Cleveland Prayer Group Website

Holy Confession
By Fr. John Kunjukunju

‘Confession’ is the most misunderstood and misinterpreted word in the Christendom. It means to acknowledge, admit, repent and recant one’s mistake or sin. Ordinarily it is very tough task but it is non-negotiable condition to receive forgiveness. 

Apostle John was convinced about man’s inherent denial nature. God does not appreciate it. “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and truth is not in us,” 1 Jn 1:8. One has to bring it before God in repentance. Neither one can escape from it nor there is alternative. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness,” 1 Jn 1:9. This is solemn yet conditional assurance without which one cannot attain salvation.

Confession enables the faithful to receive God’s grace of forgiveness. It is a sacrament. Sacrament is the visible sign of invisible grace.

Confession is a very old practice. God desired it from Adam and Eve. Their failure to repent and confess their sin before God brought burden of guilt, suffering, death, decay and the ultimate judgement upon the whole human race. God out of unfathomable mercy sent His only Son Jesus Christ who ransomed the sin of many. He gave power to all those who believe in Him and obey His commands to become the sons of God. Yet, even today many carry the burden and live in sin.

Confession is not only spiritual but also social need. If one offends the other by words or deeds it is essential that the offender repent, confess and apologize both to God and the offended. Mere contention without apology that, “I confessed to God in private,” is hypocrisy and merits no absolution.

The early Christian practice of public confession is both biblical and sensible. Jesus encouraged His followers to confront the problems corporately and walk in light together. Jesus envisaged three steps to correct a sinning brother namely:

1 Confront the sinner one on one basis

2 If it fails confront him with two witnesses

3 If both the steps fail then tell it to the church.

Thus the church which is a group of believers is the right forum to hear the confession and enforce discipline, Mat 18: 15-17. Apostles vigorously instructed to pursue it, “Confess your trespasses one another and pray for one another that you may be healed,” Jas 5:16. Verse 20 affirms that one who turns the sinner from his error is saving a soul from death.

How one can turn the other from sin unless he knows other’s sin and how he can know unless let known? Thus evidently, there were two types of confessions in the early Church namely:

1 Personal or to one another and

2 Public or to church.

Church unceasingly admonishes and encourages everyone to keep intimate personal relation with the Lord, which of course involves confession. But Bible does not envisage a third type of confession that is direct or private between only the sinner and God as certain ultra modern denominations teach.

We have several instances of personal confession.

1 “Confess unto Him and tell me, and Achan said indeed I have sinned against the Lord,” Jos 7:19-20. Here, both Joshua and Achan understood that telling to Joshua was equal to confessing to Lord and that was in presence of the congregation.

2 “David said to Nathan, I have sinned against the Lord and Nathan said to David the Lord has put away your sin; you shall not die,” II Sam 12:13. Here both David and Nathan understood that telling to Nathan was equal to confessing to Lord and Nathan forgave David on God’s behalf.

3 John the Baptist called for repentance and baptized those who confessed, Mat 3:6, Mk 1:5.

4 People in Ephesus who believed in Lord Jesus Christ confessed to Paul, Acts 19:18.

These are infallible proofs of authenticity and efficacy of personal confession.

Public confession had many drawbacks. Faith-denial, murder and sexual immoralities were the mostly rampant sins of those days. As Church grew with people of varying traits and interests, public confession became obsolete for fear of repercussions. Private confession to priest proved a viable alternative to avoid embarrassment in the case of serious sins. Priest is vested with authority by the unbroken chain of apostolic ‘laying of hands’ to represent, counsel, order restitution, absolve and retain the sin, John 20:23. Moose Bar Keepo says at least yearly three times one needs confession. Priest is under oath to keep secrecy of confession and that is the zeal. 

Fr John KK, 02/26/2000

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