“Christians are not required to confess their sins to God in order to be forgiven, we already are forgiven when we put our faith in Christ for our salvation. There is no Biblical basis for believers to confess sins to God for forgiveness. To each other for healing, yes; but not to God for forgiveness.” – Clark Whitten, “Pure Grace”
The internet has become a sea of white noise when it comes to debating various doctrinal positions and everyone seems to have an opinion. I realize this post would be no exception. However, every so often certain statements cross my path that I find troubling, misguiding or just plain false teaching. This would be one of those statements.
To be clear, I do not believe that we need to ask for forgiveness of our sins so that we can be justified again and again. Our justification is a singular event that occurs immediately when we trust Christ with saving faith.
That being said, here are a couple of points to counter this line of thinking:
Jesus taught confession. When asked by his disciples how they should pray, he responded with teaching them a prayer that was meant to serve as an example of how we should petition the Father (Luke 11:1-4). Christ said we should ask God to “forgive us our debts, as we have also forgiven our debtors.” Again, this is not seek justification but rather restoration of the Father’s fellowship with us which has been disrupted by our sin (Ephesians 4:30; Hebrews 12:9-10). Also, as we forgive others, we are able to appreciate and receive the forgiveness that God has already provided. Jesus commands (not recommends) that we build into our daily prayer a request for forgiveness of sins. To my recollection, I don’t believe Christ gave an expiration date for this prayer. Was it meant to only have a shelf life of a couple of years? To imply that Christ’s instruction to seek forgiveness was old covenant and no longer applies is to make “The Lord’s Prayer” an antiquated relic.
In Psalm 32, David tells us:
“When I kept silent,
my bones wasted away
through my groaning all day long.
For day and night
your hand was heavy on me;
my strength was sapped
as in the heat of summer.
Then I acknowledged my sin to you
and did not cover up my iniquity.
I said, “I will confess
my transgressions to the Lord.”
And you forgave
the guilt of my sin.”
David was a believer (Romans 4). God called him a “man after my own heart.” And yet, he tells us the consequence of withholding his confession. The Old Testament did not teach a conditional salvation that comes and goes with every sin and there was no salvation by works. The way people in the Old Testament were saved was to realize there was nothing they could do to save themselves. They cried out to God and God applied the sacrifice of Christ to penitent believers even before Christ’s death. Romans 4 tells us that Abraham was saved by grace and not by works. Confession is not an old covenant work but a privileged, biblical discipline that enables us to receive the fullness of God’s grace.
You may ask “Why does our relationship with the Father need to be restored if we are already forgiven?” Let’s take, for instance, a dad who loves his son unconditionally. The son knows that the dad will always extend forgiveness and there is nothing they can do to affect that dad’s love for them. However if the son goes out and takes the family car against his father’s wishes and wrecks it, the father will be grieved. Fellowship is disrupted by the son’s disobedience which is an offense to the father. Confession is necessary to rightfully restore that fellowship. Can you imagine wrecking the family car and saying “I don’t need to apologize, I know Dad forgives me”? I doubt it.
Forgiveness is two-fold. There are those who would say that every time we ask for forgiveness, we are in essence “re-crucifying” Christ. This is were we see that forgiveness occurs at two levels: judicial and paternal. We receive judicial forgiveness when we are justified (Romans 8:1). Meaning the penalty of sin has been paid. God, as our judge, has been satisfied and our position is secure. God, our loving Father, is also concerned for our holiness and our growth into maturity. Ongoing confession is so that our fellowship with the loving Father may be restored. Christ illustrated this in John 13: 1-11 when he washed the disciple’s feet. Christ said “The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but is completely clean. And you are clean . . . “ We were “bathed” when we were justified. However, as we walk through this life, our feet will get dirty and need to be washed. Christ instructed us to seek daily cleansing.
Confession assumes a posture of humility. When we confess our sins we are acknowledging that we are in daily need of God’s incredible grace. It helps us to keep from walking in deception and gives us a proper self awareness of our weaknesses and flesh. It also acknowledges that we have looked to something or someone other than the Father for our security and provision. Confession places us at the feet of Jesus recognizing that he is our source and we were foolish to look to anything else. Simply put, to believe that we are not required to confess sin is simply to walk in arrogant assumption.
Confession is more than just an optional “health check” for the authentic believer and for some to claim that we “re-crucify” Christ every time we ask for forgiveness is well . . . simply ridiculous. Let’s not be swayed by teachings that would harm our relationship with the God of grace. The aim of a believer’s confession is to restore joy and life-giving fellowship with the Father. Why would anyone discourage that?