Archive for the 'Bible Doctrine' Category



A Lack of New Testament References

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One of the cool things about my having decided to publicly blog about my questioning of the doctrine of rebound, is that readers raise questions and point me toward other people’s writings on the subject.

One of those writings was an article in the CTS Journal vol 5 #4 (Dec 1999) on Confession by Clifford Rapp, Jr. [Rapp earned a Th.M. degree in Old Testament Literature and Exegesis from Dallas Theological Seminary and is an adjunct professor at Chafer Theological Seminary.  He pastors a Free Methodist church in California] I found his article to be fascinating, not so much from the standpoint of what the Old Testament has to say about confessing  sins as from some of the statements he makes in his article that I believe inadvertently shoot down the premise from which he’s operating.

The piece beings thus:

“The New Testament promises that If we confess our sins [God] is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1Jn 1:0). This essay addresses the nature of confession.”

And then it immediately points out that “The paucity of New Testament material on confession” makes it difficult to fulfill the essay’s objective.

My first thought upon reading that was to wonder, could that paucity perhaps be due to the fact that confession of sins to gain God’s forgiveness is not a major doctrine for the Church Age believer after all? Usually when the Holy Spirit wants us to know a major doctrine He does a lot of repeating. (Think of how many times we’re told to love one another, or know the word, or only believe in Christ for salvation.) As I’ve noted in previous posts, I have not found this to be the case when it comes to the believer’s confessing of sins for forgiveness. So far, 1 John 1:9 is it.

Of the three confessions which Pastor Rapp lists as being found in the NT, two are in Luke (the prodigal son in Ch 15 and the tax collector in Ch 18), and one in Acts 8 (Simon the magician). Rapp also notes “Paul’s public testimonies in which he acknowledged his sin,”  for which he gives no references.

My first thought was that both the prodigal son and the tax collector appear in one of the Gospels, and were parables taught by Jesus Himself before His death on the cross. Both were taught to the Jews who were still part of the age of Israel and thus under the Law. Both were told to illuminate other matters than confession of sins, though they do include “confessions” of a sort.

I say “of a sort,” because the prodigal, upon “coming to his senses” and deciding to return to his father, was hardly allowed to even deliver his confession. Though he had prepared it (“I will get up and go to my father and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in your sight; I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me as one of your hired men.”) when he arrived and was still far off, “his father saw him, and felt compassion for him, and ran and embraced him, and kissed him.”

Clearly the father had already forgiven him before the son said a word.

And even though he started out on his prepared confessional, it seems to have been ignored. In fact, he was cut off right after the ‘no longer worthy’ part as his father begins giving orders to his slaves to

“Quickly bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet; and bring the fattened calf, kill it and let us eat and be merry; for this son of mine (not slave, as the son wanted to suggest but had no opportunity) was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found.’ and they began to be merry.”

Nothing in this story indicates the father was waiting for a confession before he would forgive. The moment he saw the son returning he raced to him in joy, embraced him, kissed him, gave him no chance to even speak. Nor did he say to his slaves that “this son of mine was bad, but now that he has confessed his wrong doing to me, I’ve forgiven him.”

The second reference to confession, Luke 18, is the familiar parable of the arrogant Pharisee in the temple “praying to himself”(!) about how great he is, and not like that horrible tax-gatherer over there. The one who was beating his breast saying, “God be merciful to me, the sinner!”

This is in keeping with the commandments of the Law, which was in force when Jesus was preaching and teaching. And even here the point of the story (delivered to “certain ones who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and viewed others with contempt”) doesn’t seem to hinge on who was confessing their sins correctly and being forgiven, but about the difference between arrogance and humility. One man thought he was god, and the other knew he was wretched. In fact, the tax collector is not portrayed as “naming sins” before God, he merely asks for mercy for himself as a sinner.

