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Thursday, April 15, 2010

Is Confession Biblical?

Protestants object the idea of confessing their sins to a priest. Here are some of these objections and how to respond to them. I must point out that even though these arguments are against confessing our sins to a priest, they are ultimately against the priesthood itself.

1 Timothy 2:5 For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus

- If Jesus is our only mediator, then how can a priest also be a mediator. Doesn’t that make two mediators?

- This next argument from 1 Peter 2:5 &9 and Hebrews 4 is saying that because we are all priests we can approach God directly, not through a priest.

1 Peter 2:5, 9 you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ...But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God's own possession,
Hebrews 4:16 Let us therefore draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and may find grace to help in time of need.

1 John 1:9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

- See, if we confess our sins to God, he will forgive us, not the priest.

How do we respond to these objections?

1 Timothy 2:5 For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus

- The context gives away the meaning of this verse. If we back up to verse one of 1 tim 2, it says that we are to mediate on behalf of secular leaders that we might live in peace.

1 Timothy 2:1-2 First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, in order that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity.

So this verse really just demonstrate that we participate in Christ’s mediatorship.

What about the objection that we are all priests, therefore we can approach God alone?
All those who are baptized participate in the priesthood of Christ. Amen so we are all priests, and yes we can approach the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy. Yet to conclude that from these verses that Christ therefore could not have set up a priesthood to forgive sins I think is misreading the text.

1 John 1:9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

The same rules apply, this verse isn’t saying that we should confess our sins strait to God. It is only saying, what it is saying - if we confess our sins, he will forgive us.

So this brings up the question - Does the Bible say that priests have authority to forgive sins?

John 20:23 "If you forgive the sins of any, their sins have been forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they have been retained."

- This is sort of the classic verse that you would turn to when objections are raised against confessing sins to a priest. Jesus here is clearly giving the apostles the authority to forgive sins. Yet he is also giving them the authority to not forgive sins. This is significant because of what Jesus says to Peter:

Matthew 18:21-22 Then Peter came and said to Him, "Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?" Jesus said to him, "I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.”

- Personally we are to forgive our brother as often as he sins against us. Again Jesus says:

Matthew 6:14-15 "For if you forgive men for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. "But if you do not forgive men, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.”

- So if we want to be forgiven of our sins, we must forgive our brother. Yet in John 20 Jesus gives the apostles a special power to NOT forgive sins. This is in the context of confession, if someone was not sorry for a sin. If there is no sorrow, or repentance the priest does not absolve the person.
- While personally, we are to forgive as we wish to be forgiven.

Now listen to James:

James 5:14-16 Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; and the prayer offered in faith will restore the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up, and if he has committed sins, they will be forgiven him. Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.

- The context of these verses are that sins are forgiven in the presence of the elders of the church. The elders are the priests, the presbuteros, where we get the English word priest from.

Finally, there is great evidence in the Gospel of Matthew that Jesus gave this power to forgive sins to men, because it says so.

Matthew 9:6-8 "But in order that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins "-- then He said to the paralytic-- "Rise, take up your bed, and go home." And he rose, and went home. But when the multitudes saw this, they were filled with awe, and glorified God, who had given such authority to men.

- Notice that they glorified God, who had given such authority - not to just one man Jesus - but to men - plural - namely the apostles.

So the apostles did in fact receive this power to continue Christ’s mission to free the world from sin in confession and passed this power on to bishops and priests today.


Robert said...


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Anonymous said...

Thanks, Daniel. I check your site for ideas to use in our RCIA.

Jim McCullough
Our Lady of Grace
Greensboro, NC