Confessing sin to other Christians

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Confessing sin to other Christians

Postby johnnymiller » Wed Nov 18, 2009 1:38 pm

I would like your thoughts on repentance and what that entails as far as whether a person should come before the congregation to ask for prayers. Is it necessary and do we have scriptural authority for such.

thanks
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Re: Confessing sin to other Christians

Postby D'Angelo Joyce » Thu Nov 19, 2009 12:28 pm

I would say it is scriptural


16Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that you may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much. (James 5)

As long as we as members don't use guilt to gain leverage over the person who repents.
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Re: Confessing sin to other Christians

Postby Dick Sztanyo » Thu Nov 19, 2009 7:54 pm

Let me offer a couple of things.

First, I have had people insist that we need to confess to God, but not to one another. However, Scripture teaches that one can sin against another Christian (Matt. 18:15f; James 5:19-20; etc.), and confessing that sin to God WITHOUT confessing it to the one offended does no good. Incidentally, what would be the point of Christ's instructions in Matt. 18:15f. if reconciliation between estranged brethren was not to be done.

Second, the Prodigal son went astray, came to himself, and came home confessing his sin. Though the Father in the parable represents God, it still has bearing on the question. A "coming to oneself" requires confessing one's sins. And, that is exactly what he did. Think of how odd it would be if a man deserted his wife and family for six months or more, then one day showed up at dinner time and sat down with the rest as if nothing at all had happened. Would there not be SOME explanation required? This is exactly parallel to a member of the church who has been gone for six months, but then comes back and slides in on the back row without any explanation at all as to what has happened. Wouldn't the wife deserve an explanation and an apology? Doesn't the church deserve an explanation and an apology?

Third, what about the confessions of the Bible (see, e.g., 1 Tim. 1:12ff; Ps. 52:1ff; etc.)? What is the point of such confessions of obvious sin against others? Yes, the sin was first and foremost directed against God by David (Ps. 51:4). BUT, he also sinned against Bathsheba, the nation of Israel, Uriah, his servants, etc., as well as his God.

Fourth, repentance demands and requires a changed life as a result. If one only repents before God, then how could one observe a change in the matter which caused the offense? After all, no one would know what the offense happened to be.

These are some thoughts for starters.
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Re: Confessing sin to other Christians

Postby Steven Haguewood » Thu Nov 19, 2009 8:18 pm

James 5:16; 1 John 1:9
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Re: Confessing sin to other Christians

Postby MJM » Sun Nov 22, 2009 12:28 am

Let me start off by saying that I have absolutely no problem with anyone choosing to "come forward" before the congregation to confess sins, should they choose to do so, as long as their reasons for doing so are godly and good-intentioned.

(I have seen - as have some of you, I'm sure - people "come forward" for less than honorable reasons in the past. There was a sister in Christ one time who had a problem with my elders. She "came forward," confessing her sins in a letter she had written and wanted me to read to the congregation, and yet a good portion of that letter said things like, "I now choose to forgive those who have wronged me, even though they themselves have shown no signs of remorse," etc. Which was not true, in that the elders had done nothing wrong to her, and even if they had, it should have been a private matter between her and them. Needless to say, I did not read her letter, but rather thanked her for her confession and asked the congregation to pray for her.)

That said, let me also say that there is a doctrine concerning confession of sins floating around the church these days which I fear the majority of brethren believe, and that doctrine is stated like so: "As public the sin is, that is how public the confession must be." Personally, I think the idea that a public sin should be publicly confessed has many merits...but to say or even imply that it is God's will is not backed up by the totality of Scripture, at least as far as my studies have shown.

The two scriptures cited in this discussion which have to do with confession are 1 John 1:9 and James 5:16. Neither of them state nor even imply that the confession talked about in these passages REQUIRES it to be before the entire congregation.

1 John 1:9, by context, is referring to confessing sins to God rather than to brethren. Verses 5-7 and verse 10 specifically speak of God and our relationship to him and him alone, so contextually verse 9 is also referring solely to God and us. "If we confess our sins, he (God) is faithful and just to forgive us our sins..." I would like to point out that nowhere in the verse does it specify or imply that the confession of our sins that we make before God is to be done before the entire congregation. Now, would it ALLOW it? Certainly, just as it would allow a private confession between one's self and God, or one confessing a sin to God and to another Christian, or two or three Christians, etc. But does it SPECIFY that there must be human witnesses who are brethren, or how many they must be? Obviously not. Therefore, we should not add to God's Word by citing 1 John 1:9 as a proof-text for it being the will of God that a sin MUST be confessed before the entire congregation.

