This is from Currents, a new blog at Alltop which originates with Streams church in Red Deer, Alberta. (Streams, currents, get it?) You’ll have to read this closely to catch what is and isn’t being said here, and regular readers will notice the nuances of this are somewhat opposite a principle we looked at here not too long ago, where classic authors talked about keeping short accounts with God. So we present it for your consideration. Feel free to comment on how the two posts coincide. As always, you’re encouraged to read this at source where it appeared as Do We Need To Confess Our Sins to Be Forgiven?.
Do We Need To Confess Our Sins To Be Forgiven?
That depends on who is asking.
Confess means to agree with God (to agree with, concede or acknowledge).
Sinners cannot receive the free gift of salvation if they do not first realize they are sinners and that they need a saviour. Yes, they need to confess their sins, to come into agreement with God regarding their need for salvation.
Saints, on the other hand, have already accepted the free gift of salvation. Jesus died once and for all, we don’t have to keep going back to the start every time we mess up. All our sin, forgiven and forgotten and destroyed utterly; we do not need to keep confessing.
That’s not entirely true, we do need to confess. We need to confess, agree with God, that we have been made righteous. We are not ‘sinners saved by grace’ and confessing as much puts us under the law. You are a saint saved and empowered by grace. Period.
But what about 1 John 1:9?
“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
This verse is the only place in the New Testament that ties our confession with forgiveness. To build a doctrine of forgiveness on one verse would be unwise.
John says earlier, in verse 5, that ‘This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you…” and he then presents the Gospel to sinners. Yes, most of 1 John is written to believers, but in verse 6 John speaks to those who are walking in darkness, those who do not practice the truth. Verse 8 and 10 uses the royal ‘we’ to describe those sinners who do not acknowledge their need for a savior.
So, to sinners, yes you need to confess your sins. Once. Once you’ve been saved we do not need additional forgiveness.
But you saints, don’t throw out confession all together!
We need to agree with God on many fronts, confessing what the Bible says about us is an exercise in faith and it helps us renew our minds. Saints should be confessing things like “For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!”” (Romans 8:15)
Hebrews 13:15 exhorts us to “continually offer up a sacrifice of praise, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge(confess) his name.”
When snared in temptation, or condemnation, or when suffering, this type of confession does us good.
Confession within community is also healthy.
James 5:16 says “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed,”
That healing usually is physical, but can be spiritual. Sin thrives in the dark. A guilty conscience is like a stomach ache, it’s a signal that something is wrong. Just as it is wise to address physical symptoms, when guilt builds up and shame enters in, it’s a sign that we should deal with the sin issue in our lives.
Our bodies, spirits and minds are so interconnected that a chemical or hormonal imbalance can affect our moods (i.e. depression) and our minds can affect our bodies (i.e. the placebo affect). Things like bitterness or shame can manifest in our body as sickness.
Confessing sins in safe community brings about multi-faceted healing of our body and mind (our spirit is already a new creation!).
Confession is healthy and good. But to link the forgiveness of a saint’s sinful acts to confession is incorrect. When we accept salvation (certainly through confession and faith) all our sins, past present and future, are wiped out and forgotten. To maintain righteousness we do not need to confess. We cannot maintain righteousness, our righteousness is dependent on Jesus alone.
The place confession has in the life of a Christian is that of dealing with sin, not getting forgiveness. It is about bringing our thoughts more in line with what God says about us, that we are righteous, holy, loved, pure and powerful.
The confession of our sins for forgiveness is then a one time deal. After that confession remains a tool for saints in conquering their sin and faulty heart beliefs about their identity.
Do we confess to receive forgiveness? Depends who’s asking.