Union And Fellowship Expanded
I’m frequently asked why I believe we should continue
confessing our sins after being born again, since all
our sins are already forgiven. People who ask point out
that 1 John
1:9 is the only place this is mentioned and if it
was so important wouldn’t Jesus have taught it?
Well it turns out 1
John 1:9 isn’t the only place confession is
mentioned for believers and as a matter of fact Jesus
did teach it. But before we get into that, let’s review
what I call the two sided nature of our relationship
with the Lord so you can see where the idea came from in
the first place.
I call one side Union. It’s eternal and unconditional, based
only on our belief in the Lord.Ephesians
1:13-14 describes our Union with God, sealed and
guaranteed. Once we’re born again, we can’t become
unborn. We’re His forever. The Holy Spirit is sealed
within us from our first moment of belief until the day
of redemption to guarantee that.
2 Cor. 1:21-22
is even clearer, saying it’s God who makes us stand, and
that he’s put His mark of ownership on us as well as
sealing His Spirit in our hearts. In
1 Cor. 6:19-20Paul
wrote, “You are
not your own; you were bought at a price.” God
purchased us with the blood of Jesus and then He put His
mark on us. You could say after He bought us He branded
us, like a rancher brands his cattle, as proof of
ownership. We’re His forever. We’ve covered these
verses many times in support of the Bible’s promise of
I call the other side Fellowship and it’s a bit more
complicated. Fellowship is that state of closeness to
God that enables Him to bless us in our daily lives in
the here and now, both by protecting us from enemy
attacks and by making good things happen for us (Romans 8:28). It’s like He’s taken our side to give us a
Fellowship is defined by
1 John 1:8-9 as being both earthly and
conditional upon our behavior. Even as believers, as
long as we’re here on Earth we’ll continue to sin (Romans
7:18-20). Since God can’t abide the
presence of sin (Habakkuk
1:13), our unconfessed sins can interrupt our
earthly relationship with Him and deprive us of
blessings we might have otherwise received. Because of
our Union with God we’ll still be saved in the eternal
sense, but here on Earth we’ll be out of Fellowship.
And when we’re out of Fellowship, we have to make it on
our own while being legitimate targets for our enemy’s
mischief. The remedy is to confess when we sin so we can
One reason that many Christians live such defeated lives is
that having only learned about the Union part of being a
believer, they only know that God has forgiven their
sins and that they’ll go to be with Him when they die or
are raptured. They don’t realize that they still need
regular confession to stay in Fellowship here in the
Now by defeated lives, I mean they lack the spiritual success
all Christians are promised (John
10:10). They might be doing all right from a
worldly perspective, although many are deprived even of
that, but their lives do not reflect the Spiritual well
being for which there is no substitute in worldly
living. Nor do they feel the sense of peace and
satisfaction that we all desire.
This Idea Come From?
Union and Fellowship are not just New Testament ideas.
Consider the plight of Job, a man of God and the main
character in the oldest book of the Bible. He was such a
good man that God bragged to Satan about him. But he was
not perfect. His sin was self-righteousness and what he
said to his friends proves it.
“Although I am
blameless, I have no concern for myself; I despise my
own life.” (Job 9:21).
(Speaking to God) “Does
it please you to oppress me, to spurn the work of your
hands … though you know that I am not guilty?”
(To his friends again)“I
have become a laughingstock to my friends, though I
called upon God and he answered— a mere laughingstock,
though righteous and blameless!” (Job
I will maintain
my righteousness and never let go of it; my conscience
will not reproach me as long as I live. (Job 27:6).
In addition all 41 verses of
Job 31 are devoted to Job giving evidence of his righteousness.
Because he wouldn’t confess his sin, he was out of fellowship.
When asked to do so, God had to let Satan afflict him in
order to bring him to his senses. Once Job confessed(Job
42:1-6), he was restored (Job
42:10-17). Even though he was the most
righteous man on Earth, Job still had to confess to be
restored to fellowship with God.
Later, in Old Covenant times, the priests had to sacrifice a
lamb on the altar every morning and every evening for
the sins of the people. Even though God was dwelling
among them and providing for all their needs, the
Israelites still had to perform a twice daily sacrifice
for sin to stay in His good graces.
1 John 1:9 is the New Testament equivalent of those daily sacrifices for
sin. If we confess
our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us
our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.
This verse was written for believers who are forever saved,
but are in danger of being out of Fellowship because of
their sins. When we confess in faith, we’re immediately
forgiven and purified from all unrighteousness.
This is the real underlying issue of
Hebrews 6:4-6. We know this because in the preceding verses the
writer said he was leaving elementary teachings about
Christ and going on to maturity, not laying again the
foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death,
6:1-3). This alone tells us he wasn’t talking
about our salvation in verses 4-6.
The key is the phrase “renew again to repentance” in verse 6.
Jewish believers were being pressured into keeping the
law, especially where it concerned the sacrifice for
sin. Those who relied on sacrificial lambs instead of
confessing directly to God were in effect crucifying the
Lord all over again, since He is the Lamb of God who
takes away the sin of the world (John
1:29). The daily sacrifice was a foreshadowing of
Him, and when He came the shadow gave way to the
reality. The old way was no longer sufficient to restore
them to fellowship. All a believer needs to do now
is offer a prayer of confession to be purified from
his or her unrighteousness.
The Lord had quite a bit to say about this. For example, at
the end of His teaching on the Lord’s prayer, He said,
“If you forgive men when they sin against you, your
heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not
forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive
your sins” (Matt.
Jesus said to begin our prayers with the salutation “Our
Father” and in verses 14 and 15 He called God “your
heavenly father” and “your father”.
