GOD BEING OBLIGATED TO FORGIVE
God sent the Lord Jesus to the world. He shed His blood for man’s sins on the cross, and He dealt with man’s sins. All these are an expression of God’s love. The Lord Jesus has shed His blood; God Himself has testified for Him that whoever believes in Him will be forgiven of their sins. Those who confess their sins will be cleansed. As long as we believe (if we are a sinner) or confess (if we are a believer), God must forgive our sins. If He did not forgive, He would be unfaithful and unrighteous. But I will ask most reverently, "Can the holy God be unfaithful and unrighteous?" Therefore, the matter of forgiveness is securely guaranteed. We should rejoice in God; sin shall not lord it over us any longer. We can be delivered from sin and can be forgiven of our sins.
GOD’S GRACE OF FORGIVENESS
LEADING US TO REPENTANCE
There are two sides to God’s truth. What I have said emphasizes the side of grace. It is true that as long as a man is preserved in the grace of God, he does not have to be concerned about the matter of forgiveness. But if a man thinks that God’s grace can be wasted and that he can "continue in sin that grace may abound" (Rom. 6:1), he should pay attention to the following words. These words are severe. The Word says, "Behold then the kindness and severity of God: on those who fell, severity; but on you, the kindness of God, if you continue in His kindness" (Rom. 11:22).
Some have said, "I can sin daily by hiding under the blood." Others have said, "I sin in the daytime and confess to God at night, and I am forgiven. The next day I sin again and confess again at night, and I am forgiven again. Since the Lord taught Peter to forgive seventy times seven times, He can surely forgive me. Moreover, 1 John 1:9 says that God is faithful and righteous. He has to forgive my sins, the sins that I have confessed, through the vicarious death of the Lord on the cross."
Senseless men! We have to realize that God’s grace is to lead us to repentance and not to encourage us to sin. If we think that the precious blood can be wasted this way, we have to realize that the blood has never cleansed us from the sins "confessed" in this way.
THE CONDITION FOR A CHRISTIAN TO BE FORGIVEN
Now we want to answer one question based on the Scriptures. Please read 1 John 1:7: "But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from every sin." This verse shows us one condition and two results. If one condition is met, there will surely be two results. What is this one condition? It is to "walk in the light as He is in the light." If we walk in the light as Christians, we will not be in darkness and will not sin, but we will have works of light rather than works of darkness and sin. But what kind of light are we going to walk in? What, in other words, will this light be according to? In this verse it says that walking in light is "as He is in the light." According to verse 5, "God is light," and in this light there is no darkness at all. All other lights are mixed with darkness. When we walk in this way, we are walking in God’s light, and there will be the following two results. First, "we have fellowship with one another." This is our mutual fellowship with all the brothers and sisters in the Lord. If we meet the condition we have mentioned, we can fellowship. If there is no fellowship, it must mean that the condition we have mentioned has been violated. Furthermore, there is a second result, which is that "the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from every sin." This means that when we fulfill the condition of "walking in the light," the blood will be effective in its work of cleansing us from our sins. Now we are clear: fellowship with one another and cleansing of the blood both come from the condition of walking in the light. If a Christian does not walk in the light, he will lose the benefit of fellowship and cleansing. Put another way, in order to have fellowship and to be cleansed from our sins, we have to walk in the light. Otherwise, we cannot fellowship, and there cannot be any cleansing even if we want these things.
The first result, the fellowship, is visible; it can be experienced on earth and is before men. The second result, the cleansing by the blood, is invisible; it is a fact in heaven and is before God. But just as the visible result on earth is a fact, the invisible result in heaven is also a fact. Just as the part before men is a fact, the part before God is also a fact. Therefore, if you are a believer who has sinned, you will not be able to fellowship naturally with other believers; you will try to avoid other brothers and sisters and will not want to see their faces. I must tell those who are walking in sin and darkness that the minute you lose your fellowship with other believers, the effectiveness of the cleansing of the blood will also be gone before God in heaven. Just as you lose the first result through not walking in the light, you will surely lose the second result. You may confess your sins with your mouth, but the blood will never cleanse you of your sin. This does not mean that the blood has lost its effectiveness in cleansing. Rather, it means that your condition of not walking in the light shows that you have not fulfilled the prerequisite for the blood to cleanse you of your sins. The prerequisite for cleansing is to be walking in the light. But since you continue to sin and walk in darkness, the blood cannot cleanse your sins. The blood can only cleanse the sins of those who walk in the light.
