Posts Tagged 'Confession of sins'

Answering a Reader’s Comments

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Yesterday a reader left a comment on my post Feeling Sorry for Sins that raised a lot of good questions/points for which I had no immediate clear answers. I had to sit down and think/write my way through them all, and once I did, I thought my “reply” was awfully long for the comments section so I decided to use the questions and my thoughts on them as the springboard for this post.

The reader began,

I found your post interesting as I have not thought about the connection between sorrow and confession, or lack there of.  However, in your 7th point you say that God is not hurt when we sin and this seems to make light of the sins a person commits.

Me: How can saying that God is not “hurt” make light of our sins? Sins that God sent His beloved Son to pay for, and for which the Son went to the Cross and died a horrible death, so that we could be permanently reconciled with God. I would think, if anything,  to insist that God is still hurt by sins already judged and paid for by Christ is to make light of what Christ accomplished on the Cross.

Reader: In a relationship with God we are free to come to Him through Christ, but if I just spent the whole day defying Him does that mean that because Christ has already paid for that sin that God feels no betrayal or grief at my refusal to obey Him?

Why would He feel betrayed? He knew exactly what you were going to do before you did it. He already paid for it. This is maybe the point that we struggle to really embrace – the total and complete efficacy of Christ’s death on the Cross for every single sin and act of betrayal against God that was ever committed. Judged then and there, once and for all. If His death was enough to satisfy the wrath that God’s righteousness ‘experiences’ in the face of sin and the demands of His justice that the perpetrator of the sin be removed from His presence … and if He’s already given us Believers His own righteousness and declared our old nature to have been crucified with Christ… what does that mean but that no, He’s not going to feel “hurt” when we do the very sin He knew we were going to commit and that He could have stopped if He chose to long before we ever do it. A sin that He already poured out on Christ.  It’s not I who sin, but the sin that still dwells within me. The dead, old nature, which has been crucified with Christ, ie, judged with Christ.

Reader: I agree that He is not surprised, but (and this is a human argument) just because you are not surprised when a nurse stabs you with a needle doesn’t mean that it doesn’t hurt. If a God-fearing man and wife choose to have a nasty divorce in which their children are emotionally wounded for the rest of their life are you saying that God does not hurt because of their decision to disobey Him?

I don’t think you can use the human argument to explain this part of God. Humans are by nature physical, limited, time-bound, changeable, self-oriented, legalistic. God is none of those. Moreover, we don’t easily foresee the blessing that can come from pain and sorrow, life experiences that God uses to mold us into the image of His son. Or that He uses to draw unbelievers to Himself.  To use your example, if a couple get a nasty divorce, do you really believe God cannot heal the wounds of both the couple and the children should they choose to turn back to Him?

In fact, if even one of those people, coming out of that circumstance decides to follow God and let himself be molded into the vessel God desires to mold him into, one full of love and joy and peace and patience and forgiveness… the nasty divorce now becomes the black backdrop against which God’s own glory can truly shine. Man, left to himself, could never make that kind of turnaround. But God can do it in us if we let Him, and that is a big way in which we can bring glory to Him.

Reader: Perhaps I’m misunderstanding you. It just seems that according to Eph. 4:29-32 it is possible to grieve the Spirit by our actions, even though they have already been paid for.

I think He’s grieved because He knows our stupid actions in rejecting His guidance will only lead to pain and sorrow and loss for us and those are not what He desires.

I think He’s grieved because of the loss of intimacy He desires to have with us, where He can guide us and comfort us and lead us into all truth. He’s grieved not out of hurt, but because we’re living as if we haven’t been forgiven, as if our Daddy isn’t the God of the universe who loves us more than we can imagine, and that we really aren’t the apple of His eye after all.

He’s grieved because we’re living in a dead place, a place of unbelief (our crucified old nature) stumbling around with our eyes closed, when if we’d just open them we’d see the light and walk in it, or better yet, swim in those rivers of living water He has for us and having an amazing life.

And that, I believe, is what He wants, not for us to apologize or confess or spend any time mourning our idiocy — we’re all weak and silly sheep, and if we really believed that, I don’t think we would spend one moment in mourning our inevitable failures, but rather in rejoicing over all that our Father has done for us despite the fact that we are weak and don’t deserve any of it.

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Feeling Sorry for Sins

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One of the things that has never been an issue in my experience of the Christian life is the idea that we have to feel sorry for our sins. In fact, I was taught that we don’t need to feel sorry at all.

