The purpose of confession


If all my sins were paid for and forgiven by Jesus on the cross, why do I need to keep confessing?


This is an important question for our spiritual growth and maturity. In 1 John 1:5-10, the apostle gave three negative “if” statements, followed by two positive “if” statements to correct wrong thinking. To help us see what is happening, I have emphasized these statements and indented the positive answers beneath the problems.

“Now this is the gospel message we have heard from him and announce to you: God is light, and in him there is no darkness at all.

If we say we have fellowship with him and yet keep on walking in the darkness, we are lying and not practicing the truth.

But if we walk in the light as he himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.

If we say we do not bear the guilt of sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us.

But if we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous, forgiving us our sins and cleansing us from all unrighteousness.

If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar and his word is not in us.”

There are two aspects of forgiveness – legal and relational. Salvation has taken care of our sins legally. Jesus paid the price for our sins as our substitute on the cross, and God has declared every believer “Not Guilty” (the theological term is justification), so God cannot hold them against us any longer.

But sin does still affect our relational fellowship with God. To confess our sins in 1 John 1:9 means “to come into agreement.” In verse 8, the person has stated that they are not guilty of sin (literally, “I do not have sin”), but that’s simply untrue. When we acknowledge that we have sinned, we agree with God, bringing us back into alignment and fellowship with him in this life. Confession does not mean saying, “I’m sorry”; it means saying, “You’re right; I was wrong.”

There still may be consequences for that sin, either physical consequences from society or spiritual consequences like loss of ministry opportunities. Still, by humbling ourselves and confessing it, our family fellowship with the Father is restored. We can live in peace and freedom from guilt because we know that God is true to his word and is “cleansing us from all unrighteousness” as we continue to walk in the light and let the Scriptures shine a light on our lives so we can continue to confess and be cleansed.

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