Do we need to confess our sins to God in order to be forgiven?
No. Confessing our sins to God does not bring about God's forgiveness. People who believe that confession of our sins brings about God's forgiveness are living in an illusion and a lie. If confession of sins brings about God's forgiveness, then it was unnecessary for Jesus Christ to shed his blood and die on the cross. There would have been no need for the Old Testament animal blood sacrifices, if all the Israelites just needed to confess their sins to God to receive God's forgiveness. Read "Will God Forgive Me".
A key verse in understanding this is Hebrews 9:22, which says:
In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness. "In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness."
It was the blood of Jesus, which took away our sins, not our confession. He is the final sacrifice for our sins. Blood must be shed in order for God to forgive our sins, not the shooting of our apologies up to God.
What is Confession? To confess means to agree or admit something. When we sin, we should agree with God that the sin we are about to do or have done was wrong. To admit that sin is wrong is the very place we need to start in order to start thinking differently. Sin often hurts others. It is the very opposite of love. Love casts out a multitude of sins. (1 Peter 4:8). Confession and admission of our sin is the very beginning place where we need to start for the renewal of our minds. We begin to grow in grace when we learn that "Everything is permissible, not everything is beneficial" (1 Corinthians 10:23).
An Obsession With Confession For Forgiveness
Somewhere along the line, most Christian seminaries teach their "pastor to be" students, that confession is necessary for forgiveness. There is a vast difference between confessing our sins to God and confessing our sins to God, in order to receive His forgiveness. See the difference? If you believe that the confession of our sins brings about God's forgiveness, then you have just negated the cross of Jesus Christ and have "trampled the Son of God underfoot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified them, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace" (Hebrews 10:29).
Keep on Reading
Pastors use 3 verses to defend their argument that a Christian needs to confess their sin to God in order to be forgiven.
1. Matthew 6:12-"And forgive us our debts, as we have forgiven our debtors".
This verse is part of the "Lord's Prayer", which is chanted in just about every church, every week. The Lord's Prayer was a prayer which Jesus gave to the disciples, not for Christians today. It is important to know the timeline here and ask yourself, "When did the New Testament go into effect?". The obvious answer is when Jesus died on the cross. At this point, Jesus was alive and was still under the Law of Moses. One key to understand that this was an Old Testament prayer given to the disciples is to keep on reading to Matthew 6:14-15 "For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins".
Is Matthew 6:14-15 true under the New Testament today? No, because Jesus has forgiven your sins once time at the cross, and is "not counting your sins against you" (2 Corinthians 5:19). Forgiveness under the Old Testament was conditional. Forgiveness under the New Testament is unconditional and based on what Jesus did on the cross, who took away the sins of the world.
2. James 5:16-"Therefore, confess your sins to one another"
There are many pastors and media ministries using James 5:16 when presenting their case, that you must ask God to forgive you. But if you listen carefully, they only use the first part of James 5:16 "confess your sins". They always stop there and do not keep on reading. Without a doubt, God wants us to confess our sins to one another in order to be reconciled to one another.
3. 1 John 1:9-"If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness"
1 John 1:9 is a verse offering salvation to gnostics unbelievers who claimed to be without sin (1 John 1:8) and to those who claimed they did not sin (1 John 1:10). The gnostics also were deceiving themselves and were making Jesus out to be a liar. Both the truth and the word were not in them. They were spiritually dead in need of life.
1 John 1:9 is easily the single most misunderstood verse in the entire Bible. Most pastors, seminaries, authors, televangelist and Christians have missed the meaning of 1 John 1:9. They use 1 John 1:9 as a "Christian bar of soap" to defend their argument that you must ask God to forgive you, after each and every sin. What if you miss one? What if you die in an auto crash after having a sinful thought? What they are ultimately saying is that God will not forgive you unless you confess it to Him and then ask Him to forgive you. With this line of thinking, a person will never come to the conclusion that God has completely forgiven them, understand the finality of the cross or be able to experience God's Sabbath rest (Hebrews 4:9-11).
So keep on reading when you are studying the Bible. For a more detailed look at 1 John 1:9, check out What Does 1 John 1:9 Mean?.