Thank you readers for continuing for visit my site! I hope the issues I write about have a wholesome, gracious perspective and help to renew your life in a way that brings peace, enjoyment, passion for God, and freedom.
The topic I want to speak on next is confession. We finished discussing Hebrews 6 about dead works/useless rituals and how as long as we participate in these, our consciences won’t experience the freedom and confidence we’ve been given in Christ. Confession, if taken from a wrong perspective can become one of those dead works. Some people teach that you must confess your sins in order to remain forgiven or to maintain salvation. Others don’t quite take it so far and only say that a good, healthy relationship with God involves confession.
These things seem pious and right, but in practicality do they promote the kingdom of God? I’ve heard of a few people who would pray that God would not let them die before they had confessed all their sins. They were worried if they died and had some unconfessed sin in their life, they weren’t going to go to heaven. Others have taken confession to the point where they could not function properly in public. They would be in the middle of a sports game and would have to confess for having a bad thought. These people took confession seriously. But did they see the fruits God wants in our lives?
Confession to one another can be useful if you use it properly. It can bring healing and restoration in relationships, it can help us to understand and learn that we are forgiven and heal our consciences of guilt and condemnation. It is not always appropriate to confess our sins, as some of us have probably experienced, sometimes an oversensitive conscience can bring trouble upon ourself and not healing. However, when we make God’s acceptance, relationship with us, and forgiveness conditional upon our confession, then confession looses its power to heal our consciences and instead brings conviction and bondage.
Romans 5:1 “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ”
Confessing your faults over and over does not bring you closer to God. God has drawn himself near by his own Hand.
2 Corinthians 5:19 “For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation”
Your relationship with God is built upon the steady foundation of Christ. Whatever is built upon him will be stable. But if you envision your relationship as built off of your flesh (your ability to confess, show good will, and improve your behavior) your confidence will shake. Even when you do well your confidence will shake, for you do not know when you will fail again. You will be like a wave of the sea, tossed and driven by your latest performance.
Phillippians 3:3 “For we who worship by the Spirit of God are the ones who are truly circumcised. We rely on what Christ Jesus has done for us. We put no confidence in human effort”
Jeremiah 17:5 “This is what the LORD says: “Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who draws strength from mere flesh and whose heart turns away from the LORD.”
I’m not saying you will be cursed, merely that your flesh is unstable and not suitable to base God’s relationship with you on. So what purpose does confession serve?
Does it remind God that we need forgiveness? No! Did you trick God into thinking you weren’t going to mess up again?
Is it there to give you a sense that you’ve atoned for your faults? What price did Jesus not pay on the cross? Do you think you can do better? Or did he die in vain?
John 9:30 “When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit”
Requiring additional payment to Christ’s finished work is an insult to Christ. It says what he did doesn’t matter or isn’t enough. Its called dead works in Hebrews.
Or is confession there for God’s sake, because you’ve offended him and are waiting for him to decide if he favors you again?
Romans 5:9 “Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him!”
Isaiah 54:9 “To me this is like the days of Noah, when I swore that the waters of Noah would never again cover the earth. So now I have sworn not to be angry with you, never to rebuke you again”
Jesus’s sacrifice adequately covered your sins, so God does not take offense at you and does not require a constant confession for you to maintain forgiveness.
Or is confession simply being honest with God and asking for help? That can be wholesome, as long as we don’t push it too far, thinking that God will only help us for sins we’ve confessed.
Some people confess their sins in chunks, “Father forgive all my sins up to this point. Even the ones I am not aware of.” However, they are still only receiving forgiveness for the chuck that they confessed.
Do you see the problem with this? Confession can be good if we use it wisely. But misunderstanding confession robs us of a very important element in our faith. You find this element all over Hebrews. A clear conscience and confidence before God. The old testament sacrifices continually reminded us of sin. Every day, ‘Hi Bob’. ‘Hi Joe, lusted again? Weren’t you just in here yesterday? And the day before that?’ ‘Yep, let’s get this sacrifice over with.’ Each day you were intimately reminded of how many times you had failed. These sacrifices were temporary, they only covered the sins committed up until that point. That’s why that had to keep being repeated, because people kept on sinning, even after they had been forgiven.
