Do believers need to confess sins?

Do believers have to keep confessing sins to be forgiven repeatedly?

  • Believers are told to confess their sins based on this verse:
  • 1 John 1:9 ?  “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” 
  • Many years ago, as a young believer, initially the confession of sins gave me relief. 
  • But later on it became depressing because I was confessing every little sin in thought, word, and deed that was not Christ-like. Confession made me over-conscious of sins. It became all about my performance and not what Jesus did on the cross. I forgot about the grace of God and became fearful and depressed. My Christian life became miserable.
  • But what is the CONTEXT of 1 John 1:9 ? Who is being addressed and why?
  • Many people were deceived by false teachings (Legalism, License-to-sin, etc) in the 1st century.
  • John wrote the epistle to distinguish between believers and deceivers in the early Church:
    • Firstly, he told deceivers to be saved/forgiven by confessing their sin in 1 John 1.
    • Secondly, he assures the believers that we are forgiven and saved in 1 John 2-5
  • In 1 John 1:9, he told deceivers to confess to become forgiven and righteous. This is an unbeliever.
  • A believer is already forgiven and righteous (Colossians 2:13, Romans 4:5)
  • John says that believers HAVE BEEN forgiven all sin, already saved because we know Jesus:
  • 1 John 2:12 “I am writing to you, dear children, because your sins HAVE BEEN FORGIVEN on account of his name.”
  • 1 John 5:13 “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.”
  • John 17:3 “this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ”
  • 1 John 3:14 “We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love each other. Anyone who does not love remains in death.”
  • We are not perfect in behavior and we stumble (James 3:2) but we have love for others.
  • The fruit of the Spirit (love) is the evidence of our salvation (Galatians 5:22-24, James 2:14-17). 
  • John tells believers that we are forgiven all sin, therefore let us not sin.
  • 1 John 2:1-2 “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.”
  • But if we sin, we believe that Jesus died for our sins and He is our Righteousness apart from our works.
  • John was addressing deceivers who claimed to be believers but their lifestyle of sin proved that they did not know Jesus and were not saved. He told them to come and be forgiven/saved.
    • 1 John 1:6 “If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness (lifestyle), we lie and do not live out the truth.”
    • 1 John 3:6,15 “No one who lives in Christ, keeps on sinning (lifestyle). No one who continues to sin (lifestyle) has either seen him or known him…….. Anyone who does not love remains in death. Anyone who hates a brother or sister is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life residing in him.”
    • 1 John 1:8 “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.”
    • These deceivers claimed to be without sin. Christ (the truth) did not live in them. They were not saved.
    • They lived in sin and yet claimed to be without sin (combination of sinful-lifestyle and self-righteousness)
    • Example: Pharisees claimed to be without sin (Luke 18:9-14) and were slaves to sin (John 8:34,44).
    • John was proclaiming the Gospel to these deceivers so that they would be saved/forgiven ALL sin.
    • 1 John 1:1-9 “from the beginning, which we have heard, seen with our eyes, looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life (GOSPEL). 2 The life (JESUS) appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life (SALVATION), which was with the Father and has appeared to us. 3 We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard (GOSPEL), 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 joy complete. 5 This is the message (GOSPEL) 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. 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.”
    • This is why John told the deceivers to confess their sins to be forgiven and righteous by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. 
    • Fellowship with Jesus is salvation/forgiveness of sins. Those deceivers claimed to have fellowship with Christ (claiming to be saved) but they were not saved.
    • They claimed to be without sin (they were deluded).
    • Fellowship is the same as Eternal life. Fellowship is the Forgiveness of sins.
    • Fellowship is the same as Salvation
    • Therefore Confession (1 John 1:9) is a call to SALVATION for unbelievers
  • So what about believers? 
  • We share our struggles with Jesus, NOT to get forgiveness in installments but to receive grace (Hebrews 4:15-16). Our Father has already forgiven us therefore we can be open to Him without fear.
  • The believer already HAS the Forgiveness of sins (Ephesians 1:7, Colossians 2:13)
  • Forgiveness does NOT EXPIRE when we sin. It does not require daily/weekly renewal by confession.
  • Under the Old Covenant, their sins were covered for 1 year until the next year’s animal sacrifice. This is why they repeated the sacrifices yearly because it could never take away sins!
  • If we say that our forgiveness lasts only for 1 week until confession on the next Sunday, then we are implying that we have a worse system than the Old Covenant.
  • The truth is that we are forgiven eternally by faith in Christ, once and for all (Hebrews 10:14-17).
    • Acts 10:43 “Everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”
    • Acts 13:38-39 “through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you. Through him everyone who believes is set free from every sin, a righteousness you were not able to obtain under the law.”
  • The Holy Spirit convicts the WORLD of sin, righteousness, and judgment 
    • John 16:8-11 “When he comes, he will prove the world to be in the wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment: about sin, because people do not believe in me; about righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; and about judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned.”
  • The Holy Spirit tells unbelievers that they are guilty of sin, they are not righteous, and will face judgment. He does this so that they will come to Jesus to be saved.
  • The Holy Spirit tells believers that we are forgiven all sin, righteous by faith and will not be judged (Hebrews 10:14-17, Romans 8:10, Titus 3:5). He reminds us that we are saved.

Is Confession mandatory for believers before Holy Communion/Lord’s Supper?

  • Some people in 1 Corinthians 11 were not remembering Christ in the Lord’s Supper.
  • They ate all the food and got drunk, leaving the poor believers humiliated and starving in the Church.
  • This is unimaginable in the 21st century. Nobody does things like this in the Church today. 
  • Paul told the Corinthians to remember Jesus and eat together, sharing the meal.
  • 1 Corinthians 1123 For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” 25 In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 26 For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.”
  • 1 Corinthians 11:33 “So then, my brothers and sisters, when you gather to eat, you should all eat together.
  • The Lord’s Supper is not about getting forgiveness in installments.
  • In the Lord’s Supper, we confess that Jesus died for our sins proclaiming our salvation.
  • The Lord’s Supper is not about remembering our sins and feeling guilty.
  • It’s not about remembering our good deeds and feeling proud.
  • Jesus said to “remember me”. He didn’t say to “remember yourself”. 
  • The Lord’s Supper is about remembering Jesus and thanking Him because He forgave ALL our sins.
  • When we know how much He has forgiven us, then it’s easier to repent from sin.


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