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Do we need to confess our sins to those we have sinned against? January 30, 2007

Posted by JP in Discussion, Stupidity.
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I came across this and thought it worth passing along:

“Walking in the light” (1 John 1:7) means that we are living in obedience to God’s commandments. In the same verse we have references to forgiveness through Christ and “fellowship one with another.” So, there is a connection between having a “clean slate” and our relationship with other people.

Every sin is ultimately committed against God (Psalm 51:4). The Bible consistently emphasizes our need to confess our sins to Him (Psalm 41:4; 130:4; Acts 8:22; 1 John 1:9). As for the confession of our sins to people, the Bible gives no blanket command. We are told many times to confess our sins to the Lord, but the only direct command to confess to someone else is in the context of church elders praying on behalf of the sick (James 5:16).

This does not mean that we are never to seek another person’s forgiveness. The Bible gives examples of confession to other people. One is Joseph’s brothers asking for his forgiveness in Genesis 50:17-18. And person-to-person confession is implied in such passages as Luke 17:3-4; Ephesians 4:32; and Colossians 3:13.

The principles here seem to be 1) We should seek forgiveness from the Lord for every sin. He desires “truth in the inward parts” (Psalm 51:6). 2) If our relationship with the Lord is right, our relationships with other people will fall in line. We will treat others graciously, with justice and honesty (Psalm 15). To sin against someone and not attempt to make it right would be unthinkable. 3) The extent of the apology for a sin should match the extent of the impact of the sin. Or, we should seek forgiveness of whoever was directly involved in order to insure healing.

For example, if a man looks with lust at a woman, he should immediately confess the sin to the Lord. It would not be needed or appropriate to confess that sin to the woman. That sin is between the man and the Lord. However, if a man breaks a promise, or does something that directly impacts the woman, he must confess to her and seek her forgiveness. If a sin involves a large number of people, such as a church, a man or woman must then extend the confession to the members of the church. So, the confession and apology should match the impact. Those impacted should hear the confession.

So, while our forgiveness with God is not dependent on us confessing our sins to others and/or them forgiving us – God does call us to be honest and forthcoming with others regarding our failings, especially when it involves others. When we have offended, hurt, and sinned against others, we should seek to offer a sincere apology and confession, and ask for forgiveness. Whether the forgiveness is granted is up to those who were confessed to. Our responsibility is to genuinely repent, confess the sin, and ask for forgiveness.

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Comments»

1. dorsey - January 30, 2007

“Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.” (James 5: 16).

I think the idea of confession is more about keeping ourselves in the light, robbing the accuser (and potential human accusers) of their power.

But you’re also correct with your example. If a guy goes around asking forgiveness of every woman he looks at with an impure thought, it would cause far more injury than healing.

2. theseldomscene - January 30, 2007

so if a man commits a major sin that no one knows about…but maybe one other person…and he disciplined himself and removed himself from authority and the sin…if he were over a church when it happened…should he go back to the church and confess and tell why he had to leave?…should he name names?….should he take his family so they can hear it?…

or is it not enough to confess to GOD…bear the chastisement…and go and sin no more?…

3. dorsey - January 31, 2007

Major sin? Heavens, no. We’re only talking about little insignificant sins. lol (kidding)

Seriously, I don’t know. I can only tell you what the Bible says about it. I think the larger issue it that, by using the imperative tense, scripture addresses the individual. In other words, it says, “You confess your sins…” not “Make sure that each other confess…”

So, while I may think the pastor in your example should come clean, bear witness to the grace he has received and maybe minister to someone else in so doing, the decision is really between him and the Lord.

4. dorsey - January 31, 2007

Sorry.

“I think the larger issue IS that…”

[/dangit]

5. theseldomscene - February 1, 2007

it is only hypothetical…mostly….partly…and if he comes clean i will have to rewrite chapter 9…(perplexity strikes me)….

6. JP - February 1, 2007

TSS, in terms of your questions: What is to be gained by the pastor confessing his sin(s) to the congregation? Did he sin against them or against God? Who was harmed? What right or reason would one who was not harmed by his sin have to know about them?

