This is perhaps one of the most important teachings for a Christian. Hopefully, you will see this by the end of the post.
A holy and righteous God, cannot abide with any sin. Sin cannot stand in His presence. When we sin, our relationship with Him is blocked or broken, though, our salvation is not lost. Because He loves us, He gave us a device to resolve the problem of sin in our lives after we are believers in Jesus: confession of sin. It is employed to restore our fellowship with Him.
“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9, HCSB)
The Greek word for confession is homologeō, which literally means “to say the same.” Homo “the same,” legō “to say.”
In other words, through confession we agree with God’s definition of sin, and He will banish it. Kenneth Wuest in his commentary Wuest’s Word Studies from the Greek New Testament says this about confession:
Confession of sin on the part of the saint means therefore to say the same thing that God does about that sin, to agree with God as to all the implication of that sin as it relates to the Christian who commits it and to a holy God against whom it is committed. That includes the saint’s hatred of that sin, his sense of guilt because of it, his contrition because of it, the determination to put it out of his life and never to do that thing again. This is what confession of sin means here. The English word “confess” means “to admit the truth of an accusation, to own up to the fact that one is guilty of having committed the sin.” But the Greek word means far more than that, as was shown above. The verb is present subjunctive, speaking of continuous action. This teaches that the constant attitude of the saint toward sin should be one of a contrite heart, ever eager to have any sin in the life discovered for him by the Holy Spirit, and ever eager to confess it and put it out of the life by the power of that same Holy Spirit.1
In addition, Warren Wiersbe says this in his commentary:
Keep in mind that Christians do not have to do penance, make sacrifices, or punish themselves when they have sinned. Every sin has already been taken care of at the cross. Does this give us license to sin? Of course not! The Christian who truly understands God’s provision for a life of holiness does not want to deliberately disobey God.2
There are three main reasons we need to confess our sins.
1. To acknowledge who He is. Because God is holy and righteous we need confession of sin “to be holy as He is holy” (Lev 19.2). In the context of 1 Jn 1:9 He is light and there is no darkness in Him. He doesn’t conform to us, but us to Him. He sets the rules for our relationship, and because He cannot abide sin or darkness in His presence, we cannot have either in our lives if we wish to have communion with Him. Sin and darkness impede our relationships with Him.
2. To restores fellowship. When we confess, we are instantaneously restored to fellowship with God. John Stott puts it this way:
Think of the analogy of the human family. Imagine a boy being offensively rude to his parents. A cloud descends over the home. There is tension in the atmosphere. Father and son are not on speaking terms. What has happened? Has the boy ceased to be a son? No. Their relationship is just the same; it is their fellowship that has been broken. Relationship depends on birth; fellowship depends on behavior. As soon as the son apologizes, he is forgiven. And forgiveness restores fellowship. (Stott, Basic Christianity, p. 160-1)
The son never stopped being a son. Once we say we’re sorry no sin is present and we are holy before Him. We are again spiritual and can walk in the spirit—another way to phrase this is our relationship is restored or in good standing—like the prodigal son returning to his father. Once we return we are again under the influence of the Holy Spirit and available to Him.
3. To communicate with God, and learn from Him. God is Spirit and we can only communicate with Him spiritually. “God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” (John 4:24, HCSB) This is the only way we can spiritually discern the things God wants us to, the Holy Spirit needs to be free to work in us when we study His word. In other words, we can learn spiritual things.
“Now God has revealed these things to us by the Spirit, for the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the spirit of the man that is in him? In the same way, no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have not received the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who comes from God, so that we may understand what has been freely given to us by God. We also speak these things, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual things to spiritual people.” (1 Corinthians 2:10–13, HCSB)
There is one good example of this doctrine of confession in practice in the Gospel account of Jesus washing the feet of the disciples:
Now by the time of supper, the Devil had already put it into the heart of Judas, Simon Iscariot’s son, to betray Him. Jesus knew that the Father had given everything into His hands, that He had come from God, and that He was going back to God. So He got up from supper, laid aside His robe, took a towel, and tied it around Himself. Next, He poured water into a basin and began to wash His disciples’ feet and to dry them with the towel tied around Him.
He came to Simon Peter, who asked Him, “Lord, are You going to wash my feet?”
Jesus answered him, “What I’m doing you don’t understand now, but afterward you will know.”
“You will never wash my feet—ever!” Peter said.
Jesus replied, “If I don’t wash you, you have no part [or share] with Me.”
Simon Peter said to Him, “Lord, not only my feet, but also my hands and my head.”
“One who has bathed,” Jesus told him, “doesn’t need to wash anything except his feet, but he is completely clean. You are clean, but not all of you.” For He knew who would betray Him. This is why He said, “You are not all clean.”
When Jesus had washed their feet and put on His robe, He reclined again and said to them, “Do you know what I have done for you? You call Me Teacher and Lord. This is well said, for I am. So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example that you also should do just as I have done for you.3
In the above passage there is some analogy. The washing of feet, done repeatedly, is confession; washing the head, hands, and feet, a one-time act, is salvation.
Whenever you’re prompted, before studying the Word or listening to a sermon, it is a good idea to take a moment to ask God to bring to mind any sin in your life. The Holy Spirit will do this. Confess, or agree with Him it is sin, name the same. Your fellowship is then restored and you’re available to God’s Holy Spirit. You are again walking with Him.
Please post your thoughts or comments below.
1 Kenneth S. Wuest, Wuest’s Word Studies from the Greek New Testament: For the English Reader (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1997), 1 Jn 1:9.
2 Warren W. Wiersbe, Wiersbe’s Expository Outlines on the New Testament (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1992), 769.
3 The Holy Bible: Holman Christian Standard Version. (Nashville: Holman Bible Publishers, 2009), Jn 13:2–15.