Hebrews 9:9 “This is an illustration for the present time, indicating that the gifts and sacrifices being offered were not able to clear the conscience of the worshiper.”
Jesus’s sacrifice was superior because it only needed to be offered once. How could it be offered only once? Because it also covered future sins. You see, if Jesus’s blood was like animals, it would have to be reapplied every time a new sin was committed. But Jesus took away sin once and for all (Hebrews 9:28). And since it cleanses forever and doesn’t need to keep being redone, we can also have a clear conscience without the intimate reminder of sin every day.
Hebrews 9:14 “The blood of Christ, who had no defect, does even more. Through the eternal Spirit he offered himself to God and cleansed our consciences from the useless things we had done. Now we can serve the living God.”
Since we have clear consciences before God, he asks us to be bold before him.
Hebrews 4:16 “Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need”
Ephesians 3:12 “Because of Christ and our faith in him, we can now come boldly and confidently into God’s presence.”
Hebrews 10:22 “let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.”
When we have boldness and confidence before God, it honors the work his Son did. It shows that we have faith that Jesus did a perfect work in covering our sins. When I approach God with timidity and uncertainty, it actually insults Christ, and does not give me the freedom and relationship that God desires me to have with him. So where does confession fit into the puzzle? When we teach that confession must be maintained in order for forgiveness to be maintained, then we loose our confidence before God. You are never sure if you have confessed all your sins or if you will miss them sometime in the future. And if you did confess every sin perfectly you would be loosing something else. Your clear conscience. You would be so intimately aware of your sin you would be guilt ridden and have no appreciation for the freedom Christ gave you. You would always be afraid that the minute you gave up, you would loose your forgiveness. This cycle dishonors Christ and does not produce the fruit that God wants you to enjoy. However, this theology is not without its argument. And it stems from a misunderstanding of a passage in 1 John.
Actually there are two verses in the bible that talk about confession. But I will address 1 John 1:9 fist.
“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”
To put this letter in context we have to understand some basic church history. I’m going to try to remember the things I learned in college about this. There was a popular belief that was being spread through the Roman and pagan empires even among christian circles called gnosticism. Gnosticism can take on two branching views. One side believed that only spirit was good and all matter was evil. So they forbid people to indulge in anything worldly. They couldn’t imagine Jesus taking on a mortal body, thinking he was only a spirit and they didn’t believe we could have fellowship with a God. On the flip side of that, some believed there was no such thing as sin or hell and nothing was evil. In parts of John’s letters he is writing to address these beliefs that had invaded these christian circles. He starts of his letter saying,
“That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes,which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. 2 The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. 3 We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. 4 We write this to make our[a] joy complete.”
You see here, he is a addressing two of the primary beliefs of the gnostics. One which is that Jesus actually came in the flesh, two that we have fellowship with him. Another belief of gnosticism was that because our bodies were inherently evil, indulging in sin was right for it. Or something like that. John addresses this next:
“5 This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. 6 If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness,we lie and do not live out the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.”
Right afterward he addresses the flip side of gnosticism, which is this belief that there is no sin.
“8 If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us.”
So see here, he is not saying one must continually confess sin. He is not asking them to distinctly confess every individual sin, but to confess to have having sin period in their lives, in a holistic sense. This addresses the belief gnostics had that there was no such thing as sin. What John is saying is that if you don’t believe you have sin, you will not seek Christ’s forgiveness and you will miss your salvation all together. Keep in mind gnostics were not believers. John says, “so that you may have fellowship with us.” Thus we can assume that whoever he is writing to here does not have fellowship with Christ or other believers. However, if we do confess to having “Sin” then God cleanses us from “all unrighteousness.” This is the confession that you make when you first come to Christ. It is that realization in your heart that says, I am a sinful man, I need Christ’s forgiveness. Thus when you confess Jesus is Lord, your heart is accepting his forgiveness for “all you failures,” past, present and future. How many times can you be cleansed of “all unrighteousness?” He is not referring to a continual practice but a one time confession that cleanses you from all sin. When we come to Christ when becoming a believer, that confession is being made once and for all. Some will say that the verb tense means “To keep on confessing.” I believe the proper perspective of this is not to say that each person must maintain a state of confessing, but rather we must consider that this verse is written to many people and that for each one coming to the Lord he must confess that he has sins. Therefore if people are to keeping coming to the Lord, confessions must keep being made for each new person that joins. When you confess, you confess once and for all.
