9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.
1 John 1:9 (NIV)
This must be among the famous and also most abused verse in the Bible. Somehow in the hands of some very creative folks it makes the confession of sins the ultimate condition for their forgiveness. Yet when you read the whole passage, it does not say that at all.
So, what does it really mean? To understand further, let us look at its context from the verse before and after it.
8 If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us.
1 John 1:8-10 (NIV)
What does the whole passage means?
Here is a simple version:
Verse 8: Look there is no such thing as anyone having no sin. Everyone sins.
Verse 9: But don’t worry over it. Just bring your sins to God and he will deal with it.
Verse 10: If you still insist on no sin then you are calling God a liar and you are not truly on God’s side.
I hope this is obvious enough to show that this “confession of sin” thing is specifically to the above context only. It is not meant to be a condition of salvation. Never allow anyone to deceive you with the lie that if you do not confess your sins, you will go to hell. Jesus’ works at the Cross is finished and he does not need your help.
If that is still not enough, let me give you another verse from the same book.
I am writing to you, dear children, because your sins have been forgiven on account of his name.
1 John 2: 12 (NIV)
In the above verse, “dear children” refers to new believers. The moment you believed in Jesus, your sins have been forgiven. There is no mention on “confession” there. This is the non-negotiable foundation of the Christian faith. Christ alone is enough for the forgiveness of sins. It is never faith plus confession.