James 5:16 says, "Confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another..." Obviously, the confession of sins being talked about here concerns a Christian who sins confessing to his brethren. However, just as before, notice that the "one another" is general, not specific. Would "one another" ALLOW for the entire congregation? Certainly, but it would also allow for another Christian, or two or three Christians, etc. Does "one another" SPECIFY that the entire congregation must be involved? Does "your sins" SPECIFY how public or private they are? No. Therefore, we must not add to God's Word by citing James 5:16 as a proof-text showing that it is God's will that a sin MUST be confessed before the entire congregation.

Matt. 18:15ff was also cited in this discussion. But let's examine that passage carefully. In verse 15, we have a brother sinning, and yet the initiative is commanded not to him, but to the brother he sinned against. The brother he sinned against is to take the initiative and go to him. If the sinner repents after being privately rebuked, then Luke 17:4 implies that a confession of sin on the sinner's part would be required, but the only indication in both Luke 17:4 and Matt. 18:15 is that the confession would be one-on-one, only to the brother he sinned against.

And then, in Matt. 18:16, we read that no repentance is forthcoming, a second effort is made, only this time with two or three witnesses. Once again, the initiative is on the part of the one being sinned against, in that he is commanded to try again, only this time after gathering two or three witnesses for confirmation. If, say, the sinner repents after being rebuked by 3-4 of his brethren, then Luke 17:4 would imply that he would make a confession, but Matt. 18:16 would imply only that it be made to those 3-4 brethren who rebuked him.

And then, in Matt. 18:17, we read that if the sinner refuses to listen to the 3-4 brethren in the second attempt described in v. 16, only then would the church be involved. However, notice again that the iniative is given not to the sinner here, but to the one being sinned against in v. 15, and then to the church. The one being sinned against is told in v. 17 to "tell it to the church." The following phrase "and if he refuses to listen even to the church" implies that the church then took the initiative and went to the sinner to rebuke him. If the sinner then repented after being rebuked by the entire congregation, then Luke 17:4 would imply that he would then make a confession, with Matt. 18:17 implying that it would be to the entire congregation.

However, notice even then that nowhere does it specify that it would have to be to the entire congregation at once during a worship assembly, just as it also doesn't specify that the entire congregation would have to at one time rebuke this man in Matt. 18:17. In order for the church to fulfill its responsibility of Matt. 18:17, they COULD all rebuke this man at once in the worship assembly (in fact, if he still doesn't repent, then 1 Cor. 5:4-5 specifies that withdrawing of fellowship must be done when the whole church is assembled together), but there are many other ways the church could rebuke this sinner. They could come to him one by one during the week, etc. In like manner, nowhere does Matt. 18:17 or Luke 17:4 specify or imply that a repentant sinner who has first been rebuked by the entire church would HAVE to, by necessity in order to be pleasing to God, confess that he is penitent in front of the entire congregation all at once. It might be the most expedient way to do it, but the ONLY way in the sight of God? The Bible doesn't specify such, so we must not add to God's Word and say so.

Now, how does this coincide with our tradition of "as public the sin is, that's how public the confession must be," meaning that the sinner MUST "come forward" during a worship assembly? Frankly, it doesn't coincide with this at all. In my observations, if there is a sin which some or perhaps all think should be publicly confessed to on Sunday morning, the church seems to be waiting for the sinner to make the first move, when in reality the Scriptures above cite that the church should take the initiative first. How many times have you seen someone publicly, in front of the entire congregation, confess a sin AFTER that entire congregation has gone to him, encouraging him to repent? I haven't. I daresay that if there are any here who have, it's been rare, especially when compared to witnessing someone feeling divinely obligated to "come forward" before the congregation and confess a sin which most of the congregation are not even aware of.

A few years ago, during a congregational assembly, an elderly sister in Christ who was senile in some regards became upset at the elders because of a doctrinal yet expedient decision they had made. She, in front of all who were present (those who were present made up about 45% of the entire congregation), told them (unjustly) that they should resign. When it was my turn to speak, I kindly but firmly rebuked her in front of everyone. As soon as the meeting was over, she immediately came up to me and apologized, and then went to each of the elders and apologized. They accepted her apology. However, a few weeks later, I found out that there was a brother (a sound, good man) who was there who demanded that she come before the entire congregation and confess her sin. He said, "This was a public sin, and the Bible says, 'As public the sin is, that's how public the confession should be.'"

What happened? Well, the sister did give me a letter to read before the entire congregation, but at the same time it dragged out, to the chagrin of her and her family and the elders, something that, as far as Scripture is concerned, was resolved the moment she penitently confessed her fault to her God and to the ones she had wronged. There was no scriptural need for her to go in front of the entire congregation, and saying that there was (a common belief in the church today) is erroneous and adding to God's Word.