Finally, the event with Simon the former magician in Acts 8 occurred in the transitional time period between the ending of the age of Israel and before the Church age really got going. The Apostle Paul, the one who was given the bulk of revelation about how Church Age believers were to operate, wasn’t even saved at this point, and was in fact said to be ravaging the church at the end of Acts 7.

In Acts 8, Philip had been in Samaria teaching the people there about Jesus Christ and baptizing them in His name presumably just after the events of Pentecost. When the apostles in Jerusalem heard about them, they sent down Peter and John to lay hands on them so they could receive the Holy Spirit too.

Simon was supposedly one of Philip’s converts, a person who’d believed but hadn’t received the Holy Spirit. But was he really saved? He’s said to have believed the good news about the kingdom of God and been baptized in water. But he’s clearly out of it when he offers the apostles money to give him the authority to lay his hands on others and impart to them the Holy Spirit, like Peter and John were doing.

Peter did not mince words:

“May your silver perish with you because you thought you could obtain the gift of God with money! You have no part or portion in this teaching, for your heart is not right before God. Therefore repent of this wickedness of yours, and pray the Lord that if possible, the intention of your heart may be forgiven you. For I see that you are in the gall of bitterness and in the bondage of iniquity.”

And then in direct disobedience to Peter’s instruction to pray himself, Simon says,

“Pray to the Lord for me yourselves, so that nothing of what you have said may come upon me.”

Which I consider to be a very weird response. He’s not even asking them, he’s telling them to pray for him. It certainly doesn’t sound like a confession. Nor is there any indication he was forgiven.

And what does Peter mean by “pray the Lord that, if possible, the intention of your heart may be forgiven you?” Did Simon merely say he believed in Christ and really didn’t? What does “bondage of iniquity” mean? Temporary personal sinning in his bitterness and desire for approbation? Or worse than that, not even saved?

I don’t know. But there is nothing that says he received the Spirit himself, and he is never mentioned again after having made his weird remark. Nor is anyone said to have prayed for him.

I suppose one could surmise from Peter’s response that when you sin really badly, blasphemously, then you must pray for forgiveness… But you could also surmise from “pray…that, if possible, the intention of your heart may be forgiven you…” that Simon wasn’t really saved, and only made a pretense of it. Why else would any sin of his not be forgiven?

In any case, Pastor Rapp concludes that, there being so few verses to support the interpretation of 1 John 1:9 as referring to believers confessing for forgiveness, we must turn to “the abundance of Old Testament confessional material” to define this confessing (I was going to write “command” but 1 Jn 1:9 is not, in fact, a command. It’s an if-then.)

Logical perhaps, unless you consider the fact that the spiritual life of the church age is profoundly different from anything the Old Testament saints had ever known or even dreamed of. In fact, it had been held as a mystery from them until such time as the Apostle Paul was led to reveal it. (Ro 16:25; 1 Co 2:7; Eph 3:3,9; Col 1:26,27)

Why then, should we go back to the Old Testament for guidance on living in an age they knew nothing about, an age where all has become new and the old has passed away? Why not stop and ask yourself… if there’s such a paucity of information and examples of confession in the New Testament, might it be that your initial assumption of what 1 John is actually teaching is faulty?

Well, that was my conclusion anyway, and the more I investigate it, the more confident in it I’m becoming.

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So What Do We DO About Personal Sins?

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As I said in my last post, I do not believe that we as believers in Christ can ever reach sinless perfection so long as we’re on this earth in these fallen bodies.  We’re going to sin. The question raised was, what are we to do about it?

Well, first have to recognize that we are sinning, but after that, then what? Well, I am convinced the Bible does not tell us we must go through the ritual of “naming the sin privately to God,”  or “rebound” as I’d been taught for years.

Instead, we simply stop doing the bad and start doing the good. Which is what “repent” means: we “change our mind” with regard to that particular thought process/activity — and then stop doing it. And not just stop, but do something else, instead.

