The apostle John tells us in his first epistle "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." Does this mean that unconfessed sin is not forgiven?
Confession is important to the Christian, since all Christians commit sins. Confession (Greek word homologeō) is an agreement with God that you have sinned. Some Christians believe that confession is necessary for forgiveness by God to take place. Is this a correct interpretation of 1 John 1:9?
The idea that we must confess our sins before forgiveness is accomplished comes from a statement made in the first epistle of John:
If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)
In reading the verse out of context, it seems to indicate that forgiveness and cleansing from sin results from confession of those sins. However, the verse does not say what will happen if we don't confess our sins. It is important to read the verse in the context of the passage. Here is the verse in the context of the two preceding verses:
So, in context, we see that the blood of Jesus Christ is responsible for cleansing us from sin (verse 7). So, the means by which we are cleansed is not dependent upon our actions (e.g., confession), but based upon what Jesus Christ has already done for us. Even in the Old Testament, confession was made, but forgiveness was the result of a blood sacrifice.
Of course, the doctrine that sin is cleansed by the blood of Jesus Christ is found throughout the New Testament. The New Testament also indicates that this cleansing by the blood of Christ also results in forgiveness of sin.
However, forgiveness from sin only happens through Jesus Christ when we believe in Him. However, those who do not believe are not forgiven and will be accountable for their sins.
So, if we are forgiven by the blood of Jesus, then why should we bother to confess our sin? James tells us that confession is not done for forgiveness, but for our own good - for our healing from the effects of sin:
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 5:16)
So, confession heals us from our rebellion and back into a close relationship with God.
Forgiveness and cleansing from sin is not dependent upon what we have done or whether or not we deserve it, but upon the completed work of Jesus Christ on our behalf. However, this forgiveness is not automatic, but requires belief in Jesus Christ as our Savior.
Confession is important for the Christian, since it helps to heal us from the effects of sin and restores our relationship with God (on our side, not God's side, since God always loves us).
Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15:13)
Joel Chavady said:
When we come to Christ we must confess our old life and repent of it to be saved. Once we are saved, repentance does not make us any more clean but rather it reaffirms our decision for Christ. If you forget to repent of a sin before you die, you will not be unsaved.