The Mortification of Sin: Confession.

If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.” (I John 1:6-10)

The Epistle of I John addresses the theme of authentic faith. For faith to be authentic it must be true, real and genuine. The reason the Holy Spirit used the Apostle John to write this inspired first epistle was two-fold. It was not only because false teachers were denying the bodily incarnation, life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, but also because they were claiming to be Christians while living sinfully.

We should not misunderstand. John was not teaching that unless we are sinless and perfect we do not truly belong to Christ? Rather, he wrote of the tension between being counted righteous before God on the basis of the imputed righteousness of Christ, while at the same time struggling with daily sin in our lives.

Dr. R. C. Sproul explains that, “Perhaps the formula that Martin Luther used that is most famous and most telling is his formula simul justus et peccatorSimul is the word from which we get the English word simultaneously. Or, it means ‘at the same time.’ Justus is the Latin word for just or righteous. Et means and. Peccator means sinner. And so with this formula, Luther was saying, in our justification we are one and the same time righteous or just, and sinners. Now if he would say that we are at the same time and in the same relationship just and sinners that would be a contradiction in terms. But that’s not what he was saying. He was saying from one perspective, in one sense, we are just. In another sense, from a different perspective, we are sinners; and how he defines that is simple. In and of ourselves, under the analysis of God’s scrutiny, we still have sin; we’re still sinners. But, by imputation and by faith in Jesus Christ, whose righteousness is now transferred to our account, then we are considered just or righteous. This is the very heart of the gospel.”

One of the biblical tests of an individual’s authentic faith in Christ is the struggle with one’s daily sin. One of our responses to when we sin, and our efforts to mortify sin, is to confess our sin to God. What does it mean to confess?

Confession is more than just verbally acknowledging that we have done something wrong or failed to do something right in the sight of God. Confession also means to acknowledge our sin to God and to have the same perspective towards it as God does. Confession means to see our sin as the cosmic treason against God that it is. We are to confess our sin to God while at the same time seeking to live lives which glorify Him. In other words, confession involves not only acknowledgment of sin but also a turning away, or repentance, of it.  

As one commentator states, “It appears that the false teachers John has in mind were not only unconcerned with the dark deeds they were performing, they also claimed to be without sin altogether. But such a denial only further evidenced their lack of authentic faith. In this section, John tells us the Christian life is in one sense a life lived in tension. On the one hand, believers will live such good lives that it can be said we walk in the light (vv. 6–7). On the other hand, truly walking in the light will clearly reveal to us the reality of remaining sin, reminding us of our need for repentance and forgiveness (vv. 8, 10).”

Confession and repentance needs to be done daily. It may even occur on a moment by moment basis when the Lord brings your sin to your attention. When that happens, acknowledge your sin to God and ask for His forgiveness on the basis of the imputed righteousness of Christ that you possess by grace alone, through faith alone in the person and work of Jesus Christ alone.

Finally, confession does not ensure you remain a child of God. Rather, confession ensures that the believer remains in close fellowship with God.

May the LORD’s truth and grace be found here.

Soli deo Gloria!




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