Brethren, this whole idea of "coming forward" either to announce one's desire to obey the gospel or to confess sins, is nothing more than a man-made tradition started a few hundred years ago. In and of itself, there's nothing wrong with it, but we have to be careful that we do not make the same mistakes the Pharisees made and start holding our traditions on a higher plane than God's Word (Matt. 15:1-9; Matt 23). I've heard brethren state that one has not obeyed the gospel if the entire congregation doesn't get to hear their confession of faith before their baptism, just as I've heard brethren state that one is not truly forgiven of the sin of forsaking the assembly until they have come before the entire congregation to confess that wrong. Both ideas, and those like them, are adding to God's Word, as far as I can see.

If someone with godly and good intentions wants to "come forward" to confess sins, that's great. But to say that they HAVE to or else their sin is not forgiven by God is erroneous, as far as I can tell from my own studies. That's my 2 cents.
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Re: Confessing sin to other Christians

Postby Scott Wiley » Mon Nov 23, 2009 1:42 pm

Greetings
Scott here

The rule of thumb as I've understood it, is:

1. If the sin is private, confession can be - and in some cases should be - kept private between those involved. Esp. if in matt 18 circumstance, if the brother is won then there is no need to bring in 2-3 witnesses or if he not won in private and it goes to the next level and then he is won, then there is no need to take it to the church, let it come to an end as early as possible.

2. If the sin is public, confession should be - but not required to be - public.

In the GA commentaries, Woods' makes a sound observation in his commentary on James. Basically, that when sin is known, its sound practical advice that the repentance be made publically known. However, he does not hold that all confession must always be made public.

Back when prayer partners were popular (before it became abusive) the idea was that by confession of sin with another aid could be enlisted to help over come temptation and such. Similar to AA meetings.

FWIW,
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Re: Confessing sin to other Christians

Postby johnnymiller » Mon Nov 23, 2009 2:28 pm

Thanks for you 2 cents and all who commented on this topic to date. Ive noticed over the years less response during the invitations given after every sermon (which is I guess is a tradition also). We had one person who from prison prior to their release addressed the congregation in letter form, which was read and she ask for forgiveness of her brothers and sisters for sins she had committed throughout the community. She then returned to worship with us started a tremendous jail ministry which has converted some 50 people over the past few years. I thought her request was totally appropriate although some thought she needed to "come forward". Do you feel the act of coming forward has kept any people from returning to the Lord because of not wanting to do such?


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Re: Confessing sin to other Christians

Postby MJM » Mon Nov 23, 2009 3:23 pm

johnnymiller wrote:Do you feel the act of coming forward has kept any people from returning to the Lord because of not wanting to do such?


Possibly in some cases, but I personally believe that in most cases in which this would play a part it would be a superficial reason, that there are other, more foundational reasons for not coming back to the Lord lying beneath the surface.
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Re: Confessing sin to other Christians

Postby Scott Wiley » Tue Nov 24, 2009 7:55 am

Greetings
Scott here

prior to their release addressed the congregation in letter form, which was read and she ask for forgiveness of her brothers and sisters


I would see that as coming forward. several times I've seen folk unable to stand before the group, ask someone to read their thoughts. Only difference I can see is that her physical presence was prevented by being in jail. She should probably be commended for not waiting until she got out.

Do you feel the act of coming forward has kept any people from returning to the Lord because of not wanting to do such?


In one case, a family that had fallen away for a couple years eventually came back and came forward. Later another family said that if going forward had been required of them, they would not have done so. The comment was interesting, because I had no idea what it was they'd have come forward for. Their attendance was good, and whatever they had in mind, it was not publically known. However, I;m not sure if they meant that back at that time they'd not have come forward, or if they meant that at they still wouldn't have come forward.

I expect that some folk due to embarrassment would not. Others due to extreme shyness / introversion would not. And some due to immaturity would not.

I also expect that in some cases folk would view their sin as private and the only reason it became public was due to others sinning by gosipping. In which case, they view themselves as the victims.
Yours in the Great Hope,
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Re: Confessing sin to other Christians

Postby Dick Sztanyo » Tue Nov 24, 2009 10:08 am

Why is public confession of the Christ so important prior to one's baptism? Because there is something psychological about making a public commitment, and because it demonstrates courageous faith.

Why would public confession of sins be so important? Though not strictly necessary in every case, and though one cannot make a law for the "coming forward" approach, there is something psychological about making such a public commitment, and there is something to be said for courageous faith. AND, there is also great gain in requesting the prayers of one's brothers and sisters. If I do not know of your personal struggles (given the proper decorum, of course), I certainly cannot pray for you except in the most general terms ("please be with all my brethren"). I need your prayers and you likely need mine. But, we need to know what to pray for, don't we? Perhaps that is why there is a specific thread devoted to prayer requests.

Public confession harms no one, and helps many.
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