Trevor, having already placed his faith in Jesus, had been living in mental torment over going to hell if all his sins weren't confessed to God before he dies. With this torment in his mind, he asked me, "What if I die and all my sins aren't confessed? Will I go to heaven or hell?"
I asked Trevor what he meant by confess? What was his understanding of the purpose of confessing his sins? He told me he had been taught that every time he sins he needed to confess it to God so his sins could be forgiven. He was told if he didn't confess, then God would not forgive him. So it is understandable why he would live in mental torment over the issue of unconfessed sins when he dies.
Trevor is not the only one who lives in fear of dying with unconfessed sins. Like Trevor, many people who have already placed their faith in Jesus are taught they need to continue to confess their sins so they can be forgiven by God. I was taught this, too, assuming it was true. However, once I started understanding the new covenant of grace, it became very evident that the sins I was seeking forgiveness for through continual confession had already been forgiven by God. Once understanding this truth, I stopped confessing my sins for the purpose of being forgiven, and started claiming the truth that I was forgiven. I stopped asking God to forgive me, and started accepting the forgiveness God had already given me in Jesus. I stopped trying to get forgiveness from God, but began thanking him I was completely and eternally forgiven. This had a transforming impact on my life.
Those who teach we must continually confess our sins to God for forgiveness comes from their failure to understand the new covenant of grace in relationship to the old covenant of law. The old covenant of law, also called the Book of the Covenant or the Book of the Law (Deuteronomy 30:10), contained the Ten Commandments, and God's other laws. It also contained the animal sacrificial system for the people of Israel for the purpose of obtaining God's forgiveness when they broke his laws.
The Book of the Covenant was placed beside the Ark of the Covenant in what was called the Most Holy Place in God's temple (Deuteronomy 31:26). The Ark of the Covenant contained the original Ten Commandments which God had written on stone and given to Moses. The Book of the Covenant served as a witness against the people as a symbol of guilt for their sins. To provide a temporal payment for their sins, an innocent animal was sacrificed in their place. The blood of the animal was taken into the Most Holy Place by the High Priest and sprinkled on top of the Ark of the Covenant. Thus, providing temporary forgiveness for the sins of the people. For one day, their record of sins was erased. However, the next day, their record of sins started again. Therefore, the work of the priests was never done because the record for sins was still being kept, and payment needed to be provided.
Life for those living under the law was one of continually concentrating on staying forgiven before God, rather than enjoying being forgiven by him. It was not God's heart for people to live daily concentrating on obtaining his forgiveness through sacrificing animals. However, their sins had to be covered through a temporary payment, since a broken law requires a penalty to be enforced (Hebrews 10:8).
God's heart was to be reconciled to people in a love relationship...enter the new covenant of grace!
God replaced the old covenant of law, the Book of the Law, with the new covenant of grace.
The former regulation [old covenant of law] is set aside...
and a better hope is introduced [new covenant of grace]...
For if nothing had been wrong with the first covenant [law],
no place would have been sought for another [grace]...
By calling this covenant "new" [grace] he has made the first one obsolete [law]...
Whereas the old covenant of law provided temporary forgiveness for sins, the new covenant of grace provided permanent forgiveness of sins. What is permanent, the new covenant of grace, has now replaced what was temporal, the old covenant of law. Since the new covenant of grace has replaced the old covenant of law, let's look at the new covenant of grace a little closer.
Just before his arrest and crucifixion, Jesus was spending time with his disciples eating what is commonly called The Last Supper. While eating with his disciples, he told them to eat of the bread and drink of the cup for it represented the new covenant, his body sacrificed and blood shed for the forgiveness of sins (Matthew 26:27-29; Luke 22:19-20).
When Jesus publicly appeared to the people of Israel as their Christ, or Savior-King, John looked at Jesus and said, "Look, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world" (John 1:29)! Jesus came to completely and permanently take away the penalty of sin for all people, for all time, by fully paying our sin penalty through his death. The animal sacrifices covered temporarily the payment of sins until Jesus came where he completely and permanently paid our sin penalty through his death.
Hebrews 2:9 says that by grace Jesus died for everyone.
...by the grace of God, he [Jesus] might taste death for everyone.
