Is it required for an unbeliever to confess his sins to God before being saved or born again?
Many people believe that an unbeliever should confess his sins to God before he can be saved; and I respect this opinion. But as I grow in the word of God, I started to disagree on this opinion of others. So, I started asking the question to myself.
How could an unbeliever who is completely defiled by sins (Mark 7:21-22); whose heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked (Jer. 17:9); who is spiritually dead (Rom. 5:12, Ep. 2:1); who is without Christ, without hope and without God (Ep. 2:12); and who is declared by the Lord to be the son of the devil (John 8:44) come to God and confess his sins while he is enjoying it and giving him pleasure? Besides, he does not even remember and know all his sins and we have to know that this unbeliever is spiritually dead. Effective prayer, which is the only way to communicate with God, must be in spirit (Ep. 6:18). He cannot even communicate with God because he is without God. John 3:3-8 says, “No one can enter the Kingdom of God unless he is born again.
A few years ago I wrote these 4 steps of how to be born again in a very simple manner.
Step 1 – A man must confess that he is a sinner. “There is not a righteous man on earth”. (Ecc. 7:20) “There is no righteous not even one.” (Rom. 3:10) “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Rom. 3:20)
Step 2 – A man must confess that he cannot save himself. “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith-and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God-not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Ep. 2:8-9) “He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done.” (Titus 3:5) “Know that a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ.” (Gal. 2:16)
Step 3 – Because a man cannot save himself, Jesus came to die for him. “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Rom. 5:8)
Step 4 – A man must believe and accept Jesus Christ as his Savior and Lord to be saved. “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.” (Acts 16:31) “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Rom. 10:13) “And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.” (1 John 5:11-13).
Before going further, let me define the meaning of the word “confess.” According to New World Dictionary “confess” means to admit, acknowledge, declare, reveal and to tell. So, in this case, I can also say that in Step 1 – A man must admit or declare that he is a sinner. But it does not say that the man or unbeliever must confess or tell his sins to God in order to be saved. In fact, there is not a single verse in the Bible that mentions that an unbeliever is required to confess his sins to God before he can be saved because God knows that no unbeliever can confess his sins to Him without the power of the Holy Spirit. In 2 Corinthians 1:21-22, it is clear that the Holy Spirit indwells the unbeliever right after conversion.
Now the big question arises. When can an unbeliever be born again or saved? The answer is once the unbeliever understands and has done all of the 4 steps mentioned earlier. When he believes in his heart that Christ is the Son of God who died for our sins, was buried and on the third day rose again and is now sitting at the right hand of our Father as the mediator between God and man (1 Tim. 2:5-6), only then is the unbeliever saved and born again. He becomes the adopted son of God, holy, saint, priest and righteous. He is indwelt by the Holy Spirit to communicate with God, which is his identification with Christ. Identification with Christ is positional sanctification.
But from this point on, how are we to live the type of Christian life God wants for us? The Christian life is to be obedient unto Christ. It means communication with Christ. Do you love Him? That is the important thing. He says, “If you love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15). Obedience to Christ is the experience of sanctification and that is practical sanctification. It is not how you walk but where you walk. Are you walking in the light in fellowship with Christ? Sin will break the fellowship of course and then we are to confess our sin. The Lord Jesus said to Peter, “yonder in the upper room, unless I wash you, you have no part with me” (John 13:8). We don’t have fellowship with him unless we confess our sins to Him as we go along in our lives. Our part is confession; his part is cleaning. (1 John 1:9) - “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us and purify us from all unrighteousness.” The important thing is to have fellowship with the Lord Jesus Christ and to obey Him and only then will we be living the Christian life.
The thief on the cross when Jesus was dying said, “Jesus. Remember me when you come into your Kingdom.” Jesus answered him, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:42-43). The thief did not confess any of his sins. He just believed that Jesus will be entering into His Kingdom and he wanted to be remembered. This shows the amazing faith of the thief and Jesus took him to paradise (heaven).
