Monday, January 23, 2012

God’s Definitions of Sin by Harold from Brisbane, Australia

I find most Christians follow some vague/ambiguous definition of sin instead of referring to God’s definitions given in His word. Unfortunately many professing Christians then fail to grasp that Jesus set us free from sin (John 8:36) simply because they do not understand what “sin” is.
I’ll offer a concise explanation below.

God’s definitions of sin are basically covered by the following examples:

1: Mark 3:29 Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit. This sin will not be forgiven. Christians do not commit this sin.

2: John 16:9 Unbelief in Jesus. This is the sin the world is convicted of. Christians do not commit this sin either.

3: 1 John 5:17 “all unrighteousness is sin”. Christians are righteous in Christ so here we do not sin.

4: 1 John 3:4 “Sin is transgression of the law”. This is breaking the old covenant commandments resulting in a death penalty for transgression.

Christians cannot be accused of sin here as we are not under the law of sin and death. The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus SETS FREE from the law of sin and death (Romans 8:2).
Regarding the law of sin and death it should be noted that “whatever the law says it says to those who are UNDER IT” (Romans 3:19,20).
And “the law was NOT MADE for a righteous person (Christians), but for…the ungodly and for sinners” (1 Timothy 1:9).
Also, “where there is NO LAW there is NO TRANSGRESSION (SIN)” (Romans 4:15).

We know sin was dealt with once and for all on the cross.
And “Our old man is crucified with Christ, that the body of sin might be destroyed” Romans 6:6.
Hence we see in 1Peter 4:1 “Therefore, since Christ suffered (crucified) for us in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same mind (our old man crucified with him, Romans 6:6), for he who has suffered in the flesh (Romans 6:6) has CEASED from sin,”

Of course we still see Christians doing wrong (erroneously referred to as sin under man’s ambiguous definitions), but as sons of God we are chastised for our wrong.

Romans 6:2 asks “HOW shall we that are dead to sin, live in it any longer?”
1 John 3:9 answers this question. “Whoever has been born of God DOES NOT SIN, for His seed remains in him; and he CANNOT sin, because he has been born of God”.

Also see 1 Peter 4:18 “If the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and sinner appear”.
Clearly there are 2 different groups described here.
Group 1: Righteous (and saved)
Group 2: Ungodly/Sinner (unsaved)
Either we are righteous (in Christ) OR we are sinners. We can’t be both.

Sins of God's People are Recorded in Scripture Does God Really Forget Sins? Answered by Paul Ellis

Q:  God says He will remember the sins of His people no more yet the bible records sins of His people such as Paul, David, Abraham. The word of God lasts forever. Does God choose to forget His own word? How can He no longer remember their sins if they are recorded in scripture?

A:  by Paul Ellis
That is a really good question! When Isaiah said the word of the Lord stands forever, he was not referring to the Bible. The Bible is not God’s diary and it was not written to remind Him of stuff; it was written for us: “For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us” (Rom 15:4). Teach us to what purpose? That we might be trained in righteousness (2 Tim 3:16). The works of the flesh are recorded to show us the dreadful consequences of a life of independence. We’re the ones who need reminding. Yes, God chooses to forget our sin. And then He reminds us that He has chosen to forget just in case we had forgotten!

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Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Paul Ellis on Confessing Sins in 1 John 1:9 and More

The Following Are Excerpts from Paul Ellis' 12 Reasons Why Christians Don’t Need to Confess-to-be-Forgiven

From Part 1

“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 Jn 1:9)

This is the only verse in the Bible where our confession is connected with His forgiveness. The Greek word for confess is homologeo which means to acknowledge, concede or agree with. In this passage John is writing to unbelievers who were deceived because they thought they were without sin (see v.8). How do I know that John is talking to unbelievers and not Christians? Because he is addressing people who are walking in darkness (v.6), who need to be purified from all unrighteousness (v.9) and who, by insisting that they have never sinned, are making God out to be a liar (v.10).

What message does John have for sinners who don’t think they’re sinners? “Acknowledge your sinful state, turn to God and receive His gift of forgiveness.” There’s only one thing that stops a sinner from receiving God’s grace and that’s unbelief. If you don’t see your need for forgiveness, you are well and truly lost. You may claim to know God but He doesn’t know you. There’s only one way to the Father and that’s through Jesus Christ and His finished work on the cross. God made provision for your redemption and forgiveness at the cross, but you will never see it unless you acknowledge (ie: confess) your need for a Savior.

And what message does John have for those of us who have already turned to Jesus? Do we need to confess too? We already have! Remember, confession means agreeing with God. When you first surrendered to the Lord, you might have prayed “thank you for forgiving me.” That’s  confession. You were acknowledging that you had a sin problem and in need of God’s forgiveness. In the New Testament people sometimes confessed their sins when they were baptized (Mt 3:6). How many times do you need to be baptized before you are baptized? Just once. How many times do you need to say yes to God before you are in agreement with God? Just once. And how many times do you need to receive God’s free gift of forgiveness before you have received it? Just once.