In Ephesians 4 Paul lays it all out… Lay aside the old… put on the new…

Stop walking like the Unbelievers walk, in their old way of thinking…
But renew your mind (Ro 12) with the word of God and think on the truth you’ve learned instead of that old human viewpoint stuff.

Be angry, yet do not sin — that is, sin by holding onto it and replaying it in your mind and getting more and more worked up about it; or even worse becoming bitter… Do not let the sun go down on your anger. That is,

Let it Go!

Stop stealing, and set your hands to productive work so you may have an abundance to share with those in need.

Let all wrath and malice and clamor be put away from you and (instead) be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other because Christ has forgiven you.

Because He’s forgiven us of everything, we should gratefully forgive others of their transgressions against us.  And in fact, it helps me to remember while I’m gnashing my teeth over what someone has done to me, that whatever their sin was against me,  Christ died for it, every bit as much as  He died for my judging or outrage. How can I hold anything against the other person, when my Lord has already paid for that failing and forgiven them? Who am I, to think I can’t?

This shifts the focus of our attention off what we’re doing wrong, and what others are doing wrong, and back to what Christ has done about it. And that brings glory to Him, rather than to ourselves and our little rituals performed to “earn” forgiveness…

Sinless Perfection

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Among the comments I’ve received on my recent series of posts about confession of sins was the suggestion that I have dumped rebound for the old Wesleyan doctrine of “sinless perfection.”

I had to go look up what that was.

After a quick reading of the Wikipedia article I’m still not sure what it is. Wesley himself said he never used the term “sinless perfection” for fear of contradicting himself, but did maintain that Christians were on a “journey to perfection” where they would reach a point where “the heart of the believer is cleansed from inbred sin by the infilling of the Holy Spirit.”

I don’t think we’re on a “journey to perfection.” I don’t think God left us here with a sin nature so we could reach perfection. As believers in Christ, when we die, the flesh will be gone and we’ll have perfect resurrection bodies just like our Lord’s. But not because of anything we do along the way.

I think of what the Bible describes as the “heart of the believer” as being where we do our thinking, where our conscience is, our standards, memory, understanding, our will, etc. I believe it’s a combination of the soul and human spirit (the latter made alive at the moment of salvation). The Bible doesn’t say there’s inbred sin there, but rather in the flesh, the physical body referred to as the “old man” in Scripture. This can and does influence the soul/spirit/heart and will until the day we die.

I certainly do not believe the Bible teaches that it is possible for a Christian in this life to attain “spiritual perfection,” that is, to reach a state where he or she no longer sins.

I have to laugh here, because I remember years ago (when I was about 2 years old, spiritually speaking)  getting into a debate with an older gentleman who claimed he no longer sinned.

My husband and I were attending one of the many home Bible studies we tried out before we settled on the one where we listened to Col Thieme’s tapes (augmented by regular Sunday/Wednesday attendance at a Baptist Church). We’d already received the teaching of 1 John 1:9 (that we must confess our sins to be forgiven) from Orville and our LS Chafer book and here we were faced with this man who was claiming he no longer sinned. We quoted 1 John 1:10 – whoever says he’s without sin is a liar. I don’t recall the man’s argument against that, only that he grew quite angry about it all and began insulting us, and  it didn’t help the situation when my husband pointed out that he was, indeed, angry and that was a sin, so clearly he HADN’T stopped sinning.

In any event, I do not believe the Bible teaches we can ever as long as we are alive on this earth, reach a point of sinless perfection. We still have the flesh setting itself against the Spirit (Gal 5:17), and tempting us to go back to the old ways (Ro 7:14-25); we live in the Devil’s world, which is permeated by a system of thinking that’s totally against God  and which will also constantly tempt us to go back to the ways of the flesh (1 Jn 2:15,16); finally, we have an active enemy in the person of Satan and his minions, who are working to keep us from going forward in the Christian life (I Pe 5:8; Eph6:11,12). They have been doing this with members of the Body of Christ for almost two thousand years and they are VERY good at it.