John 1:12-13 says only we who receive the Lord and believe in His name
have the authority to become children of God, and
therefore to call Him Father.
4:4-6 confirm this. That makes the Lord’s
Prayer a prayer for believers only. But if we’re
believers we’ve already been forgiven, so how could
Jesus warn us that our Father would not forgive
our sins unless we forgive everyone who sins against us?
No where in Scripture are we commanded to forgive
everyone else before we can ask for our own salvation.
We have only to believe we’re sinners and that the Lord
died for our sins and rose again to ask for and receive
The answer can be found in
Matt. 18:21-35, the Parable of the Unmerciful Servant.
It’s about a king who, in the process of settling his
accounts with his servants, discovered a servant
who owed more than he could possibly pay. The King
ordered that the servant, his wife and children and
everything they owned be sold to pay off the debt. The
servant begged for mercy and for the time he would need
to find a way to pay everything back. The king took pity
on him and canceled the debt entirely.
As the servant was leaving he came across a fellow servant who
owed him a few dollars. He immediately demanded payment.
When the fellow servant begged for patience, he refused
and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay
off the full amount.
Other servants heard about this and told the king what had
happened. The king was enraged because he had forgiven
his servant everything, and now the servant refused to
forgive a fellow servant even a little thing. He
had the forgiven servant turned over to the jailer to be
tortured until he could pay off his debt to the king.
Jesus ended the parable by saying,
“This is how My Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your
brother from your heart” (Matt.
Parables have been called heavenly stories placed in an
earthly context. They’re meant to teach a divine
truth in a way that earth bound humans can understand
it. Every character and major component of the
parable is symbolic of something else. In this
parable the King represents the Lord, the servants are
you and me, the debt is our accumulated sin, and the
jailer is Satan.
We’ve been forgiven everything, but when we refuse to forgive
each other even a little thing it creates a debt of sin
that suspends our relationship with the Lord until we
repay the debt. We don’t stop being one of His children
(the servant wasn’t discharged or sold) but during that
time we’re out of fellowship with the Lord. We may
not receive blessings that would otherwise be ours and
like Job we can even be open to attack. But thanks
to what the Lord has done for us, we can repay the debt
by confessing our sin. Sincere confession purifies
us from all unrighteousness and restores us to
Now let’s look at the parable of the Prodigal Son. (Luke
15:11-32) Seeking a life of independence from his
father, the Prodigal Son left his father’s house and
struck out on his own. He had soon squandered his wealth
in wild living and would have happily traded places with
one of his father’s hired hands. Swallowing his pride,
he returned to his father’s house where he confessed and
was immediately restored. While He was away, he never
stopped being his father’s son (Union), but during that
time there was no communication and he didn’t receive
any of the blessings that might have been his had he
remained in his father’s house (Fellowship).
Like the Prodigal Son, we still belong to our Father’s family
while we’re out of Fellowship with Him, but there won’t
be any communication and we won’t receive the blessings
we might have otherwise had. And like the
Prodigal, when we return to our Father and confess our
sins, we’re immediately purified from all
unrighteousness and restored to Fellowship.
Since Paul clearly taught that our salvation is guaranteed
from the moment we believe, we also have to understand
that all his teaching on proper Christian living was to
help us stay in fellowship with God and was not meant to
imply that keeping our salvation requires that we
maintain a certain standard of behavior.
This thought is beautifully summarized in
where he said,
“Let us live up to what we have already attained.”
Why Do We
Since the penalty for all the sins of our life is already paid
2:13-14) and therefore there is no more
condemnation for us (Romans 8:1), why do many believers resist the idea of confessing
when they sin? Don’t they know forgiveness is automatic?
What’s the problem?
One reason is lack of knowledge. Most people have never been
taught about this. They’ve learned how to be
saved, which brings Union with God, but they haven’t
learned about the importance of staying in Fellowship
with Him. Paul taught that becoming a believer is
only step one in achieving an intimate relationship with
God. It’s what qualifies us to become one of His
children, but many, many more blessings are available to
those who go on to live victorious lives (1 Cor. 9:24-27). Along the way we stumble repeatedly, and
when we do confession wipes the slate clean again and
it’s like our stumbling never happened.
But there’s also a fair amount of pride contained in our
fallen human state. Having to repeatedly admit to being
a sinner can be embarrassing even when we’re only
admitting it to God who already knows all about us and
saved us anyway. That pride itself is a sin that
interrupts our fellowship.
And finally, at least in the US, there are still many
believers who have it too good to even realize they’re
out of fellowship. They judge themselves the way others
judge them, by worldly standards, and think they’re OK.
They never stop to consider their lack of spiritual
Jesus was warning us about being out of fellowship when He
said, “Apart from
me you can do nothing” (John
15:5). He said if we don’t remain in Him, we’ll
be like a withered branch, unfruitful, no matter what we
think we’ve accomplished. At the Bema Seat
judgment believers like this will discover that whatever
worldly success they achieved is meaningless in the
Kingdom, and their life as a believer is mostly devoid
of eternal value.
Because of our unbreakable Union with God we never have to
worry about losing our salvation. Nor do we have to
wonder if we’ll be included in the rapture. But to make
our relationship with Him here on Earth as good as it
can be and to accomplish all that He desires of us
requires that we confess when we sin so that we never
find ourselves out of Fellowship with Him.
Confessing when we sin is like apologizing to a loved one. You
know you’ll be forgiven but you feel bad about
disappointing someone you love and want to make sure
you’ve restored the relationship to its previous
condition. Confession. It really is good for the soul.