Therefore, brothers, do not deceive yourselves. If you have sinned and become fallen and have lost the visible fellowship, I am afraid that the blood in the invisible heaven has not cleansed you from your sins either. I must tell you most soberly that unless you thoroughly deal with your sins in sorrow and repentance, you will still have to give an account of your sins before the judgment seat of Christ in the future. Therefore, if there is only the confession with the mouth, without the conduct of walking in the light and without a broken and contrite heart (Psa. 51:17), your sins will not be cleansed.
Now we want to give special emphasis to this one prerequisite, which is to walk in the light. This prerequisite has been particularly neglected by those who have wasted the blood. (Of course, in reality, the blood can never be wasted by anyone.) Little do they realize that this prerequisite is their only remedy. Therefore, we have to pay more attention to this matter. According to the Bible, whenever a believer has sinned and desires to receive forgiveness, there are at least three conditions that must be met: (1) with respect to the spirit—there must be a broken spirit (Psa. 51:17), (2) with respect to the mouth—one must confess his sin with his mouth (1 John 1:9), and (3) with respect to the walk—one must walk in the light (1 John 1:7). If anyone thinks that by hiding under the blood they can sin every day, or that they can sin in the daytime and have everything taken care of by confessing at night, I will tell them most solemnly that there is not such a thing. God cannot be mocked. Whenever you walk in the darkness, the blood cannot cleanse you from your sin. The blood cannot become your refuge; it cannot become your hiding place. If you want the blood to cleanse you from your sins, you must first walk in the light and not indulge in your sins any longer.
The true confession must be one that sorrows according to God. This kind of sorrow works a repentance that is without regret. This kind of repentance has seven expressions: (1) earnestness, (2) defense, (3) indignation, (4) fear, (5) longing, (6) zeal, and (7) punishment (2 Cor. 7:11). Only those who have these seven conditions are truly confessing persons. Otherwise, a person’s confession with the mouth does not agree with his heart. His mouth may be confessing, but his heart will not hate sin. I say again that the blood will not have any effect on such persons.
Some commit sins again and again, and they are bound by sin because they know the forgiveness of sin only as a formula; they know the way or method to obtain the forgiveness of sin. They know 1 John 1:9, which says, "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness." They think that the Lord Jesus has already shed His blood for them, and that the blood can now cleanse them from their sins. At the same time, God is both faithful and righteous, and if they confess their sins, God will surely forgive them of all their sins and cleanse them from all unrighteousness. Since they have this "charm" to protect them, they do whatever they want and act loosely, because there is a way to be forgiven in any case. They think that as long as they confess, they can sin a little and everything will be all right, even while they are sinning. These people are in a dangerous place! I heard of one brother opening the letter of another brother. Later he told the second one, "I know that it is wrong to open up others’ letters, but I know that you will forgive me. That is why I opened it." This is knowing the way of forgiveness and purposely sinning because of this knowledge. Those who do such things have fallen into Satan’s trap. These people are hidden rocks in one’s spiritual voyage; they are very dangerous. If someone only knows the method of forgiveness of 1 John 1:9, which is confession, but does not know the prerequisite of verse 7, which is walking in the light, I wish he would be in fear and trembling, so that he would not sin and offend God. Let me say again that the grace of God is to lead him to repentance; it is not to encourage him to sin.
(Collected Works of Watchman Nee, The (Set 1) Vol. 19: Notes on Scriptural Messages (3), Chapter 10, by Watchman Nee)