Confession Of Sins In The Bible Is Not The Same As Telling God Your Sins, One After the Other - An Explanation Of 1 John 1:9


One of the most misunderstood subjects of the Bible today is confession of sins. People have taken 1 John 1:9 and made it say what the author (apostle John) never intended, telling men that to confess your sins is the same as making an itemized list of them and asking God to forgive you of them one by one.
Where did this fallacy come from? What is the true meaning of confession of sins in 1 John 1:9 and how should it be done today? Let’s find out below.
1Jn 1:9  If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness

What is John saying here?
To find out what 1John 1:9 is truly saying, it is important we study that verse in the context of the entire chapter. That would mean examining what the author said before that verse and what he said after. While doing that, we should also take notice of his audience and choice of words.
1Jn 1:1  That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life; 
1Jn 1:2  (For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and shew unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us;) 
1Jn 1:3  That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ. 
1Jn 1:4  And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full. 
1Jn 1:5  This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. 
From verse 1 to 5, we see that there were two sets of people in the church that John was writing to. The first set of persons there he addressed with the words “we” and “us”. (Please pay a very close attention here.) This set of people he constantly referred to using either “we” or “us” from verse 1 to 5 has obviously heard about the Lord, seen Him and have touched Him through His Word. From his choice of words, this first set of people were “believers” because they have fellowship ( a union) with the Lord and with one another. This will become clearer if you read from verse 1 to 5 again.
There is also another set of people in that chapter whom Apostle John referred to from verse 1 to 5 using the word “You.” From the author’s use of words, this second set of people were among the first set. But they have never seen the Lord through his word, neither had fellowship with Him, the Father or the believers. Based on Apostle John’s words, this second set of persons were “unbelievers”. Even though they were among the believers, they never accepted the beliefs or doctrines the first set of people believed and taught.
Take a closer look at the subsequent verses.
1Jn 1:5  This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. 
1Jn 1:6  If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: 
1Jn 1:7  But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin. 
1Jn 1:8  If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 
1Jn 1:9  If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 
1Jn 1:10  If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. 
From the author’s words in verse 5 to 10 of that chapters, we see a few things. The first is that this second persons were claiming to have a relationship with God but not through the blood of Jesus. Hence the author explaining to them in verse 5 to 7 that if we say we have fellowship with God (That is, a union with God), we must also have the same union with one another (fellow believers) and Jesus whose blood is supposed to cleanse us from sin. Without that fellowship with fellow believers and the blood of Jesus, John told them they were walking in darkness or deception. Regardless of how much they claim to know God.
Secondly, apart from claiming to know God outside of His Word or His Son Jesus, this second set of people were also claiming that sin does not exist. According to them, there is no such thing as sin. There is also no such thing as a sinner. That is why the author apostle John has to tell them the following words from verse 8 to 10 . (Please pay attention to this.)
1Jn 1:8  If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 
1Jn 1:9  If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 
1Jn 1:10  If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. 
Notice how he told them in verse 8 that “if we say that we have no sin”, in other words “if we say that sin does not exist”, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.
He proceeded in verse 10 to also tell them if “we say we have not sinned” we make that God we claim to know a liar and His word is not in us.
Why did John say so? That’s because God has declared that all men have sinned and come short of his Glory. All men sinned because sin exists.
In verse 9, we see John in continuation of the reality of sin which he had started telling them about in verse 8, told them that if we as men who had sinned “confess” our sins, God is faithful (willing and ready) to forgive and cleanse us from them.
By “confess” here, is John implying jotting down our sins and telling them to God one after the other? For instance saying, “Father I have taken my neighbour’s matches, ruler or pencil. Also yesterday I even slapped my younger sister. I remembered getting angry 30 times the other day. Please have mercy on me and forgive me.”
Is that what apostle John meant by “confess our sins” in that verse? Well, let’s find out.
The greek word translated as “confess” in 1 John 1:9 is “homologeo” According to Strong’s and Thayer’s Lexicon,”homologeo” simply means “to say the same thing as another, i.e to agree with, assent, to acknowledge”
If we put that back to 1 John 1:9 it would mean to say the exact same thing God has spoken concerning our sins. It would then read something like ”if we say, agree with, assent or acknowledge what God has spoken concerning our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
So what is it that God has spoken concerning our sins that the author was beckoning on this second set of people to agree with or acknowledge?
From verse 1 of that chapter to verse 10, we see that they are: 

  1. That sin exists
  2. That all men have sinned
  3. That fellowship with God is only through the forgiveness of sins and cleansing by the blood of Jesus Christ. Man can never truly have a fellowship with God outside of Christ.
If this second set of persons whom he was addressing ever agreed to all these 3 things they would immediately become born again, having put faith in Jesus. This was what we did the very moment we became born again. We agreed to all of those 3 and that’s why we have fellowship with God today.
So, to “confess” our sins in 1 John 1:9, simply means to “agree with what God has spoken concerning sin” or to “say exactly what God has said concerning our sins”. That was what John meant in that verse. Saying exactly what God has said about sins would then lead the unbelieving ones in church there to Jesus.
The verse is not asking us to list our sins one by one to God. Nobody ever did that during Jesus’ life on earth and after His resurrection.
God is not interested in knowing your sins one by one. He wants you to know what His word has spoken concerning them.
What is it His word has spoken concerning sins?
 They exist, has been paid for by Jesus and today we have a union with the Father through Him.
I hope this blesses you. Glory to God!
Glory to Jesus, our Redeemer and Friend!

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