Do genuine Christians need to confess their sins and seek forgiveness and cleansing?

by Mike Ratliff

14 Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. 16 Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Hebrews 4:14-16 (NASB)

I am a firm believer in the Biblical Doctrine of Justification by Faith. Within that Justification is the Doctrine of Imputation of the Righteousness of Christ to the account of the believer. The Righteousness that God sees on our account is that of our Lord Jesus Christ which means we are forever in Him and will be for eternity. That is our Justification. What many people stumble over, however, is confusing this Justification with our Sanctification. We are positionally sanctified in the eyes of God (Romans 8:30), however, in this temporal reality we are still being called by our God to walk through the sanctification process that burns away what is not of Christ in us and replaces that with the image of Christ. This process may take a lifetime. Throughout that process we stumble. We make mistakes. We sin. I have heard that some teach that since we are justified by Faith there is no reason to confess and seek forgiveness and cleansing when we sin. Is that what the Bible teaches?

5 Then He *poured water into the basin, and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded. 6 So He *came to Simon Peter. He *said to Him, “Lord, do You wash my feet?” 7 Jesus answered and said to him, “What I do you do not realize now, but you will understand hereafter.” 8 Peter *said to Him, “Never shall You wash my feet!” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me.” 9 Simon Peter *said to Him, “Lord, then wash not only my feet, but also my hands and my head.” 10 Jesus *said to him, “He who has bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean; and you are clean, but not all of you.” 11 For He knew the one who was betraying Him; for this reason He said, “Not all of you are clean.” John 13:5-11 (NASB) 

Here is John Gill’s commentary on John 13:10.

Jesus saith to him, he that is washed
Not he that is baptized; for every such person is not wholly clean, but he who is regenerated by the Spirit of God, or rather, who is washed in the blood of Christ: such an one “is clean every whit”; is all over clean; not that he has no sin in him, nor commits any; but as he is washed in the blood of Christ, and justified by his righteousness, he is wholly and entirely clean in the sight of God; for he is justified from all things he could not be justified from by the law of Moses; all his sins are pardoned, and he is perfectly righteous before God; and so is perfectly clean through the word or sentence of justification and absolution pronounced on him, which must be understood in a forensic or law sense. And such an one

needeth not, save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit;
the feet of his life and conversation, which are continually gathering dirt, and need daily washing in the blood of Christ; and therefore recourse must be constantly had to that fountain to wash in, for sin and for uncleanness. The allusion is either to persons washed all over in a bath, who have no need to wash again, unless their feet, which may contract some soil in coming out of it; or to travellers, who have often need to wash their feet, though no other part, and such is the case of the children of God in this life; or rather to the priests, who having bathed themselves in the morning, needed not to wash again all the day, except their hands and feet, on certain occasions.

And ye are clean, but not all;
which shows, that justifying and regenerating grace are common to all the true disciples of Christ; they are equally born again, alike justified, and are as clean one as an other in the sight of God; not only Peter, but all the apostles, were clean, excepting one; there was one of them, Judas, who was not clean; and therefore he says, but not all: whence it may be observed, that among the purest societies, there are some unclean persons; there was a Judas, an unclean person among the pure disciples of Christ; there are chaff and tares among his wheat, goats among his sheep, and foolish virgins along with the wise ones.

John Gill nailed it. How do we as Born Again believers seek this cleansing from the “dirt” we pick up in our “walk” through this lost and dying world? Carefully read Hebrews 4:14-16, which I placed at the top of this post. We have the Throne of Grace which is available to all true believers. We can come before our God at any time as we humble ourselves before Him seeking forgiveness, cleansing, and repentance. Here is another one.

5 This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. 6 If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; 7 but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. 8 If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us.
1 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; 2 and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world. 1 John 1:5 – 2:2 (NASB) 

John knew that believers still sin and that it is imperative that we confess our sins and the cleansing from them that can only come from God. Also, who is our Advocate before the Father through this process? It is Christ. Some will say this is talking about salvation, but, like Romans 7, it is talking about the condition of both the lost person coming to Christ and the believer struggling with sin.

Why do believers need to be cleansed from the dirt of their sins? Why do they need to confess them to God? It is humbling. It is healing. This process brings the believer’s focus back from themselves to the Lord. The believer who is walking in a fleshly sort of way will not have the Joy of the Lord. They will be self-focused and take on a demeanor that reflects the ways and means of the world, not that of the Lord. On the other hand, those who are walking yoked up with Christ as Lord will be full of His Joy and will have their flesh crucified. Their sins are cleansed. Yes, they were cleansed away at their Justification, but in their walk they have picked up some dirt on their spiritual feet and that needs to be washed away as Jesus illustrated in John 13:10.

The believer who is not confessing their sins to God can easily become prideful, puffed up and pharisaical. Why? They are not in fellowship with the Lord. How could they be? They are walking according to the flesh, not according to the spirit. The Holy Spirit is drawing them to confess and repent, to come to the throne of grace, but they are too proud to do it. I have never met a godly Christian who was not also, humble, prayerful, and absolutely positive that they were too sinful to be of any real use to God and were astounded that He used them anyway. On the other hand, I have known plenty of other professing Christians who seemed to be self-assured and seemed to be convinced that their sins were not nearly as bad everyone else’s. These same people also seemed to always want to be in the limelight as much as possible. Which one would you say reflected the character of Christ?

Soli Deo Gloria!

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