Tag Archives: confession



confessionI’m so glad that that we no longer live in the horrific age of the inquisition. In those days the Roman Catholic Church and the Pope held sway; any that dared challenge his authority and church dogma, refusing to recant, were horribly tortured in order to extract a confession and then burnt at the stake without mercy:

“Anyone who attempts to construe a personal view of God which conflicts with Church dogma must be burned without pity.” Pope Innocent III

What is confession?

Today, in modern times, the word confession is used more in the context of a criminal admitting to a crime, which interestingly enough – according to the principle in UK law called corpus delicti – isn’t on its own enough to convict.

Wikipedia defines confession as :

“A statement – made by a person or by a group of persons – acknowledging some personal fact that the person (or the group) would ostensibly prefer to keep hidden. The term presumes that the speaker is providing information that he believes the other party is not already aware of, and is frequently associated with an admission of a moral or legal wrong:”

Confession for a Catholic

For many though, the word conjures up the confession booth and the penitent confessing both mortal and venial (less serious) sins to a Roman Catholic priest in order to receive absolution. This is called the Sacrament of Penance.

By the way, Catholics believe that mortal sins, are those which if not forgiven before death, send a person to hell because they separate the person from God’s grace (go figure that one!) Sins such as: Murder, Adultery, Masturbation and deliberately missing Mass – amongst many other sins in the list!

The Bible has one category … sin!

Confession in the Old Testament.

Where do these Catholic ideas of confession come from then? Well to some extent they are modelled on Old Covenant biblical practices: Under the law, if you sinned, you came to the priest with a sacrifice and confessed your sin in order to receive forgiveness.

Leviticus 5:5 “And it shall be, when he shall be guilty in one of these things, that he shall confess (Hebrew ‘yadah’) that he hath sinned in that thing:”

Later on in the Bible, the people confessed as a nation for their sins:

Nehemiah 9:2 “And the seed of Israel separated themselves from all strangers, and stood and confessed their sins, and the iniquities of their fathers.”

It’s important to realise though, that ‘confess’ is not the only translation of the Hebrew word ‘yadah’, as in many contexts it means ‘to praise’ or ‘give thanks.’ In fact, this is where the name Judah comes from and is its first usage in the Bible:

Genesis 29:35 “And she conceived again, and bare a son: and she said, Now will I praise the LORD: therefore she called his name Judah; and left bearing.”

Confession for a Protestant

What about Protestant Evangelicals though, what do they believe? Well certainly they don’t believe that forgiveness of sins is administered by a priest. No, they believe that they have direct access to God and can therefore confess their sins privately whenever they wish – basing this on 1John 1:9.

Indeed, this kind of freedom and access to God, was intuitively understood by King David living thousands of years earlier under the law. Somehow he looked forward to the time when the believer could approach God directly without mediator or priest:

Psalm 32:5 “I acknowledged my sin unto thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid. I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the LORD; and thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin. Selah.”

Of course, the Catholic might reasonably ask the Protestant: “how do you know you have been forgiven though?”

This is a good question. A Catholic believes that he or she knows that they are forgiven because they have received absolution from a priest. The Protestant … not so much?

That is why I believe, that 1 John 1:9 is not some miraculous bar of soap to be applied after sinning. No, under grace the believer confesses any sin knowing the certainty of total forgiveness.

Colossians 1:14 “In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins:”

Under the Law you confessed to get forgiven; under Grace you confess because you are forgiven!

By the way, the story of the prodigal son in Luke 15 brilliantly illustrates these ideas, as when he eventually returns home to his Father with his practiced confession and suggested penance, the Father has already forgiven him and instead showers him with love and affection that he doesn’t deserve. That’s grace for you!

Luke 15:18 “I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee, And am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants.”

New Covenant Confession

So then, what does New Covenant confession look like? Firstly, a conversion experience is accompanied by the confession of sin and repentance:

Acts 19:18 “And many that believed came, and confessed, and shewed their deeds. Many of them also which used curious arts brought their books together, and burned them before all men: and they counted the price of them, and found it fifty thousand pieces of silver.”

However, like the Hebrew word for confess, the word Greek word for confess ‘homologeo’ is not exclusively used in regards to sin either but simply means to agree or to say the same thing as another.

John uses the word extensively in his Epistle in regards to the believers confession or statement of faith:

1 John 4:15 “Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God.”

1 John 4:2 “Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God:”

2 John 1:7 “For many deceivers are entered into the world, who confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist.”

The Apostle Paul also used the same word in the famous salvation passage:

Romans 10:9 “That if thou shalt confess (aorist) with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession (present tense) is made unto salvation.”

Confession to one another.

Just to finish though, James also talks about confession but in the context of confessing sins to one another (not a priest).

