“Dr. Torrey, How do you reconcile the contradiction in the Bible between I John 1:9 and I John 3:15? In the first passage we are told that if we confess our sins they will be forgiven: in the last passage we are told that there is no forgiveness for the murderer.”
There is no contradiction whatever between these two passages. In the first passage we are told that the believer receives forgivness the moment he confesses his sin; in the second passage we are not told that there is no forgiveness for the murderer. We are told that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him while he is a murderer, that is, while he still cherishes hate for his brother, but no true believer cherishes hate for brother.
One who has been a murderer and one who has hated his brother will find forgiveness the moment he turns from his sin and confesses it and puts his trust in Jesus Christ. (Is. 55:7; Prov. 28:13; Acts 13:38-39). There is nothing whatever in I John 3:15 that suggests that one who has murdered never can find forgiveness. It only teaches that one who is still a murderer by cherishing hate in his heart to his brother hath not eternal life while he cherishes that hatred.
There is a record in the Bible of more than one murderer being forgiven. David was a murderer, yet he is the one who wrote the 32nd Psalm (note especially the 5th verse), “I acknowledged my sin unto thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid. I said I will confess my transgressions unto the Lord; and thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin.” And the 51st Psalm, note especially the 14th verse, “Deliver me from blood guiltiness, O God, thou God of my salvation: and my tongue shall sing aloud of thy righteousness.”
Saul of Tarsus, who afterwards became Paul the Apostle, stained his hands with Christian blood and yet he wrote, I Tim. 1:15-16,
This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief. Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Christ Jesus might show forth all long suffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on Him to life everlasting.
And II Tim. 11:12, “For I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day,” and II Tim. 4.7-8, “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them that love his appearing.”
There are those living to day who have stained their hands with the blood of their fellow men but who found mercy through the finished work of Christ, who are today happy, useful Christians.
First published in The King’s Business III:12 (December 1912), p. 334.