Recently a comment on one of my previous posts (So What DO we do about Personal Sins?) brought up this sorrow, or broken-heartedness as related to some people’s understanding of what “confession” is – that is, not an official, name and cite the sin to God for forgiveness action, but rather a natural feeling of remorse that a believer should have upon realizing he has offended God. In fact, this is considered by some to be part of what turns one away from the sinning.

Updated paragraph: Col Thieme and others taught that this need to feel sorrow was yet one more means of inserting human effort into the equation… The feeling bad or sorry or broken hearted becomes the currency by which one tries to earn or buy forgiveness, and is not commensurate with grace.

Granted, I don’t think my commenter was trying to say that feeling sorry is necessary for forgiveness, but is merely a part of the process of coming back to God.  Still whether this view or the view that sorrow is necessary,  I don’t believe either has a place in our relationship with God.

Here are some reasons why:

1. I have no argument with the proposition that sin is offensive to God. It is. It’s disgusting, insulting, intolerable, wretched, hateful, gross… I’ve run out of adjectives. He hates it. It’s a denial of His character and in fact, in direct opposition to it.

2. In fact, sin is so offensive to God that no matter how much we might weep, wail, feel awful, feel sorry, promise to do better, none of that — nor anything else we do — could make it up to God for our violation. Death is the only answer to our sin; ie, complete separation from God. And when you’re dead, you can’t do much to rectify a relationship.

3. For that reason, God had to deal with our sin problem Himself, which He did by sending Jesus to earth as a man where He lived a perfectly righteous life, died spiritually on the cross in our place, and after three days in the grave rose again in resurrection life.

4. On the Cross, all the sins of every person who ever lived or will live were poured out on the Son and judged. All sins, but one, that is: the only sin not forgiven is the one of refusing to believe in the name of the only begotten son of God.

5.  That is not a sin I have to worry about, since I have believed in Jesus’s name. At the moment I did, I was declared perfectly righteous for all time and I received eternal life, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit and a number of other gracious gifts bestowed on all believers.

6. Even so, I still sin after salvation because I am still in this human body with its sin nature.  Yet it’s not I who sins, but the sin nature that dwells within me. (Ro 7:17,18)  So if I were to feel sorry for my sin, what part of me would feel sorry? Sometimes it’s the sin nature, because it knows people will think poorly of it, or even fears God might punish it. Why would I feel sorry in my new man which cannot sin? (I Jn 3:9)  It was the flesh that did it. And yes, I did allow it to take over my soul and do its thing, but the Bible tells me that’s inevitable. I’m weak. I’m going to give in from time to time. Why spend any time at all lamenting the inevitable? Instead, just turn from it and get back with the Program!

7. God is not shocked when I sin. He is not hurt when I sin. He is not offended when I sin. He knew every sin I would ever commit before I was ever born. All of them were poured out on Jesus and judged 2000 years ago, where all the offense God had toward my sin was appeased once and for all.

8. Who am I to think I can improve on or add a little bit more to what Jesus did to satisfy the perfect character of God?

9.  When I sin, where’s the big surprise? As I said, I know I have a sin nature and that it will get the better of me at times.

10. Even less is God surprised.

First,because He knew all things before He ever created anything.

And second because He’s the one who decided to create man with a free will, even knowing that man would sin, and that from that point on all men but one born into the world would emerge as sinners with a sinful nature.

If our sinning surprises and hurts Him, why did He leave us here with a sin nature? Why doesn’t He just do away with the flesh and replace it with a resurrection body the moment anyone believes in Christ?

Because that was not His plan. Instead, He placed our new nature into the old fleshly “body of death” along with the indwelling Holy Spirit, and left us here to live out our lives and witness to others. Left us here in this fallen world, with enemies all around, inside and out, trying their best to get the old man back in power.

11. So of course we’re going to sin. And when we do, how could God possibly be shocked or hurt? He knows exactly what we are, in addition to knowing – and choosing – everything that’s happened and is still going to happen. He has a reason for it , and it’s not really about us learning how to be good little Christians who will never sin again.  That’s for heaven.

No, it’s so that He, through the transforming power of His grace and His Spirit and HIs word, could transform us into vessels of mercy and the very image of Christ.  All here in this devil’s world, with the sin nature right there inside us, and the devil’s minions trying their best to stop us.

It’s so we and all the angels, fallen and elect, might learn what a gracious, loving God He is, how wise and wonderful and powerful. How we are nothing in ourselves, powerless before Him and that we and everything else depends on Him — His power, His sacrifice, His word, His Spirit, His work.

