The practical and experiential holiness of the people of the God is a subject that is most neglected in our day, but most emphasized in Scripture. It is the goal of the Father’s electing love, to the praise of his glorious grace (Rom. 8:29; Eph. 1:4). It is central to the purpose of the atonement, for Christ died to graciously sanctify his people unto God (Eph. 5:25–27). And it is precisely the thing wrought from the inner depths of the soul to the outer practices of the life in all the redeemed by the blessed Spirit of God (2 Thess. 2:13). This sanctification, accomplished and brought into effective operation in the lives of redeemed sinners by the triumphant grace of the triune God, is not a peripheral part of their redemption from sin, but is at the very heart of it, even as it is based on the blood and righteousness of Jesus Christ alone (Rom. 6:14).

The Reformed tradition in its most classic and orthodox expressions has always emphasized the vital importance of gospel holiness. Antinomians have often accused the Reformed of obscuring grace due to the Reformed insistence on the believer’s obligation and duty to engage in a circumspect manner of living by keeping the moral law as a rule of life. On the other hand, groups with Pelagian or semi-Pelagian tendencies, having no uncertain inclination to introduce the works of human performance into the equation of salvation, have accused the Reformed of obscuring the necessity of practical holiness and personal obedience due to the Reformed insistence on sovereign grace.[1] While the former accuses the Reformed of slighting grace and the latter of neglecting duty, historic Reformed orthodoxy has always maintained a carefully constructed, biblical balance that emphasizes the necessity of both grace and duty in harmonious consistency by grounding all duty in the reality of the gospel’s grace.[2]

The Second London Baptist Confession, in continuity with Reformed orthodoxy, exemplifies this wise balance as it sets forth the biblical doctrine of sanctification in Chapter 13. By its masterful exposition of this doctrine, it does honor to the testimony of Scripture as it exhibits a robust doctrine of sanctification in consonance with the law-gospel framework of God’s dealings with His image-bearing creatures. This chapter walks the tightrope of truth as it rejects legalism, repudiates moral laxity, and upholds the nature and power of grace.

This remarkable chapter doesn’t just give us a profound summary of doctrine, but also stresses the experiential nature of sanctification as every believer lives it out. In keeping with their distinctive emphasis of viewing practical piety as the goal of all sound theology (see 1 Tim. 3:16; 6:3; Titus 1:1; 2:11–12; 2 Pet. 1:3), the Puritan theologians who framed this chapter did so with an accentuated experiential emphasis that endeavors to explicate the experience of the soul as it becomes acquainted with the reality of gospel sanctification. What we have here is not a dusty formulation of antiquated doctrine but an excellent description of the practical power of the gospel as that power comes into conflict with sin, contends with it in mortal combat, and ultimately conquers it in the believer’s life. In short, this chapter deals with nothing less than the everyday Christian life in its very heart and life and soul, describing it in the most realistic of terms according to a sound biblical framework of gospel sanctification.

In three paragraphs, the confession gives us an outline of the nature, the struggle, and the progress of evangelical sanctification. For the sake of expediency, we’ll treat our exposition of this chapter under two headings.

I. The Nature of Gospel Sanctification (Par. 1)

They who are united to Christ, effectually called, and regenerated, having a new heart and a new spirit created in them through the virtue of Christ’s death and resurrection, are also farther sanctified, really and personally,1 through the same virtue, by His Word and Spirit dwelling in them;2 the dominion of the whole body of sin is destroyed,3 and the several lusts thereof are more and more weakened and mortified,4 and they more and more quickened and strengthened in all saving graces,5 to the practice of all true holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord.6

1 Acts 20:32; Romans 6:5, 6. 2 John 17:17; Ephesians 3:16-19; 1 Thessalonians 5:21-23. 3 Romans 6:14. 4 Galatians 5:24. 5 Colossians 1:11. 6 2 Corinthians 7:1; Hebrews 12:14.

The confession begins its succinct explication of the doctrine of sanctification by rooting and grounding it in the grace of the gospel. Christ is the fount from which all salvific blessings flow, a fact that the confession draws attention to as it identifies the recipients of sanctifying grace solely as “they who are united to Christ.” Christ secured the grace of sanctification and the Holy Spirit applies it to the elect by uniting them to Christ as the fruition of their being “effectually called” (1 Cor. 1:30; cf. v.9).

