When you saw the title, I bet a few different thoughts went through your head. Some of you have strong Catholic backgrounds, others strong independent church backgrounds, and others, you have no church backgrounds. I say all this because when the word “confession” appears, it strikes a different chord with different people.
So let me give a broad overview on dictionary definitions of “confess” before we go into a theology of sorts.
To confess means to “say the same thing as.” There is nothing controversial about agreed upon statements, is there? This is where the term “confession” comes around in the older days as “an agreed upon set of beliefs.” If you look in my older blogs you will see I have written “confessions” about sin, or angels, and it shows that I am stating what I believe, and that it is in agreement with various statements of faith throughout church history
But to confess also means “to admit.” When someone confesses to doing something wrong, they are admitting, rather than covering up what was done, therefore “saying the same thing as” what really happened.
Now lets define “confession” more.
Confession: in the Roman Catholic setting (and in a few other churches) this is when a person from the congregation admits sins which have been committed to a priest. The priest then gives activities which that person can do in order to be re-aligned with God and the church.
Finally, a confession can simply being the act of admitting your sins, wrong doings, or secrets to God or any human. Do you see the difference between this definition and the one before it?
Bear with me as I add just a few more words and definitions in there.
To apologize: to admit your wrong and ask forgiveness
To repent: to stop doing what you have confessed or apologized for, and to do the correct action instead. Or, to state it another way, to do a 180 degree turn from your actions.
To reconcile: When forgiveness is given, to then seek to reconstruct the relationship which was broken by the sin, the misunderstandings, or secrets.
Now, lets move into a biblical understanding of what Christians should do relating to confession.
The first reality of confession is to acknowledge that when we sin, we sin first and foremost against God. Read Psalm 51. It is David’s confession of his sin with Bathsheba. Because of this, our trust is in the One, Holy, Mighty, Risen Mediator – Christ Jesus, to be our intercessor (1 Timothy 2:5&6; Hebrews 9:15)
The second reality of confession is that as a Christian, when we sin, we hurt others. Because of this, we need to let the one we have sinned against know what we have done, in order to restore a right relationship with them.
The final reality that I just want to get out there is that confession is not just for Catholics. When John Calvin and Martin Luther were working on reforming the Roman Catholic Church, they were fighting against some very gross mis-practicing of the act of Confession, the sale of indulgences, and penance. They were fighting against corruption of church practices.
Read James 5:16 and 1 John 1:9. Now, read all of James 5 and all of 1 John. You will see that how Christians interact with one another is very important. Sin disrupts the working of the church- the body of Christ. When we practice the act of confessing our sins to one another, or to those who you are very close to in the church, what you are doing is not allowing yourself to walk in darkness. You are a child of light, not of darkness, and confessing your sin keeps you from being dominated by sin.
In Romans 6 we are reminded of the truth of our salvation- our sinful self was killed with Christ on the cross, and we were given a new identity and a new life with Jesus when He rose from the grave. When we confess our sins to other believers, they are to remind us of this. Our sin is horrid. It is wicked. It is never to be defended.
We no longer have to live in it.
When you confess your sin, you are admitting to what really happened. But, your Christian brother or sister (or pastor) then reminds you of what really happened. They “say the same thing as” what God declared at the cross and the empty tomb: you are forgiven. Now live like it. That pastor and friend does not give you this forgiveness, rather they are declaring to you what God has already stated.
We would do well to practice confession in the church.
PS, in the comment section below, put what keeps you from confessing your sins?