Moreover, the flesh is not getting better, it’s getting worse (2 Co 4:16). So, no, as long as we’re in this fallen world, in these corrupt bodies, we aren’t going to reach sinless perfection. We won’t be without sin until we’re in heaven in our Resurrection Bodies.

We do sin, regularly. Probably daily for most of us, even if it’s only falling into a wrong mental attitude (fear, worry, guilt, selfishness, resentment, pride…the options sometimes seem endless).

Because I believe confession of sin is not something the Bible teaches that we are told to do (as related in my recent posts)  some have asked, “Well what DO we do about it, then?”

Short answer: STOP it!

Longer answer: Lay it aside, and put on something new.

For an even longer answer, check out tomorrow’s post. 🙂

For By One Offering…

picture courtesy of La Vista Church of Christ

picture courtesy of La Vista Church of Christ

So I did my word search of “confess” (yadah) in the Old Testament, and as I mentioned in the last post, I did not find what I expected to find. Even when I included “acknowledge” in my search, I still came up with only 20 verses in the entire Old Testament using these words.

Of those 20 verses, less than half (8) referred to confession of sin, and the rest related to making a public declaration of something or someone (eg, a man’s firstborn and heir).

(In contrast “know” is found in 534 verses, “knowledge” in 104, “wisdom” in 154, “truth” in 91 verses,  “sins” 101…)

Since the usage is more or less evenly split between the verbal, public declaration of something, an heir for example,  and the verbal declaration of sins, I don’t see it helping to support the notion that  “confession of personal sins” is the meaning the Apostle John intended to communicate in his letter. If anything, I think it supports the other interpretation, ie, it’s a public declaration of having acknowledged oneself a sinner and believing in Christ.

So ultimately, I don’t think my word search of the OT contributed all that much to answering my question. In fact, it’s reinforced my thought that trying to use Old Testament Hebrew words to understand New Testament Greek words is probably not all that edifying, especially given the fact that as Church Age believers, we live in a new age, with a completely different operating system from what Old Testament did. In fact in some cases Paul had to coin entirely new words, because he lacked the appropriate terms to express what was being revealed to him.

Old Testament saints lived before Jesus came to die for us. For them everything was physical. The Jews saw God in the pillar of fire and the pillar of cloud and in the appearances on Mt. Sinai. They had the physical temple where He lived behind  with the veil in the Holy of Holies. They had the overt and distinct physical, specialized priesthood. They had physical sacrifices and physical cleansing rituals and had to physically confess their sins aloud to the priest to be transferred to the physical animals which they then either watched be slain, or slew themselves. And they had to keep doing that over and over, every year, at least, if not more, as they looked forward to the coming of their king.

Moreover, Heb 10 tells us that

“For the Law, since it has only a shadow of the good things to come and not the very form of things, can never, by the same sacrifices which [the priests] offer continually year by year, make perfect those who draw near. Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered, because the worshipers, having once been cleansed, would no longer have had consciousness of sins? But in those sacrifices there is a reminder of sins year by year.

For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.”*

The physical blood of bulls and goats could never take away sins. It merely covered them until such time as the One Perfect Sacrifice would arrive. Until that time the Jews had to keep confessing and being cleansed…

“Therefore, when He comes into the world, He says, “SACRIFICES AND OFFERINGS AND WHOLE BURNT OFFERINGS AND sacrifices FOR SIN YOU HAVE NOT DESIRED, NOR HAVE YOU TAKEN PLEASURE in them” (which are offered according to the Law),  then He said, “BEHOLD, I HAVE COME TO DO YOUR WILL.” He takes away the first in order to establish the second.**

He takes away the first – the LAW —  in order to establish the second – GRACE.

Christ is our sacrifice and He did it once for all. He doesn’t have to keep going back to the Cross. It’s done. And if He doesn’t have to keep going back to the Cross, why would we have to keep on confessing? Confession in the OT was tied to the sacrifice; the Jewish believer confessed his sin to the Priest who transferred it to the animal which was then slain to cover the sin.