If we understand the gospel as the good news of what God has accomplished in the person and through the work of His Son to save hell-deserving sinners (1 Cor. 15:3–4) and not what sinners feign to achieve through their self-concocted efforts, then sanctification is a thoroughly evangelical grace. The gospel is the root; sanctification is the fruit. As John Murray tells us, “Sanctification is an aspect of the application of redemption.”[3] As such, it is a God-wrought grace that the Spirit applies to the elect through the atoning merits and mediation of Christ alone (1 Tim. 2:5). Sanctification, therefore, can only be experienced by embracing Christ; it can never be had apart from Him (John 15:5).[4]

In addition to its Christ-centered focus, the priority of grace in sanctification is stressed in several other ways in this paragraph. First of all, it grounds sanctification in the monergistic nature and new-creational power of regeneration, which, by the sovereign creative fiat of God creates a “new heart” and a “new spirit”[5] in the sinner (2 Cor. 4:6; 5:17; Ezek. 36:25–27). Since regeneration is solely the work of God, whereby God is active and man is the passive recipient (John 3:8; Eph. 2:5), and since sanctification in its inception and ongoing influence is the blossomed expression of the vital seed of new life implanted in the moment of initial regeneration (1 John 3:9; Eph. 4:23–24), the power by which we are sanctified is the same as the power by which we are born again, which is nothing short of the supernatural power of Almighty God (Col. 3:10).

Second, in harmony with this, the confession consistently uses the passive voice throughout the paragraph all the way through until the final phrase, implying that God is the author and initiator of sanctification and the sanctified sinner is the object and beneficiary of his exertive influence.

Third, it explicitly grounds the two aspects of sanctification, namely, mortification (dying to sin) and vivification (quickening in new-creational life) in the vicarious nature of the death and resurrection of Christ, in accord with which the Spirit works to produce the efficacious expression of said death and resurrection in the life experience of the elect.

Fourth, it attributes sanctification to the immediate agency, not to anything intrinsic in the saved sinner, but to “His Word and Spirit dwelling in them.” Therefore, the life-giving power of God, the monergistic authorship of God, the accomplishment of God through the Son, the self-revelation of God through the Word, and the direct influence of God in the Spirit, all cohere and converge to ensure the prevailing initiative and predominant supremacy of grace in the work of sanctification. There is no room here for legalistic concepts of supposed holiness that attribute the actual righteousness of Christians to their own, independent moral efforts.

This does not mean that we are entirely passive in sanctification, however. Divine sovereignty doesn’t nullify human responsibility; it enables and sustains it. Though regeneration is logically and causally prior to faith and is therefore entirely monergistic (John. 3:3–8; 1 John. 5:1), sanctification is subsequent to faith and is appropriated by the necessary instrumentality of faith (Acts 26:18)—in that sense it is synergistic. It is not synergistic in the sense of involving a co-equal partnership between God and the saved sinner, but in the sense that man is responsible to engage his whole being—mind, will and emotions—in seeking and working out the holiness that God is working in (Phil. 2:12–13). This is evident from all the imperatives of Scripture that press our personal responsibility upon us in this (Heb. 12:14; et al.). Murray says, “The exhortations to action with which the Scripture is pervaded are all to the effect of reminding us that our whole being is intensely active in process of sanctification.”[6]

Regeneration liberates the bondage of the will and results in a new disposition that is oriented toward righteousness. The liberated will, in turn, is enabled by the influence of grace to engage in holy exercises. Sanctification, therefore, involves the intensive exertion of human will, a striving of earnest effort, a labor of love, a daily dying, requiring vigilant self-control and discipline (Luke 13:24; 1 Thess. 1:3; 1 Cor. 15:31; 9:24–27).[7] The confession bears this out when it speaks of “the practice of all true holiness.” This practice is a personal practice, performed by human activity in dependence on grace, as we “cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God” (2 Cor. 7:1). The confession, therefore, leaves no room for antinomian concepts of the Christian life that neglect the personal responsibility of believers to exercise all diligence and watchfulness in the means of grace and to strive after obedience.

While the confession’s insistence on grace refuted detractors that had Pelagianistic tendencies (such as the Roman Catholic church and the Arminians), its insistence on the reality and necessity of existential holiness countered the antinomians (such as the Socinians and certain Lutherans and hyper-Calvinists). In this regard, there are a couple of things we should point out.

