Should Christians Confess Sins To One Another?

by Jack Wellman · Print Print · Email Email

Should Christians confess sins to one another or should we confess them only to God…or both? Does the Bible say we should confess our sins to other believers, only one believer or not at all?

Confessing Sins to God

First and foremost, we confess our sins to God and to confess means that we agree with God about the sinfulness of our sins.  The good news is that “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” but “If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us” (1 John 1:9-10) since “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8).  So the starting or beginning place is to confess our sins to God for we have offended a holy God and until we repent and confess them, we have God’s wrath being stored up for us (John 3:36).  When we sin, it is against God (Psalm 51:4) so even if we sin against someone else, we need to confess it to God but also to the one who we have sinned against and ask for their forgiveness too (Luke 17:3-4; Col 3:13; Eph 4:32).

Confess your Sins

I believe one of the greatest strengths a Christian can have is to be transparent. The Bible is transparent with the heroes of the Bible.  David was a murderer and adulterer, Paul was persecuting and murdering believers, Moses, Jeremiah, Jonah, Elijah, (and others) wanted God to take their lives.  To be transparent is to give others who are lost hope.  The reason that we should be transparent about our lives before and after Christ is because many people who are not saved think that they have to “clean up their lives first and then come to Jesus” when it is actually “come to Jesus and He will clean up their lives” by the power of the Holy Spirit. I think more people have overcome addictions by the Spirit of God’s power and by having an accountability partner where they are held accountable to a close, Christian friend than by themselves.

Should Christians confess sins to one another or should we confess them only to God…or both?

Should Christians confess sins to one another or should we confess them only to God…or both?

James 5:16 says:

“Confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed.” 

This is superb advice because if we confess our sins and then “pray for one another” so that we can have help in overcoming our sins, we can grow in holiness and can be more Christ-like (which is every believer’s goal). We read James 5:16 but in the following verses (5:19-20) it says “if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins” which means that if someone has confessed their sins to us and then these sins cause them to wander away from the truth, then we can more easily know why they have wandered away and be better equipped to bring “back a sinner from his wandering [and can] save his soul from death.”

Confessing Good for the Soul

Just as confessing our sins allow us to have peace with God, unconfessed sin is burdensome as David wrote in Psalm 38:2-4 “For your arrows have sunk into me, and your hand has come down on me. There is no soundness in my flesh because of your indignation; there is no health in my bones because of my sin. For my iniquities have gone over my head; like a heavy burden, they are too heavy for me.”  Proverbs 28:13 essentially says the same thing, “Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy.” You will not ever lose your relationship with God is you have been saved but if you abide in sin and refuse to confess it, you will lose your fellowship.

Should We Confess our Sins to Others?

I believe it is good to confess our sins to other Christians but use caution and wisdom. These confessions should be shared with a close Christian brother or sister whom you deeply trust.  The reason that you confess your sins is so that they might pray for you to overcome these sins (James 5:16-19).  If we confess or admit our sins to another believer we know we can trust, that person can pray for us to overcome that specific sin.  I recommend those who are struggling with sins of addiction to find an accountability partner and tell them about it and be honest with them.  Confess to your brother or sister in Christ when you slip and fall.  Then they can pray for you and you can pray for them.  The best thing is to have a close Christian friend whom you can be completely honest with and them with you.  You both can agree to pray for one another and help each other overcome whatever major sin or sins that each of the two of you battle with.   Confession is good for the soul and it is good for our relationship with God.

Conclusion

If you confess your sins to God, He will cleanse you from them and then you can be free of guilt.  Paul wrote that it was “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor 5:21). Unless you repent of your sins, confess them to God, and trust in Christ, being sorry will never be enough.  When you meet Christ someday, and we all will, He will either be your Lord, Savior, and King or He will be your Judge.  If He is your Judge, then it is too late to confess your sins and have them forgiven.  You will pay for your sins or Christ will.  If you do, that means that the payment will go on for time without end.  Trust in Christ today and make that “time without end” be in the joy and the presence of the Lord.

Related reading: How to confess your sins

Resource – Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Would you like to get the daily question in your FB messenger? Just click the button below to get started.



Share this post:  |  |  |  | Twitter

{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

K. November 29, 2014 at 4:29 am

There is far too much judgementalism and fear of rejection in the body to allow for this level of transparency. It is also part of the reason there is so little connection within the members. These days you see more and more intermarriage within a church body. Whatever happened to cherishing relationship because of the blood of Christ? I know this lack of connection is a primary reason we elect to stay away. Being in a group where there is so little intent for true fellowship can seem so much lonlier than not being there at all.

Reply

Jack Wellman November 29, 2014 at 9:44 am

You will never find a perfect church and if you do, don’t join it…you’ll ruin it! Being disobedient to being part of the church, called the Body of Christ, is serious business. Church attendance is not just a “good suggestion”; it is God’s will for believers. Hebrews 10:25 says we should “not [be] giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” Even in the early church, some were falling into the bad habit of not meeting with other believers. The author of Hebrews says that’s not the way to go. We need the encouragement that church attendance affords. And the approach of the end times should prompt us to be even more devoted to going to church. Jesus said the gates of hell will not prevail against the church so He saw the need of the permanence of the church and you don’t need it?

Church is the place where believers can love one another (1 John 4:12), encourage one another (Hebrews 3:13), “spur” one another to love and good works (Hebrews 10:24), serve one another (Galatians 5:13), instruct one another (Romans 15:14), honor one another (Romans 12:10), and be kind and compassionate to one another (Ephesians 4:32).
When a person trusts Jesus Christ for salvation, he or she is made a member of the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:27). For a church body to function properly, all of its “body parts” need to be present and working (1 Corinthians 12:14–20). It’s not enough to just attend a church; we should be involved in some type of ministry to others, using the spiritual gifts God has given us (Ephesians 4:11–13). A believer will never reach full spiritual maturity without having that outlet for his gifts, and we all need the assistance and encouragement of other believers (1 Corinthians 12:21–26).

