Confession is not Propitiatory

Not long ago I heard a message about dealing with guilt. The gist of it was that if as a Christian you confess your sins and are still overwhelmed with condemnation, you need to, well, confess harder. I grieved as I sat through the service. In fact, I fumed. I hoped against hope that the preacher would urge guilt-ridden saints to seek refuge in Christ. I practically tried to send the preacher telepathic messages: “Get to 1 John 2:1-2. Direct the shamed to the Savior who absorbed and exhausted God’s wrath on their behalf.” We never got there, which is tragic, for there is no hope for us as long as we look to our own confession as though it were propitiatory. Listen to Spurgeon on this point:

“We should look to Christ, and look to Christ alone as the propitiation for our sins and take care that our faith be simple, and fixed solely on His precious blood. A very common mistake is to look to our sense of need as being at least in some degree a propitiation for sin. Repentance is an absolute duty, and a Christian grace—a grace without which there can he no salvation. But there has been a strong temptation upon many minds to make repentance a preparation for Christ, and to regard a sense of need as being a kind of wedding garment in which they may approach the Savior. How many read that promise, ‘Come unto me all ye that are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest,’ and they fondly imagine that if they could be more weary and more heavily laden then they would have rest. Whereas, being weary and heavy laden gives no man rest. It is coming to Christ that gives him rest; it is not the being weary and the being heavy laden. And I have known some ministers who preach what is called a deep experience and law work, and preach very rightly too, because many of the people of God have to endure this; but I think they lead the people into error, for the people imagine that this law work, this deep experience has something to do with the propitiation of their sins. Now, my hearers, the sins of God’s people are taken away by the blood of Christ, and not by any repentance of their own. I have already guarded my statement, and now I will make it as bold as possible. I say that repentance of sin doth in no wise contribute to the removal of that sin meritoriously. I say that our sense of need doth not take away our guilt, nor help to take it away; but the blood, the blood, the blood alone, pure and unmixed, hath for ever washed the people of God, and made them whiter than snow. So, poor heart, if thy soul be as hard as a nether millstone, if thy conscience seem to thyself to be seared by long habits of sin, if you cannot force tears from your eyes, and scarce can get a groan from your heart, yet you are groaning today because you cannot groan, weeping because you cannot weep, and sorrowing because you cannot sorrow. Hear thou, then, this gospel message, God the Father hath set Christ forth to be thy propitiation; not thy tender conscience, not thy groans, not thy sense of need, not thy law work, not thy deep experience. He is enough without any of these; have faith in his blood, and thou art saved.”

Excellent. Read the whole thing here.

The balm of the guilty conscience is not more intense confession, but Christ. There is no better text for those overcome with guilt than 1 John 2:1-2, where Christ is set forth as both our Advocate and our Propitiation. Christ is the only hope of the condemned, as expressed in the final stanza of this hymn (textpdfoctavomp3), which I hope will be helpful:

I run to Christ when plagued by shame
And find my one defense.
“I bore God’s wrath,” He pleads my case—
My Advocate and Friend.


10 Responses

  1. thanks for this pc!!!

  2. Glad it was an encouragement to you, Dafna.

    Here’s a related link, which rejoices that the Christian is justified by faith “though my conscience accuse me, that I have grossly transgressed all the commandments of God, and kept none of them, and am still inclined to all evil.” Grace!

  3. Amen! As my friend (an ex-nun) would say, “It is not what we DO [not even in confessing “harder”]…but what is DONE!” It is a grotesque lie of the adversary to attempt to convince us that Christ’s offering of Himself was not enough!

  4. Thank you for this. I greatly needed it.

  5. […] Christ: Advocate and Propitiation Posted on 6 August 2010 by crosscentered I found this post by Pastor Chris Anderson to be very helpful.  Pastor Chris has been an encouragement to me through […]

  6. […] If you struggle with guilt and doubt, this could be one of the most important posts you’ll ever read: Confession is not Propitiatory. […]

  7. […] Confession Is Not Propitiatory at My Two Cents. It’s not how hard we confess that appropriates our forgiveness. Amen. […]

  8. […] It includes a great Spurgeon quote and a beautiful Christian song. Please read! Confesion is not Propitiatory

  9. Chris,

    I’ve been pondering this post off and on since you posted it. It struck me last Sunday morning as we were singing Joseph Hart’s “Come Ye Sinners, Poor and Needy” that a phrase I’ve long liked is perhaps misleading – “all the fitness he requireth is to feel your need of him.”

    Based on the theology in the rest of the song, I would say Hart did not see the felt need as meritorious, but when compared with Spurgeon’s statements above, do you think the phrase is misleading?

    Billy Allred

    Full Text:
    Come, ye sinners, poor and needy,
    Weak and wounded, sick and sore;
    Jesus ready stands to save you,
    Full of pity, love and power.

    I will arise and go to Jesus,
    He will embrace me in His arms;
    In the arms of my dear Savior,
    O there are ten thousand charms.

    Come, ye thirsty, come, and welcome,
    God’s free bounty glorify;
    True belief and true repentance,
    Every grace that brings you nigh.

    Come, ye weary, heavy laden,
    Lost and ruined by the fall;
    If you tarry till you’re better,
    You will never come at all.

    View Him prostrate in the garden;
    On the ground your Maker lies.
    On the bloody tree behold Him;
    Sinner, will this not suffice?

    Lo! th’incarnate God ascended,
    Pleads the merit of His blood:
    Venture on Him, venture wholly,
    Let no other trust intrude.

    Let not conscience make you linger,
    Not of fitness fondly dream;
    All the fitness He requireth
    Is to feel your need of Him.

  10. […] this is where I want to bring in the next article: Confession is not Propitiatory. Allow me to explain the eye-glazing title: Seeking the Lord’s forgiveness is perfectly and […]

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