What is the difference between the forgiveness that we read of in 1 John 2:12 and 1 John 1:9?

Edward, from Australia


Dear Edward,

Forgiveness of sins is of one of the most touching yet, profound truths in scripture, for it demonstrates God's heart of love toward sinful man. Although there are three different verbs that are used in scripture to emphasize forgiveness, the 2 references above have the same word, aphiema, primarily, "to send forth or away" besides its other meaning, "to remit." I understand "sending away" to mean that our sins have been distanced so far from us eternally (Psalm 103:12) and that God remembers them no more (Hebrews 8:12).

Forgiveness in the letter of John has two aspects:

  1. Eternal (1 John. 2:12) as explained above where we are completely detached from every sin eternally, according to the riches of his grace (Ephesians. 1:7).

  2. Governmental (1 John. 1:9) or earthly; we need to understand that although we have been forgiven from the penalty of sins eternally, yet within these bodies of humility lies a fallen nature that responds to the principle of sin because of its presence. Thus, our fellowship with the Father, and His Son, is hindered on earth unless we confess and forsake our sins, for God is Light (1 John. 1:5).

May the Lord give us grace ever to be reminded that forgiveness is through His Name, and to hear his voice echoing in our ears "Father forgive them" until He comes and delivers us from the presence of sin.

Much love in Christ,


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