I know that I would sleep better not knowing that my pastor left his position because he was addicted to internet porn or something like that. If he felt his transgression was such, or is such, that he cannot continue in his position of pastor, the my best to him and his search for forgiveness, repentance, and freedom. I would rather that I simply know that he is going and be done with it.

However, if he was posting and viewing nude pictures of me on the internet, then I would want to know about it… 🙂

7. theseldomscene - February 1, 2007

jp…he is not nor has he ever been addicted to internet porn…or something like that….

and i won’t touch the last line in your post….it could be to revealing…

8. theseldomscene - February 1, 2007

jeepers creepers…i must love you man…lol…

9. David - February 7, 2007

I love the blog that you have. I was wondering if you would link my blog to yours and in return I would do the same for your blog. If you want to, my site name is American Legends and the URL is:

http://www.americanlegends.blogspot.com

If you want to do this just go to my blog and in one of the comments just write your blog name and the URL and I will add it to my site.

Thanks,
David

10. JP - February 7, 2007

Hey David,

I will consider the link.

I appreciate that you like my blog, and I will be reading yours shortly to see what you are all about.

11. theseldomscene - February 11, 2007

jeepers creepers write something….i mean…please write something….

12. Vance - February 20, 2007

I am in deep turmoil at this point in time. I am a new Christian and have been saved by the grace of our Father. It was only at my lowest point that I truly turned to God for help and to enter my heart to fill the inner pain that I was feeling. I made a bad choice almost 6 years ago, and shortly after I was married, involving a co-worker of mine. We were both drinking alchohol (not an excuse) and made a horrible decision that dishonored my wife.

I have held that act in the recesses of my mind for a long time. I have confessed my sin to God and asked for His forgiveness and to bring peace to my family and wife. I have admitted to my wife this sin, but not in detail or extent, for selfish fear of how she may react. I know that she has her suspicions as to how far the act went, and has repeatedly told me to “tell her everything”. I just can’t bring myself to tell her everything. I have told God everything and asked for his cleansing. I finally feel at peace with my relationship with God and I know that I have a long way to go…..but I don’t know if I should tell her the details that she is asking for.

Is this wrong in the eyes of God? If I have repented to him for my infidelity that occurred once? Is it necessary if I believe that it might send her to a place from which she may never recover? We have small children and I love my wife dearly….I don’t want to lose them, although I know that this would be a consequence of my own actions. I am so confused and just wanted to hear counsel from those who might be able to enlighten me with thier knowledge.

I am a broken man, and pathetic and worthless without the grace of God. I just wish that I had known Him many years ago, so that I could have avoided the situation I put myself in.

Thanks for any advice you may have.

13. JP - February 20, 2007

Vance,

This is a tough one, but one I can relate to. You have confessed your sins to God and asked His forgiveness, however, your sin wasn’t just against God, it was a sin against your wife and the sanctity of your marriage.

Should you tell your wife all the details? I would say no, unless of course the dirty little details would bring healing for her instead of deeper hurt.

With that being said, allow me to add: I get the impression from what you have posted that you haven’t told your wife the entire truth. If I were to read my past experience into what you have shared I would conclude that you told your wife that you ‘messed around’, or some such politically correct euphemism. Here is my advice – admit the truth to your wife, the complete truth devoid of details that would cause further hurt and not serve any purpose, such as:

“I committed adultery”, or “I slept with this girl (or guy)”, and go from there.

You cannot have healing and forgiveness if you are not honest about the sin, and you cannot expect her forgiveness if you do not respect and love her enough to put your fate in her hands.

That is my advice from someone who has been there, and who has worked many years to help heal the hurt caused by such stupidity.

14. Vance - February 21, 2007

JP….you are right, I need to tell her the truth. I need to trust in the healing power of God. You are a wise man and I appreciate your honesty and forthright answer.

Can I ask? Did you go through the same thing and if so, how did it turn out for you? Thanks again JP.

15. JP - February 21, 2007

~ Can I ask? Did you go through the same thing and if so, how did it turn out for you? ~

Vance, I did indeed, and it took quite a while before my wife could forgive and forget (well she has never forgotten, but that is human nature). It took a lot of work, and sincere repentance, for me to earn back her trust.

