Is Confession Necessary for the Forgiveness of Sin for the Christian?
by Rich Deem


Confess to be forgiven?

The apostle John tells us in his first epistle "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." Does this mean that unconfessed sin is not forgiven?

Rich Deem

Confession is important to the Christian, since all Christians commit sins.1 Confession (Greek word homologeō) is an agreement with God that you have sinned.2 Some Christians believe that confession is necessary for forgiveness by God to take place. Is this a correct interpretation of 1 John 1:9?

If we confess our sins...

The idea that we must confess our sins before forgiveness is accomplished comes from a statement made in the first epistle of John:

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)

In reading the verse out of context, it seems to indicate that forgiveness and cleansing from sin results from confession of those sins. However, the verse does not say what will happen if we don't confess our sins. It is important to read the verse in the context of the passage. Here is the verse in the context of the two preceding verses:

So, in context, we see that the blood of Jesus Christ is responsible for cleansing us from sin (verse 7). So, the means by which we are cleansed is not dependent upon our actions (e.g., confession), but based upon what Jesus Christ has already done for us. Even in the Old Testament, confession was made, but forgiveness was the result of a blood sacrifice.3 Of course, the doctrine that sin is cleansed by the blood of Jesus Christ is found throughout the New Testament.4 The New Testament also indicates that this cleansing by the blood of Christ also results in forgiveness of sin.5 However, forgiveness from sin only happens through Jesus Christ6 when we believe in Him.7 However, those who do not believe are not forgiven and will be accountable for their sins.8

The purpose of confession

So, if we are forgiven by the blood of Jesus, then why should we bother to confess our sin? James tells us that confession is not done for forgiveness, but for our own good - for our healing from the effects of sin:

Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much. (James 5:16)

So, confession heals us from our rebellion and back into a close relationship with God.

Conclusion Top of page

Forgiveness and cleansing from sin is not dependent upon what we have done or whether or not we deserve it, but upon the completed work of Jesus Christ on our behalf. However, this forgiveness is not automatic, but requires belief in Jesus Christ as our Savior. Confession is important for the Christian, since it helps to heal us from the effects of sin and restores our relationship with God (on our side, not God's side, since God always loves us).

Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15:13)

References Top of page

  1. If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. (1 John 1:8)
  2. Thayer's Greek Definitions
    ομολογεω (Strong's #G3670)
    1. to say the same thing as another, i.e. to agree with, assent
    2. to concede
      1. not to refuse, to promise
      2. not to deny
        1. to confess
        2. declare
        3. to confess, i.e. to admit or declare one’s self guilty of what one is accused of
    3. to profess
      1. to declare openly, speak out freely
      2. to profess one’s self the worshipper of one
    4. to praise, celebrate
    Part of Speech: verb
    A Related Word by Thayer’s/Strong’s Number: from a compound of the base of G3674 and G3056
    Citing in TDNT: 5:199, 687
  3. 'So it shall be when he becomes guilty in one of these, that he shall confess that in which he has sinned. He shall also bring his guilt offering to the LORD for his sin which he has committed, a female from the flock, a lamb or a goat as a sin offering. So the priest shall make atonement on his behalf for his sin.' (Leviticus 5:5-6)
  4. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. (Romans 5:9)
    But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. (Ephesians 2:13)
    how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? (Hebrews 9:14)
    Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, (Hebrews 10:19)
    and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood, which speaks better than the blood of Abel. (Hebrews 12:24)
    Therefore Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people through His own blood, suffered outside the gate. (Hebrews 13:12)
    Now the God of peace, who brought up from the dead the great Shepherd of the sheep through the blood of the eternal covenant, even Jesus our Lord, (Hebrews 13:20)
    according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, by the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to obey Jesus Christ and be sprinkled with His blood: May grace and peace be yours in the fullest measure. (1 Peter 1:2)
    knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ. (1 Peter 1:18-19)
    and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To Him who loves us and released us from our sins by His blood-- (Revelation 1:5)
  5. And when He [Jesus] had taken a cup and given thanks, He gave it to them, saying, "Drink from it, all of you; for this is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins. (Matthew 26:27-28)
    In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace (Ephesians 1:7)
    And according to the Law, one may almost say, all things are cleansed with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness. (Hebrews 9:22)
  6. And they brought to Him a paralytic lying on a bed. Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the paralytic, "Take courage, son; your sins are forgiven." (Matthew 9:2)
    "But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins"--then He said to the paralytic, "Get up, pick up your bed and go home." (Matthew 9:6)
    "But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins"--He said to the paralytic, (Mark 2:10)
    "But, so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins,"--He said to the paralytic--"I say to you, get up, and pick up your stretcher and go home." (Luke 5:24)
    "For this reason I say to you, her sins, which are many, have been forgiven, for she loved much; but he who is forgiven little, loves little." Then He said to her, "Your sins have been forgiven." Those who were reclining at the table with Him began to say to themselves, "Who is this man who even forgives sins?" And He said to the woman, "Your faith has saved you; go in peace." (Luke 7:47-50)
    and He said to them, "Thus it is written, that the Christ would suffer and rise again from the dead the third day, and that repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. (Luke 24:46-47)
    Peter said to them, "Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. (Acts 2:38)
    "The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom you had put to death by hanging Him on a cross. "He is the one whom God exalted to His right hand as a Prince and a Savior, to grant repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins. (Acts 5:30-31)
    "Of Him all the prophets bear witness that through His name everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins." (Acts 10:43)
    "Therefore let it be known to you, brethren, that through Him [Jesus] forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, (Acts 13:38)
    to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the dominion of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who have been sanctified by faith in Me.' (Acts 26:18)
    Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you. (Ephesians 4:32)
  7. "Of Him all the prophets bear witness that through His name everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins." (Acts 10:43)
    but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name. (John 20:31)
    But when they believed Philip preaching the good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were being baptized, men and women alike. (Acts 8:12)
    "But we believe that we are saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, in the same way as they also are." (Acts 15:11)
    They said, "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household." (Acts 16:31)
    even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction; (Romans 3:22)
    that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; (Romans 10:9)
    nevertheless knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the Law; since by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified. (Galatians 2:16)
  8. "He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. (John 3:18)
    "He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him." (John 3:36)
    "Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for unless you believe that I am He, you will die in your sins." (John 8:24)

We are what we think.

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Last Modified June 26, 2006


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