First of all, the adverbs “really and personally” that describe how we are sanctified stress the nature of this sanctification as being existentially and personally experienced. It was common among the antinomians to relegate sanctification to positional and forensic categories while denying the existential nature of it. They considered one to be perfectly holy positionally, in Christ, by faith alone—confusing sanctification with justification and defining sanctification in terms of imputed, rather than imparted, righteousness. There was an undue prioritizing of the forensic aspect of salvation to the practical negation of the personal-existential. The Reformed orthodox repudiated such unbiblical teaching by insisting on “real” and “personal” sanctification.[8]They insisted that the gospel doesn’t obliterate our responsibility to keep the moral law, but imparts to us the grace necessary to fulfill it (Matt. 5:17–19).[9]

Second, the confession describes the nature of this “real” sanctification. Citing Romans 6:14, it says, “the dominion of the whole body of sin is destroyed.” That is, the dominating power of sin in its tyrannical enslavement of the sinner is broken. There is a shattering of the chains which hold one in bondage to sin and Satan (John 8:34–36; 1 John 5:18). This results in a radical breach with the practice of sin—a breach that is decisive and final (1 John 3:6). The one who has been regenerated has experienced a “definitive sanctification” (to use John Murray’s famous nomenclature)[10] at the beginning of the Christian life, simultaneous with their conversion. This is basic to the salvation experience such that one who has not been freed from the habitual, dominating practice of sin is simply not a Christian. That is why the confession reiterates the declaration of Scripture in saying that without this holiness, “no man shall see the Lord” (Heb. 12:14) in the beatific vision of consummated salvation in heaven (Matt. 5:8; Rev. 22:4).

It is this initial, glorious intrusion of sanctifying power at the inception of the Christian life that is continually cultivated and strengthened throughout it as we grow “more and more” in holiness, according to the confession. Sanctification is both initial and progressive. The evidence we’ve been sanctified initially and salvifically is that we continue to be sanctified progressively and increasingly (Col. 1:11; 2 Cor. 3:18; 1 John 3:3). In the following paragraphs, the confession proceeds to articulate the continuous aspect of sanctification:

II. The Struggle and Progress of Gospel Sanctification (Paragraphs 2 & 3)

2. This sanctification is throughout the whole man,7 yet imperfect in this life; there abideth still some remnants of corruption in every part,8 whence ariseth a continual and irreconcilable war; the flesh lusting against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh.9

7 1 Thessalonians 5:23. 8 Romans 7:18, 23. 9 Galatians 5:17; 1 Peter 2:11.

3. In which war, although the remaining corruption for a time may much prevail,10 yet through the continual supply of strength from the sanctifying Spirit of Christ, the regenerate part doth overcome;11 and so the saints grow in grace, perfecting holiness in the fear of God, pressing after an heavenly life, in evangelical obedience to all the commands which Christ as Head and King, in His Word hath prescribed them.12

10 Romans 7:23. 11 Romans 6:14. 12 Ephesians 4:15, 16; 2 Corinthians 3:18; 2 Corinthians 7:1.

The salvation God provides for us in Christ doesn’t merely save a piece or portion of our fallen humanity. There is a wonderful consistency about the way the Spirit’s sanctifying grace works upon and throughout our human constitution to conform us to the moral image of God in Christ; hence the confession says, “This sanctification is throughout, in the whole man.” It is not part and parcel. It doesn’t extend to certain parts of our being while leaving other parts untouched. Sin, in its contaminating and pervading influence, extends to the whole being of the fallen sons and daughters of Adam, affecting the mind, will, affections, body and soul. Sanctifying grace, in like manner, exercises its effective influence in our whole being as it operates to reverse the moral effects of sin and renovates us into the image of God (1 Thess. 5:23; Eph 4:24). It doesn’t leave the will enslaved while it enlightens the mind, or leave our affections corrupt as it cleans up our outward actions. Indeed, to purport to be externally “righteous” while being internally putrid is hypocrisy (Matt. 23:25–26). When God sanctifies, his influence permeates the whole person to give him “clean hands and a pure heart” (Ps. 24:4). He purges us from the practice of actual sin as well as from the desire and affectional preference that arise from original sin (Ps. 97:10; Prov. 8:13; Rom. 7:22; Ps. 119:34, 136).

But even though the work of sanctification is integral and entire, its progress is never finalized this side of eternity. The confession wisely clarifies that it is “imperfect in this life.”