13.  Thus, when I realize I’m sinning, I try to waste no time feeling bad about what I’ve done.

“There is therefore now, no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and death” Ro 8:1,2)

I just recognize that the sin nature has gotten the best of me once again, stop with whatever sin I’ve become aware of,  and turn to the truth of God’s word, rejoicing that He died for that sin, and that as far as He’s concerned it’s gone, so I can forget about it as well and move on in the Christian life.

14.  Which boiled down means: start believing the things He’s written in His word. Things such as…

God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.  ~Ro 8:28

He will never desert me nor forsake me  ~Heb 13:5

Even when I am faithless, He remains faithful ~ 2 Ti 2:13

My living the Christian life doesn’t depend on me, but on His Spirit whom He sent to enable me to live it.  Jn 14:6; 16:13; Gal 5:17; Phil 4:13

Walk in the Light

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I think I am finally winding down on this subject. This will probably be my last post on the controversy regarding rebound.  At least for a while. (Unless the Lord moves me otherwise, of course.)

Anyway, I want to wrap up my contention that 1 John 1:9 is not directed to believers in the sense of something they are to do, but rather it describes something they’ve already done. That is, acknowledge they are sinners in need of a savior and believe in Christ, who then forgives them their sins and cleanses them from all unrighteousness.

Pastor Farley and Lighthouse Bible Church have been on summer vacation the last week or so, and in the interim I’ve gone back through my notes on Pastor Farley’s initial lessons on the matter of not finding evidence in the Bible to support the doctrine of Rebound. This time I looked up every verse, copied many of them down and gave a really careful, step by step look at everything that was said. In some cases I even re-listened to the original message.

I was also moved to read the information in my NAS Open Bible that prefaces each of the books. There I was surprised to learn that the Gospel of John and his three epistles were all written around the same time: about 90 AD. I also discovered there that I John was written with the presumption that its readers would have knowledge of the Gospel of John.

Therefore, I went to the Gospel itself and found that all references to light and darkness that John made there  apply to believing in Christ or not believing:

“In the beginning was the word and the word was with God and the word was God… In Him was life and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness and the darkness did not comprehend it.” ~ John 1:1,3

Right there John tells us what the “light” is: Jesus.

“[John the Baptist] was not the light but came that he might bear witness of the light. There was the true light which coming into the world, enlightens every man. ~John 1:8,9

Note, the light comes into the darkness; the darkness doesn’t obliterate the light. The movement is one-way.

“For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.

“He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil.

“For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.  But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God.” ~ John 3:17-21

In John 8:12 we find,

“Then Jesus again spoke to them, saying, “I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.”

In John 9:5

“While I am in the world, I am the Light of the world.”

John 11: 9, 10

Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours in the day? If anyone walks in the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world. But if anyone walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him.”

Finally, in ch 12, Jesus is speaking to the Jews, who are arguing with Him, saying,

“We have heard out of the Law that the Christ is to remain forever; and how can You say, “The son of Man must be lifted up. Who is this Son of Man?”

Jesus therefore said to them, “For a little while longer the light is among you. Walk while you have the light, that darkness may not overtake you; he who walks in the darkness does not know where he goes. While you have the light, believe in the light, in order that you may become sons of light.”

The Jews continued to not believe and to question and then

Jesus cried out and said, “He who believes in Me does not believe in Me, but in Him who sent Me. And he who beholds me beholds the One who sent Me. I have come as light into the world, that everyone who believes in Me may not remain in darkness. …”

All of this clearly refers to salvation: walking in the light is a believer, walking or remaining or being in darkness is an unbeliever.

chapter 12 is the last time John mentions light and darkness in his Gospel.

So, with all this in mind, look how John starts his first epistle:

“What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen …concerning the Word of Life… we proclaim to you also, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ.

These things we write, so that our joy may be made complete.   And this is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all.

If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth;

but 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.

If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us.

If we confess our sins [say we do have sins], He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us.

To me, the parallels are overwhelmingly clear: walking in the Light means a believer; walking in darkness means an unbeliever. That is the context in which 1 John 1:9 is found, and thus, that is the meaning that ought to be given it.

Well, I’m sure I’ve gone on long enough, despite my intention to be brief — though, in the face of all there is to say on this, I think I have been. If this subject has piqued your interest and you’d like to know more, I invite you to check out Pastor Farley’s study on this, beginning with that first message  “I Have a Confession to Make” and continuing on as he lays out the case verse by verse.

By the way, Pastor John Farley was a student of Col. Thieme’s prior to being mentored and ordained by Pastor Robert McLaughlin. Pastor McLaughlin was mentored and ordained by Col Thieme, himself).

The “Importance of the Issue”

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Last week I commented on an article by Clifford Rapp concerning the meaning of confession of sin as mentioned in 1 John 1:9 (“Confession: Old Testament Insights“). Pastor Rapp’s article focused primarily on what the Old Testament has to say about “confession,” largely because there are too few NT passages on the subject to glean anything.