1 John 1 was written for unbelievers who don’t see their need for forgiveness. In the second chapter John writes for the saints, and what does he tell them? “Your sins have been forgiven on account of His name” (1 Jn 2:12). If your sins have already been forgiven, what are you confessing for?

Under the old covenant law, there could be no forgiveness without the shedding of blood (Heb 9:22). What the law prefigured, Christ fulfilled. At the Last Supper Jesus explained the basis of our forgiveness: “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” (Mat 26:28) Note the absence of any qualifiers. Jesus did not say, “…provided they confess first.” It’s His blood from start to finish. 1 John 1 may have given you the impression that sinners are only forgiven when they confess. But John makes it clear that it is not our confession but “the blood of Jesus Christ (that) cleanses us from all sin” (1 Jn 1:7). So why confess at all? Remember, Biblical confession is not listing everything that’s wrong with you. True confession is a positive response to something that God has already done. It is verbalizing faith. It is saying “thank you Jesus for your blood that was poured out for my forgiveness. Because of You, I am forgiven!” 

Any Greek lexicon will tell you that the verb tense for “confess” in 1 John 1:9 is the present tense which usually means a habitual action. The conclusion that some draw from this is that you need to habitually confess your sins to stay forgiven. But to build a doctrine of works from a single verb tense is dangerous and contradicts what John says about forgiveness elsewhere. Note that the present verb tense is also used in the New Testament to convey a sense of action (“I am confessing”) in much the same way as is meant by the English present tense. Why did John write it this way? He was possibly thinking of Proverbs 28:13 “Whoever conceals their sins does not prosper, but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy.” At any point in time, a sinner is either concealing his sins or he is agreeing with God about them and forsaking them. A sinner who conceals his sins remains a sinner, but a sinner who confesses and turns to Jesus is a sinner no longer: He has been purified from “all sin” (1 Jn 1:7) and cleansed from “all unrighteousness” (1 Jn 1:9). A sinner might weigh it up like this: If I change my mind and agree with God now, I will experience today the forgiveness that He provided for me 2000 years ago at the cross. Incidentally, if you like a bit of Greek salad with your meat, then feast your eyes on 1 John 1:7 which talks about the blood of Jesus that cleanses and continually goes on cleansing us.

Additional Comments from Part 1
Three reasons why I believe this verse is written for sinners: (i) John is talking about those who walk in darkness (v6), (ii) who need to be purified from all unrighteousness (v9), and (iii) who, by insisting that they have never sinned (v8), are making God out to be a liar (v10). None of these attributes applies to someone who is born again. Look at v3: “We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ.” John is writing to people who neither have fellowship with us, the Father or the Son. Like a true apostle, John has good news for all the world; chapter 1 was largely written for those who weren’t born again.

But irrespective of whether this passage was written primarily for saints and sinners, I agree that John is not calling anyone to review their sins. To confess (homologeo) is to agree with God. Sinners need to agree that they are in need of a Savior; saints need to agree that they were forgiven 2000 years ago, just as the Bible declares (Col 2:13).

You may say that we’re not cleansed from unrighteousness unless we confess nagging sins. But Heb 10:22 tells us the blood of Jesus is the cure for a guilty conscience.

From Part 2
You were forgiven completely for all time
“But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God.” (Heb 10:12)

Jesus’ death on the cross was a once-off sacrifice offered for all time. It was perfectly perfect in every respect and there is nothing you can do to improve upon it. Those who take 1 John 1:9 as their justification for trying to earn what we’ve already been given, need to pay more careful attention to what John is saying: the blood of Jesus purifies us from “all sin” (1:7) and cleanses us from “all unrighteousness” (1:9). All means all. “All sin” includes the sins we haven’t done yet and all the sins we have never confessed.

Jesus went to the cross as humanity’s sinless representative. With His dying breath God the Son asked God the Father to forgive us (Lk 23:34). Then having fully satisfied the requirements of the law that stood against us, and having forged a new covenant in His blood, Jesus declared “it is finished” and gave up His spirit. His redemptive work complete, Jesus now sits at the right hand of God waiting for His saints to rise up boldly in their forgiven-ness.

Jesus will never go to the cross again. If you sin today, He is not going back to Calvary tomorrow. Asking Him to forgive you again is like saying His first sacrifice was not enough – that you really need Him to get back up on the cross. This is disgraceful (Heb 6:6), but “we are confident of better things in your case” (Heb 6:9). Rejoice that His one-time sacrifice paid for it all and you are eternally forgiven.