16. Rob - February 22, 2007

JP…my true name is Rob. I was ashamed to even admit that but I am learning that I must live in truth in order to live in the grace of God.

I know that I have been forgiven by my Father but I only pray that He can take away the pain and doubt in my wife that has resulted as a consequence of my actions.

I was so confused as to why she would want to know the entire truth knowing in her heart that she knew, but I now know that in order for her to start the healing process that I needed to be honest with her. I thank you for your words, as they made all the difference in my decision to fully admit my sin. I was hesitant in confessing all to her based on Proverbs that stated:
” 9 He who covers over an offense promotes love, but whoever repeats the matter separates close friends. (NIV)9 Disregarding another person’s faults preserves love; telling about them separates close friends. (NLT)”

I now believe that the true meaning of this was that she should cover over the offense, and not me, in love. What is your interpretation of this verse? I was tempted by Satan in my moment of weakness and he preyed on my state of mind at the time in order to submit to my carnal instincts. I only pray that she will forgive me for my actions, as she is the only woman that I ever want in my life. I pray that the healing power of Christ can heal the wounds that I have created due to my infidelity. I ask that you pray for me and for my wife and for the healing power of Christ to grant me her forgiveness so that we can move forward and be true warriors for Christ. I shall no longer be silent in my faith, and hope that His plan for me through this whole ordeal was to teach me to be the best witness that I can be for all that seek Him.

God bless you JP….you provide such an incredible service in His name, and for that I am grateful that I stumbled upon your site.

Rob

17. JP - February 22, 2007

Rob, thank you for the kind words. I am truly moved that someone benefits from the words the Spirit has led me to write here on my Mind.

I certainly will keep you and your wife in my prayers, for the road she will have to travel will be much more difficult than the one you are on. For the longest time I was frustrated and angered, and hurt that my wife found it difficult to forgive me, and sought to find blame in her that she was never satisfied with my repentance (it often came to a point in my mind that if she couldn’t get over it then she should just hit the road and be done with it). It took some deep soul searching and maturing on my part to realize that the pain I caused her doesn’t just go away, and that forgiveness on her part would not, and could not come from her, but from Christ through her.

I will keep you and her in my prayers and ask that God work through her to find the ability to forgive.

As for the proverbs verse:

Pro 17:9 He who covers and forgives an offense seeks love, but he who repeats or harps on a matter separates even close friends.

I think this verse speaks more to the ability of one to forgive and forget somewhat minor offenses. For example: If your friend constantly borrows things and is lax in returning them and you forgive that offense and let it go, you do so out of love (God’s love). However, if you talk about it all the time, bring it up “Yeah, that Joe… he never returns things he borrows…” then you will end your friendship in time, either because he hears about you talking to other people or he gets tired of listening to you throw it up in his face.

In the case of infidelity, I think it is wise not to rely on the truth of this adage to make its case known to the one most hurt by your actions, for as I said before; forgiveness from her will come from God and her love for you from God, not by someone preaching to her that she is obligated to forgive.

18. jess - February 22, 2007

hmmm..this is interesting. i think its pretty good. i always thought there were some things that need to be said and some that don’t. i mean someitmes you gotta tell the person cuz otherwise you’ll never feel free..well okay..maybe that’s the way i am..but then there’s other thign sthat noone needs to know about that need to stay between you and God.

19. JP - February 22, 2007

Jessica, you are right that there are some things that need to stay between God and the person, but when we talk about sins against another that have harmed another, the forgiveness and reconciliation between those two people are vitally important. Not only to the fellowship between those two, but to the continuing growth in Christ, for both people.

20. dana mcdonald - May 10, 2007

hi I have many sins against other can I ask for some help on them. One night I was drunk and when my cousin wo is a girl I am a male, she was sleeping in the other room. I went in and layed down with her and realizing what I was doing I got up and left. Since then her andI have become christian. We both still have a normal relationship since then. Do I have to confess this sin to her.
Then another time about 6 years ago I walked into this ladies house I know when nobody was home and stole her bra. Nobody knows about this but me, should I confess this to her. I have confessed these sins to god and accepted jesus am I only forgiven if I confess these sins to them. I am really shy and don’t think I ever could. I don;t know what to do and am deeply ashamed. Thank you for your time and help sincerly Dana

21. JP - May 11, 2007

I do not think forgiveness should take the place of therapy…

22. Seraph - May 16, 2007

I too have been struggling with this very thing. The first think I would suggest is a heartfelt prayer to God. Ask Him to releal to you if you should confess directly to those you have sinned against.

