Confession & Forgiveness

“Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord does not count against him and in whose spirit is no deceit…I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the Lord’ — and you forgave the guilt of my sin.” ~Psalm 32:1-2, 5

My daily Bible reading took me to Psalm 32 this morning and I was immediately struck by the repitition┬áDavid uses in this song of thanksgiving and joy for the forgiveness we receive as a gracious gift from our God. “Blessed is he…blessed is the man…” He rejoices in the happy state of experiencing God’s forgiveness. And then “are forgiven…sins are covered…not count against him…you forgave.” Over and over David stresses that the sins we confess to the Lord are completely washed away when we confess them to him in total faith and trust.

┬áPaul uses this same psalm in Romans 4 and asks the rhetorical question, “Is this blessedness only for the circumcised, or also for the uncircumcised?” Yes, this blessedness that comes from God’s forgiveness is for everyone. It’s for all people who will confess their sins to him in honesty and integrity and faith. We hide nothing. We don’t lie. We bring all of it to God and lay bare and vulnerable before him, begging for his forgiveness. And he gives it gladly and freely and abundantly.

Confession is good for the soul. It’s good for the Church. It’s good for husbands and wives and church leaders and preachers and parents and kids. Confession is good for me. And you. In Psalm 32 the confession is to God, but it’s meant to be heard as worship by God’s people. It’s personal. And it’s corporate. It’s done individually and it’s done in community.

Lay your soul out to your God today. Confess to him your sin and your weakness and your complete dependence on him. And then rejoice in his forgiveness, the removal of your sin, and the trampling of your guilt.

“Rejoice in the Lord and be glad, you righteous; sing, all you are upright in heart!” ~Psalm 32:11




  1. Bird lover

    My first question is whether the forgiveness is only available for confessed sins. Your opinion?

    When I look at Romans 4, I realize circumcism is not an issue today, so I looked at Romans 4 in light of my question above. Paul discussion has to do with works and whether what we get is due to works or a gift. If we work, it is not a gift. He then quotes part of the Psalms passage, but (conveniently) omits the references to confession. I wonder why he omitted that. Was it because the part about confession causes a problem with is discussion of works vs. grace?

    At any rate, he continues by asking whether it is only for the circumcised or if it includes the uncircumcised. I tried a little excercise by substituting “confession” for “circumcision.” Interesting result:

    “Is this blessedness only for confessed sins, or also for unconfessed sins? We have been saying that Abraham’s faith was credited to him as righteousness. Under what circumstances was it credited? Was it after he confessed, or before? It was not after, but before.”

    I realize I should not mess with the scriptures that way, but….the role of confession in forgiveness is baffling. Surely we cannot confess all our sins.

  2. Allan

    I don’t believe the confession – circumcision exchange is correct. However, the two passages do combine and actually support one another in a big picture kind of way. (This is the way I intended to present my thoughts this morning. Maybe I should have done it a little better.)

    David is talking about a heart issue. It’s about a complete trust and faith in God. The God who forgives is certainly a God we can trust. And if we put our trust in God, he is faithful to forgive. It’s another one of those many tensions we see in Scripture that we’re called to live into. But, like with Paul, it’s all about faith to David in Psalm 32. “…in whose spirit is no deceit…everyone who is godly…do not be like the horse or the mule which have no understanding…the man who trusts him…you righteous…you who are upright in heart.”

    Paul didn’t leave any of Psalm 32 out of Romans 4. It was and still is the practice of the Jews to quote the beginning of a passage and imply the entire passage. There was and still is no such thing as proof-texting as we know it today among the Jews. They all knew the Scriptures by heart. And to mention a phrase communicated to the hearers that the speaker intends the whole passage to be in view. Paul means for his reader / listener to remember the confession portions of Psalm 32 in Romans 4.

    Romans 4 is about that same faith and trust we see in Psalm 32. Verse 20 says Abraham “did not waiver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised.”

    Like baptism, Scripture never refers to confession or circumcision as a work or something on a list of salvation steps to be checked off. It’s an outward manifestation of submission to and faith in God.

    Yes, forgiveness is only available for those who live lives of confession before God, lives of trust and faith in him, lives that are open and bare and completely dependent on him for salvation.

  3. Bird lover

    I am torn as to whether I should respond. I know you do not like to argue. OTOH, there seem to be some things here that are very clear. The writer in Psalms was making the point in the first few verses of the chapter that forgiveness is tied to and contingent upon confession. He even went so far as to claim that failure to confess was the same as deceit. Confession was the key to receiving forgiveness.