Many Christians have been confused about this at one time or another. After all, how is it that the Bible says we are perfectly righteous while at the same time it insists that we aren’t perfectly righteous? Not a few believers have struggled with assurance precisely because they become conscious of sinful impulses within them that they find quite repulsive to their sanctified senses. As they face the vile eruptions of sin that rise up within them, they question whether a true Christian could possibly desire something so wicked and abominable. Since they feel wretched and polluted as these motions of sin register in their consciousness, they abhor themselves for it and may even question whether they have a true, saving interest in Christ.[11] When this happens, it is easy to confuse our present, imperfect condition with our present position before God. With all that can be said about sanctification and its necessity, we must never confuse it with the objective reality of justification, which teaches us that God “justifies the ungodly” (Rom. 4:5).

Perhaps it would be helpful at this point to clarify the imperfect progress of present sanctification with the perfect nature of justification. Although the believer is perfectly righteous in a legal sense before the judgment bar of a just Judge in Heaven (1 John 4:17), being clothed with the impeccable robes of the righteousness of Christ (Isa. 61:10), at the same time, he is not perfectly righteous in his experience on this earth. While our forensic righteousness is perfect and definitively introduces us to a state of judicial peace with God (Rom. 5:1), our actual righteousness in terms of our personal freedom from the contamination of sin is never perfected in this life. While justification is an instantaneous, divine legal declaration that perfectly and forever frees the sinner from all condemnation (Rom. 8:1, 33), sanctification in the life of the believer who has already been justified is an ongoing process which continually effectuates an experiential purification from sin and an ever-increasing growth in likeness to Christ; and it is not perfected until the believer enters glory (Heb. 12:23). We must never confuse our sanctification with our justification, nor base the latter on the former, or we will get into a host of errors.[12] Our present legal position by our reception of grace is not dependent upon our present inherent condition in our experience of grace.

The confession emphatically refutes all forms and varieties of perfectionism. Our sanctification is sure, but it is not perfected. It is throughout the whole man, but “there abideth still some remnants of corruption in every part.” Here it is refuting Pelagian, Roman Catholic and Arminian schools of perfectionism,[13] but its words apply to any form of perfectionism that may arise. Church history has witnessed the dubious claims of many who asserted that sinless perfection was possible; some even claimed to have attained to it! Biblical Christianity has nothing to do with such blind nonsense. The confession rightfully excludes such deluded souls from the right to claim orthodoxy in this matter. The truth is, as we grow in sanctification, we grow in sensitivity to our remaining sin as well as in the humility that arises from a discerning and sober self-assessment that is illuminated by the perfect standard of Scripture.

The Scriptures confirm this in no uncertain terms. 1 John 1:8 says, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” In this text, John includes himself by saying, “if we say”, using the first person plural form to signify that he himself is not excluded from this statement.[14] As a holy apostle of the Lamb, writing toward the end of his life, John knew his sanctification was not yet sufficiently complete so as to consist of perfect freedom from all sin. Furthermore, he indicates that he is speaking of the believer’s present experience by speaking of having sin in the present tense, and all this in the context of explaining how the continual confession of sin is an evidence of walking in the light in fellowship with God (see 1 John 1:4–9). According to John, not only is it impossible to attain to sinless perfection, it is deception to claim to have attained it (1 Kings 8:46; Ps. 130:3; Prov. 20:9; Ecc. 7:20; 1 Cor. 4:4; Jam. 3:2). Inbred sin contaminates even the holiest of Christ’s choice saints.

Confessing sin continually is both a biblical pattern and an imperative. That it is a pattern that is evident in the lives of the godliest of men, including such eminent saints as Job (Job 42:6) David (Ps. 32; 51), Isaiah (Isa. 6:5), Daniel (Dan. 9), Peter (Matt. 26:75) and Paul (Acts 23:3–5). That it is an imperative can be seen in no less a prominent passage than the Lord’s Prayer, by which Christ teaches even his most consecrated apostles and disciples to pray “forgive us our sins” (Luke 11:4). This is immediately following the petition, “Give us each day our daily bread”, implying the necessity of daily making requests such as those exemplified in this prayer, which certainly includes the daily need to confess our sins as we place our hope in the grace of God for our righteousness.