In my recent post I looked at three of the four NT references he cited, two concerning people still living under the Law, and a third concerning someone who lived and allegedly believed in Christ before the Holy Spirit was universally given.

I didn’t think any of them provided support for the notion that Church age believers must confess their sins to be forgiven; nor do they indicate this is needed for believers to be filled with the Spirit.

Because of this “scarcity of New Testament material” says Pastor Rapp, many “turn to an etymological explanation to define confession of sins.” ( eg, Homologeo = homo (same) + logeo (to speak) = “to speak the same thing” or “agree with God”) Unfortunately this too, can be problematic, he says.  For example, homologeo is never used in conjunction with “sins” except in 1 John 1:9 and while it can mean to speak the same thing,  according to Rapp that’s not usually the way it’s used “in religious contexts, only in contracts or legal contexts.”

So, seeing as “Confession has always been a critical issue for believers because forgiveness is conditioned upon it,” according to Pastor Rapp, and even as he admits there’s little New Testament justification for this belief (only a single verse) he gives up on the New Testament as a source for supporting his ideas and turns to the Old, where there is an “abundance” of material.

Why does it not occur to him that maybe the premise on which all this is based, ie, a single passage in the NT, 1 Jn 1:9, (one contradicted by numerous others NT passages) is incorrect?

If confession is so critical, if our entire execution of the Christian life is dependent upon it, particularly if we receive as a result of it, the filling of the Holy Spirit  which is needed for any spiritual activity or understanding,  why is it not mentioned more often in the New Testament?

Other commands, clearly critical to our execution of the Christian life, are repeated constantly. Eg, love one another, love God, believe, know, renew your minds… even “lay aside” in Ephesians is repeated more than “confess your sins and be forgiven.”

Speaking of Ephesians, that’s the epistle where Paul first tells us to filled with the Spirit:

 “Do not be drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit.”  ~Eph 5:18

If this filling is contingent upon confession of sins, why doesn’t Paul clearly say it there, where he’s telling us to be filled? (For that matter, why doesn’t John say it in 1 Jn 1:9?)

In fact Eph 5:18 is the ONLY place in the epistles where this phrase, “filled with the Spirit” is found. If you do a NT search of “filled with the Spirit,” of the 10 references that show up (3 of them in the Gospel of Luke; 6 in the book of Acts), none say anything about the recipient having confessed their sins beforehand.

When I look at the lack of New Testament references both to confession of sins and to the filling of the Spirit, particularly in conjunction with each other, the logical conclusion seems to be that one is not contingent upon the other. In fact, there is next to zero New Testament evidence the church age Believer is supposed to be confessing his sins for the filling of the Spirit or for forgiveness.

In light of that, going to the Old Testament to look for support for a practice that doesn’t show up in the New seems counterproductive at best.

However, Pastor Rapp’s article did bring out one thing for me — he quotes various OT verses where someone says “I have sinned” and calls it “confession.” Seen in this light, I would  say, “Yes. That is what we’re to do,” In the sense of realizing you are sinning.

In order to “Stop being angry” you must first realize you are angry, then recall that for a member of the Body of Christ, that’s not the mind of Christ and STOP it!

Or, to be more specific, set it aside and instead turn your mind to doctrinal thoughts, such as the fact that Christ died for everyone’s sins, I have no right to judge, fuming is not the mind of Christ, nor is arguing, punishing, railing, complaining… I’m supposed to be at peace. Operating in love and kindness and grace.

Seen in this light, yes, we do have to admit to ourselves and God that “Yup, I’m sinning.”

But we don’t elevate that to the position of being a condition for receiving God’s forgiveness, especially not in the face of numerous other New Testament verses that say our sins have been forgiven, taken away, removed, blotted out, atoned for, all the guilt associated with them removed forever, that we have been declared permanently at peace with God, declared permanently righteous before all the angels, placed in permanent Union with Jesus Christ, permanently indwelt by the Holy Spirit..

In light of all that, I submit the interpretation of 1 Jn 1:9 as applying to believers is unwarranted.

And please don’t tell me that because Rapp, Thieme, Chafer, Walvoord, Scofield, etc, said it is, that I must believe it; show me where it says that in the Word of God, which tells me to be like the Bereans, “searching the Scriptures to see if these things are true.” (Acts 17:10)

For the first time in my life I have been seriously searching the Scriptures precisely to see if this supposed foundational verse is true (as interpreted) and I’m just not finding it.

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.

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


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