If Christians are forgiven, why do we confess our sins

3 min


It is not just gospel that we need to preach to ourselves, but law and gospel….the believer [cannot] grow in grace apart from the preaching of both law and gospel.

What does this mean? Well we preach  law to ourselves in the sense that law is God’s revealed will and standard of righteousness…Essentially, the law shows us three things: it shows us what’s right, what’s wrong, and what’s needed.

And so

In preaching the law to ourselves we see and admire God’s will and way, while exposing and confessing our sinfulness. This leads us toward the gospel where we find our only hope of redemption and restoration. Preaching the law to ourselves breaks our pride, leads to humility, and calls us to cry out to God and depend on his mercy.

And as we do so we find that it drives us to the gospel and to Christ himself. We find our only hope in him because he alone is our righteousness, our forgiveness and our victory and so as we preach law and expose our own sinfulness so we cling ever more tightly to him.

If Christians are forgiven should we confess our sins?

Once we understand that we confess our sins not to secure our justification but as a means to sanctification the answer has to be a ‘yes’. The aim in confession for the Christian is not the desperate seeking out of every sin as a form of penance.  But secure in our standing before God it is a means to holiness as we continue to preach law and gospel to ourselves.

So we confess because Jesus tells us to confess our sins regularly. The Lord’s prayer is our pattern for prayer. Jesus introduces it by saying to his disciples ‘This then is how you should pray’

Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation.

So a crucial aspect of the Christian life calls on us to ask God’s forgiveness for our continued sin and to seek his enabling power not to sin. There is also the element of us ‘forgiving our debtors’ and James admonishes us to confess our ‘faults’ one to another. James 5:16

Not only do we find Jesus calling on us to confess sin but the apostle John writes in 1 John 1:9

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

We don’t just confess our sins ‘once for all time’. The present tense of the verb calls for an on-going practise of confessing rather than a once and for all.

Colin Kruse notes in his commentary how authentic Christian living involves ‘honest and ongoing acknowledgement of one’s sins.’

Confessing sins needs to be specific

David Jackman in the Bible Speaks Today series comments;

It is important here to notice the plural, sins, which implies a detailed and specific confession of our wrong thoughts, words, actions and attitudes. It includes the good which we omit, as well as the evil which we do.

Confession of that sort is of course really repentance. It is identifying what is wrong (sin) and who is responsible (us) and asking God in his mercy and grace to deal with both, through the work of Christ.

 A true confession of sin asks for and anticipates forgiveness

The Christian who is in a secure relationship with God through Christ’s perfect life and death for us can confess humbly yet confidently because we know that  ‘God is faithful and just’

Faithful, Jackman says in that ‘he will carry through on his commitment to forgive and purify those who confess their sins’

Just in that God is acting rightly in forgiving the guilty because we are those who’s sins have been punished through the death of his sins.

Why is it important to confess our sins?

Jackman again

‘There are many warnings in Scripture about the danger of concealing our sins. And many promises of blessing if we confess them.’

‘Moreover, what is required is not a general confession of sin but a particular confession of our sins, as we deliberately call them to mind, confess and forsake them (cf. Ps. 32:1-5; Pr. 28:13)

Joe Thorn writes;

The deepness and consistency of your repenting will have a direct impact on the liveliness of your faith and the brightness of your confidence. This is not because you repent so well, but because in repenting you know the darkness and trouble of your own sin, and the great work of grace in Jesus that overcomes it all.

What might it mean for you to confess your sins?

It means making the time to preach the law to yourself so that you know God’s will in every area of life.

It means you need to examine your life and consider where you are disobeying Jesus

It means seeking out sins you’ve committed in breach of God’s law where you have done what you ought not to have done.

It means seeking out sins of omission, those very things we have failed to do that we ought to have done.

It means being specific.

It means looking at all of life. Church, family, work, as well as our relationship with God.

It means a true repentance. Not just saying sorry but seeking God’s transforming grace to change.

What is the result of confessing your sin?

Quite simply the daily recognition that I need Jesus more than I needed him yesterday

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