I too sinned against someone five years ago. That person is no longer in my life, but I continue to “run into him” on occasion, and I am beginning to think it is not by chance that these encounters are happening. For months now, I feel that the Lord is asking me to repent and offer my repentance to that person, even though so much time has passed.

Two months ago, I was moved..not just moved…I was complete changed by this message offered through my radio on thepath.fm, a show called “Turning Point” with Dr. David Jeremiah. If you have a chance, go look it up in the archives. He was teaching The Life of Joseph, whereas the final message delivered was on the theology of forgiveness in our lives and the lives of those that we’ve sinned against. The Biblical reference was in Genesis 50:15-21.

To understand this you must have the following:

1.) A realistic appraisal of sin: Realize that a tresspass has been comitted. A flippant apology does not do the job that true repentance is intended for.
2.) A level of perception: An awakening of the spirit to understand that the sin we have committed against someone has caused pain to someone our ourselves.
3.) A level of confessoin: When you share intollerable sins, you can share the pain that you’ve inflicted upon someone else.
4.) A Promise: If you feel the wrong you’ve committed, you promise that you will never fall back. You have learned the lesson from this sin, and are willing to turn away from premeditated sin (sinning on purpose, even when you know it’s wrong)n. The promise is intended to heal both the sinner and the one you’ve sinned against.

I keep these notes in my Bible, and carry both at all time, in the event that God permits this divine appointment that I so eagerly await.

Pray! Pray! Pray! And be obedient when He answers!

23. JB - May 30, 2007

“It would not be needed or appropriate to confess that sin to the woman.”

What biblically points to this idea, because I have struggled with this issue also?

24. JP - June 3, 2007

JP, where did the quote you asked about come from, and what was the context in which it was posted?

Off the top of my head I would say that confessing a personal sin to someone who was not aware or harmed by it would be unnecessary. If ‘the woman’ in question is someone you passed on the street and coveted, or lusted after, then what purpose is served by confessing that sin to her? and is the sin committed truly a sin against her or against God?

One must confess and seek forgiveness from those that one has wronged, in this scenario the issue is between the person and God, and no one else.

25. JB - June 3, 2007

the quote was from the original post i think

26. Jimmy - April 18, 2008

If a person had sinned by being involved in sexual sins with his birth brother’s wife, what should he do? He has been and tries to live as a Christian and the same for her. They have both been involved in church and come from Christian families. They have asked God for forgiveness. Their is a community, families, and futures’ involved.

He was suspicious in the past but things are fine on that front now. He would be devestated if he knew what had taken place. What would you suggest?

Thank you so much.

27. JP - April 21, 2008

Jimmy,

Worldly “experts” usually encourage adulterers to keep their mouths shut about their infidelities, proclaiming worse damage will be done by confessing. The problem with this is that it stifles one’s conscience and doesn’t allow for the restoration of relationships that confession is intended to encompass. James 5:16 (NAS) says, “Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed….”

The apostle Paul wisely stated that “…I always do my best to maintain always a blameless conscience both before God and before men” (Acts 24:16). Although adultery is a sin against God, first and foremost, the Bible also says that our bodies do not belong to ourselves, but also to the one we are married to (1 Corinthians 7:4). The physical act of sex is the symbol of the way a married couple becomes one flesh when God joins them together in marriage (1 Corinthians 6:15-16). For these reasons, a person who has committed adultery should pray and allow the Holy Spirit to lead him, confessing the infidelity at the appropriate time.

A guilty conscience will not go away simply by trying to ignore it. It may, in fact, lead to psychological and even physical problems. As difficult as it would be for anyone to tell their husband or wife that they have been unfaithful, it is necessary not only for the integrity of the marriage, but also for the relationship between the person and God, so that their conscience may be clear and they will be able to live a holy and blameless life.

