Should Christians confess their sins, even though they are already forgiven?

Many Christians wonder what will happen to them if they die and still have unconfessed sin in their lives. Will these sins keep them from heaven? What about sins we don't even know we have committed? These and similar questions are based on an incomplete understanding of what God has done in our lives at the point of salvation.

The New Testament is clear that salvation in Jesus offers complete forgiveness of sins. In Colossians 1:13-14 we read, "He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins." From Paul's perspective, salvation has already delivered the Christian from sin. Forgiveness is already complete. Acts 10:43 adds, "To him all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name." Again, this forgiveness through the name of Jesus has already taken place and is perfect and sufficient to forgive all sins—past, present, and future.

Romans 8:1 says, "There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus." At the conclusion of this same chapter, we are informed, "For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 8:38-39). Nothing, not even sin we commit after becoming a believer in Jesus, can separate us from God's love.

While Christ's perfect forgiveness cleanses us from all sin, this does not give permission to Christians to continue sinning (Romans 6). Though it does not change our status as saved and free from eternal condemnation, sin hinders a Christian's current relationship with God. The Christian is called to confess sin in order to grow in his or her walk with God. Scripture speaks of the importance of confessing sins we have committed: "we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9). James 5:16 also teaches, "Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another." It should be our desire to honor the Lord with our lives, not to grieve Him as Ephesians 4:30 warns, "do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption."

Scripture clearly calls all people to come to faith in Jesus (John 3:16) and to repent or turn from sin (Acts 2:38). When we do, God forgives our sins. We are called to stand against sin (Ephesians 6:12) and to confess sin in our lives when it takes place (1 John 1:9), yet nothing can separate a believer in Christ from God and eternal life with Him.

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