Confession of Sin

I. Essential Material for Consideration

A. Scripture

1. Old Testament – Prov. 28:13, Ps. 51:1-5

2. New Testament – I John 1:9, James 5:16, Matt. 5:23-24

3. Examples of: II Samuel 12:13, Luke 5:8, Luke 15:18

B. Reformed Confessions

1. Heidelberg Catechism – Lord’s Day LI

2. Canons of Dort – Fifth Head, Article 5

3. Westminster Confessions – Chapter XV


II. What is confession of sin?

A. First, we must define sin.

1. Sin can be defined as “The transgression of the law” – I John 3:4

a. We sin whenever we do not perfectly perform the law of God.

b. We sin because we are by nature sinners.

2. Sin, from another perspective, is “missing the mark”.

a. We sin when we do not in every thought, word, or deed hit the mark of God’s glory.

b. We always sin because we are by nature sinners and by nature aim at our own glory not God’s.

B. Secondly, we can now define confession.

1. Confession in its root meaning has the verbal idea of “to speak the same thing”.

a. It means in its verb form “to assent, to agree with”.

b. And for our specific topic it means to assent that sin is sin.

2. Confession inherently has the idea of agreeing with.

a. We confess our sin first of all to God, i.e., we agree with God that sin is sin.

1) Because we first confess to God our sins, we confess to ourselves that we have transgressed God’s law.

2) And also because we confess to God, we confess to other believers that we are sinners and do not glorify God in all that we do.

b. This idea of “agreeing with” includes more than a mere stating of agreement with God.

1) To simply say, “I am a sinner and I have sinned” is not enough.

2) Confession of sin also includes the forsaking of sin. Cf. Proverbs 28:13.


III. The Ground for Confession of Sin

A. Negatively, it is not out of anything good in ourselves.

1. We are by nature sinners and do not want to confess our sins.

2. It is impossible in ourselves to do any good thing even to confess our sins.

B. Positively, the ground is God’s sovereign salvation of His people.

1. God from before the foundation of the world elected His people in Christ to be a holy people.

2. This salvation was objectively realized on the cross of Calvary.

3. This salvation is made manifest in the elect by the work of the Holy Spirit as we are daily conformed to the image of Christ.

4. Therefore we confess our sins as the result of God’s work in us.


IV. The Benefit of Confessing our Sins.

A. Negatively, confession of sin is not a condition that man must meet in order to be saved or to have fellowship with God.

1. God does not save in response to our works.

2. But God has given us a certain way to walk outside of which none are saved. This way includes confession of sin.

B. Positively

1. We confess our sins to God with the result that we consciously are forgiven and cleansed from all unrighteousness.

2. We confess our sins to each other so that we are all encouraged in the faith.

a. Other saints are able to help us bear our burdens and to pray that God will strengthen us in our weaknesses.

b. When sins that have caused a break in fellowship with other believers are confessed the bond of fellowship is renewed.

V. Pertinent Questions

A. What is the relationship between confession of sins and our salvation?

B. Is there true confession of sin without turning from sin? Cf. Prov. 28:13.

C. When should public confession of sin be made?

D. Should we confess that we are by nature sinners or just particular sins or both?

E. What happens if a Christian does not confess his sins?

F. Can we worship God properly and at the same time not be reconciled with a brother? Cf. Matt. 5:23,24

G. What can we say in refutation of the Roman Catholic doctrine of auricular confession?