Once Jesus provided the final sacrifice for sins through his death, he sat down. Unlike the priests who never sat down because their work was never done since the final sacrifice for sins had not been provided, Jesus sat down because he was the final sacrifice for sins providing forgiveness for all people. The phrase he sat down means his work of providing forgiveness for sins through his death was eternally complete.
Unlike the other high priests, he does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins and then for the sins of the people. He sacrificed for their sins
once for all when he offered himself.
Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifice, which can never take away sins. But when this priest [Jesus] offered for all time one sacrifice for all sin, he sat down at the right hand of God.
This is called the new covenant of grace.
Now that we are under the new covenant of grace, rather than the old covenant of law, God doesn't keep a record of our sins. The record has been shattered. There is no more record. God is no longer counting our sins against us because they were all counted against Jesus.
...God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ,
not counting men's sins against them.
2 Corinthians 5:19
Under the new covenant of grace, God has totally forgiven us of all sins, no longer remembering them.
Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more.
And where these sins have been forgiven...
Because Jesus completely and permanently paid our sin penalty through his death, there is no further sacrifice for sins needed.
And where these have been forgiven, there is no longer any sacrifice for sins.
Because our sins have been completely and permanently paid for by Jesus and forgiven by God, we no longer have to continually confess our sins to God so we can be forgiven by him. Why would we keep asking him to do something that he has already done for us through Jesus? Rather than continuing to ask God to forgive us of sin, we now daily live thanking him we are forgiven through his grace.
All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God.
2 Corinthians 4:15
God's ultimate purpose for the new covenant was not to provide forgiveness for our sins, but to make us spiritually alive by reconciling us to himself in a love relationship. This could not happen until all of our sins were completely and permanently forgiven. If all our sins were not completely and permanently forgiven, then every time we sinned our relationship with God would be severed, and we would die spiritually, since the penalty for sin is death. That is why Jesus provided eternal redemption, or the complete and permanent forgiveness of all our sins.
...[Jesus] by his blood having obtained eternal redemption.
...God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins...
Once obtaining complete and permanent forgiveness of all our sins through grace, then God could be reconciled to us and we to God.
All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ,
not counting men's sins against them.
2 Corinthians 5:18-19
This is the new covenant of grace. The old covenant provided temporary forgiveness of sins, but the new covenant provided complete and eternal forgiveness of sins, enabling us to enter into and enjoy a love relationship with God. We enter into the new covenant of grace by faith.
...we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand.
...those who receive [by faith] God's abundant provision of grace...
By faith through grace, we now stand completely and eternally forgiven by God, enjoying a never-ending love relationship with him!
God had a way to offer continual and temporal forgiveness to people through the on-going sacrifice of animals in the old covenant of law. However, he had a new plan to offer complete and eternal forgiveness by grace through the one-time sacrifice of Jesus. Through Jesus, the new covenant of grace, replaced the old covenant of law.
[Jesus] sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself.
Then [Jesus] said, "Here I am, I have come to do your will." He sets aside the first [old covenant of law] to establish the second [new covenant of grace].
Because of the new covenant of grace, we are now able to draw close to God with a sincere heart in an authentic, genuine relationship without having to fear his judgment and condemnation under the old covenant.
....a better covenant [new covenant of grace] is introduced by which we draw near to God.
...let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith...
Because Jesus took God's judgment and condemnation for our sins, we no longer have to live in fear (1 John 4:14-18; Romans 8:15; Galatians 4:6-7). We are now assured of his love and acceptance since our sins have already been completely and permanently forgiven through Jesus.
I write to you, dear children,
because your sins have been forgiven on account of his name.
1 John 2:12
It is only in this authentic and genuine relationship with God, produced by grace, that we can truly confess our sins to God in the way he intends under the new covenant. Under the old covenant of law, confession was for the purpose of forgiveness. Under the new covenant of grace, confession is for the purpose of openness. By openness, I mean the freedom and confidence to come to God in an honest, transparent relationship where we share with God openly about our sins, not for the purpose of forgiveness, but for the purpose of relationship.
In him [Jesus] and through faith in him
we may approach God with freedom and confidence.