Colossians 3:13 “When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins,”
Hebrews 10:10 “For God’s will was for us to be made holy by the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ, once for all time.”
Hebrews 7:27 “Unlike the other high priests, he does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people. He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself.”
1 Peter 3:18 “For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit,”
A great resource for this is, http://jesusgiveslife.blogspot.com/2007/08/1-john-19.html
Now lets look at the first verse of the next chapter.
“My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. 2 He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.”
He addresses them as “my children,” showing that now he is talking to believers specifically. But he doesn’t tell them to confess in order to be forgiven, he tells them, “if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father.” He explains that if we do sin, we are already forgiven.
The other problem with habitual confession, is none of Paul’s letters teach it. If it is so vital to the faith, why are there only two verses that mention it? And this book in John wasn’t written till about 60 years after Jesus died. That means there were 60 years where people didn’t know to confess their sins!
Does this mean we have a license to sin?! Of course not. Sin is still destructive, I am not encouraging sin, I am actually encouraging righteousness by establishing you in God’s love through the knowledge that you are completely forgiven. For he who is forgiven much, loves much. Read 2 Peter 1:5-9.
Now let’s look at the word of confession in James 5.
13 Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise. 14 Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord.15 And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven.16 Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.
Now, when studying this passage I have not yet found a definitive answer to what he’s saying. But it does not look like he is saying that forgiveness only comes if you confess. He says, ‘if they have sinned, they will be forgiven.’ Not ‘if they confess, they will be forgiven.’ Now I’m going to throw out three possibilities. I’m sure some will find others. One, he’s talking about people who are struggling with sin. Telling them that they should admit that they are struggling and ask that people pray for God to restore them and remove the sinful behavior from their lives. This seems to work well with the greek since the words sick means human weakness in a more general sense. And the word ‘will make the sick person well’, is sozo. Meaning,
4982 sṓzō (from sōs, “safe, rescued”) – properly, deliver out of danger and into safety; used principally of God rescuing believers from the penalty and power of sin – and into His provisions (safety).
Consider the verses following.
James 5 “19 My brothers and sisters, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring that person back, 20 remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins.”
It seems, in context, he is asking them not just to pray for physical healing, but for freedom from sinful behaviors by confessing your faults and praying to each other.
Another possibility is that he is talking about admitting your faults to each other and apologizing for wrongs you’ve committed against each other as a means of restoring relationships. In James’s letter, he is focusing a lot on human relationships. Not so much your standing before God, but he is addressing actions that are causing problems in our relationships with each other. For instance, in James 4 he says,
“What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? 2 You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight.”
He just finished saying that if you pray, people will be made well, therefore pray. He then said, if you have sinned, you will be forgiven. When we have the assurance that forgiveness brings, we can be humble and open in admitting that we don’t have it altogether and glorify the mercy of God. In his statement about confession, I don’t believe he is talking about confessing sins to God in order to be forgiven but to each other. But rather, to confess sins you’ve committed against one another as a means of restoring that relationship.
Another possibility is he’s talking about humility and openness as a fruit of forgiveness. To confess as a means of humility, so as not to give someone that idea that you are more deserving of God’s grace than they. When you know you are forgiven, you don’t have to carry a pressure on your back of appearing perfect all the time. Since you know you are forgiven you can be honest with your mistakes. Feel free to make you own conclusions about these verses.
Afterwards he affirms that they are righteous.
“The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.”
My point is, partial forgiveness does not come after each confession. When we confess our sins to God, we are confessing them all once and for all and He forgives us them all once and for all at that time. If we confess to God again later on, that doesn’t nullify it, but I don’t think that helps us either. However, when your dealing with your struggles, its good to bring a close friend in and ask for their prayers. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.
Thanks for reading! God bless you and may you have peace in your heart and carry with you the assurance that you are completely forgiven.