Should We Confess Sin?

Confessing Sin

As I have stated in the past, I don’t have a religious background. I was never taught that God was angry with us and that we need to do things in order to attain a certain level of holiness. I was completely ignorant to anything having to do with God. I knew of God and I knew of Jesus, but that was the extent of it.

Since I had almost no real knowledge of God, it was easy for me to accept what the Word said without other people’s false opinions of Him clouding anything. I began to see that God is always good and there is nothing I can do to change how He feels about me. But then I started talking to Christians…

One of the things I started hearing the most was how we need to confess our sins to continue to walk in God’s grace. Immediately, hearing things like this was unsettling to me because it contradicted everything I was learning through the Word. Then 1 John 1:9 was brought to my attention.


If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.


Initially, I didn’t have an answer to what this verse actually meant. On the surface, it seemed like confessing sins was necessary to remain righteous, but I didn’t know of any other verses that said anything close to this. So I checked it out.

Nope! This is the only verse in the entire new covenant that says we have to confess sins in order to get something from God. Major doctrines have been established on confessing sins, yet it’s only mentioned once?! If it was really as important as everyone makes it out to be, I would think that Paul would have mentioned it in every single epistle! There was no way I was going to dump everything I knew to be true about God because of one verse! I knew right away that this verse is misunderstood. So I studied.

When reading 1 John 1:9, one word leaps off the page at me—unrighteousness. I know that righteousness is not something we earn, it’s a gift. I talked about this in “Is God Angry?” The moment I was born again I was made the righteousness of God in Christ (2 Cor 5:21). You’re either righteous or you’re not, there is no going back and forth. It’s all over the new covenant! So, when John writes that we have to do something to be cleansed from all unrighteousness, it’s obvious that he is writing to unbelievers.


Then Who Is 1 John 1:9 For?

When you study out some of the major gnostic beliefs, it becomes clear that’s who the first chapter of 1 John is written to. Here are a few of those beliefs:

  • They believe anything done in the body, even the grossest sin, has no meaning because real life exists in the spirit realm only.
  • They claim to possess a higher knowledge, not from the Bible, but acquired on some mystical higher plain of existence. Gnostics see themselves as a privileged class elevated above everybody else by their higher, deeper knowledge of God.
  • Gnostics don’t believe that Jesus ever came in the flesh, only in spirit.
  • Gnosticism teaches that salvation is gained through the acquisition of divine knowledge which frees one from the illusions of darkness. Even though they claim to follow Christ, they contradict His teachings. Jesus said nothing about salvation through knowledge, but by faith in Him as Savior from sin.


Knowing this, you can clearly see that John is separating himself from the audience he is writing to and acknowledging how what they believed was incorrect. Clearly, John is writing to people with gnostic beliefs who had not seen or experienced the things that he and the other disciples had.


That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life—the life was manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness, and declare to you that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us—that which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. And these things we write to you that your joy may be full.

1 John 1:1-4


Jesus did come in the flesh; they heard Him, saw Him, and even touched Him! John goes on to say that we would be liars if we believed that we’re not capable of sin. The purpose of the first chapter of 1 John is to recognize the fact that there were people in this group who were not believing correctly and needed to get on the same page.

1 John 1:9 is telling this group of people to confess that they are sinners and how they can’t attain righteousness on their own. They needed to see Jesus for who He really was, their Savior. They needed to be born again.

1 John 2

The second chapter of 1 John begins by acknowledging a different group of people, “My little children.” John has gone from speaking to unbelievers with gnostic beliefs to those who have recently been born again. The very first verse says,


My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.

1 John 2:1

 I find it interesting that he doesn’t write, “And if anyone sins, just confess it and God will cleanse you.” All he does is confirm that sin is no longer an issue between mankind and God. It’s so simple! Just two verses after the controversial 1 John 1:9, John Himself says what grace teachers get beat up for all the time!

Don’t Get Conned!

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, you must read everything in context! Plucking random verses out of the Bible and condemning people with them is not only wrong, but it’s dangerous. When you take the text out of context, you’re left with a con.

Does confession apply to the born-again believer? Yes, but not the way most people have been taught. We need to stop beating ourselves up for everything we’ve done wrong, and start building ourselves up because of everything He’s done right!

In the next blogpost, I will explain new covenant confession for the born-again believer. For now, rest in the fact that you are loved, accepted, and completely righteous and there is nothing you can do to change that.

Clint Zeller