No relationship can ever blossom where the dominate emotion is fear. Fear produces hiding and lying, ultimately driving us away from the one we fear. It is absolutely impossible to grow in a love relationship with others if our emotional state toward them is fear.
The good news of grace is that the perfect love of God demonstrated through Jesus' payment for our sins removes all fear within us of God's judgment and condemnation.
This is love: not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son as the propitiation [taking the full punishment for our sins forever] for our sins...And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. In this way, love is made complete among us so we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like him. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment.
The one who fears has not been made perfect in love.
If we are living in fear of God's judgment and condemnation as his loved children (1 John 3:1-2), then we have not matured in his love for us as his loved children. Instead, we still see ourselves under the judgment of God. Consequently, our spiritual growth has been stunted due to fear.
The one who fears has not been made perfect [mature] in love.
Because of grace, we now rely on God's love for us and approach the throne of grace, the very presence of God, confidently assured of his love, acceptance, and forgiveness.
And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.
1 John 4:16
Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us our time of need.
It is through this confidence provided by his grace where true confession happens. For the first time, we are able to be open, honest, and transparent with God in a loving relationship as our Father, rather than living in fear of his judgment and condemnation as our judge. Through this open, honest, and transparent relationship, we confess our sins to God, but not to obtain his forgiveness, but to be open and honest with God about our sins.
In this honest relationship, we acknowledge our weaknesses to God, finding grace to help us in our time of need (2 Corinthians 12:8-9). We no longer have to hide our sins and weaknesses from God or try to appease a god who we think is angry at us. We are now able grow in our relationship with God as his dearly loved children. Our spiritual growth is no longer stunted through fear, but begins to blossom in grace!
How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are [loved children of the Father]!
1 John 3:1
Be imitators of God, as dearly loved children...
Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved...
Through this love relationship with God, not only are we free to confess our sins to him openly, honestly, and transparently, but also we can talk to God about anything in our lives. Living under law, my relationship with God never matured because it never went beyond seeking his forgiveness through confession. As a result, my spiritual growth was stunted in fear. But in grace, my relationship with him has gone beyond what I could have never imagined. I now see God as caring for all of my life. As my loving Father, I can now share with him my joy, thoughts, feelings, hurts, pain, fears, etc...My relationship is no longer limited by law to having my sins forgiven. By grace, my relationship with God is now unlimited. I can talk with God about anything, completely assured of his love and acceptance because I know my sins have already been forgiven.
Through the new covenant of grace, we no longer have to live tormented, wondering if all our sins are confessed and forgiven. We now live confidently, knowing all our sins are completely and eternally forgiven. Rather than confessing our sins to be forgiven by God, we now confess the truth that we are already forgiven by God through Jesus. Isn't that what confession is...admitting the truth? Then the truth we must confess, as those who have come to faith in Jesus, is that our sins are forgiven!
When this truth is taught, I am normally asked about the Lord's Prayer and 1 John 1:9, since each of these mention the subject of forgiveness. I have provided a few links to other blogs I have written addressing these two areas. You may also check out other teachings on forgiveness by clicking on Grace Links on the menu of this website. If you would like to examine further the issue of confession as it relates to the Lord's Prayer and 1 John 1:9, click on this link: 1 John 1:9 The Lord's Prayer
In mental torment, Trevor walked into my office the day he asked me the questions about confession and forgiveness. Once he heard the good news about God's grace, I could see joy and peace replacing fear on his face, because the new covenant of grace had replaced the old covenant of law in his heart. He could now enjoy his relationship with God, growing as his loved child, because he was assured of God's love, acceptance, and forgiveness. No more was Trevor tormented by the fear of all his sins not being confessed when he dies, he now was able to enjoy his relationship with God so he could live! He walked into my office under law and living in fear. He walked out of my office under grace, and living in peace!
Maybe you can relate to Trevor. You have been unable to enjoy your relationship with God because you have been living in fear of spending eternity in hell if all your sins are not confessed before you die. The good news is that Jesus was crucified for all your sins. If you have placed your faith in Jesus, you have already received God's forgiveness for all your sins. Simply thank him you are forgiven, and begin enjoying your relationship with God, an open, honest, and transparent relationship free of the fear of his judgment and condemnation, and full of his love, acceptance, and forgiveness!