Confess (homolegeo) literally means to speak the same thing (homos, same, and lego, to speak) or to agree with. It is the opposite of denial whether spoken or unspoken. It can mean a public confession of faith as in Matt. 10:32, “Whoever acknowledges [confesses] me before men, I will acknowledge [confess] him before my Father in heaven.” In Rom. 15:9, it is used as a praise to God, “Therefore I will praise [confess] you among the nations.” Finally, it can mean the acknowledgment of sin as in 1 Jn. 1:9.
The apostle John’s concern is that we have fellowship with God and one another (1 Jn. 1: 2-4), but we cannot have fellowship with God and live in denial or cover up our sin. Since, “God is light; and in him there is no darkness at all” (vs. 5), believers must also walk in the light. Walking in the light does not mean moral perfection, because, “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves” (vs. 8). Walking in the light is very similar in concept to confession. It means to live in moral agreement with God. Walking in the light is to confess sin and walking in the darkness is to deny sin.
Jesus said, “Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds are evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed” (Jn. 3:19,20). Sin separates us from God and others and that is why acknowledging or confessing the truth is the first step in any recovery program. We can walk in the light because our sins are forgiven. We will have fellowship with one another if we walk in the light (vs. 7). God has made provision to cleanse us from whatever sin would otherwise mar our fellowship with Him and each other if we walk in the light and speak the truth in love (see also Eph. 4:15,25).
“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (vs. 1:9). As believers, our sins are not forgiven because we confess them, our sins are forgiven because, “the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin” (vs. 7). The cross is the only moral ground by which God can forgive us. Conversely, as believers we are not unforgiven if we fail to confess all known sin. He is faithful to forgive us because He has promised to do so, and He is just because His Son died for our sins.
“If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in us” (vs. 10). John wants all believers to walk in the light and live a confessional life whereby God not only removes the guilt of sin (forgives) but also the stain of sin (cleanses). James urges us to confess our sins one to another (Jms. 5:16) in order to be healed. Confession brings healing to the soul and provides a break-through to community so that we can have fellowship with God and one another.
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