Last time I talked about the fallacy of the popular idea of keeping short accounts with God through the continual confession or our sins.
Actually, there are things we do confess as believers, but ongoing confession for sins we may commit now or in the future is not one of them.
Before we get to that, let’s be clear. Indeed, the writer of Hebrews makes very clear that the issue of offering for sin (including our continual offerings of being sorry for sins) is over and done with forever (Heb.1:3; 8:12; 9:12, 14; 10:10, 12, 14, 17). The only issue remaining is our receiving that forgiveness by believing that what Jesus did satisfies God forever. This is the foundation of our faith.
Now, the only verses under the New Covenant where we might get the idea that we have to keep confessing our sins for forgiveness are found in 1 John 1:9 and 1 John 2:1. And keep in mind, they are the only places. So we must take them into context with all the other places where it says that God is not counting our sins against us anymore, or even remembering them.
I will deal with these verses separately.
Who does 1 John 1:9 apply to?
Here’s a common rendering of 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.“ (1 John 1:9 NKJV)
First, it will also help us to know what the Bible means by “confession.”
The word “confess” is the Greek word ὁμολογέω (homologeō). It doesn’t mean to be real sorry, it means to say the same thing as.
So, we agree with God–what He says about us and our condition before Him–not what some clever preacher is telling us.
The context of our confession is found in verse 8, that if we say have no sin, we’re deluded. Because this is what the Gnostics believed–who were part of John’s audience–saying there is no sin so there’s no need for forgiveness. This would also apply to anyone who thinks they’re right with God apart from the blood of Jesus.
The Message paraphrase actually brings this out clearer (bold-text added for emphasis)…
“If we claim that we’re free of sin, we’re only fooling ourselves.
A claim like that is errant nonsense.
On the other hand, if we admit our sins
—make a clean breast of them
—he won’t let us down; he’ll be true to himself.
He’ll forgive our sins and purge us of all wrongdoing.
If we claim that we’ve never sinned,
we out-and-out contradict God—make a liar out of him.
A claim like that only shows off our ignorance of God.” (1 John 1:8-10 MSG)
John is obviously speaking to those who think they have no sin (“If we claim that we’ve never sinned”). John is telling these people that they’re dangerously deluded and that they do need Jesus to cleanse them from their sin.
Secondly, in the original Greek, when it says Jesus will “purge us” it is a continuous action. That means, like what the writer of Hebrews tried to tell us, there is no more need of future purging.
The conclusion is, if we freely admit that we need forgiveness, Jesus’ blood shed on the cross has already paid the price for it forever. We’re forgiven, once and forever, when we receive this free gift by faith alone. Anything other than this is dead works–it’s “another gospel”(Gal.1:6-9).
So why do we think we need to keep going back for continual forgiveness?
Because we’re still looking at our relationship to God from an Old Covenant (OC) standpoint. Under the OC, you did have to keep confessing your sins, but under the New Covenant Jesus took them away. In other words, when we confess that we need a Savior, His blood continuously cleanses us–now and forever in the future.
Is Jesus our lawyer?
Okay, now let’s look at 1 John 2:1. First, it’s easy to misunderstand the common rendering of this verse (bold-text added for emphasis)…
“My little children, these things I write to you,
so that you may not sin.
And if anyone sins,
we have an Advocate with the Father,
Jesus Christ the righteous.” (1 John 2:1 NKJV)
What do you first think of when you think of having an “advocate?” While the word is not necessarily wrong, it’s the picture it paints that might be misleading. Most have interpreted this in a legal sense.
This is a common picture given to us, that Jesus is standing like some Holy Attorney between us and the Father, constantly bringing our ongoing sins before Him so we can be acquitted. But can this be true? Not in the way it is often applied.
It would be true if we we’re talking about when Jesus died on the Cross.
But applying it this way every time we sin is a totally faulty view.
I said this many times before, but the problem is that we inherited our “glasses” by which we see Scripture from the Reformers and their translators who saw everything with a Roman Jurisprudence legal view.
But that is not how Scripture is written. Everything God does is relational.
The word they translated as “Advocate” is παράκλητος (paraklētos). And where have we seen this word before? Right, Jesus called the Holy Spirit the Paraklētos—the Helper! (John 14:6) It means “close friend, kinsman, helpmate.”
By the way, it’s actually the same Greek word used for Eve being Adam’s “helpmate” (Gen.2:18 LXX).
So we see the same picture of Adam’s wife as for the Holy Spirit…and for the correct context here in 1 John 2:1. He’s our intimate Lover who reveals who we are through His reflection of the Father, sharing all things with us (John 16:14-15).
And here, the Mirror Bible can helps us out (bold-text added)…
“My darling children,
the reason I write these things to you
is so that you will not believe the lie about yourselves!
If anyone does believe a distorted image to be their reality,
we have Jesus Christ who defines our likeness
face to face with the Father!
He’s our parakletos,
the one who endorses our true identity,
being both the source and the reflection
of the Father’s image in us!” (1 John 2:1 MIRROR)
The word “sin” in the original text is ἁμαρτάνω (hamartanō), which means to miss the mark, or miss God’s intention for you. When a Christians sins, they are contradicting their new nature, they have forgotten who they are in Christ. The Spirit of Christ reminds us of who we are and we come to God to re-align ourselves to our original design.
As Graham Cooke put it, “When I see you, I don’t see what’s wrong with you. I see what’s missing in your experience in Christ.” The Holy Spirit’s job is to convince us of our new righteous identity in Christ–to form Christ in us.
So…what do we confess?
Very briefly, we are to confess certain things under the New Covenant.
1.) We are to confess our offenses against one another to keep our relationships clear (Matt.18:15; Eph.4:25-32)
2.) We confess our weaknesses (sin habits, faults) to one another so we can pray for one another and be free from all addictions and lies from the enemy (James 5:16).
3.) We use our failings as a time to draw near to God. And, as an opportunity to THANK Him for His forgiveness, confessing our forgiveness. We draw near so He can help us see what we’re still missing in our experience in Christ (1 John 2:1 MSG). I’ve personally had several occasions where the Spirit revealed things to me that set me free from that particular sin habit forever.
I will close with a clip from Dr. Andrew Farley that can help you understand what I’m saying here.
Beloved, you are already totally forgiven–forever–and totally free. You just need to actually believe it and walk in it. Thank Him continually and draw near to His heart. He will truly make you free!