form an integral part of prayer and true worship for owning up and being forgiven of sin leads the believer to pledge themselves afresh to God in love for the grace extended (Lk 7:41,42,47). Confession of sin should result in repentance, while confession of faith and belief should result in actions confirming that stance.
Christian confession involves both positive and negative elements
1/. Confession of sin
This is humbly owning up to our sin, acknowledging our guilt and how far short of His standards we come, as before God can forgive sin the transgressor must repent of the wrongdoing – “I will confess my sin” said David, and “you forgave the guilt of my sin” (Ps 32:5).
Sin is breaking God’s commands (rebellion against His holy standards), and so confession and repentance always must be made to Him first – ‘I have sinned, please forgive me’ (Gen 39:9; 1 Chr 21:8; Ps 51:3-7). What we say must be backed up with action, for the fruit of repentance is a change in behavior, resulting in the restoration of relationship with God (Isa 55:7; Mt 3:8; Act 3:19). In most cases confession also needs to be made to those involved or sinned against, seeking their forgiveness. James said, “Confess your sins to each other [confidentiality is to be maintained] and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective” (Jas 5:16).
Confession precedes forgiveness
we try and justify, excuse or don’t acknowledge. We experience release from our guilt in direct proportion to our willingness to face our sin, confess our sinfulness and accept forgiveness (Ps 32:1-5; Prov 28:13). It is God’s grace, through the Holy Spirit, that brings the conviction of sin and gives the desire to confess which is fulfilled by the discipline of our consciously chosen course of action. Confessing sin in genuine repentance is to look to Christ for forgiveness. Then we can confess (declare) Christ’s mercy and grace with joy and open fellowship (with God and others) as we walk in the light of a pure conscience and right relationships (1 Jn 1:7).
“If you forgive anyone their sins, they are forgiven” refers only to sin against us, for no one has the permission or authority to forgive the sins of a third party (Mt 5:23,24; Jn 20:23). Only God can forgive and declare the sinner righteous, not any priest or intermediary, however Jesus gives us the privilege of telling new believers (on the basis of their confession) that their sins are forgiven, for “Everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins through His name” (Ps 130:4; Isa 43:25; Dan 9:9; Mic 7:18; Act 10:43; Col 2:13,14). Conversely, those who reject Jesus are not forgiven, and believers can also tell them this, because forgiveness of sin is available only through Jesus, and they need to know this.
As confession and forgiveness are realities that transform us, we should have a forgiving disposition, “Forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you” for if we don’t forgive others, God can’t forgive us (Mt 6:14,15; Col 3:13). Repentance must precede true worship because we can’t have a right relationship with God when we have sin in our lives (Ps 66:18; Isa 59:2). There is the ongoing necessity of confession when there is a realization you have specifically sinned and daily as you review the events of the day (Mt 6:12).
We often consider our fellow believers as saints, viewing them as having mastered the vices we struggle with, rather than fellow sinners also in the process of being made whole. This causes us to often conceal our true nature and live in hypocrisy without the issues being addressed. The result is little advancement in experiential Christianity – just an increase in the theory (knowledge of our faith) rather than the transformation of our heart. As we address our weaknesses honestly and openly (inside appropriate boundaries) with confession we are transformed while fear and pride cause us to hide behind a mask of pretense. There is a physiological relief and freedom when what has been bottled up within is aired in a supportive setting and the healing of the inner wounds that sin has caused can follow.
Thus, the confession of sin has three aspects; conviction – the Holy Spirit pinpoints an area that needs to be put right, “Your hand was heavy on me” (Ps 32:4); sorrow – not so much the emotion but rather a deep regret at having offended the heart of the Father which results in repentance; and a determination to avoid sin – a total disliking for wrong. God is working to make us willing to seek His forgiveness and the outcome will be praise – thanking Him for the forgiveness extended to us.
See also: conviction, entry points, forgiveness, repentance, sin.
2/. Confession (profession) of faith
Acknowledging we are believers is essential – Matthew 10:32
overcame Satan by the blood of Jesus and by the word of their testimony” (Heb 3:14, 4:14, 10:23; Rev 12:11).
Our confession of faith in Christ should be made openly before others, for “If we publicly acknowledge Him before others He will do the same before His Father” (Mt 10:32,33; 2 Tim 2:11,12; Rev 3:5). "It is with your mouth you confess…” speaking out the inner conviction (Rom 10:10). This is relatively easy in a group of like-minded, sympathetic people. The real test is when there will be repercussions for acknowledging you are a follower of Christ (2 Tim 3:12).
How many times in life are we like Peter at Jesus’ trial, hiding in the shadows, hoping no one will challenge us with ‘are you a Christian’? (Mt 26:69-74). By going along with the Godless crowd, hoping to blend in and being fearful of the reaction of others, rather than being identified as a follower of Christ, we compromise our faith and beliefs. The Bible says do not be afraid of those who can only kill the body, rather fear God who also has the power to throw you into hell, yet it also declares nothing can separate us [believers] from the love of Christ – be it persecution or even being killed as a martyr for Him (Lk 12:4,5,8,9; Rom 8:35-39).
Making positive confessions or statements are very important in every day life, acknowledging and praising God for His hand on your life for “To him, who speaks uprightly, will be shown the salvation of God” (Ps 50:23). Speak the abundant life of Christ and promises of God into and over your life and loved ones, confessing the Word of God with confidence, clarity and conviction (Jn 10:10). This is in contrast to the declarations of independent, humanistic self-help, or positive thinking which, although desirable in some situations, may not be submissive to God’s ways.
What we allow into our minds flows out in our speech so it is wise to closely monitor the entry points and only think about what is wholesome and desirable (Prov 4:23; Lk 6:45; Phil 4:8). The Bible declares, “Life and death are in the power of the tongue…For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned” (Prov 18:21; Mt 12:37). “Confession is made with the mouth to salvation” (Rom 10:9,10). Guard your lips or you may be like the Israelites whom God heard grumbling and said “I will do the very thing I heard you say” (Num 14:2,28,29). God held them to their word. What we think, choose and confess indicates our real commitment and God may arrange our circumstances to reinforce the human stance (Rom 1:18,28; 2 Tim 2:16).
Inwardly, our spirit is also released or bound by the words we speak. In times of stress or conflict, endeavour to hold your peace because once angry words are spoken we create something in the evil spirit realm that begins to be enacted, just as when we declare positive things they also are given permission to become reality. Even when feeling sick, rather than elaborating on your woes, speak in the opposite spirit, with a positive faith confession – ‘Thank you Lord for healing me’…“As a man thinks, so is he” and our physical bodies often respond to the inner guidance we provide them (Prov 23:7).
True confession is not self-directed wishful thinking but expressing trust in the promises and power of God to achieve His good purposes in our lives. As we come into an increasing knowledge of His ways, we will have a better understanding of His will that we can enforce by declaration to the spirit realm.
Ultimately, everyone will ‘bow their knee’ and confess to God’s integrity and authority. If we voluntarily acknowledge Him now we will be blessed, and by continuing to follow Christ, heaven will be our home for eternity (Rom 14:11,12; Phil 2:11). Those who will not recognise Christ’s right to rule in this life (although they will do so at a later time) will be doomed to hell because they have rejected Jesus.
See also: declare, opposite spirit, persecution, positive mental attitude, self-fulfilling prophesy, speech, spirit realm, testimony, witnessing, words.