A Child's Sin and Forgiveness
A child of God can fact is evident from a so sin as to be lost. This number of scriptures, a few of which we note: "If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us." (I Jno. 1 :8) "My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous." (I Jno. 2:1 "For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning. (11 Pet. 2:20) (See also I Cor. 9:27; Heb. 6:4-6; Heb. 10:25-31; Gal. 5:19ff; Col. 3:5ff.) The New Testament contains twenty one epistles designed for the instruction and warning of those who have already become children of God. If a child of God could not so sin as to be lost, a great deal of effort was wasted by the writings of these inspired men.
The primary concern of this lesson, how ever, is the possibility of forgiveness. That a child of, God can go so deep into sin as to bar the way of return is certainly true, and for this reason sin in any way should be something feared and avoided. The sin which has no forgiveness is the sin concerning which the sinner cannot be renewed to repentance (Heb. 6:6 ) , the sin which the sinner carries to the grave. (John 8:21 ) The Lord speaks of the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit which hath never forgiveness, of which he warned those who accused him of casting out devils by the power of Beelzebub, the prince of devils, (Matt. 12:22-32) but our concern is with sin which may be forgiven the erring child. That this is the case with the majority of Christians is seen from the teaching of Christ in the prayer he taught, "And forgive us our debts, as we have forg Iven our debtors." (Matt. 6:12), in the parable of the prodigal son (Lk. 15 :11-32), and in the passage quoted before from I John 2:1, as well as many others.
Since forgiveness is possible, the question of how it is to be obtained is important. At times I have been accused of adding to the Word of God by teaching that an erring child of God who has sinned in a public manner must not only repent of his sins and pray to God for forgiveness, but must also confess his sins to the people before whom and against whom he has sinned. Let us consider the teaching of the Scripture to, see if such accusation is just. "If we say that we have no sin we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." (I Jno. 1 :9) If it is contended that this refers only to confession privatelv to God, then it is assumed also that we may "say we have not sinned" only to God or ourselves, and that the confession is only a private confession to God. Notice the passage does not say, "If we confess our sins to God, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins."
Next notice Jas. 5 :16, "Confess your faults one to another, arid pray for one another that ve inav be healed." Whatever else may be said about this passage, for certain it teaches confession of fault or sins to, one another. This certainly was not a private confession to God alone, nor was it a confession to a priest for absolving. The 'elders in this passage did not occupy the position of confessors. To determine to whom confession is to be made consider the following: "Therefore, if thou bring gifts to the altar, arid there rememberest that thy brother hath aught against thee; Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to, thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift. ( Matt. 5 :23,24) First exarnine these questions: Is the principle involved herein applicable to us? Can the reconciliation take place without an acknowledgement of the offender and repentance on his part? What if the "aught" is had not by just one brother but by the entire congregation, because of an ungodly life that has brought reproach on the body of Christ, or a life of neglect and in difference which sets wrong example before all, or because of the practice, teaching, or condoning of false doctrine and worship? That the principle involved in this passage is applicable is evident from the fact that Jesus said "I say unto you," and we are to hearken to Jesus. (Acts 3:22) The answer to the other questions is implied in the questions themselves. God requires a reconcilliation to the offended brethren before He will accept sacrifice to Himself. Reconciliation is impossible without confession and repentance.
The same principle is involved in Matt. 18:15-17. The brother who sins against another is to be shown his sin by the brother against whom the trespass has been committed. If he is heard, a brother is gained. Does not the hearing here involve an acknowledgement, a confession and repenting of sin? Certainly it does not mean that he simply listened to him, but rather that he hearkened to him. Now ask again, What if the brother had sinned against the whole church in a manner suggested above? Would it not be a necessary inference that his fault should be shown him, and that in order to be gained he would need to acknowledge it to the ones against whom he had sinned, the church, and repent thereof '
Christians arc commanded, "Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness: considering tlivself, lest thou also be tempted." (Gal. 6:1 ) Sure1y no one would contend that this restoration is unconditional, that regardless of his ackonwledgement and repentance he should be restored. Now the question, who needs to be restored ? The scripture above answers, a man who is overtaken in any fault. That the man here is a brother in Christ is evident from the fact that a man cannot be restored to something which he never enjoyed. Now to what is he to be restored ? Upon this notice I John 1:7 "But if we wall, in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin." Since it is through walking in the light as God is in the light that we have fellowship with one mother, this fellowship iriust be at least one of the things we enjoy as Christians. He who ceases to "walk in the light" loses this fellowship and needs to be restored. If not why not? Until he is willing to acknowledge his error, thus humbling himself and repenting, he cannot be restored to the fellowship lie lost bv failing to walk in the light.
From the foregoing it is evident that sins need be acknowledged only to the entent of their evil influence. Ones sin against an individual need be acknowledged onlv to him, a,,a:nst his familv on1v to them, against the church to those who compose the church, against God in private only to God. We are to forgive our brethren who sin against us when they say, "I repent." (Luke 17:3,4) Is not this Saying, "I repent," a confession of the sins committed? The forgiveness done is not in the p'ace of God, but only by the ones against whom the sin is committed on earth. These, thcn, can pray that God will forgive, a; we are exhorted to pray one for another. This idea of confession is as foreign to the Romish practice is daylight is to dark.
The pride of man is one of his greatest obstacles to living acccptably in the sight of God. Well said the wise man of old, "He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but who so confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy." (Prov. 28:13)
Summarizing: we affirm that the scripture teaches an erring Christian to repent of his sins, acknowledge or confess them to the brethren before whom and against whom they have been committed, and pray God for forgiveness. Brethren, think on these things.
Truth Magazine II:3, pp.20-21