28. amanda - July 13, 2008

I am truly struggling. I have been under a dark blanket of guilt and condemnation lately. I am reaching out to anybody who can help. I have known Jesus for a while. befor I started serving I stole a lot. I stole food stamps and cheated the irs. I have even helped rent trucks for my husband to steal. I even did things when I was small about seven to ten when I was molested with other children that haunt me. I am not able to pay back what I stole. some things if told i would go to jail

29. JP - July 14, 2008

Amanda, your path is clear:

You need to turn yourself in for the crimes you committed.

30. Gina - July 28, 2008

i have a questions…what if your married and you have been having fantasies about another person should you confess this to your spouse? Is it ok to confess it to God only?

31. JP - July 29, 2008

Respectfully Gina, I think your ‘question’ was addressed in the post:

“The principles here seem to be 1) We should seek forgiveness from the Lord for every sin. He desires “truth in the inward parts” (Psalm 51:6). 2) If our relationship with the Lord is right, our relationships with other people will fall in line. We will treat others graciously, with justice and honesty (Psalm 15). To sin against someone and not attempt to make it right would be unthinkable. 3) The extent of the apology for a sin should match the extent of the impact of the sin. Or, we should seek forgiveness of whoever was directly involved in order to insure healing.

For example, if a man looks with lust at a woman, he should immediately confess the sin to the Lord. It would not be needed or appropriate to confess that sin to the woman. That sin is between the man and the Lord. However, if a man breaks a promise, or does something that directly impacts the woman, he must confess to her and seek her forgiveness. If a sin involves a large number of people, such as a church, a man or woman must then extend the confession to the members of the church. So, the confession and apology should match the impact. Those impacted should hear the confession.

So, while our forgiveness with God is not dependant on us confessing our sins to others and/or them forgiving us – God does call us to be honest and forthcoming with others regarding our failings, especially when it involves others. When we have offended, hurt, and sinned against others, we should seek to offer a sincere apology and confession, and ask for forgiveness. Whether the forgiveness is granted is up to those who were confessed to. Our responsibility is to genuinely repent, confess the sin, and ask for forgiveness.”

32. Anonymous - September 12, 2008

What if you’re struggling with Internet pornography? Should you tell your loved one or try to stop?

33. JP - September 13, 2008

Try to stop? Absolutely. Please read this post:

https://jpsmind.wordpress.com/2008/04/27/pornography-and-the-christian-man/

34. HD - January 26, 2009

I am a leader in my church, and i have sin. when my spouse is gone (like 2 to 3 times a year) is when i get involve with porn and self gratification. I really have battle with this issue for many years and what makes it hard is that i really don’t have anybody to trust this to. i have ask God to forgive me, but it seems i fall once and again. I don’t have any excuse and i am aware that is all my responsibility. I don’t want this in my life anymore what can i do.

35. JR - March 16, 2010

My son is engaged to be married but recently he confessed that after one sexual act his fiance is now pregnant. He was a praise and worship leader and she was a member of the choir. They have repented and been asked to step down from ministry. The pastor has also said that they need to make a public apology to the congregation and i don’t feel confortable with this as i don’t feel this is necessary once he has asked for God’s forgiveness and ministry leaders have been informed. I don’t think this is biblical either! I would value your comments.

36. JP - March 16, 2010

JR,

Your son, and his fiancée have done what they need to do biblically. There is nothing necessarily biblical about them ‘confessing’ publically to the congregation.

I would offer this:

Joh 8:3-11 When the scribes and Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery. They made her stand in the middle of the court and put the case before Him. (4) Teacher, they said, This woman has been caught in the very act of adultery. (5) Now Moses in the Law commanded us that such [women–offenders] shall be stoned to death. But what do You say [to do with her–what is Your sentence]? [Deut. 22:22-24.] (6) This they said to try (test) Him, hoping they might find a charge on which to accuse Him. But Jesus stooped down and wrote on the ground with His finger. (7) However, when they persisted with their question, He raised Himself up and said, Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her. (8) Then He bent down and went on writing on the ground with His finger. (9) They listened to Him, and then they began going out, conscience-stricken, one by one, from the oldest down to the last one of them, till Jesus was left alone, with the woman standing there before Him in the center of the court. (10) When Jesus raised Himself up, He said to her, Woman, where are your accusers? Has no man condemned you? (11) She answered, No one, Lord! And Jesus said, I do not condemn you either. Go on your way and from now on sin no more.

