“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).
Continuous confession characterizes Christians.
Yesterday we learned that the only condition for receiving God’s gracious forgiveness is to “walk in the light”—in other words, to be a true Christian (1 John 1:7). At first glance, today’s verse appears to contradict that truth by adding a condition—namely, confession of sin. Such is not the case, however. First John 1:9 could be translated, “If we are the ones confessing our sins, He is forgiving us.” This verse looks at salvation from man’s perspective and defines Christians as those who are continually confessing their sins. Confession, like saving faith, is not a one-time act but a continuous pattern throughout our lives.
What is confession? The Greek word means “to say the same thing.” Confession, then, is agreeing with God about our sin. Confession affirms that God is just when He chastens us for our sins. It also restores us to the place of His blessing—something He is always “faithful” to do. Proverbs 28:13 reinforces that truth, promising that “he who conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will find compassion.”
Some may question how a holy God can be “righteous” and still forgive sins. John has already answered that by noting in verse 7 that forgiveness comes through the sacrificial death of the Lord Jesus Christ. Paul declares that “God displayed [Christ] publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith . . . for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus” (Rom. 3:25-26).
True confession involves sorrow because sin has offended God (2 Cor. 7:10)—not mere remorse because of its negative consequences in one’s life (as was the case with Saul [1 Sam. 15:24] and Judas [Matt. 27:3]). It also involves repentance—turning away from sin and no longer embracing it (cf. Acts 19:18-19; 1 Thess. 1:9).
Is there a sin you’ve been clinging to? If so, confess and forsake it today, and experience God’s blessed forgiveness.
Suggestions for Prayer
Praise God for being “good, and ready to forgive, and abundant in lovingkindness to all who call upon [Him]” (Ps. 86:5).
For Further Study
Memorize Psalm 139:23-24 to remind you of the need for God’s help in confessing your sins.
From Strength for Today by John MacArthur Copyright © 1997.