This is Part 6 of a multi-part series I’ve called Rethinking Religion. Here’s a look at the entire series thus far:
- Rethinking Religion, Part 1: What is a Pastor?
- Rethinking Religion, Part 2: Pastors, Titles, Authority, Calling
- Rethinking Religion, Part 3: The Clergy/Laity Distinction
- Rethinking Religion, Part 4: Community and Accountability
- Rethinking Religion, Part 5: Formal Church Membership
- Rethinking Religion, Part 6: Confessing Our Sins (This post)
I urge you to read these in order because each post assumes a reading of the previous posts.
The Apostle John, in his first letter, makes the statement: “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). It would be an understatement to say that this verse has been misunderstood and misapplied throughout much of the church’s history. Those in top-down religious positions of authority have wrongly used this verse to insist we must continually be on high alert and constantly confess their sins in order to receive forgiveness up to that point in time. John MacArthur explains 1 John 1:9 this way,
“It is a subjective, relational kind of forgiveness. It is the restoration to a place of blessing in the eyes of a displeased father. …it is a spiritual washing to rid you of the defilement caused by sin in your daily walk. The verse is speaking of an ongoing pardon and purification from sin, not the cleansing and forgiveness of salvation.” If We Confess Our Sins, Emphasis Mine
He continues by adding,
“The pardon of justification and the washing of regeneration do not eliminate the need for you to deal with the subjective reality of sin in your life.” If We Confess Our Sins, Emphasis Mine
MacArthur insists that 1 John 1:9 is referencing an accumulation of sin caused by my daily walk. In other words, as I live my life, sin accumulates and requires periodic confession in order to be restored to a Father who has become displeased with me in between my confessions because of accumulated sins. For him, it is a “subjective, relational kind of forgiveness” that depends on my faithfulness to repeatedly and continually confess all of my sins in order to receive “ongoing pardon and purification.” In his own words, I become defiled and unclean just be living my life every day, apart from continual confession of sins. For MacArthur, the forgiveness and pardon you received at conversion doesn’t “eliminate the need for you to deal with the subjective reality of sin in your life.” In short, you’re forgiven but not really.
Desiring God Ministries adds a new layer of confusion by insisting:
“You’re not saved through faith alone. Be killing your sin.” Twitter 10/14/2017Continue reading