Though every true believer longs for holiness (Matt. 5:6) and strives to walk in obedience to the commands of His God, he is conscious of an intense inward struggle as sinful impulses manifest through his yet unredeemed flesh and wage “war against the soul” (1 Pet. 2:11). This is the “continual and irreconcilable war” of which the confession speaks. The sanctifying grace of the Holy Spirit and the desires the flesh are radically at odds with one another (Gal. 5:17), opposing each other fiercely. This battle never ceases until the believer enters his heavenly rest.

The apostle Paul dramatizes this struggle in Romans 7. As the Spirit of holiness indwells believers and sin also indwells believers, each constitutes what Paul calls a “law”, that is, an operative reality that exercises its continual influence (Rom. 7:21–23; Rom. 8:2). John Owen, in his classic work on this subject, defines the “law” of indwelling sin spoken of in Romans 7:21 as “a powerful and effectual indwelling principle, inclining and pressing unto actions agreeable and suitable unto its own nature.”[15] As such, sin is always seeking to rear its ugly head and usurp control. Though the law of sin has been decisively weakened by the graces of regeneration and initial sanctification, it is still a formidable law that we would be fools not to reckon with. Every day of the Christian life is marred by this struggle. There will never come a time when Jesus’s urgent exhortation does not apply to us, when he said, “Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation” (Matt. 26:41).

The good news is that even though sin remains in the saint, its exertions and tyrannical attempts to perform its exploits are but the vestiges of what they once were. Again, Owen speaks of this when he says: “There is, and there is through grace, kept up in believers a constant and ordinarily prevailing will of doing good, notwithstanding the power and efficacy of indwelling sin to the contrary.”[16]

This is what paragraph three of the confession is getting at. There may be times when our indwelling sin prevails and gets the better of us, to our shame and reproach. We see this in the lives of some of the godliest men in Scripture (Gen. 9:20–21; et al.). However, “the regenerate part doth overcome; and so the saints grow in grace, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.” This is no struggle between two equal natures, each with equal strength and dominance. Our inner man, “strengthened with might through His Spirit” (Eph. 3:16) prevails over the flesh; by the Spirit, we mortify the flesh (Rom. 8:13). This is now the war of a superior against an inferior; the power of grace will ultimately win the day over the power of sin. The Christian life is not always pretty. It has its dramatic ups and downs. But at the end of the day, there will be an overall progress, an increasing conquering of sin, a gradual growth in the fruit of the Spirit, and an ever-deepening growth in likeness to Jesus Christ.

The true Christian is very well acquainted with the sin that dwells within him. But his life is not predominately characterized by yielding to such sin. As a pilgrim whose heart is set on the holiness of heaven, he is “pressing after an heavenly life, in evangelical obedience” to all the Word of Christ (Matt. 7:24–26). This “pilgrim mentality” was a prominent theme among the Puritan divines.[17] They based it on such texts as Genesis 47:9, Hebrews 11:13 and 1 Peter 2:11. The whole of life was to be a constant aspiring after heaven; a dressing room for eternity; a putting of our accounts in order in anticipation of the tribunal of Christ (2 Cor. 5:10). They loved to meditate on the glories of heaven so that such meditation would enflame their hearts with holy affections for the things of eternity and so wean them off of the love of this world and its fallen system (Col. 3:2; 1 John 2:15–17). Such “pressing after a heavenly life” consisted of circumspect striving in obedience in this life in order to prepare them for heaven’s consummate holiness hereafter. In our culture, so permeated with the empty promises of false ideologies, fleshly indulgence and secularistic materialism, it would do us well to remember our pilgrim calling; it would greatly propel our ambition to live for the glory of God in gospel holiness (1 John 3:2–3).

Finally, it is noteworthy that the confession speaks not just of obedience, but of “evangelical obedience.” Just as it begins this chapter by insisting on the grace of the gospel, so it concludes by insisting on the evangelical nature of our growth in holiness and of our obedience to the moral law of God. This is no legal obedience, but gospel-empowered obedience that is done in and by faith. Even during the times when we feel the most holy and are ready to pat ourselves on the back, we must remember that any progress we make in obedience to God and growth in holiness is due to the provision and empowerment of grace alone. Christ, who is “Head and King” in prescribing the holiness of his people in his Word, is also the one who sends the Spirit to enable it by the Word. It is therefore all to the glory of God.

May the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit be praised in all our believing and doing. Amen.



