are found in the Holy Scriptures (2 Tim. 3:16-17).
That is how we identify who Apostle John is talking to, those to whom the letter is addressed. It identifies the pronoun “you” as the people to whom the Apostle declared the true God. The word “you” has a double reference to those who are outsiders and need to come inside the circle of fellowship and the insiders of that circle of Christian fellowship who need to have their memories refreshed about the truth found in Christ (see 1 Cor 5:12). Clearly this shows that without the Bible, without the Prophets of the Old Testament and the Apostles of the New Testament you cannot know Christ who is the center and circumference of them all (Eph. 2:20).
Now in verses five through ten we see the details of their message about God. These are truths all Christians believe. In these verses the “we” and “us” become a reference to the teachers and their students. It refers to “all of us.” So the whole circle of fellowship of insiders is made clear. While the application of truth regards insiders and outsiders the Apostles are addressing those who are already inside the circle of Christian fellowship.
Another case for the fact that John expected people who were already Christians to confess their sins to God.
See the next article in this series.
©2016 Rev. Stephen S. Gibney