James 5:15 “Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.”

What this verse is saying, is that if you have sinned against someone go and put it right – as Jesus explains in Matthew 18. Maybe though, James is thinking of when Abimelech inadvertently sinned against righteous Abraham?

Genesis 20:8 “Now therefore restore the man his wife; for he is a prophet, and he shall pray for thee, and thou shalt live: and if thou restore her not, know thou that thou shalt surely die, thou, and all that are thine.”

Read More:

What to do when you sin

Can you miss the grace of God?

Sinning wilfully

A driving analogy

Are future sins forgiven?

Total forgiveness

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What do you do when you sin?

soapWhat do you do when you sin? The advice from most evangelical believers would be to use 1 John 1:9 as a sort of spiritual bar of soap.

1 John 1:9 “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 

Apply the soap

In other words, every time you sin and are aware of the fact, then apply the soap, confess and say sorry to God and then God will forgive and cleanse you of all sin – simple!

The problem with this, if you have ever tried it, is that you just go round and round in a kind of endless spiritual washing machine spin cycle: sin, confess, sin, forgive and so on. Unfortunately, your eyes are on the sin not Jesus and instead of sin being overcome it becomes stronger.

The catholic answer

The Catholic of course, has a simple but similar answer: go visit a priest and confess your mortal sins (sins that send you hell).


Or, if your not that bad, just confess your venial or minor sins!


How does it work? First you must confess your sin to the priest and when he’s is satisfied, he absolves you, pronounces you forgiven by God and you get to say a few Hail Mary’s or some other penance – depending on the severity of the offence.

What about 1 John 1:9?

However, getting back to our bar of soap and 1 John 1:9, what does this scripture really say about “what do you do when you  sin?”  If read in context and in the flow of the previous verse, does it really say what many think it says? i.e.

“if you sin, then confess your sins to God in private prayer and you will be forgiven and cleansed”?

Let’s look at John 1:8 and 9 together, as they juxtapose two different kinds of people referred to as we but who say different things about their sin. The first kind, in verse 8, say they don’t have any sins (the belief and confession of certain gnostic heretic groups) – they remain deceived.

1 John 1:8 “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.”

The second kind, in verse 9, admit or confess they are sinners and are therefore forgiven and cleansed of all unrighteousness.

1 John 1:9 “If we confess (‘homologeo’ and present tense) our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 

What does it mean to confess?

For example, many involved in witchcraft at Ephesus believed the Gospel and confessed their sins. Everyone in the city had no doubt these people had become Christians because they didn’t just burn their proverbial boats; they burnt their magic books as well!

Acts 19:18 “And many that believed came, and confessed, (‘exomologeo’ and present tense)  and shewed their deeds. Many of them also which used curious arts brought their books together, and burned them before all men: and they counted the price of them, and found it fifty thousand pieces of silver.”

Now, what does the word confess ‘homologeo’ used in 1 John 1:9 mean? Basically, it means to agree together or admit. For example the same word is used several times  by John to differentiate believers from gnostic unbelievers and identify whether a spirit is from God:

  • Believers confess that Jesus is the Son Of God – 1 John 4:15
  • Believers confess both the Father and the Son 1 John 2:2
  • Believers confess that they have sin. 1 John 1:9
  • A spirit that confesses Jesus Christ come in flesh is of God 1 John 4:2
  • A spirit that doesn’t confess that Jesus Christ is come in flesh is an antichrist. 2 John 1:7

The Apostle Paul also used the same word in the famous salvation passage:

Romans 10:9 “That if thou shalt confess (aorist) with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession (present tense) is made unto salvation.”

So, should a believer confess and admit their sins? Absolutely. A believer should admit when they miss the mark and if they claim to be sinless  – just ask their wife or children what they think!

The tense of the verbs are important

However, I don’t believe that 1 John 1:9 is talking about receiving forgiveness and cleansing on an ongoing basis as a consequence of confession to God in some private prayer. What do I mean? Well if that is what the verse meant, the tenses of the verbs forgive and cleanse would also be perfect. They are not. They are aorist.

Perfect tense – a completed action that leaves lingering effects.
Aorist tense – a one-time action
Present tense – a continuous or habitual action.

In other words, even though confession is to be our continual attitude as a believer, our forgiveness and cleansing are a past, one time action, breaking the link between confession and subsequent forgiveness.

Therefore, because you have repented and confessed your sins you have been forgiven! You are cleansed of all sin! Forgiveness doesn’t depend on your continual confession.

1 John 2:12 “I write unto you, little children, because your sins are forgiven (perfect tense) you for his name’s sake.”

Acts 15:9 “And put no difference between us and them, purifying (cleansing, aorist tense) their hearts by faith.”