[1] For an overview of the rise of the Pelagian school of thought in contrast with the Augustinian concept of grace (which later developed into the Reformed soteriological construct of grace), see James Orr, The Progress of Dogma: Being the Elliot Lectures, Delivered at the Western Theological Seminary, Allegheny, Pennsylvania., U.S.A., 1897 (1897; repr., Vancouver: Regent College Publishing, 2000), 133–70; Greg Allison, Historical Theology: An Introduction to Christian Doctrine (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2011), 345–50.

[2] An excellent study can be found in Sinclair Ferguson, The Whole Christ: Legalism, Antinomianism, and Gospel Assurance—Why the Marrow Controversy Still Matters (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2016).

[3] John Murray, Redemption Accomplished and Applied (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1955), 141.

[4] “If we share in him, we share in all that is his, because Christ’s saving benefits cannot be divorced from his person.” Marcus Peter Johnson, One with Christ: An Evangelical Theology of Salvation (Wheaton, IL: Crossway), 122.

[5] Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture quotations and allusions are to The Holy Bible: New King James Version (Wheaton, IL: Thomas Nelson Publishing, 1985).

[6] Murray, Redemption Accomplished, 149.

[7] Sam Waldron concurs with this when he says, “The basic activities which the Word of God demands of us in the prosecution of ongoing sanctification can be summarized under two headings: confident working and strenuous working.” By “confident working”, I understand him to be referring to the obedience that comes from faith; “strenuous working” highlights the role of personal and intense striving in this matter. A Modern Exposition of the 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith (1989; repr., Evangelical Press: Darlington, 2009), 180.

[8] For an in-depth survey of antinomian views contemporaneous with the Puritan divines of the seventeenth century (in which framework the Westminster, Savoy and Baptist confessions were written), see Mark Jones, Antinomianism: Reformed Theology’s Unwelcome Guest? (Phillipsburg: P&R, 2013).

[9] See Chapter 19 of the Second London Baptist Confession. Of course, this obedience to the moral law is characteristic and habitual in the Christian life, but is not perfected until after this life.

[10] Collected Writings of John Murray, vol. 2, Systematic Theology (1977; repr., Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 2009), 277.

[11] Thomas Brooks says, “A man may have true grace and yet want assurance, and this may arise from that smoke and clouds, those fears and doubts that corruption raises in the soul so that the soul cannot see those excellent graces that otherwise might be discerned.” He offers helpful counsel to such cases in Heaven on Earth: A Treatise on Christian Assurance (1961; repr.; Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 2004), 46-46; see also Scottish divine William Guthrie’s pastoral advice in The Christian’s Great Interest (1969; repr., Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 2002), 95-98. The Puritans, in general, were master counselors of cases in which a believer struggled with assurance due to doubting his or her own inherent righteousness or progress in sanctification. Perhaps in our day, we typically don’t see as much of a pastoral need to counsel such cases because there seems to be less believers who express these kinds of concerns—could the reason for this be due to the relative neglect of emphasizing practical holiness of heart and life in the public preaching of the Word in our churches?

[12] Cf. J.C. Ryle’s helpful list of the distinctions between justification and sanctification in his classic work Holiness: Its Nature, Hindrances, Difficulties and Roots (Moscow, ID: Charles Nolan Publishers, 2001), 36-38.

[13] Archibald Alexander Hodge, The Westminster Confession: A Commentary (2002; repr., Edinburgh, Scotland: Banner of Truth, 2013), 198.

[14] The whole verse is consistent in this implication all the way through, employing verbal forms that group together speaker with recipients while using the present active indicative (i.e. ἔχομεν and πλανῶμεν), signifying a present testimony (“if we say”) to the reality of sin in the personal present possession (“we have”) and concurrent experience of the apostle John at the time of writing (ἐὰν εἴπωμεν ὅτι ἁμαρτίαν οὐκ ἔχομεν ἑαυτοὺς πλανῶμεν καὶ ἡ ἀλήθεια οὐκ ἔστιν ἐν ἡμῖν). This is not just a confession of past sin, but of present, indwelling sin.

[15] Owen, Overcoming Sin and Temptation, ed. Kelley M. Kapic and Justin Taylor (Wheaton: Crossway, 2006), 234.

[16] Owen, Overcoming Sin and Temptation, 236.

[17] Joel Beeke and Mark Jones, A Puritan Theology: Doctrine for Life (Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2012), 843-58.