“By this will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

Every priest stands daily ministering and offering time after time the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins;  but He, having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, SAT DOWN AT THE RIGHT HAND OF GOD…

For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified.***

That is, US! Believers in the Church age. When we believed in Him, we acknowledged (confessed?) that all our sins were transferred to Him as the sacrificial lamb and paid for by His death, once and for all time on Golgotha…

AND THEIR SINS AND THEIR LAWLESS DEEDS I WILL REMEMBER NO MORE.”  Now where there is forgiveness of these things, there is no longer any offering for sin. Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus,  by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh,

and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.****

“Having” our hearts sprinkled clean, not “sprinkling our hearts clean” – He did it, not us. There is no talk here of confessing sins, only…

“Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering [ELPIS – confident expectation], for He who promised is faithful*****

And look! Here’s another place that shows confession to be a public profession of faith in Christ, of salvation through Christ, NOT confession of sin.

In fact the preceding verses communicate very clearly that we don’t need to do anything related to the OT sacrifices any more, neither confess, nor cleanse ourselves, because we’ve already been forgiven and cleansed when we believed in Christ.

And in light of all this, when I look at 1 John 1:9 now …

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness…”

…it’s become very clear that it has nothing to do with confessing personal sins and everything to do with the confession of salvation, the confession of being a sinner and believing in Christ.

__

* Hebrews 10:1 – 4

**Heb 10:5a; 10:8,9

***Heb 10:10-14

****Heb 10:17-22

*****Heb 10:23

He Who Confesses Me Before Men

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Last post I talked about the Greek word for “confess,” homologeo, and said it was only found 8 times in all the NT. That was not correct.  Homologeo only turns up 7 times; the word in James 5:16, rendered “confess” is actually exomologeo, which means “to acknowledge.”

In all but one case, both words are clearly used for verbal declaration or proclamation to others (men or angels) and almost always in declaring belief in Christ. The only usage of the word that is not clear is 1 John 1:9. Take a look:

Mat 10:32  “Therefore everyone who confesses Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven. [~JESUS as reported by Matthew}

Luk 12:8  “And I say to you, everyone who confesses Me before men, the Son of Man will confess him also before the angels of God; [~JESUS as reported by Luke, who was associated with Paul]

Rom 10:9  that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; [~PAUL]

Php 2:11  and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. [~PAUL]

1Jn 1:9  If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. [~JOHN]

1Jn 4:3  and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God; this is the spirit of the antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming, and now it is already in the world. [JOHN]

Rev 3:5  ‘He who overcomes will thus be clothed in white garments; and I will not erase his name from the book of life, and I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels. [~JESUS as reported by John]

And finally, the word exomologeo, meaning to acknowledge and here translated “confess”:

Jas 5:16  Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much. [~JAMES, written to dispersed Jewish Christians before Paul, the recipient and primary communicator of “mystery” or church age doctrine, was even saved]

So, leaving aside the latter verse, the word homologeo is used five times in the New Testament in the context of believing in Christ, and once for proclaiming or announcing overcomers’ names to the angels in heaven.

This aggregate of usage seems important to me in helping one come to a conclusion regarding what is meant in 1 Jn 1:9)because…

1. If John is addressing believers and unbelievers in chapter 1 of 1 John, and he is…

2. And if he is running through a series of contrasts between what makes a believer versus an unbeliever, which he is…

3. And all the other times in the New Testament (including John’s own uses of the word) homologeo is used in  its public confession/declaration connotation, with most of those relating to salvation…

It seems most compelling on the basis of the aggregate to put “confess our sins” in the same category as “confess Jesus as Lord.”  That is, it’s referring to salvation, not confession of post-salvation sins.

However, some have insisted that since Jesus and the Apostles grew up and lived under the Old Testament, we cannot come to a conclusion merely on the basis of what we find in the New Testament. Rather we must go back to the Old Testament Hebrew and look at the meaning and usage of  the Hebrew word for “confess” in the “many” instances in which it appears there. And in the OT, as we all know, it was used mostly for confessing sins, right?

