While a case can be made for taking this paragraph unit as extending to 2:2, given the use of the vocative in 2:1, I think it best to begin a new paragraph at that point.
Verse 5 functions as the basis for two appeals which John makes in verses 6–10. The basis of the appeals is the character and nature of God as light, meaning God’s complete purity and holiness. The two appeals are not made with direct commands, but rather are mitigated by John. The first appeal is semantically expressed in verses 6–7: Christians should live according to God’s pure nature, that is, they should not sin. The second appeal is semantically expressed in verses 8–10: When we do not live according to God’s pure nature, that is, when we do sin, we should confess our sin to God and experience his forgiveness.
These verses contain a series of six conditional sentences in three pairs of negative falsehoods (1:6, 8, 10), each followed by positive truths (1:7, 9; 2:1). Three times John expresses a statement of what someone could say about their sin, expressed as “if we say.”
- Fellowship with one another
- Cleansing from sin
Verse 7 is the first mitigated command in the letter. Semantically, what John is really saying in this verse is: Christians should behave according to God’s pure moral nature and not sin. In vv. 5–7, John lays down for us the basis of our fellowship with God.
In vv. 8–10, where he continues the subject of Christian fellowship and explains that our fellowship with God continues on the basis of our willingness to confess our sin. When John says in verse 8, “if we say we have no sin,” he is referring to committing sinful acts. This is consistent with the plural “sins” in verse 9 and the equivalent concept in verse 10.
Verse 8 begins with another conditional statement: “If we say we have no sin.”
How does the claim of v. 8 differ from v. 10? There are three views: 1) sin nature vs. acts of sin; 2) both are identical – claims to have never sinned; 3) claim in 1:8 denies a person is guilty for committing sin, while in v.10 the claim is that no sin has been committed since conversion.
“Looking at the Greek verbal tense from an aspect point of view rather than purely a tense point of view, the perfect tense verb in v. 10 may call special attention to the stative aspect of the verbal action expressed as “we have not sinned.” In other words, the perfect tense verb here serves as a way of “grammaticalizing the speaker’s conception of the verbal process as a state or condition” (Stanley Porter, Verbal Aspect in the Greek of the New Testament with Reference to Tense and Mood, in Studies in Biblical Greek 1 (New York: Peter Lang, 1989), p. 257.
John teaches that if we say we have no sin, two things result. First, we are self–deceived.
The second result is “the truth is not in us.” This refers to the truth of the Gospel.
1 John 1:9 is the second mitigated exhortation in this paragraph (1:7 was the first). The conditional clause “if we confess our sins” carries the force of a mitigated command: “we should confess our sins.” Instead of a direct imperative telling us to confess our sins, John chooses a less direct method of pressing on us the necessity of confession of sin to God when we as Christians sin.
In verse 10 we find the third “if we say” statement. Here John addresses the concept of committing individual acts of sin. John writes: “If we say we have not sinned.” Notice the word “sinned” is a verb whose tense (perfect) expresses the notion “we do not commit acts of sin.”
There is something of a progression in these verses. In verse 6, you become a liar; in verse 8, you deceive yourself; and in verse 10, you make God out to be a liar. Notice also how verse 10 functions as a summary to verses 6–10 and how John semantically parallels three concepts in verses 6 and 10: “If we say – If we say;” “We lie – we make him a liar;” “and do not do the truth” – “and his word is not in us.”
The overall structure of this paragraph could be outlined as follows:
A. Because God is Light! – (v. 5).
I. Walk in the Light! – (vv. 6–7).
II. Don’t Deny Sin, Confess it! – (vv. 8–10).
Since the latter two sub-paragraphs are dominated by semantic imperatives, they constitute the two primary points being made by John. Because God is light (ground or basis), we must do two things (Exhortation): 1) Walk in the light, 2) Don’t deny sin but confess it.