A couple of weeks ago, I read an article I think is helpful considering the subject of the confession of sin. In 1 John 1:9, John wrote: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” For those of you who still remember our 1 John series a few years ago, we examined this scripture and determined it is a verse for believers not unbelievers. While the verse is true for unbelievers, John did not intend it for them. The verse is for the church as the epistle of 1 John is for the church. The teaching, then, is that believers need to maintain an attitude of repentance and confession of sin.
We are to confess, a word that means agreement. We agree with God that His assessment of our sins is correct and immediately upon conviction by the Holy Spirit, we are to agree with God that we have broken His holy law. The question framed in the article was, how do we confess? What actions do we take in confession?
These are good questions when we consider both private and public sins. The answer is dependent upon which type of sin it is. All sin is primarily against God, which means in either case God is our confessor. We go to Him in our prayers and with proper confession we admit our sin and ask for His forgiveness. This confession is not with a prescription described in the Bible that tells exactly what to say. It is directed by the Holy Spirit according to His righteous, holy, gracious influences. Private sins only require private confession. The confession is to God never to a priest or anyone we consider to be a representative of God. Only God grants forgiveness.
The public sin, however, is quite different. The modern church has abandoned public confession of public sins. In fact, our churches are far away from discipline for public offenses. Tonight, it will be necessary to dismiss some members of our church for non-attendance of our services. This is public sin. It is sin against the congregation. Excisive discipline is a church term and a church action. It is intended for the good of the member and the good of the body. It is never a vindictive action but is intended for the hope of later restoration. It is an action taken to emphasize the seriousness of the sin as it requires severing from the body of Christ.
How might a person removed for church discipline be restored? Our church requires public confession. The church as well as God is an offended party. Therefore, the church must be included in the confession. Restoration to membership is granted when the person admits the sin to the membership and asks for forgiveness. The church desires this, so forgiveness is forthcoming upon credible repentance.
I might add if the person wants membership restored but does not want to take this step, he does not understand the serious nature of his sin. If he is truly contrite and loves the Lord’s church, he will understand the church must be satisfied. This is more important than his personal feelings.
Much more could be said on the subject. I believe John in writing to the church envisioned the scenario of which we speak. It is consistent with church discipline as taught by Jesus in Matthew 18.
I encourage you to pray for those members who must be removed. I am afraid to speculate that some of them may need salvation. John addresses this too: “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us.” (1 John 2:19)
Pastor V. Mark Smith