- an act of confessing; especially : a disclosure of one’s sins in the sacrament of reconciliation
a session for the confessing of sins
- a statement of what is confessed: such as
- a written or oral acknowledgment of guilt by a party accused of an offense
- a formal statement of religious beliefs : creed
- an organized religious body having a common creed
The word “confession” has two meanings among Christians. First, it is the act of acknowledging our sin and guilt. This practice is something that we do to both God in prayer and before people. In confessing our sin to another person or group of people, this may be done to apologize, admit guilt, and ask for forgiveness. It may also be done before a person or group in order to ask for accountability and prayer to battle a sin.
The second meaning of the word has to do with professing or holding to a belief. As Christians, there are certain confessions we must hold to in order to accurately represent that title. We must confess Christ as our Lord, we must confess our need for a Savior, we must confess that we are saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone, etc… These confessions have been formalized in various documents through the ages that are referred to as “Confessions.”
Confession of Sin:
“If they confess their iniquity and the iniquity of their forefathers, in their unfaithfulness which they committed against Me, and also in their acting with hostility against Me—I also was acting with hostility against them, to bring them into the land of their enemies—or if their uncircumcised heart becomes humbled so that they then make amends for their iniquity, then I will remember My covenant with Jacob, and I will remember also My covenant with Isaac, and My covenant with Abraham as well, and I will remember the land.” (Leviticus 26:40-42)
Then Ezra the priest stood up and said to them, “You have been unfaithful and have married foreign wives adding to the guilt of Israel. Now therefore, make confession to the Lord God of your fathers and do His will; and separate yourselves from the peoples of the land and from the foreign wives.” (Ezra 10:10-11)
How blessed is the man to whom the Lord does not impute iniquity,
And in whose spirit there is no deceit!
When I kept silent about my sin, my body wasted away
Through my groaning all day long.
For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me;
My vitality was drained away as with the fever heat of summer. Selah.
I acknowledged my sin to You,
And my iniquity I did not hide;
I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord”;
And You forgave the guilt of my sin. Selah. (Psalm 32:2-5)
For I confess my iniquity;
I am full of anxiety because of my sin. (Psalm 38:18)
He who conceals his transgressions will not prosper,
But he who confesses and forsakes them will find compassion. (Proverbs 28:13)
I prayed to the Lord my God and confessed and said, “Alas, O Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps His covenant and lovingkindness for those who love Him and keep His commandments, we have sinned, committed iniquity, acted wickedly and rebelled, even turning aside from Your commandments and ordinances. Moreover, we have not listened to Your servants the prophets, who spoke in Your name to our kings, our princes, our fathers and all the people of the land. (Daniel 9:4-6)
Then Jerusalem was going out to him, and all Judea and all the district around the Jordan; and they were being baptized by him in the Jordan River, as they confessed their sins. (Matthew 3:5-6)
Many also of those who had believed kept coming, confessing and disclosing their practices. (Acts 19:18)
Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much. (James 5:16)
If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)
Confession of belief:
“Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one!” (Deuteronomy 6:40)
When all the people saw it, they fell on their faces; and they said, “The Lord, He is God; the Lord, He is God.” (1 Kings 18:39)
Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” (Matthew 16:16)
Nathanael answered Him, “Rabbi, You are the Son of God; You are the King of Israel.” (John 1:49)
Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life. We have believed and have come to know that You are the Holy One of God.” (John 6:68-69)
Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:28)
[And Philip said, “If you believe with all your heart, you may.” And he answered and said, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.”] (Acts 8:37)
But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart”—that is, the word of faith which we are preaching, that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation. (Romans 10:8-10)
yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom are all things and we exist for Him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we exist through Him. (1 Corinthians 8:6)
For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep; then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles; and last of all, as to one untimely born, He appeared to me also. (1 Corinthians 15:3-8)
By common confession, great is the mystery of godliness:
He who was revealed in the flesh,
Was vindicated in the Spirit,
Seen by angels,
Proclaimed among the nations,
Believed on in the world,
Taken up in glory. (1 Timothy 3:16)
Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near. (Hebrews 10:19-25)
Confession of Sin:
“Sisters, this is a undeserved mercy, that we can be honest and open with the living God about what is on our hearts and minds. It is a privilege given, not earned. Come before the throne of grace and speak to Him. He already knows what we are going to say. There is no need to hide, once we are hidden in Christ.” ~ Emerald Griffin
“Confession is a grace. Only grace can convince you to abandon your righteousness and run to the merciful arms of the Lord.” ~ Paul Tripp
“Confession affects the heart with sin, and engages the heart against it. Every confession of the evil we do—is a new obligation not to do it any more. Confession of sin shows us more clearly our need of mercy—and endears God’s mercy more to us. How good and sweet is mercy—to a soul that has tasted how evil and bitter a thing it is to sin against the Lord.” ~ Joseph Caryl
“Is there any Scriptural warrant for confessing to priests or ministers? There is none. There is not a passage in the New Testament which commands it. Paul writes three Epistles to Timothy and Titus about ministerial duty. But he says nothing about receiving confessions. James bids us “confess our faults to one another,” but he says nothing about confessing to ministers. Above all, there is not a single example in Scripture of any one confessing to a minister and receiving absolution. We see the Apostles often declaring plainly the way of forgiveness, and pointing men to Christ. But we nowhere find them telling men to confess to them, and offering to absolve them after confession.” ~ JC Ryle
“We have placed convenient limitations on God’s mandate to confess our sins. We go all too easily before God and confess our sins, and excuse ourselves from public confession by saying, “This is a personal matter between a sinner and the God who forgives.” In much evangelical worship today there is no place for worshipers to confess their sins in solemnity. And we certainly make no effort to follow the instruction of James to confess our sins to each other (5:16).” ~ Gleason Archer Jr.
Confession of Belief:
“A confession is a useful means for the public affirmation and defence of truth…(it) serves as a public standard of fellowship and discipline…(and it) serves as a concise standard by which to evaluate ministers of the Word.” ~ RP Martin
“A confession of faith is not the very voice of Divine Truth, but the echo of that Truth from souls that have heard its utterance, felt its power, and are answering to its call.” ~ W Hetherington
“Confessions don’t pretend to be more than they are. In fact, they have two requisite limitations. First, a confession is not an extension of Scripture, as if it were God’s Word itself. It is a human response to God’s Word, an acknowledgment that He has spoken. As such, we value a confession only to the extent that it is faithful to Scripture. Thus, a confession is to be assented to whole-heartedly as a confession of God’s truth only when it accurately declares the truth of Scripture.
“Second, confessions cannot contain the whole counsel of God or the full compass of everything those who subscribe to them believe. As a response to God’s Word, the confession points to and guides us toward the whole truth found in the Scriptures. A confession points beyond itself. Therefore, the view that confessions limit growth in the knowledge of God and His gospel is a view that misunderstands the intention of a confession. Confessions are not self-sufficient, doctrinal cages, but guides, witnesses, and safety nets.” ~ Michael Reeves
A Narrow-Minded Woman Articles:
Other References and Articles:
Confession of Sins:
Burk Parsons: Daily Confession, Enduring Reform
Carmen Miller (Whole Magazine): Why Do We Confess?
Chelsi Woods (Whole Magazine): The Cleansing Power of Confession
Emerald Griffin (Whole Magazine): The Treasure of Transparency
Gleason Archer Jr.: The Pain and Beauty of Confession
Got Questions: What does the Bible say about confession of sin to a priest?
J.C. Ryle: Confession
Joseph Caryl: Confession of Sin
Paul Tripp: Confession is a Grace
Theopedia: Confession of sin
Tim Challies: The Practice of Confession
Octavius Winslow: Soul Heights and Soul Depths
Unlocking the Bible: Confession in the Bible: Verses About Confessing Your Sins
Confession of Belief:
Augustine: Confessions (free ebook)
AA Hodge: Creeds and Confessions
Daniel Hyde: Creeds and Confessions: Biblical and Beneficial
Got Questions: What is the Augsburg Confession?
Got Questions: What is the Belgic Confession?
Got Questions: What is the Westminster Confession of Faith?
Gregg R. Allison: 6 Reasons to Confess Your Faith Corporately
Jeff Robinson: Six Ways a Church Should Use a Confession of Faith
Joe Thorn: A New Year for Old Confessions
Michale Reeves: Confessions in Practice
Michael Reeves: Don’t Be Caught without a Confession
Ryan Davidson: Five Reasons for Considering the 1689 Confession of Faith
For additional definitions on words you may be curious about, check out our Dictionary page. This is a growing collection of words and I would love to hear what words, phrases, people, events, documents, philosophies, etc that you would like a defined here on A Narrow-Minded Woman. Please comment below or send me a private message with your ideas for future defining posts.