Posts Tagged 'Filling of Holy Spirit'



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

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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…

Prelude: Tilling the Soil

farmer-and-tractor-planting_w725_h485

As I’ve mentioned previously, last spring our church and a number of others have gone through an upheaval of sorts in re-examining and ultimately discarding a “doctrine” that had been a mainstay of doctrinal (and many other) ministries for years. That doctrine, of course, is the doctrine of Rebound, or the confession of sins as supposedly commanded in 1 Jn 1:9, as well as in a number of Old Testament passages.

Rebound, we were taught, was key to living the spiritual life, for it was the only way to regain the filling of the Holy Spirit once the latter had been lost as a result of personal sinning. If you were not filled with the Spirit, you would not be able to understand Bible teaching, and nothing you did would be done in the power of the Spirit but rather in the power of the flesh. Thus all such  fleshly and “Spiritless” deeds would be considered wood, hay and straw at the Judgment Seat of Christ. Even worse, none of your prayers would go “any higher than the ceiling,” since God would neither hear them nor answer them.

For those of my seven regular readers who are not familiar with this doctrine, you can see that it was crucial to everything we did. Challenging it was not something one would take on lightly.

For our congregation this wild and bumpy ride began back in March with Pastor Farley’s unexpected announcement at the beginning of a Sunday morning message: “I have a confession to make.”

That confession was that he “could not find in the Bible where it tells Church Age believers, who are indwelt by the Holy Spirit, that confessing our sins results in the filling of the Holy Spirit.”

Nor could he “see how the Bible makes our confessing our sins in 1 John 1:9 the determining factor in our being filled with the Spirit  in Eph 5:18.”

If he couldn’t find it, how could he teach it?

As far as I was concerned, as soon as he began to suggest  that rebound might not be what we’d always been taught, something resonated in me. In a “Yes!  That makes total sense!” way. As he taught in more depth in ensuing lessons, the resonance solidified. I kept recalling a phrase from former teaching, that had been added to justify the concept:

“‘If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness…’  and the cleansed vessel is then filled with the Holy Spirit.”

Except that last bit about the cleansed vessel isn’t part of 1 Jn1:9 or 10; it is just an … extrapolation? Unwarranted connection?   I don’t know. I just remember thinking for years that it was shaky and that I’d have a hard time justifying this interpretation to someone who didn’t agree.

In addition, over the last few years I’d been experiencing moments of dismay when I would realize, after a day spent alone working on the book, that I’d forgotten to rebound before I started and would any of the day be worth anything now?

At the same time, I was finding more and more that when I’d set about the formal “rebound” prayer, asking the Holy Spirit to bring to mind any sins for me to confess, nothing would happen. I wondered if there was something wrong with me; if I was doing it wrong.  Why weren’t all these sins coming to mind? Surely I’d committed some sin — if only mental attitude — in the previous eight hours! When I could think of nothing, I would just confess “arrogance” since that’s a pretty good catch-all when it comes to sinning…

The truth is, my besetting mental attitude sins are usually so intrusive that I have to deal with them before I can ever get to work on the book — not through an official rebound prayer, but in writing out my tumultuous thoughts in a journal or nonstop. Then, as I see what I’m thinking on the page, I realize how wrong and stupid those thoughts are, how NOT the mind of Christ they are, and am then reminded of exactly what the mind of Christ would be in this situation. Once I’ve done that I’m pretty much at peace and ready to work.   Which isn’t exactly “rebound” as I’ve known it.

Now, with this new teaching, I’ve come to understand that it is more in line with what the Bible actually teaches in the New Testament (eg, Ephesians 4 where we’re told to lay aside the old man and put on the new — exactly what I was doing in the exercise described above.)

I lay all this down as as a part of the journey I’ve been on with regard to this subject and how God had already begun to till the soil of my soul in preparation for the change. Of course, feelings and experiences can not be the standard by which we ultimately evaluate the truth of a doctrine or not. The standard has to be “What does the word of God say?” Is it true that the Bible really doesn’t support the doctrine of Rebound?”

I believe it is, and I shall try to explain why I’ve come to this conclusion in subsequent posts.

For those of you familiar with this doctrine and even those who are not, please feel free to question, object, read me the riot act, support/affirm (!), and/or bring up relevant scriptures that perhaps I’m ignoring. I might not be able to answer, rebut or explain my position to your satisfaction right now, but I would welcome the opportunity to see if my conclusions can stand up to the challenge — at least in my own mind, if not in others’.

Stop It!

Bob Newhart Video from way back. I mentioned some time ago that I’d write more about leaving “rebound” behind, and I’m just about ready to do so. This video is just the teaser: it captures the gist of the new teaching in…  well… two words!  Plus it’s funny. [If the video doesn’t appear, please click on the title of this post to go to its own page. The video should show up there.]


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