Confession, Repentance, and Forgiveness (Part 5 of 5)

When We Sin

If confession, repentance, and seeking God’s forgiveness is not the pattern when we sin, what is?  After all, believers do sin.  We have times when we do not walk in keeping with our identity.  Sometimes we walk according to the flesh.  Well, there is at least one verse that talks precisely about “when we sin”.

“My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin.  And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world” (I John 2:1-2).

What is it that we should do, what is it that we should remember “if anyone sins”?  We are to recognize that a one-time sacrifice (propitiation) for our sins has already been accomplished for us and for everyone in the world who has believed the gospel message of Jesus Christ.  And we are to remember that we have an Advocate who declares us righteous before the Father.  The Advocate and the sacrifice are one and the same, Jesus Christ.  There is no pride in this recognition of Christ as our Savior who has already completed the work of saving us.  There is only gratefulness and thanksgiving and praise.

But what about a serious sin, an addiction, a sin that we are having trouble shaking?  Shouldn’t some form of confession and seeking forgiveness be required to come “back to God”?  Let’s look at Paul’s approach to this topic.

“Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.  Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:1-2).  The Greek word for “caught” here is not “detected in the act.”  It is more of a “caught in a trap” thought; overtaken in a sin from which it is difficult to break free.  It sounds like what we would think of in today’s terms as an addiction or a besetting sin.

Now the one caught in a sin is not instructed to seek restoration through confession, repentance, and asking God for forgiveness.  No, they are to be restored in their spiritual life by brothers and sisters who are spiritual.  And this restoration is to be done with gentleness, not with shame or condemnation or looking down on our brother.  This restoration is done by those who are spiritual coming alongside.  Those who are spiritual understand how we walk by the Spirit by embracing the power of God’s grace to set us free from sin and sins.  They understand how our new self and new nature are fueled by the power of Christ in us.

Bearing one another’s burdens as we help someone through a sin crisis is extending grace to our friend.  I can speak from personal experience, as many of you could do as well, that helping someone navigate freedom from addictive behaviors can be burdensome on the helper.  But we bear one another’s burdens and fulfill the law of Christ when we do this.

What brings believers freedom from sinful actions and attitudes?  The knowledge of grace.  The knowledge of who they are in Christ.  The knowledge that the power of Christ is flowing through them and empowering them to find freedom.  These answers to our sin may be short, but they are not just pat answers from Scripture.  I have seen this effect in the testimonies of believers from all around the world.

Grace itself teaches us to live godly lives, not a repeated pattern of confession, repentance, and seeking forgiveness from God.  “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age” (Titus 2:11-12).  Walk in the power of God’s grace, my friends.  His death in your place – and the complete forgiveness that came with it – has set you free.

2 thoughts on “Confession, Repentance, and Forgiveness (Part 5 of 5)”

  1. Hi Jay,

    As always, thanks for the articles. This is a different idea and I’ll have to think about it. But would you please address the Scriptures that seem to contradict it? Matthew 6:12, John 13:4-13, I Corinthians 4:4 and Revelations 2:5 are the ones that immediately come to mind, but there may be others.

    Best Regards,


    1. Hi Walter,
      Thanks for asking. The old covenant was based on all kinds of transactions. If you obey God, you will be blessed. If you disobey God, you will be cursed. If you forgive others, you will be forgiven. I believe the Lord’s prayer of Matthew 6 contains some of these old covenant conditions such as forgive to be forgiven. It is interesting that after the cross, we are never told to forgive others to be forgiven. Instead, we are told to forgive others because Christ has (past tense) forgiven us. There is never a need for more forgiveness for a believer. All was forgiven at the cross for those who believe. Just as an aside, if your look at your NASB concordance, the word “repent” does not appear after the book of Acts until it reappears in the book of Revelation. It seems odd that if “repent” were an important part of living the Christian life, all of the letters about living the life from Paul, Peter, James, John, and Jude never use the word.

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