    Now if you tell me, as you did, that you believe forgiveness is only available to those who confess, you are certainly being consistent with the teaching in Psalms.

    Paul, on the other hand, completely ignores the point the Psalmist is making. Paul goes so far as to cut the Psalmist off in mid-sentence. In my humble opinion, he did so to avoid confusing his point with the facts of the Psalms passage. You say he did so to save time because his readers knew the full passage by heart. However, if I were talking to Paul instead of you (and I would much prefer talking to Paul, because it is his writing we are trying to understand) I would ask Paul the same questions:

    1) Paul, the Psalmist said we have to confess to get forgiveness, correct?

    2) Paul, if a man works, his wages are given to him from obligation rather than a gift, correct?

    3) Paul, will God forgive those who do not confess? Your buddy Allan thinks he will not.

    4) Paul, if confession is a requirement in order to receive forgiveness, is forgiveness not of works rather than grace through faith?

    My guess is that Paul would say that if you require confession in order to obtain forgiveness, you are fallen from grace. If I cornered Paul on the Psalm quotation he would say, “I hoped you wouldn’t notice. I was taking it a bit out of context, but most people really do not mind. It is done all the time.”

  4. Allan

    You are correct in that I do not enjoy arguing. However, I must disagree with your position that Paul deliberately proof-texted Psalm 32. That position ignores everything we know about ancient Jewish rhetoric, ancient Jewish education, and ancient Jewish literature.

    I stand by my earlier response which in no way implies that David nor Paul nor I believe salvation is a result of human work.

  5. Bird lover

    While it might ignore all we know about “ancient Jewish…” it does not ignore what we know about human nature.

  6. Mel

    Notice first the Psalmist doesn’t say “all” of my transgressions. Confession isn’t the listing of sins but rather the acknowledgement that we have sinned.

    Second, Paul is using the literary device known as Allusion. That is a reference to an already well known person, place, event or even a literary work.

    It’s impossible to take out of context that which is already well known by the audience. I couldn’t possibly engage in a conversation with you about 9-11 out of context.

    As far as human nature is concerned…

    It’s human nature that we are called to rise above. It’s human nature that causes us to rationalize with our stubborn wills by creating such a smokescreen of “what if’s” that we can’t see clearly.

    My suggestion is to avoid guessing.

    So far your guessing has led you to the conclusion that Hitler is a nice guy and Paul was a manipulative liar.

  7. Bird lover

    Welcome back, Mel. I wondered what took you so long.

    You suggest my conclusions result from guessing. Since you urge me rise above guessing am I correct in assuming you believe you have?

  8. Mel

    (just trying to keep it in context)

    1. You wrote- “You suggest my conclusions result from guessing.” (no…you admitted to guessing when you wrote-“My guess is that Paul would say…)

    2.”Since you urge me rise above guessing am I correct in assuming you believe you have?”
    (I stated that human nature is what we should rise above)

    3. I readily admit to only being able to guess at what exactly you may or may not mean.

  9. Bird lover

    Thanks for the reply. Let me back up and try to repond a little more specifically to your reply.

    You suggest there is a difference between acknowledging our sins and confessing to all of them. I understand and agree. I do not believe I was attempting a discussion of the Psalmist’s meaning other than to point out that his major subject in the context of the passage Paul quoted was that forgiveness was contingent upon confession. Paul’s major point was that forgiveness was NOT contingent upon what a man does. Paul first mentioned that Abraham was justified by faith and not works, illustrating that righteousness was counted to him as a result of his faith and later pointing out that this preceded circumcism strictly to emphasize that works were not involved. Then he illustrated his point by saying that if we did anything it would not be a gift, but rather like a wage earner. He then quoted the Psalms passage (part of it anyway) claiming that David was making the point that God credited righteousness apart from works. He quotes the portion where the Psalmist talks about forgiveness and stops just short of where the Psalmist gets to his main point.

    Since what the Psalmist says when taken in context does not support Paul’s point and since only a portion seems to support if as long as we do not mention the context it seems reasonable to suppose he intentionally misused the text.

    Now I realize you and Allan would like to believe that all of Paul’s readers already knew the context and that this was the only reason Paul omitted the important part. I understand what you are claiming, but it makes no sense to me. I know a lot about the Bible, but I did not know the context of that quote until I went back and read it. This is dones mean that some of Paul’s readers knew the Bible better than I, but surely not all of them. I can understand why you would believe that, but the simpler explanation is that Paul did what everyone else does who uses the scripture.

    At for Paul being a manipulative liar, these are your words, not mine. I do not believe he was such. I believe he was a very fine person with many admirable qualities, including being a first rate theologian.

