Confession is not a Loophole


As defined by the Cambridge Dictionary, a loophole is “an opportunity to legally avoid an unpleasant responsibility, usually because of a mistake in the way rules or laws have been written.”  I saw this word “Loophole” as the word of the day, and it took me back to those preschool and elementary days when my three children were young, impressionable, and teachable.  As parents one of the things we wanted our children to know in real time, is the consequences resulting from each choice they make.  When they were obedient, they were blessed and often rewarded with an extra book at bedtime, etc.  When they were disobedient, they were punished in a way appropriate to the offense, like no reading of their favorite book at bedtime that night.  Even the word “punished” can cause some reading this article now to be offended in our modern world of “loopholes.”

In my observation of Christian circles over the last forty years, the concept of confession has been poorly taught, and loosely interpreted.  I know too many people who live in a world where 1 John 1:9 is used like a get-out-of-jail free card, and play it often as a loophole to presume on God’s grace with no consequences.  What does this verse actually say?

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Like a pig who spends all day wallowing in the muddy dung floor of their stable, when we disobey God’s Word or Will, we become dirty, stinky, and unclean in God’s nostrils. There is not only a penalty (punishment) for this action, but also a consequence resulting from the action.  Disobeying God’s will, in the simplest of terms even Adam came to understand in the Garden, results in (consequently) broken relationship with God.  Adam could not claim there was a “mistake in the way rules or laws have been written” because God’s laws are perfect. (Psalm 119:138) And for Adam there was only one.

While there seems to be a sense at some point in the Genesis story that Adam and Eve were repentant, and God acted to cover them and save them, their confession did not take away the consequence of their actions.  So, if confession is not a loophole, then what is it?  I suggest the answer is found in the “attitude” of how a true Christ followers wields 1 John 1:9.

The kind of confession found in 1 John 1:9 brings with it two distinct grace born benefits to the person who comes in true repentance to the words of their confession.  First, by seeing their disobedience as “sin” and owning it, when this person confesses they appropriate that forgiveness of God provided through Jesus death on the cross.  This appropriation of payment for their sin is required by law.  Hebrews 9:22 says, “And according to the Law, one may almost say, all things are cleansed with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.”  (cleansing 1 John 1:9)

Second, in this attitude of true repentance, and turning back to God for their forgiveness, they not only are cleansed, but this confessing action results in restoration of their relationship with God.  Once again the Christ follower can walk and talk with God in joy, peace and contentment that the relationship is no longer estranged.

Neither the appropriation of God’s cleansing grace, nor the forgiving nature of restored relationship with God, circumvent consequences that result naturally from disobedience.  Sometimes the boat sinks.  Sometimes cancer strikes, homes are lost, children die, wars rage, divorce papers are served, and jobs lost… and sometimes it comes as a natural result of disobedience.

True repentance, resulting in true confession, will always have cleansing restorative power in our lives.

It is not a loophole to avoid the consequences of our choices or actions.



via Lukewarm

Laodicea was located on a plateau several hundred feet high, making the city easily fortified, but vulnerable in another way.  Located in a valley but up on a plateau, the city had no natural springs or sources of water at the top.  Consequently, the city had to pipe in the water from miles away, using an elaborate aqueduct system, and this water system was vulnerable to attacking forces.  Antiochus II established the city, naming it for his first wife, establishing the town’s founding date as sometime before 253 B.C., since by this time he had divorced her.

There was a large Jewish contingent in the valley’s three cities, which led the local governor to issue a decree to stop them sending the temple taxes to Jerusalem.  Of course the committed families tried to send it anyway, but this tax shipment was confiscated. From the amount of gold confiscated by the Roman government, scholars have determined that around 7,500 Jewish men lived in Laodicea at the time.  Which means that several thousand more women and children would have lived there also.  At the time of peace in the Roman Empire, these families prospered as the city grew and prospered.

The city served as an important commercial center, banking center and industrial center. It was so rich in fact, that when ruined by an earthquake in 60 A.D., the city used its own resources to rebuild; it needed no additional assistance from Rome.  The most famous product coming out of Laodicea at the time was soft, black wool.  This wool, extremely valuable and sought after, was used in clothes, carpets, and for many other products. Another important aspect of the city’s wealth came from medicine.  In Laodicea an eye-salve was discovered that the city then exported all over the Greco-Roman world.  These three aspects of the city – finance, wool, and eye salve -are seen clearly in what Jesus has to say to this church.

Revelation 3:14-22 is a letter from Jesus to the church in Laodicea.  We look back at this ancient document and wonder if it could really hold some information which applies to our lives today.  The clear answer for those who want to find it is, yes.  The church of Laodicea looks so similar to many churches today, and many scholars have said so.  Consider this quote from John R. W. Stott:

Perhaps none of the seven letters is more appropriate to the twentieth-century church than this. It describes vividly the respectable, sentimental, nominal, skin-deep religiosity which is so widespread among us today. Our Christianity is flabby and anemic. We appear to have taken a lukewarm bath of religion.

In fact it was this church’s lukewarm condition that led Jesus to say:

Revelation 3:16
So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth.

In this letter, Jesus is calling lost people to step over the line of  faith, the weak in faith to become zealous in their convictions, and the lukewarm to become committed through repentance.  The point of Revelation 3:16 is not to bring condemnation, but to stimulate the church to return to Jesus in faith and service.  It is restorative, not judgmental.  It is a second chance, or maybe a third.  That’s why the spitting out part is not the last thing Jesus says to this church.  He also says:

Revelation 3:20
Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me.

If anyone… is the operative phrase here.  Jesus excludes no one from His grace.  Jesus will reject no one who comes in faith.  Jesus is all-inclusive to those who return to Him, or having rejected Him come in repentance for their lack of faith.  For the church today, for people of faith all over the world, this letter to Laodicea ends with an applicable truth.

Revelation 3:22
He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.