I agree that we should take a look at those usages as well, so that is what I did. But that is not what I found…

What Does Confess Mean?

Proclaim to a group

In my last post I posed the question of what does the word for “confess” mean in 1 John 1:9 and mentioned the only meaning I’d long thought it had: “to speak the same thing, agree with, name, cite.”

But it turns out there are other meanings for homologeo as well, each of these taken from well-known Greek dictionaries and lexicons:

“to declare openly by way of speaking out freely, such confession being the effect of deep conviction of facts” [Vine]*

“to make an emphatic declaration, often public, and at times in response to pressure or an accusation – ‘to declare, to assert.’ ” [Louw & Nida]**

“to express openly one’s allegiance to a proposition or person – ‘to profess, to confess, confession.’ ” [Louw & Nida]**

“to acknowledge a fact publicly, often in reference to previous bad behavior – ‘to admit, to confess.’ ” [Louw & Nida]**

“to make a statement” or “bear witness” in a legal sense. [Kittel]***

“to make solemn statements of faith,” “to confess something in faith.” [Kittel]***

“to acknowledge something, ordinarily in public”  [BDAG]****

The first time Pastor Farley laid all that out I was pretty surprised. In fact, he claimed that all the other usages of the word “confess” in the New Testament were in the public declaration category.

Well, I found that hard to believe, so I did a word search of my own (I use e-sword which, if you don’t know about it, is free Bible study software you can download HERE.  You do have to pay for the NASV Bible if you want to download that, but most of the other materials are free.)

Anyway, I did a word search.  And, my goodness! Pastor John was right.  “Confess,” when connected with “sin” only shows up twice in the entire New Testament — once in 1 Jn 1:9 and once in James 5:16 where believers are told to “confess your sins to one another.”

“Confess” itself shows up only 8 times altogether; of those, two are the verses mentioned above, one is Rev 3:5 when Jesus will confess the names of overcomers before the Father and His angels and the other five all involve a version of confessing Jesus as Lord before men, in the sense of being saved. (I would now put 1 Jn 1:9 in this latter category, as well)

I was shocked! For an action that supposedly determined something as crucial as the restoration of fellowship of the Spirit, I’d have thought it would have shown up much more.

Following that, I did a phrase search of “filling of the Spirit” or “filled by the Spirit” or just “Holy Spirit”, and found no indication whatsoever that the person involved confessed their sins prior to being filled. Not at Pentecost, nor in all the incidents afterward when the Spirit empowered someone. If they were said to pray at all, it wasn’t to ask to be filled with the Spirit or to confess sins, it was usually that they would speak boldly and communicate the Gospel clearly.

That was as surprising to me as the results of searching for confess and moved me very far along the line of agreeing with Pastor Farley that the Bible really doesn’t tell “Church Age believers, who are indwelt by the Holy Spirit, that confessing our sins results in the filling of the Holy Spirit.”

This is not to say that we don’t sin after salvation (hysterical laughter at the very idea) nor that it’s fine to just sin willfully and do nothing about it… But that’s for another day…

REFERENCES:

*VineExpository Dictionary of New Testament Words — W.E. Vine

**Louw & Nida –  Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament based on Semantic Domains   by Eugene A. Nida, Johannes P. Louw  Louw-Nida Greek Lexicon is a modern Greek lexicon using the concept of “semantic domains.” This lexicon differs from other lexicons in that it does not arrange words alphabetically and it does not give one listing of a word with all of that word’s meanings after it. Instead, it breaks words down by their various shades of meaning. It then groups all of those entries together and organizes them by topics and sub-topics.

