6 Biblical reasons to confess our sins to a Priest

Many Christians have deep rooted dislike for the Catholic Sacrament of Reconciliation (confession of our sins to a priest). Yet, despite what many think, the sacrament is thoroughly Biblical and has been a constant practice of the Church since its inception. Here is some Biblical proof, there are many additional passages (cited verses are from the RSV-CE Bible, all italics added by the author):

1. THE BIBLE DECLARES CONFESSION OF SINS IS REQUIRED

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just, and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. [1 John 1:9]

Notice, “If we confess our sins.”

He who conceals his transgressions will not prosper,     but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy. [Proverbs 28:13]

Notice, “he who conceals.”

Many also of those who were now believers came, confessing and divulging their practices. [Acts 19:18]

Notice, “…confessing and divulging their practices (sins).”

The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all men everywhere to repent,…
[Acts 17:30]

Notice, “…all men everywhere to repent…” Not just some, but all.


2. JESUS GAVE THE APOSTLES THE AUTHORITY TO FORGIVE SINS

Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I send you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”
[John 20:21-23]     
  

Notice, if the apostles forgave sins, they would be forgiven, and if they did not forgive sins, those sins were not forgiven. That is 100% what a Catholic Priest does in the confessional—he forgives sins using the authority Christ gave—and on the rare occasion, they might have to retain the sins (there are many reasons for that extraordinary decision).

For which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he then said to the paralytic—“Rise, take up your bed and go home.” And he rose and went home. When the crowds saw it, they were afraid, and they glorified God, who had given such authority to men. [Matthew 9:5-8]

Notice that the crowds recognized that the authority to forgive sins was given to men.

Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. [Matthew 18:18]

Notice, the words, bind and loose, are legal terms used in those days to describe retaining or releasing. Therefore, in this passage, Jesus was giving the apostles the authority to bind (retain) or loose (release) matters on earth, and those decisions (made by the apostles would be approved in Heaven). If a sin is retained (not forgiven) or if it is loosed (forgiven), those decisions will be ratified in Heaven.


3. WE ARE TOLD TO CONFESS TO EACH OTHER

Is any 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 of faith will save the sick man, and the Lord will raise him up; and if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed.
[James 5:14-16 – italics and bolding added by the author]

Notice, we are told to confess our sins to one another so that we may be healed—this is speaking of the healing of our soul.

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just, and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.
[1 John 1:9-10]

Notice, again, that we are told we must confess our sins, and be cleansed. Every person sins—we cannot say we do not need forgiveness. We must repent and confess.


4. DO NOT ALLOW FEAR OR SHAME TO STOP YOU FROM CONFESSING

Do not be ashamed to confess your sins, and do not try to stop the current of a river.
[Sirach 4:26]

Notice, oftentimes people feel ashamed or fearful to confess their sins, perhaps thinking they are too big for God to forgive but, we should jettison those feelings because the Lord wants to heal us.


5. THERE IS A DIFFERENCE BETWEEN MORTAL AND VENIAL SINS

And that servant who knew his master’s will, but did not make ready or act according to his will, shall receive a severe beating. But he who did not know, and did what deserved a beating, shall receive a light beating. Every one to whom much is given, of him will much be required; and of him to whom men commit much they will demand the more.
[Luke 12:47-48]

If any one sees his brother committing what is not a mortal sin, he will ask, and God will give him life for those whose sin is not mortal. There is sin which is mortal; I do not say that one is to pray for that. All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin which is not mortal.
[I John 5:16-17]

Notice, sins are spoken of indirectly in the first passage, while the types of sins are directly addressed in the second passage. We learn that some sins are mortal—as the Church has always held.


6. THE SACRAMENT OF RECONCILIATION

All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation;… [2 Corinthians 5:18]

Notice, the Church maintains, to this day, the Sacrament (or ministry) of Reconciliation (or confession, or penance).


As is easy to see, the Church bases its teachings regarding Confession on Scripture. It extends these truths through the Catechism and through the writings of the early founders. Even in the Didache, which is the teachings of apostles, we see Christians were told to confess their sins.

Confession is good for our souls, and it is productive for our families, and for our personal lives. There are numerous spiritual and real-world benefits to the sacrament that are too many to list in this blog post.

I hope you avail yourself of this great gift the Lord gives. If you choose not to go to confession, perhaps at least, now, you will better understand why Catholics do.

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T.P. Johnson

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