I know a big question will be asked by many people or even by great, Godly people about repentance. God said to repent many times in the Bible. How can that be handled? Before going further, let us find the true meaning of “repent.” “Repent” in original Greek is Metanoia, meaning “to change your mind.” You are going in one direction; turn around and go in another direction. “Repent” is an expression that always has been given to God’s people as a challenge to turn around. Repentance is primarily for saved people, that is, for God’s people of any age. They are the ones, when they become cold and indifferent, are to turn. That was the message to the seven churches of Asia Minor in Revelation 2 and 3 and it was the message of the Lord Jesus himself.
Someone may ask whether the unsaved man is supposed to repent. The unsaved man is told that he is to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ in order to be saved. That was the message of Paul to the jailer at Philippi (Acts 16:31). That jailer needed to do some repenting; but when an unsaved man believes in Jesus, he is repenting. Faith means to turn to Christ and when you turn to Christ, you must also turn from something. If you don’t turn from something, then you are not really turning to Christ. So repentance is really a part of believing but the primary message that should be given to the lost today is that they should believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and they will be saved.
What about the repentance and forgiveness of sin? In Luke 24:46-47, it says “He told them, this is what is written: Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.” Repentance is a privilege granted to us by God the Father. 2 Timothy 2:25b says, “in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth.” As people hear the message of the Gospel, the Holy Spirit convicts them of their sin and a great desire to repent (or to change their mind) comes over to the individual as a result. Jonah preached repentance to the wicked people of Nineveh; they believed the message, repented in sackcloth and ashes, and turned to God. As a result, judgment was averted.
Repentance is a two-fold act: First, turning from sin and second, turning to God. “They tell how you turned to God from idols to serve the living God and true God” (1 Thes 1:19). “And from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins” (Acts 26:18).
At Pentecost when Peter told the Jews to repent for the forgiveness of their sins and receive the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38), he meant for them to acknowledge the terrible sin of crucifying Jesus. He wanted to change their minds about the person of Christ, from considering Jesus a mere man, a blasphemer, or an imposter to recognizing him as the Son of God, the Messiah, and the Redeemer of the world. Peter made it clear in his message to the Jews at Pentecost that it was their sins that nailed Christ to the cross; thus they were responsible for crucifying Christ as their wicked hands slew him (Acts 2:23, 36). For the sin of murder, therefore the Spirit convicted them and they cried and said, “Brother what shall we do?” Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”
What sin must the convicted sinners repent? It is the sin of crucifying Christ by their wicked hands. Yes, the sin of murdering Jesus. Even the high priest in Acts 5:28 told the Apostles they understood that the Apostles intended to bring Christ’s blood upon them. Yes, all the sins committed brought Christ to death on the cross. Murder singled all committed sins. For the sins of murdering Christ-crucifying Him to the cross-every sinner must repent and ask God for mercy and forgiveness.
God’s means of forgiveness is the precious blood of Christ shed on the cross of Calvary. Hebrews 9:22 says, “In fact, the Law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.” No wonder Christ’s blood was shed from his broken heart at the cross. Yes, remission or forgiveness of sins is only through the blood of Jesus Christ. Now how does God use the blood of Christ to bring forgiveness of sins to all repentant sinners? Simple! But only God can do this and we can see in his acts the four elements of forgiveness.
First: God pour the blood of Christ into the sinners’ heart covering all sins by it. Romans 4:7 says, “Blessed are they whose transgressions are forgiven whose sins are covered.”
Second: All sins now wrapped or covered by the blood of Christ, God removes and takes it to an immeasurable distance. Psalm 103:12 says, “As far as the east is from the west, so far He has removed our transgressions from us.” This makes the heart as white as snow ready for the royal entrance for the spirit of Christ. Calling Christ to come into the blood-washed heart, the spirit of Christ immediately enters in effecting regeneration. A new spiritual life begins and he is given the authority to become the Son of God (Gal. 4:6).
Third: God buries the blood-covered sins into the depths of the sea. Micah 7:19 says, “Hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea.”
Fourth: God will forget all of their sins. In Hebrews 10:17 God says, “Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more.”
Written by Osmundo Sabado
Edited by Orman Sabado