Additional Comments from Part 3
If you have been born again, you do not need to be born again again. If you are already in Christ, you do not need to confess your sins to receive a gift you have already received.

If I was writing this series for unbelievers, I would definitely quote 1 Jn 1:9 and Rms 10:9. I would say something like, “Confession is agreeing with God. You need to agree that you are a sinner in need of a Savior and that Jesus is the Risen Lord whose blood was shed for the forgiveness of our sins.”

As I said before, confessing is agreeing with God. I am for confession. I am against confessing as true things that God says are false. If God declares us forgiven, then we are second-guessing Him when we declare that we are in need of forgiveness.

Jesus washed Peter’s feet – you could look at this and see Peter but I see Jesus. Peter was resting; Jesus was serving. How can you build a theology of confessing sins here when (a) it was Jesus doing the washing, not Peter and (b) Jesus said Peter was already clean (Jn 13:10)? We are cleansed (and continually cleansed) from sin by the blood of Jesus (1 Jn 1:7). If Jesus blood is not enough, then there is no hope of forgiveness.

If talking about things and being open and honest releases life, then do it. But if talking is going to embarrass and bring shame to others, then maybe you should hold your tongue. I hate the darkness. I love bringing things into the light. If I have sinned against my wife and kids or friends I’m generally going to want to talk about it. This is not sin management. This is life! I want my relationships to prosper. They’re not going to prosper if we’re holding onto silly nonsense that could be easily dealt with.
I believe this is why James says we need to confess our sins to each other. 99% of relational hurts exist because people don’t talk to each other. If we read these scriptures with religious lenses we’ll come away with religious duties. But if we read them as secure sons and daughters standing firm on the unshakeable foundation of Christ and His love for us, we’ll find life in them.
I imagine what happened in Acts 19 was wonderfully liberating. These guys were burning their occultic tools of the trade. Evil-doers love the darkness. By bringing things into the light they were making a bold statement. They were submitting to God and resisting the devil. The word of the Lord didn’t grow in power because they were confessing sins but because dead sinners were being transformed into living saints. Each person had a story to tell of how God had transformed them.

From Part 4
Nowhere in the New Testament do you find believers confessing their sins to be forgiven. Confessing-to-be-forgiven is an extra-Biblical church tradition. It is one of those things that seems right to man, but in the end it leads to death (Pro 14:12). It is a work of the flesh that kills faith, nullifies grace, and treats as unholy the blood of the covenant that sanctifies us. You don’t have to do something you’ve already done to gain something you already have. 

Additional Comments from Part 4
James 5 suggests keeping short accounts and confessing our shortcomings to one another is a key to healing relational hurts. So I would definitely lean towards being open and honest. Ask the Holy Spirit for wisdom and He will show you the way that brings life (or avoid death!). You really have an opportunity to cast your care on Him. He loves you. Trust Him.

If you think you must do it to earn what God freely gives, you have set aside grace and made the cross of Christ of no effect.

How many times do you have to receive a gift before you have received it? Just once. You have either received forgiveness or you haven’t. If you have to ask for forgiveness for every single sin you commit every day of your life, then yes, it is a work. By your reckoning if you fail to ask, you are not acceptable to God. A more mannish-definition of works I could not think of. When I preach to the lost I use “we” and “us” as a means of identifying with them. I don’t preach at them. I speak just like John: we all need a Savior and Jesus is indeed the propitiation for all our sins.

Additional Comments from Overview
This is against the extra-Biblical idea that our forgiveness hangs upon our confession, where confession is defined as listing sins. The truth is our forgiveness is based on the blood of Jesus; nothing more, nothing less (Eph 1:7, Col 1:14). In the New Testament church there is no evidence of believers ever confessing their sins to be forgiven. Confession has come to mean something very different from what is discussed in 1 John 1:9. I do not doubt that being honest and keeping short accounts is very healthy in our relationships with others (see James 5:16), but again, this has nothing to do with the forgiveness of sins.

From Overview
To confess (homologeo) is to agree with God. Sinners need to agree that they are sinful and in need of a Savior. Saints need to agree that their sins have been dealt with and they are forgiven.

I am not against confession. True confession is putting trust into words; it is articulating God’s promises, God’s declarations, and God’s will. But confessing-to-be-forgiven is a work of the flesh. Whether you confess to a priest or directly to God makes no difference. If you do it because you believe it makes you righteous or acceptable to God, then what need have you of a Savior? You have set aside grace and put yourself under law.

