The third reason why some will object to the idea that John is talking about salvation in 1 John 1:9 is that “confess” is a present-tense verb. The thinking is that the action John is describing is one that must continue on and is applicable in the present for his audience.
But consider again the quote from the pastor that I cited above, as he described the gospel:
"When you trust Christ as savior, He declares you as righteous and He gives you—as a free gift—everlasting life.”Again, this pastor is addressing believers, and he is not presenting the gospel for the purpose of evangelizing his audience. Instead, he is re-iterating gospel truths to people who already have believed the gospel. Is this not a normal and healthy thing for a pastor to do? If so, why would it not be normal and healthy for John to do the same?
In the Free Grace camp generally, we’re somewhat accustomed to refuting this abuse of the present-tense, particularly with verses such as John 5:24, where many see “believes” there as requiring perpetual, continuing faith. But of course, these folks seem quite comfortable with the idea that the present-tense can also refer to a one-time event, such as the word “divorces” in Luke 16:18. Nobody thinks you have to divorce a woman “continually” and then marry another (also “continually”) in order to be accused of adultery.
It’s not that the present-tense cannot ever refer to continuous action, but to understand the present-tense that way is frequently not necessary and would lead, in many cases, to absurdities.
Therefore, it’s quite plausible that the present-tense in 1 John 1:9 was not intended to refer to “continuous action,” but rather to a one-time event, i.e., the point of forsaking hope in all but Christ. And so we find that the use of present-tense verbs turns out not to be a very sound reason to think that John cannot be talking to believers about salvation/justification.