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When Confessing Our Sins
In Defense of the Faith
Friday, May 19, 2017
Alf Cengia

When confessing our sins – do we need to confess to a priest? Do we need an earthly intermediary to reach God’s throne?

Some churches think so. This is what one popular Catholic Answers article notes:

All pardon for sins ultimately comes from Christ’s finished work on Calvary, but how is this pardon received by individuals?

Notice first that the writer recognizes that forgiveness of sins ultimately comes from Jesus’ finished work on the cross. But then the article goes on to argue for two means in which the Catholic Church assists in absolving the sinner. It asserts:

Since he [Jesus] would not always be with the Church visibly, Christ gave this power to other men so the Church, which is the continuation of his presence throughout time (Matt. 28:20), would be able to offer forgiveness to future generations.

Is Jesus somehow limited in forgiving sins because He isn’t physically present on earth? Does God need help? What about the Old Testament? Did King David need a priest to help absolve sin? There were no priests in David’s day. He went directly to God:

I acknowledged my sin to You, And my iniquity I have not hidden. I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD,” And You forgave the iniquity of my sin. Selah Psalm 32:5

In Psalm 51, David poured his heart out to God in confession:

Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, And cleanse me from my sin. For I acknowledge my transgressions, And my sin is always before mePsalm 51:2-3

You can learn more about the example of David from the article How to Confess Your Sins.

The Roman Catholic Church has standard responses for supporting the formality of priestly confession. As gotQuestions?org notes:

The Roman Catholic Church bases their practice of confession to a priest primarily on Catholic tradition. Catholics do point to John 20:23, “If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.” From this verse, Catholics claim that God gave the apostles the authority to forgive sins and that authority was passed on to the successors of the apostles, i.e., the bishops and priests of the Roman Catholic Church. There are several problems with this interpretation. (1) John 20:23 nowhere mentions confession of sin. (2) John 20:23 nowhere promises or even hints that apostolic authority of any kind would be passed on to the successors of the apostles. (3) The apostles never once in the New Testament acted as if they had the authority to forgive a person’s sin. Similarly, Catholics point to Matthew 16:19 and 18:18 (binding and loosing) as evidence for the Catholic Church’s authority to forgive sins. The same three above points apply equally to these Scriptures.

Quite often 1 John 1:8-9 is cited as evidence that we must confess to a priest:

If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

What John is saying is that we mustn’t delude ourselves into thinking we don’t sin. In other words he admonishes us into admitting we are sinners. However, there is nothing here suggesting one needs to be absolved by a priest.

We are also told in James 5:16 to:

Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.

The term “confess your trespasses to one another” does not support priestly confession either. In fact there are times when it’s wise to bring certain sins to a pastor or elders in order to be counseled and held accountable, but never for forgiveness.

David Briones writes:

Private confession of sin is a humbling yet unifying act with our brother or pastor that helps break the circle of self-deception, as the light of the gospel shines through a justified sinner to pierce the darkness and seclusion of their heart. It is humiliatingly shameful but undeniably freeing. It will generate relational bonds of true Christian fellowship that seek to mortify the flesh in community and encourage others to do the same.

We need to remember that Christ’s work was finished at the cross. He has already paid for all our sins, even the ones we haven’t committed yet. Why would we need penance?

My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous1 John 2:1

Moreover, if priestly confession is necessary for forgiveness, then one is obliged to keep a count of every seemingly insignificant sin committed in between confessionals. Do you think that’s possible? Take a look at the following verses:

There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and deathRom 8:1-2

For through Him [Jesus] we both have access by one Spirit to the FatherEph 2:18

…to the intent that now the manifold wisdom of God might be made known by the church to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places, according to the eternal purpose which He accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through faith in HimEph 3:10-12

Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of needHeb 4:14-16

The Christian has direct access to the Throne of Grace. Through Jesus we have access to the Father. When we pray we are face to face with the Creator God. We need no one else. That is an Awesome Truth which we should meditate on.

Why would we need or desire to use an intermediary?

About Alf Cengia

Last week: Christians and Courage that Matters

Source: http://www.zeteo316.com/when-confessing-our-sins/

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