***KittelTheological Dictionary of the New Testament by Gerhard Kittel : “One of the most widely-used and well-respected theological dictionaries ever created”

****BDAG –  Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, 3rd ed. (BDAG)  by Walter Bauer, Frederick William Danker.  Described as an “invaluable reference work” (Classical Philology) and “a tool indispensable for the study of early Christian literature” (Religious Studies Review) in its previous edition, this new updated American edition of Walter Bauer’s Wörterbuch zu den Schriften des Neuen Testaments builds on its predecessor’s staggering deposit of extraordinary erudition relating to Greek literature from all periods. Including entries for many more words, the new edition also lists more than 25,000 additional references to classical, intertestamental, Early Christian, and modern literature

If We Confess Our Sins

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View of Thunderheads from my back yard

Pastor Farley took a very slow and deliberate approach to laying out his case that the Bible really doesn’t “tell Church Age Believers who are indwelt by the Holy Spirit that confessing their sins results in the filling of the Holy Spirit.”

I am not going to go as in-depth as he did, but should you wish to investigate his development of this subject, you can start here. (Often just the notes that accompany the video message give a lot of insight, though of course his actual verbal presentation will provide a great deal more)

In considering where to start, I have to admit that I John is perhaps not the best section to use, since it’s quirky and its meaning is not inherently obvious. It is, however, where the verse is that everyone bases this “confess your sins” doctrine on, and since I think there are at least a few things that can be gleaned from a surface examination I’m going to go ahead and begin there.

Right off, there’s the simple fact that no obvious connection is made between confession of sins and the filling of the Spirit in this book.

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

It doesn’t say, “…and then we will be filled with the Spirit.” In fact, it doesn’t say anything about “the filling of the Spirit” anywhere in the book.

Questions arise, then, as to

1. What exactly is meant by “confess our sins”?

2. Who is John addressing when he uses this phrase?

3. Why does he change pronouns from a generic and inclusive “we” in chapter 1 to the more specific “my little children” and “I” in Chapter 2?

4. Who was the letter generally addressed to, and for what purpose?

I’ll start with question #4, since that’s the easiest: The letter was addressed to the church at Ephesus, where the Apostle John had served as pastor for a time, and which was dealing with an influx of false teachers who were claiming to be Christians but were not. John states his purpose in chapter 5 vs 13:

“These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, in order that you may know that you have eternal life.”

That is, he’s writing so the Christians can know that they are indeed saved and be able to distinguish those who are only pretending to be Christian in their attempt to peddle their false teaching.

This sheds some light on why John shifted from the generic “we” he opened his letter with to directly addressing the believers in his congregation with “My little children” in Chapter 2. He used the generic “we”  to address everyone in the congregation, not all of whom were “my little children.”

Instead of pointing these unbelievers out specifically in Chapter 1, John uses the generic/inclusive/authorial “we” for that portion, leaving it to the individual hearer to determine which category he or she belongs in. So in answer to question #2 (who is John addressing when he uses the word “confess”?)  it’s both believers and unbelievers.

In addition, 1 John 1:9 is part of a series of  If/then propositions, leaving it to the hearers to determine which camp they are in: saved or unsaved.

Thus we can consider the verses immediately preceding vs 9 in chapter 1 with an eye to whether they are referring to believers or unbelievers:

Vs 7 “If we walk in the light as He Himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.” (clearly believers, since being in the light in John’s writings always refers to salvation — more on this later)

vs 8 if we say we have no sin, (ie, if we say we aren’t sinners/don’t sin) we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us (not believers)

vs 9 if we confess our sins (admit that we’re sinners and believe in the Savior) He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (another way of saying cleanses us from all sin — ie, believers)

Thus the issue in 1 John 1:9 is salvation itself, not what do we do about post-salvation sinning.

And that brings me finally to Question #1 — What exactly is meant by “confess” in vs 9? Many of us have been taught that the Greek word here is homologeo, which means “to speak the same thing, to name, to cite…” from which the rebound notion of privately naming or citing your sins to God arose

But I’ve learned it has some other meanings as well, which I’ll address in my next post…


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