You won’t find any believer in the New Testament confessing their sins to be forgiven. So why do we do it? Why do we spend so much time and energy on a death-dealing extra-Biblical practice? I can think of at least 4 reasons. We do it simply because we’ve always done it. (So read your Bible, renew your mind and live free.) We do it because we think our sin is greater than God’s grace. (It isn’t.) We do it because we are fearful of “unconfessed sin.” (Sin is sin and on the cross Jesus dealt with it all – big sin, small sin, secret sin and unconfessed sin. There is no sin that escaped His perfect redeeming work.) Or we do it because we are fearful of judgment day and uncertain about our forgiveness. We hope we’ve been forgiven, but we worry that might not be. If this is you, listen to the words of Jesus: “My friend, don’t worry! Your sins are forgiven.” (Mt 9:2, CEV)

At some point you’re just going to have to step out in faith and trust that when Jesus said “it is finished” that it really was finished. At the cross, your sin was dealt with once and for all time. Look at Jesus and cheer up!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Andrew Farley on Confessings Sins in 1 John 1:9 & James 5:16

1 John 1:9 ~ At first glance, this well-known verse appears to muddy the waters concerning once-for-all forgiveness. In many books and articles on the topic of forgiveness, this verse often serves as the foundation on which the author's belief system is constructed.

Theologians and Christian authors will often agree with John that "your sins have been forgiven on account of Jesus' name" (1 John 2:12). But later you find them essentially saying that confession is needed to "cause" God to forgive you. The problem is that both statements can't be true at the same time. EITHER WE'VE BEEN FORGIVEN, OR THERE'S A CONDITION FOR US TO BE FORGIVEN.

To resolve this dilemma, some have proposed the following: Christians are forgiven eternally in God's heavenly record books. However, unless Christians keep short accounts with God through daily confession of sins, they can't experience God's cleansing during life on earth. Hence, they claim that 1 John 1:9 is the believer's "bar of soap" to maintain daily fellowship with God. And they use terms such as judicial, patriarchal, and forensic as they delicately dance around the reality of once-for-all forgiveness and push the idea of a two-tiered forgiveness system in which eternally God is satisfied, but right now we somehow maintain our own daily cleansing through a confession ritual.

I frequently come across this line of thinking in which 1 John 1:9 is the one and only hallmark verse. But we know we shouldn't develop theologies based principally around one verse. It's important to recognize that this verse stands as the ONLY one of its kind. No other verse in the epistles appears to place a conditional "if" on forgiveness and cleansing.

So if there was a method for maintaining daily cleansing, the Romans were apparently unaware of it. If there was a prescription for keeping short accounts with God, the Galatians seemed to have had no exposure to it. If there was a need to ask God for forgiveness, the Ephesians were apparently not privy to it. Similarly, the Corinthians, Philippians, Colossians, and Thessalonians also seemed to have missed this teaching.

If there were a DAILY method to maintain good status (fellowship) with God through ongoing confession of sins or pleas for forgiveness, wouldn't you think it'd be mentioned in at least ONE epistle? Did God accidentally leave it out? Certainly NOT!

CONFESSION CLARIFIED: Let's clarify an important point. The meaning of confess is "to say the same as" or "to agree". Christians should agree with God on ALL accounts... not just about sins but about everything. We're his children, and it is only His ways that fulfill. We're designed from the ground up to agree with Him, depend on Him, and live from Him.

But it's equally important to recognize that we don't impel God or put him into motion through our confession. He's NOT waiting to dole out forgiveness or cleansing. We don't need to keep "short accounts" with God, since he has destroyed the record book!

God has taken away our sins. He remembers them no more. As Christians, our forgiveness and cleansing aren't dependent on our memory, our confession, or our asking. Our forgiveness and cleansing are solely because of the finished work of Jesus Christ.

What about James 5:16? James talks about confessing our sins to each other and praying for each other. But he's saying we should listen to each other's struggles, offer counsel where appropriate, and pray for each other. The context of James's exhortation to confess our sins to each other has nothing to do with God's forgiving or cleansing us.

Confession to trusted friends and to God is healthy. It's normal and natural to talk about your struggles with people who care about you. The indispensable truth to grasp, however, is that confession does NOT initiate cleansing in your life. We've already been cleansed "once for all" through the onetime blood sacrifice that needs no repenting.

Let's be honest about our struggles, but let's also be clear about what the cross accomplished. The Catholic goes to a priest and the Protestant thinks he does better by appealing directly to God. But any system that doesn't factor in once-for-all forgiveness is intrinsically flawed.

God doesn't want us to think that human priests apportion forgiveness to us. Nor does he want us to envision his doling out forgiveness from heaven on a "first come, first serve" basis. Instead, he wants us to ascribe real meaning to Jesus' declaration, "It is finished!"

We're ALREADY forgiven and cleansed children of the living God! Our motivation should be the fulfillment that comes from truly being ourselves. AMEN!

Excerpted from The Naked Gospel by Andrew Farley