googlef87758e9b6df9bec.html A Sure Word: 1 John 1:9: Confessing Our Sins

Monday, May 12, 2008

1 John 1:9: Confessing Our Sins

ἐὰν ὁμολογῶμεν τὰς ἁμαρτίας ἡμῶν, πιστός ἐστιν καὶ δίκαιος, ἵνα ἀφῇ ἡμῖν τὰς ἁμαρτίας καὶ καθαρίσῃ ἡμᾶς ἀπὸ πάσης ἀδικίας.

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9

Though we might try to live lives obedient to the Lord, inevitably we will fall into sin again. When that happens, we have to decide what to do about it. Many Christians have taken comfort in this verse: we confess our sins and God forgives us.

So exactly what does it mean to “confess” our sins? Some people practice a sterile, “God forgive me” prayer. They’re not specific about their sins and they certainly don’t admit to any particular sin. They act as though they maybe did something wrong or maybe they didn’t. They think that if they just say, “God forgive me,” that’s that.

But the Greek word for “confess,” ὁμολογεῶ (homologeō), goes a little beyond that. Like many Greek words, it’s a compound word: homos meaning “same” and logos meaning “word.” So, ὁμολογεῶ literally means, “same words.”

When we “confess” our sins, we speak of them with the same words that God does. So, “God forgive me” becomes something like, “God, I slacked off at work today. My employer pays me for eight hours of work so I stole from him because I didn’t do eight hours of worth of work. Forgive me for that sin, God. I was wrong.” This is true for any sin: covetousness, pride, lust, greed, hate, idolatry, or whatever other sin we commit on any given day.

When we confess our sins in the same way God sees them, we accomplish 2 things: First, we gain the forgiveness and cleansing that Christ promised us. But secondly, when we speak our sins specifically, it has the effect of making them more real. It’s like an alcoholic – if he never admits he has a problem, he’ll never stop drinking. It’s much harder to continue in a sinful life style if every day we speak our sin to God, condemn it as God condemns it, and ask for forgiveness from it.

If we simply say, “God forgive me,” we ask for forgiveness without any confession. There's no forgiveness or cleansing in that.

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