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.