1 John 1:9 “If we confess our sins, God is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”
In the words of Andrew Farley in The Naked Gospel:
This verse is an invitation to become a Christian. John is addressing nonbelievers who claimed to be without sin.
Did you notice that this verse declares they’d be purified from ALL UNRIGHTEOUSNESS? The phrase “all unrighteousness” is reminiscent of forgiveness passages elsewhere in the epistles. Here, John isn’t asking for a one-by-one tallying of our sins in order for Christians to stay forgiven and cleansed. That would be ludicrous, given the impossibility for any human to truly comply!
Think about it. You’ve already committed thousands of sins you’ve forgotten about. You can’t possibly remember them in order to confess them and become forgiven for them. That’s why Christians have to be purified from ALL unrighteousness – once and for all!
The contextualized interpretation of verse 9 may be new to those of us who have viewed the passage as a prescription for Christians who just committed an individual sin. First John 1:9 has been a “bar of soap” routine to stay cleansed and in fellowship with God.
What a tragedy! In adopting this view, we fail to acknowledge that ONLY BLOOD (NOT WORDS) brings forgiveness. We miss the fact that Jesus’ once-for-all blood sacrifice brought LIFELONG cleansing. So we dialogue with God to FEEL forgiven and cleansed. This feeling serves as our confirmation that God just forgave us. But some aren’t able to conjure up this feeling. And as a result, they end up doubting their forgiveness.
I have totally been there… unable to conjure up the feeling of being forgiven…
Farley goes on to talk about confession:
Let’s clarify an important point. The meaning of “confess” is “to say the same as” or “to agree.” Believers should agree with God on all accounts – not just about sins but about everything. Although we don’t confess our sins IN ORDER TO RECEIVE new portions of forgiveness and cleansing, we should still AGREE with God concerning the folly of sin. We’re His children, and it is only His ways that fulfill. We’re designed from the ground up to agree with Him, depend on him, and live from Him.
But it’s equally important to recognize that we don’t impel God or put Him in motion through our confession. He’s not waiting to dole out forgiveness and cleansing. WE don’t need to keep “short accounts” with God, since He has already destroyed the record book!
God has taken away our sins. He remembers them no more. As believers, our forgiveness and cleansing aren’t dependent on our memory, our confession, or our asking. Our forgiveness and cleansing are solely because of the finished work of Jesus Christ.
Let me take a moment to bask in that truth. Wow. Thank you, Jesus.
Now Farley addresses James 5:16.
“Therefore, confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.”
Confession to trusted friends and to God is healthy. It’s normal and natural to talk about your struggles with people who care about you. The indispensable truth to grasp, however, is that confession does NOT initiate cleansing in your life. We’ve already been cleansed “once for all” through the onetime blood sacrifice that needs no repeating.
Let’s be honest about our struggles, but let’s also be clear about what the cross accomplished. The Catholic goes to a priest, and the Protestant thinks he does better by appealing directly to god. But any system that doesn’t factor in once-for-all forgiveness is intrinsically flawed.
God doesn’t want us to think that human priests apportion forgiveness to us. Nor does he want us to envision His doling out forgiveness from heaven on a “first come, first serve” basis! Instead, He wants us to ascribe real meaning to Jesus’ declaration, “It is finished.”
Only then will we turn from sins for the right reason. Our motivation shouldn’t be to obtain forgiveness in return. We’re already forgiven and cleansed children of the living God. Our motivation should be the fulfillment that comes from truly being ourselves.
In my life, forgiveness has been so polluted by obsessive compulsive disorder and this compulsive need for the “bar of soap,” to ask for forgiveness over and over until I feel cleansed…
That is NOT the Gospel.
The Gospel declares sin is finished. It is done, I’m forgiven once and for all. Jesus died ONCE for ALL sin, He doesn’t die daily.
Yes, I still sin, and when I do, I am not acting in the way God intended me to, I am not living from the new creation. So, I need to agree with God that yes, I did that, and it was foolish, and I need Your help to overcome it. But I also need to thank God for forgiving me for it, and cleansing me once and for all. I have already been forgiven. I don’t need to ask a certain way or a certain amount of times… Thank you, Jesus.
ONCE AND FOR ALL.