For these reasons and more, church attendance, participation, and fellowship should be regular aspects of a believer’s life. Weekly church attendance is in no sense “required” for believers, but someone who belongs to Christ should have a desire to worship God, receive His Word, and fellowship with other believers.

Jesus is the Cornerstone of the Church (1 Peter 2:6), and we are “like living stones . . . being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 2:5). As the building materials of God’s “spiritual house,” we naturally have a connection with one another, and that connection is evident every time the Church “goes to church.” You are judging all churches to be “judgmental” but Paul says that judgment starts in the house of God (the church). You seem to be judging all churches so you are doing what you are accusing the church of doing.

Reply

K. November 30, 2014 at 8:54 pm

Okay, my bad, I meant to state far too much fear of judgmentalism and fear of rejection. And please note I stated the lack of connection and not judgementalism within the church is “a primary reason” we elect to stay away.
You assume that since I tell you we stay away from “church” attendance, we are guilty of “falling into the habit of not meeting with other believers”. You also assume that since we do not attend “church”, we are not “involved in some type of ministry to others”. We attend a group relularly where there is not only the love, “spurring”, encouragement, serving, instructing, honoring, kindness and compassion you speak of in your second paragraph, but also the transparency and motivation for spiritual growth that allows us to confess our sins to one another. We just haven’t found it in typical speaker/spectator type local churches.
We (as a couple, and others–but not all–within our group) also regularly financially support a ministry we believe makes a greater impact for the kingdom of Christ than any other we have yet witnessed.
So getting back to your original question, Should Christains confess their sins one to another? Absolutely! We just don’t witness it in the typical local church.

Reply

Jonathan Penner December 31, 2016 at 10:10 pm

Jack, thank you. I love the clarity with which you repeatedly drive home the value of authentic, transparent, community – the kind of community Jesus prayed for in John 17. This is the ONLY way (Jesus words) anyone will know his mission was from the Father.

Reply

Jack Wellman January 1, 2017 at 8:55 am

Thank you Mr. Penner. You are so kind. I confessed all of my past to the church before I became a pastor because I wanted nothing to hide. God is good. May God richly bless you sir for your encouragement.

Reply

Jamal January 22, 2017 at 12:32 pm

Greetings, I want to ask something that has been troubling me for so long related to confession and forgiveness. May I please know how to contact you privately? Thanks so much

Reply

Jack Wellman January 23, 2017 at 8:57 am

I have sent you an email Jamal in the hopes I can help you. Have you not spoken with your pastor about this? why not? That’s what He is there for?

Reply

Jack Wellman January 23, 2017 at 8:58 am

Also, click on this to contact me at: http://www.whatchristianswanttoknow.com/contact/

Reply

Mora August 11, 2017 at 4:51 am

the question is

If Jesus had died for our sins and then our sins have been forgiven, then why we should not sin?

isnt it true that the way of salvation is jesus and by believeing him, our sins will by forgiven?

Reply

Jack Wellman August 11, 2017 at 9:21 am

Hello Mora. You have a very good question. Jesus died for our sins and we are saved from God’s wrath, but if you do something wrong with your spouse, you’re still married, but wouldn’t you want to apologize to your spouse if you offended them? We do the same things with friends. If we’re friends, then why do we ask for forgiveness from them and not want to from God? The Bible says we all sin (Rom 3:10-23; 1st John 1:8,10) so when we do sin, we need to confess it to God to be cleansed (1st John 1:9). Read John 11:25-26 to see why we must trust in Jesus.

Reply

Richard September 12, 2017 at 1:01 am

I Would Like To Know Exactly What Is Sin Against another person, Christian or not. Please give bible reference. I read earlier in this blog that we can only sin against God. I need clarity please.

Reply

Jack Wellman September 12, 2017 at 10:24 am

The statement that is made in the Bible, particularly with David in the psalms is that first and foremost, our sin is against God. Yes, we sin against others,but we need God’s forgiveness as well as whoever we offended and their forgiveness. As for forgiving another person, or needing forgiving, we must go to our brother if they have offended us (Matt 18:15-20) but even if they don’t forgive us for our sins, we can ask for their forgiveness, and if they dont’ forgive us, we can do nothing about it, but if they don’t think they sinned against us, but in fact have, we just have to move on. We must forgive others, even if they don’t ask for it. Jesus prayed for the Father to forgive those who were nailing Him to the cross. The biblical definition of sinning against another is harboring a grude or holding onto unforgiveness, even if asked to be forgiven…and this is sin. Did I answer your question sir?

Reply

Teresa February 24, 2018 at 11:26 am

I just read this article. I am the ministry coordinator for Celebrate Recovery at my church and confessing our sons to God, to ourselves, and to another human being are vital for recovery. Transparency is the word that God always gives me as I teach. My transparency, aka confession allows people to see that God doesn’t save perfect people. He saves imperfect people like me. And He uses imperfect people like me. If He can use me and my imperfect life to reach others, he can use anyone. But if they don’t know where God has brought or is bringing me from then how can they understand the truth of what I speak. The answer is they can’t. I have to be transparent. I have to! I remember before I came to Christ all the perfect Christians. I knew I would never be able to be that. Then I met some transparent, imperfect Christians and read the Bible for myself. Changed everything. Thank you for this.

Reply

Leave a Comment





Previous post:

Next post: