Should the Confession of Sin in the Church be Public?

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

What does it mean to “confess our sins.” There is no shortage of opinions on this.  The one that counts, however, must be 100% biblically based.  This is an attempt to  express that position.

The word “confess” is the Greek word “homologeo”  { hom-ol-og-eh’-o}.  It is a compound word made from the  words “homo”     (together)  & “logos” (word).  We see clearly here that the intent is to suggest an audible speaking together.   One definition given is “to have a discussion.”  This seems surely to preclude simply telling God about it (as if He did not know).  A synonym would be “acknowledge.”  The general use of that term in biblical times was in the context of a public event: “of persons assembled together.”  Often the word “homou” is substituted.  It is the genitive case  of  homos: “an indication of a public event; done out in the open.”   This action refers to an open confession, not a private admission behind closed doors.  This is the condition upon which God’s forgiveness is predicated.  (Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon  – 1995)

In my home church in Santee, California,  there has been an epidemic of sexual sins over the years.   (27 people out of the 50-60 to which they have been reduced from several hundred.)  I have always maintained that a major reason for that staggering decline is because there was never the disincentive of public confession attached to any sexual sin committed in that assembly.  That was never a price to be paid for adultery there.  It was evident to all that there had never been the great price to pay for these sins:  standing before church and family and confessing what one had done.  Very, very few churches practice this.  My position is that God requires it, and that once implemented, this policy will act as a monumental deterrent to anyone facing the temptation to commit the sin of adultery or fornication.  This keeps the perpetrator from pretending to be in that church what he is not not.  Confession compels an honest self-evaluation, without which there can be no reconciliation with God, the One most aggrieved by sin.

In the end, God makes all sin visible: “There is nothing hid that shall not be revealed.”  There IS full accountability in God’s economy.  I believe that the world is best served by implementing that accountability immediately following the offense.  By doing so, we help the guilty to take a monumental step in being restored to God.  They MUST agree with God on the nature of their sin, just as in salvation.    This is nothing more than one seeing their sin as God sees it and acting accordingly.  Anyone avoiding accountability and seeking quarter has not come to that point, and their healing, not to mention that of their victims,  cannot properly begin.  They are and will continue to be at odds with God.

Many will now say that if we adopt this method, then we will not have time for anything else in the church.  Nonsense!  This is is just an excuse to continue in the old-school pattern of covering sin and manipulating it politically in the church as we cover for the perpetrators in an effort to minimize the damage in their lives.  We lose sight of the fact that God’s original punishment for adultery was death.  Yes, grace has mitigated that, but Paul said that the OT Law was “holy, and JUST and good!”  (Romans 7:12) Contrary to the rampant pop theology on our religious landscape, there ARE degrees of sin.  Jesus himself clearly spoke of those having “the greater sin” (John 19:11).  We confuse this with the legal categorization of sin, wherein one sin establishes the imperfection required for condemnation:    “For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.”  (James 2:10)

God has described Himself as Light.  Ask yourself what is better, more light or less light?  More of God, or less of God.  Should God extend Himself into the dark corners of the church?  Should the church cooperate with the guilty believer in trying to obfuscate his or her sin and minimize the damage?

Sexual sin may well be in a class by itself as God sees it.  It is the only sin in all the Bible of which God said that the offender “destroyeth his own soul.”  (Proverbs 6:32) A permissible and better translation would probably be “destroyeth his own life.”  This translation of the the Hebrew word for “soul” (nephesh) is given 117 times in the Old Testament, and does not bring into question the prospect of one losing their salvation over sin.  The writer goes on to express that the corrosive nature of sexual sins must never be underestimated by adding the warning: “His reproach shall not be wiped away.”

So how is this sort of thing handled in your church?  Has the biblical model been followed or the human model?  I would suggest that the recurrence of this sin in your church and the safety of the young, innocent lives that have been brought into the church by parents wanting their children to know God, love God and to have a solid Christian underpinning for their Christian lives is something that many churches are willing to risk by adopting the human, political, protective model of dealing with sexual sins in the church.  Sadly, that protection all too often is extended to the perpetrators and not the victims, past present or future.

About Jerry Kaifetz

Christian author, c.e.o. Omega Chemical Corp.
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