Colossians 1:14 says, "In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins." This says, "we have" ...already possessed. And it doesn't say just confessed sins. Some people won't profess Christ till they're on their deathbed because they mistakenly believe that when they get saved Christ forgives them for all their past sins but after that they have to live sinless lives.
I John 2:12 says, "I write unto you, little children, because your sins are forgiven you for his name's sake." Not were, not will be, not past sins, not just confessed sins, but your sins ARE forgiven!
Hebrews 10: 17 says, "And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more." Was God lying when He said this? God forbid!
The first epistle of John was written to a church, however, chapter one has a salvation message that John was evidently communicating to this church for them to repeat to the unsaved people in their community. The expression "little children," or "Brethren," or "beloved" occurs fifteen times in the other four chapters but never occurs once in chapter one. John wouldn't use these intimate terms in chapter one since the salvation message is to the unsaved. Chapter one was written with the lost in mind.
Verse one of I John chapter one says, "That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life;" Who are the "we" in verse one? Evidently John was referring to himself and the other apostles. The "Word of life" is Jesus.
Verse three says, "That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ." Here we have two distinct groups of people, the people included in the "we," and the people included in the "you." Clearly the "we" here still refers to John and the other apostles. Since saved people would already enjoy fellowship with John and the Father, and Jesus, the "you" in this verse refers to the unsaved people that he is targeting. If this chapter had been written for the benefit of saved people he would not have had to tell them this, as they would already know it. The message in chapter one is for UNSAVED people!
In verse five we again have the same distinction between "we" and "you" as in verse three. But, in verse six the word "we" is used in a general sense to mean the unsaved. Likewise, the word "we" and "us" are used in the general sense to mean the unsaved though the rest of the chapter.
Verse nine says, "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." Remember, this is being addressed to the unsaved.
Some people will argue that this verse also applies to saved people. But if that were true it would mean that after they were saved, born again, and cleansed of all unrighteousness, subsequent sin would make these people unrighteous again. Unrighteous people are unsaved. This would mean that they lost their salvation, that they were no longer one of God's children, that God had disowned them.
Verse ten goes on to say, "If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us," The difference between the lost person's sins and the saved person's sins is that a saved person's sins ARE forgiven. Before a person can be saved he must acknowledge that he has sinned, thus acknowledging that he is condemned and is in need of the Savior, then he receives forgiveness. If we could truthfully say that we have no sin then Jesus would not have had to die.
There are some people who mistakenly believe that when they got saved God forgave them for all the sins they had committed up to that point, but if they commit any sin after that then they are lost until they confess that sin. They believe that this unconfessed sin is unforgiven and will keep a person out of heaven. The basis for that belief is found in verse nine. According to their way of thinking, if a believer was crossing a street while thinking some adulterous thought and then got ran over by a truck and killed, then that person would go to hell, because he never had a chance to confess that sin. They refer to confessed sin as being "under the blood." For the saved person all his sins are under the blood! Unconfessed sin of the unsaved is indeed unforgiven, but for a Christian to believe his unconfessed sin is unforgiven would be to believe we can lose our salvation. We can't lose our salvation! John 3:15 and Romans 6:23 says we have what kind of life? Eternal life! If we could lose our salvation it wouldn't be eternal. When we got saved we were born again of the Holy Ghost, to lose our salvation we would have to get un-born!
Perhaps you're about to say, "Unconfessed sin will cause loss of reward." Well, verse nine doesn't say reward. Rewards and forgiveness are two totally different things. Sin does indeed cause loss of rewards (I Cor. 3:15) whether it is confessed or not. Some people have the foolish notion that if they have a fault and they confess it they don't have to do anything about it. Sin will cause a person to lose that close intimate relationship with the Lord. With the passage of time his relationship with the LORD will grow cold unless he repents of that sin. Confession is only spoken and is easy, but repentance means much more. Repentance means to change your mind then turn and go in a different direction.
To put it a different way, let's say that you're a married man with a child, but you're shacking up with some other woman. Now we're talking about sin! If you're born again you will hear the still small voice of the Holy Spirit pricking your heart convicting you of that sin. If you think that just confessing this to God will make everything all right then you must have hog manure for brains! God isn't stupid! He knows what you've been doing so confessing it isn't going to change God's attitude about it. What God wants is for you to have an attitude change in your heart and then do something to turn away from that sin.
What should you do? Well first you get out of that shack. Then, with a proper penitent attitude you go to your wife with hat in hand, bearing flowers, frankincense, and myrrh, offering her praises and humbly ask her (the one you wronged) to please forgive you. She's the one you have to seek forgiveness of. God has already forgiven you for that sin, but that doesn't mean he's happy about it. If she does forgive you then thank God. Then try to make it up to her. Then do the same thing for your child. It will take a long time to make recompense. Eventually you'll know that warm fuzzy feeling again that tells you that you're back in intimate fellowship with the Lord.
Throughout the Old Testament and the four Gospels people are seen asking God for forgiveness, and it is appropriate for them to do so because Jesus had not yet died for their sins. They were looking forward to that forgiveness which they would get when the promised Messiah would come, so they were continually begging God for it. We have the advantage of looking back at an already accomplished fact. Born again believers already have that promised forgiveness. Just take it by faith.
Hebrews 10:10 says, "By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all." "... once for all," means once for all sin, and once for all time, and once for all men. When a person gets saved he claims this offering that was made once for all his sins.
Rom 6:10 reiterates, "For in that he died, he died unto sin once: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God." He died unto sin once. If sins subsequent to salvation were unforgiven it would be necessary that Jesus die for us again every time we ask God for forgiveness.
When Jesus died on the cross he died for all the Old Testament saints, and all their sins were in the past. He also died for all the New Testament saints and all their sins were in the future. At the time Jesus died for my sins, all my sins were in the future, but he died once for all of them. When I got saved, all my sins in my past, present, and future, were forgiven.
Hebrews 10:12 says, "But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God." Those people who believe they need to be forgiven again, would crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame. They would say, "Jesus, you've got to get back up on the cross and die for me again."
Hebrews 10:14 says, "For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified." Perfected for how long? Forever!
Ephesians 4:32 says, "And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you." We are to forgive each other but Christ hath already forgiven us... past tense.
Colossians 2:13 says, "And you being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses." All trespasses! Not just confessed trespasses ... ALL TRESPASSES! Past, present, and future!
Ephesians 1:7 says, "In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace." This says, "we have!" It doesn't say just "confessed" sins.
Well then, what does it mean where it says in I John 1:9 "If we confess our sins...?" This is written for lost sinners. Romans 6:23 says, "For the wages of sin is death..." If we are lost we have to confess that we are sinners and that we are going to eternal death and that we are helpless to do anything about it ourselves but we need Jesus to save us. That's what it means.
I John 1:9 goes on to say, "...he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." He cleanses us from how much unrighteousness? All! If subsequent sin could make us unrighteous then God would be a liar. Furthermore, if we had to obtain forgiveness for sins committed after we were saved then, according to Romans 6:23 "...For the wages of sin is death... " we would indeed lose our salvation when we sin, but then to be saved again it would take more than just confessing. It would require Jesus to die for us again!
You may say, "But I still sin!" Yes you do. We all do, and it's visible to anyone who watches. But when God sees us all he sees is the sinless perfection of Christ. Spiritually, God has clothed us in white robes, signifying purity. God sees the white robes and He sees the purity of Christ and He's satisfied because of what Christ did for us on the cross. But when I see you, I see that dirty rotten sinner that you really are underneath those pure white robes. Thank God I'm not your judge. It all depends on the point of view, and in this case it's Gods point of view that matters, not yours or mine.
The apostle Paul describes himself as the chief of sinners. In Romans 7:19 he says, "For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do." So we see that Paul had problems with the flesh, but we never see anywhere that he asked God for forgiveness.
Now someone is going to say, but Jesus himself said that we should ask for forgiveness in Luke 11:4, "And forgive us our sins; for we also forgive everyone that is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil." Jesus said this in response to Luke 11:1 when "one of his disciples said unto him, Lord, teach us to pray..." It was appropriate for his disciples, and others living at that time, to ask for forgiveness because at that time their sins had not yet been forgiven! Jesus had not yet died for them! Since they were looking forward in time to the cross, none of their sins had yet been forgiven, but we are looking back in time at the cross, and all of our sins have already been forgiven. By true faith simply believe it.
To believe that a saved person must confess his sins to be cleansed of all unrighteousness would believe in works to stay saved. Ephesians 2:8-9 says, "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast."
You may be thinking, "Well it doesn't hurt to ask God to forgive us." I would like to point out that this would be a heinous insult to God. If God says our sins are forgiven because His Son died on the cross for our sins, but we don't think that was sufficient would imply that we think that the Son of God is somehow inferior. It would also indicate a lack of faith on our part in that if God says our sins are forgiven then we should believe it. Furthermore, it puts the responsibility for keeping saved on our works, not on the glorious finished work of Christ. I can imagine God saying, "My dear beloved Son, who created you and everything else that was created in the whole universe, died for your sins, and you don't think his death was sufficient? I told you I've already forgiven you for that sin and after all this you still don't believe me!"
Romans 5:11 says, "And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement." How many times does Jesus have to atone for our sins? We HAVE received THE atonement... past tense. Our sins have been atoned.
"What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid." Romans 6:7.
A person may confess his sins to the Lord and ask for spiritual strength to combat his tendency to sin, but not to seek forgiveness.
A person should confess that he is a sinner and ask God to forgive his sins when he gets saved but after that he should just take it by faith that all his sins ... past, present, and future ... are all already forgiven.