There is an old Scottish proverb which says “Open confession is good for the soul.” For many, this saying probably means that confession acts as a catharsis, a simple clearing of the conscience. While confession undoubtedly acts in this way on a man psychologically, this old saying surely has it’s origins in the teaching of God’s word, for many times the exhortation is given in the scriptures to confess. While confession is psychologically important, it is even more soteriologically important.
Always, in God’s word, confession precedes forgiveness. Until man acknowledges his sin, God will not forgive. Under the Mosaic economy, the High Priest was to lay his hands upon the head of the scapegoat and to confess “over him all the iniquities of the children of Israel” (Lev. 16:21). Even though a trespass offering was to be made (Lev. 5:6), confession was necessary for the sin to be forgiven (Lev. 5:5-10).
When God foretold that the children of Israel would sin and be taken captive into the land of their enemies, one of the conditions of their return was that they were to confess, confess not only their own iniquities, but the iniquities of their fathers (Lev. 26:33-44). Furthermore, they were to confess that they had walked contrary to God’s will (v. 40). One very essential element to all of this was that their hearts be sincerely humbled before God (v. 41).
All throughout the Old Testament, confession was declared a necessity. Solomon, in dedicating the Temple, underscored the importance of confession in the forgiveness of sins (I Kings 8:31-36). David said “I acknowledged my sin unto thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid. I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the Lord; and thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin” (Psalm 32:5). Achan was urged by Joshua to give glory to the God of Israel and to “make confession” ( Josh. 7:19). There are other examples but it is clear even in the Old Testament that “He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy” ( Proverbs 28:13).
Furthermore, under the New Testament, confession is absolutely necessary to fellowship with God. Jesus said, whosoever shall confess me before men, him will I also confess before my Father which is in heaven (Matt. 10:31,32). Paul stated by inspiration that with the mouth confession is made unto salvation (Rom. 10:9,10). While not the only requirement for salvation, it is absolutely essential. Whether or not we confess His name in this life, we will most assuredly confess it at judgement for the scriptures declare that every knee shall bow and every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Phil. 2:9-11).
Then, as children of God, when we fall and do that which is contrary to God’s commands, we must also confess those sins we have committed. James said, “Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much” (James 5:16). John stated “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (I John 1:9). It is only when we are able to admit and confess our faults, and repent of them, that we will be forgiven.
Confession is good for the soul in more ways than one.
Eric L. Padgett