    As far as Hitler being a nice guy, I did not want to go back and check my quote exactly, but what I believe is that I am in no position to judge him. I probably said he was not a bad person. This is based on my experience of never having met a bad person. I haven’t met too many people, but from what I know of human nature, I do not believe there are any bad people. I wouldn’t stake my life on it. I just think I would have to meet a bad person before I could start assuming people I do not even know are bad.

    I to human nature, I do not see much hope in rising above that. We are human. I am okay with that. Yes, it is human nature to rationalize. I think it is part of human nature to overrate our intellects and think we can figure things out which we cannot. Human nature overrates our knowledge and our ability to discern truth. But we do the best we can, and we can do no more. None of us mess up on purpose.

  10. Mel

    May I suggest you are overlooking a key phrase in the psalm?

    Let’s look at it a minute…

    “Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord does not count against him and in whose spirit is no deceit…”

    specifically…”in whose spirit is no deceit”

    The psalmist is portraying “confession” in a manner that relates to the heart of the sinful man.

    It’s not the “act” of speaking the sin but rather the absence of deception…whether it be self deception or intended deception towards God.

    The man in the psalm exposes his soul before God and acknowledges it’s imperfection and God blesses him.

    Is there “action” involved? Yes.

    Does it bind God to a “reaction”? No.

    That is the point that Paul makes.

  11. Bird lover

    Thank you. I certainly agree that confession is an action of the heart, and the point in Psalms relates to the absence of deception. Psalms gives this procession: The man first does not acknowledge or confess. There is no forgiveness. He suffers the consequences. “Then” (the version I am reading says then) he does confess and receives forgiveness.

    Paul is very concerned about order in this passage. His argument, for instance, fails if rigteousness was not credited to Abraham until after circumcision.

    I am also only saying that it appears possible that Paul intentionally left out the parts of the passage which would have made his argument “messy.” It is not that he and David really disagree. It appears that if Paul had not cut his quote off in mid sentence, some would have reacted as I did. In fact, as I said before, I did not know the context of the passage until going to it. In Allan’s orignal post, he quoted more of Psalm 32 than did Paul. Possibly my mind works differently than everyone else so possibly it is only a problem to me.

  12. Mel

    please allow me to gently correct you-

    Your perception of Paul’s order is incorrect.

    He begins his arguement in Romans 4 by pointing to scripture. Specifically..

    Genesis 15:6 Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness.

    Here Abram’s faith in God is expressed through belief that God can bless him even though he currently has no children.

    God says,”yes I can and in fact if you could count the stars so shall be your offspring”

    We know Abram is at least younger than 86 years old since that is the age he was when Ishmael is born. (Gen 16:15)

    Abram is 99 when God enters into his second covenant with Abram. The Covenant of Circumcision. (Genesis 17) This is the convenant in question that Paul is addressing to the Romans.

    Paul hasn’t omitted anything. His arguement isn’t messy. He specifically is addressing the question of do we need to be circumcized to be saved.

    His answer is simply, “Remember what you know from scripture. Abraham was considered righteous BEFORE his circumcision.”

    What’s missing here is your understanding of the scriptures.

  13. Bird lover

    I did not see anything in what you said that I disagree with. Perhaps I mispoke in my previous post or perhaps you misunderstood what I was trying to say. It matters not. We are in complete agreement with you summary.

    Yes, Paul is specifically addressing the question of circumcism and salvation. Obviously for that passage to be of any use to us we must be able to assume it applies to something else, or maybe it doesn’t. Circumcision is certainly not an issue to us. However, maybe it would have been if not for Paul.

    What does the passage have for us? Should we take it only as applying to circumcision? I am not suggesting one way or the other. My temptation would be to interpret it narrowly and say it only applies to circumcision and there is nothing in Romans 4 for us unless we have questions with regard to circumcision. On the other hand, is there something for us beyond the question of circumcision? If so, what is it? This is a question, not a statement.

    PS: I note your increased effort to be conciliatory and civil in tone. This is good practice. I have to work on it constantly myself. That is why I appreciate so much Jesus’s teaching about humility, meekness and peace. There is a lot of truth there. You post above succeeds admirably until the last sentence. You probably already realize it was a mistake. It is not necessary to goad me with my misunderstanding. It goes without saying that if we disagree, one or both of us misunderstands. It goes without saying that one or both of us is incorrect. The operative point here is that it goes WITHOUT saying.

    However, I admire your spirit and enjoy the discussions, so continue to jab away if you must.

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