1 Cor 6:11 “And such were some of you: but ye are washed, (aorist) but ye are sanctified, (aorist) but ye are justified (aorist) in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God”.

You’ve been washed

In conclusion therefore, you don’t need a spiritual bar of soap to keep you clean. You have been washed. In fact, the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses you continually every second of the day far better than a confessional bar of soap could!

1 John 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 (present tense) us from all sin.”

Therefore, going back to our original question: “what should a believer do when they sin?”, John the Apostle answers directly.

1 John 2:1 “My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin (aorist), we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: And he is the propitiation (appeasment) for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.”

Therefore, if you sin and you’re a believer, its not what you do before God that counts, its what your advocate Jesus the righteous does! He is the one who acts on your behalf and in your interest, speaking up before the Father for you as the enemy makes his accusation. How good is that!

Reiterating this, when you sin it’s not what you do that counts but WHO you have to speak up for you! If any man sin WE HAVE and advocate with the Father. Jesus is our defence lawyer.

Does sin matter?

Does sin matter though if we are already forgiven? Yes of course. Sexual sin for example harms our own bodies.

1 Cor 6:18 “Every sin that a man doeth is without the body; but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body.”

Do we need to repent when we sin? Yes of course ,we need to renew our minds as to the truth of God’s word. When we are aware of our bad behaviour,  we don’t pretend it didn’t happen we agree with God’s word that it is sin and that our advocate Jesus is already on the case and  we reckon ourselves dead to it.

Romans 6:6 “Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

In addition,  sinning against other people will probably result in bad consequences! So, even though we may be assured of God’s forgiveness for our sin, we need take responsibility of our actions, confess our sin and seek forgiveness from others as far as possible on our part. James 5:16 makes this very clear.

Confess (exologeo) your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.

You are already forgiven

Likewise, Paul teaches us to forgive one another because we are already forgiven.

“Forbearing one another, and forgiving (present tense) one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave (aorist) you, so also do ye. Col 3:13”

So lastly, you don’t need to keep short accounts with God because you don’t have an account! He doesn’t put sin to your charge.

Romans 4:8 “Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin.”

However, people do keep accounts, so make sure you don’t hide behind your bar of soap. If you have offended and sinned against someone, go and put it right. Confess your sins and make restitution. Every good husband knows this if he wants to stay alive!

Andrew Wommack Audio on 1 John 1:9

Further Reading:

Joseph Prince on confession of sins

Excellent article Phil Drysdale on confession
Another article on confession by Phil Drysdale
Andrew Wommack on confession
Repentance its not what you think
Repentance is the key to real change
Sinning willfully
Total forgiveness


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The best insurance ever!

insuranceThe trouble with life insurance is you have to die in order for others to get the benefits. Imagine if you truly were insured for life! Well, in a way the good news of the grace of God is better than that – but someone did have to die – the precious Lord Jesus Christ.

Hebrews 9:16 “For where a testament is, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator. For a testament is of force after men are dead: otherwise it is of no strength at all while the testator liveth.”

Here is the deal!

Here is the deal. When you put your faith in what Jesus has done for you by dying on the cross for your sins, you become part of God’s family and as such you get all the benefits of that family. You are assured of and insured for life: eternal life. You have signed up to the one sided deal or contract- which is the New Covenant.

This deal could be likened to the best car-insurance policy ever: covered for any accident, at any time, free, no excess, and great support day or night. You even get you own personal coach and advisor; who actually comes to live permanently with you! (The Holy Spirit)

Crash your car to cash in?

Now, if you had a policy like that, do you think you would go around crashing your car just to cash in? No of course you wouldn’t, because even though all damage to the car would be ultimately covered, if you did get drunk, drive and kill someone, those consequences would still have to be dealt with!

In other words, by faith you are righteous and forgiven but that doesn’t mean that you are insured or immune from all the consequences of all your actions. So, be wise and stop sinning NOW! I mean, if you go out and commit adultery, then, even though your eternal salvation is assured you are not insured in terms of the serious consequences with your wife!


Similarly, too many believers will say things like: “I’ve forgiven you before God” but when you ask them what it’s is you’ve done they won’t say. This proves they haven’t forgiven you at all and are offended and are withholding forgiveness – which is sin!

So, if you sin against someone else, stop asking forgiveness from God (that’s not what you need in most cases). What you need to do is go and make it right (Matthew 18), confess you sin and ask for forgiveness from the offended.

That is what James is talking about in chapter 5 when he says: “confess your sins to one another so that you may be healed” and what Paul is talking about in 1 Corinthians 11 in relation to the Lord’s Supper. Maybe there would be less sickness amongst the community of believers if that were the case?

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