When I was in college, I had a friend named Joseph who lived a very miserable Christian life. This was due to his “obsession with confession”. He believed that if there was any sin he did not confess to the Lord so he could be forgiven, he would be out of fellowship with Him. This meant the Lord would not hear his prayers, nor would He bless him. Joseph lived in a constant state of anxiety, attempting to stay alert for every possible sinful thought, attitude, or action. His misery turned into depression, and he eventually dropped out of college.
This mindset was based on the teaching Joseph received on 1 John 1:9, which many Christians have heard through the years. It states: If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we read this backward, we can understand why many Christians think like Joseph. If we don’t confess our sins, He is faithful and just to not forgive us and to not cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we take this seriously, it would mean we will not go to heaven when we die. Yikes!
Here are some other Scriptures that seem to give this teaching more credibility.
If I regard iniquity in my heart, The Lord will not hear. Psalm 66:18 However, if you do not obey the LORD your God and do not carefully follow all his commands and decrees I am giving you today, all these curses will come upon you and overtake you: Deuteronomy 28:15. The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming—not the realities themselves.
There are others, but these provide plenty of reasons why many Christians believe 1 John 1:9 is for them under the New Covenant. First John was written to his readers in his day because of false teaching. It was the beginning of something that would later be called Gnosticism. This false teaching includes the following: The spiritual part of us is the only thing that matters. Since it has been made perfect by Christ, it doesn’t matter what we do with our bodies or minds. So, there is no such thing as sin. This is why John wrote in 1 John 1:8. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.
These false prophets also believed that since the body doesn’t matter, Jesus Christ did not have a physical body but a spiritual one. John’s response was: Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God because many false prophets have gone out into the world. This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world. 1 John 4:1-3
In the Old Covenant, the forgiveness of God was one time per year on the Day of Atonement for Israel. Their sins would accumulate for 365 days until the next year. They were constantly reminded of their sins. For this reason, it can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship. Otherwise, would they not have stopped being offered? For the worshipers would have been cleansed once for all, and would no longer have felt guilty for their sins. But those sacrifices are an annual reminder of sins. Hebrews 10:1-3
Today, according to the New Covenant, our forgiveness is perfectly complete. Colossians 2:13-14 assures us of this when it says; When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us ALL our sins, having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. I capitalized the word ALL to prove that our past, present, and future sins are already forgiven.
We can still confess sins we commit when we become aware of them, not to get forgiveness but because we already have forgiveness. We are never out of fellowship with God because that would mean he turns away from us every time we sin. All of our blessings are a result of being in Christ according to Ephesians 1:3, Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.
Let me leave you with Hebrews 10:14. Let’s take a moment to thank our Father for our perfectly complete forgiveness in Christ. For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified.
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© Mark Maulding (But feel free to share this.)