Should You Confess Your Sins In Public?
The Common Understanding Of the Confession of Sin
The Catholic Teaching
“Sacrament of Confession" is a required act for receiving grace.
Because the 12 Apostles were given power to forgive sins (Jn. 20:20-23), and because the Catholic church inherited those powers, only the church can forgive a person of their sins.
The ministry of reconciliation in 2 Corinthians 5:18 is taken to be literally given by God to the Apostles (Paul and the 12), and not to every believer. The Apostles and their successors alone are ambassadors for Christ (2 Cor. 5:20).
If faith alone was enough to forgive sins, God would not have given the Apostles authority to retain sins.
My analysis: the Catholic position is drawn solidly from Scripture with a total failure to rightly divide. Such a use of Scripture creates a mixed-up Gospel.
The Protestant Teaching
Protestants teach that confession of sins is required for forgiveness. Tim Challies“Leviticus 16:21 shows that confession is an integral part of forgiveness.“Psalm 32:3-5 shows the burden of unconfessed sin." ()
Protestant worship, especially in Reformed traditions, includes the public confession of sin. Isaiah 6:1-8 is used as an example of how worship elicits confession.
The emphasis in Protestant churches is on corporate confession more than individual confession.
John Calvin: “It is fitting that by the confession of our own wretchedness, we show forth the goodness and mercy of our God, among ourselves and before the whole world" (Institutes, III.IV.10).
The Evangelical Teaching
It is possible that evangelicals teach the individual to make public confession of sin more than any other group.
“evangelical ethos" grew out of the so-called Second Great Awakening, a movement characterized by emotionalism, public response, and personal testimony.
The Welsh revival of 1904-05, under leaders like Evan Roberts, made a formula for revival, and confession of sin (public and private) was always at the top of the list.
The Biblical Teaching About the Public Confession of Sin
There are several verses which teach confession of sins.
Matthew 3:6 -- the message of repentance was fundamental to the arrival of the kingdom. Confession and repentance go hand-in-hand. National and individual repentance and confession were required for the Kingdom.
Acts 19:18 -- Taken in context (see v. 8), this is in the same context as the previous verse.
Matthew 6:15 -- Only implying confession, this passage is problematic if mixed with the age of grace, in which our sins are not counted against us (2 Cor. 5:19).
1 John 1:9 -- This works-based forgiveness is a message to corporate Israel (as is the entire epistle).
James 5:16“handbook for the church."
In short, the Biblical teaching on confession comes in these categories:
An account of someone confessing sin to God or others. None of these can be taken as instruction to confess sin publicly.
An account of members of the Jewish nation confessing based on the Law and the requirements of the Kingdom. None of these can be taken as requirements upon the Body of Christ.
The Harm Done By Inappropriate Confession
The Harm To Self
Public confession of sin rarely frees someone.
Rather, it affects their self-view in a way that is unhealthy.
Embarrassment and regret are hard to move beyond.
“confessor" often finds difficulty in moving forward, the sin becoming part of their identity in a public and unhealthy way.
The Harm to The Church
Public confession often introduces an ugly thinking that is unnecessary.
Introduces sinful ideas to the innocent.
Introduces unnecessary judgments by others.
Public confession introduces emotionalism“drug of choice" for a false feeling of “the spirit."