It is my belief that while talking to the accusers Jesus was writing a list of sins in the dirt – the sins of the accusers. Being stricken by their own guilt they left him and ceased their desire to punish the woman publically.

37. wholesale Mobile phone batteries - March 27, 2010

That is nice to definitely find a site where the blogger knows what they are talking about.

38. emanuel - April 3, 2010

Hi JP,
Have been greatly blessed and enlightened by reading your blog.
I completely agree with confessing our sin to our partner, especially when we have sinned against them.I also believe our heavenly Father is a wonderful restorer. I take my motivation from David’s life, God restored David’s life and he will restore mine and everyone’s who confesses his sin before HIM and seek his forgiveness and mercy.I was struggling with how to time my confession to my partner, but I believe that i was lead by the Holy Spirit to your site. I believe that the Holy Spirit will lead us into all truth,and will give us the desire and the power to do what pleases him.”Lead me in the paths of righteousness for your name’s sake,…. and my times are in your hands…”.
I quote a earlier post….
“For these reasons, a person who has committed adultery should pray and allow the Holy Spirit to lead him, confessing the infidelity at the appropriate time.”
I believe Holy Spirit will lead us and show us the correct time as we wait on him.

39. Marcos - April 26, 2010

Hey JP I was wondering, is it necessary to confess a lie when it was done to avoid an argument? For example, the other day my wife randomly asked me what I was thinking about. Though nothing sinful I was thinking about a sour subject and I didnt want to argue with her by bringing it up so I replied with what the world would refer to as a white lie. I feel terrible about it because I dont want to lie to my wife, and I make it a practice to not do so, but I really did not want to argue about it. I have confessed this to God but still feel guilty. The advice you mentioned above is great but a bit general.

So my question is what should we do about the confession of lies that cause no direct harm to the person involved wether it be a spouse, co worker, friend etc…

And might I add, I am not looking for an excuse to lie and feel OK about it. I want to be a truth filled person but am simply confused about the biblical criteria for confessing such things.

40. JP - April 27, 2010

Marcos,

I’m struggling with providing a sufficiently helpful answer here. I would that you figure out what the Spirit is leading you to do:

1) Did your “white lie” harm your wife in anyway?
2) Would a confession to your wife about this seemingly innocuous lie help anything?

Ask yourself these questions and seek the wisdom of the Lord.

41. WJ - April 28, 2010

i am 17 and a junior in HS. a couple months ago i bought a bible w/o telling my parentts, even though i already have one. when they asked where i got it, i told them that i got it for free outside school. this was technically true, b/c i usesd a gift card and got it at the bookstore just outside my school. however, they may probably would have wanted to know more,and would be displeased if they knew i bought it. this was a couple of months ago. do i need to tell them exactly what realy happened?

42. vickie - June 20, 2010

I have done some things like lying. And I’m a christian and I know that we can all mess up, but I told some lies at my job and as far as I know noone was hurt by it. But do I have to go to each person that I’ve told a lie to and ask forgiveness? I have repented but I’m still confused.

43. RG - December 27, 2012

I thank you Lord for talking to my heart. Give me the courage and the right time to confess my sin to my wife. Give me the wisdom to be transparent and truthful at all times. I don’t want to hurt her, even when confessing.

44. Phil St Ores - January 3, 2015

Phil St Ores

Do we need to confess our sins to those we have sinned against? | JP’s Mind

45. SK - January 24, 2016

Thank you for this article. It helped me. I don’t see donations or anything so I’m sending a thank you.

46. Elaine Wheatley - September 28, 2017

I think this is the way we should right a wrong. Our relationships should reflect love and honesty. A spirit of humility is needed before God and the person wronged in the case of seeking forgiveness. In this instance the scripture ” Do unto others as you will have them do unto you is quite applicable.


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