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