Con­fes­sion is good for the soul

James 5:16

The News (New Glasgow) - - FAITH & COMMUNITY - Ryan King

There is much mis­un­der­stand­ing and con­fu­sion when it comes to James’ next topic — con­fes­sion. Be­cause of the er­rors of the Catholic Church con­cern­ing con­fes­sion to a pri­est, much of evan­gel­i­cal Chris­ten­dom has re­acted too strongly the other way and have ig­nored con­fes­sion al­to­gether.

James is mov­ing from phys­i­cal heal­ing to spir­i­tual heal­ing, and a ma­jor part of spir­i­tual health is mu­tual ac­count­abil­ity.

(Jas 5:16) Con­fess your faults one to an­other, and pray one for an­other, that ye may be healed. The ef­fec­tual fer­vent prayer of a righ­teous man availeth much.

There is some­thing com­fort­ing to know that other righ­teous be­liev­ers are ap­proach­ing the throne of grace on your be­half.

There is so much good teach­ing here in this verse. Let’s break it down so we can un­der­stand both what it is teach­ing and what it is not teach­ing.

1. It is teach­ing mu­tual ac­count­abil­ity? No­tice that is one on one. A per­son is not stand­ing be­fore the church or a crowd air­ing dirty laun­dry.

We won­der how much sin would be avoided if one would go to a trusted brother or sis­ter and ask for prayer and ac­count­abil­ity for some­thing that they are strug­gling with.

How­ever, this should only be done with a ma­ture be­liever. There are sev­eral rea­sons for this:

Im­ma­ture be­liev­ers should not be asked to carry bur­dens that they are not ready for.

This also is a dan­ger­ous place for gos­sip to start, so a trusted ma­ture be­liever is re­ally im­por­tant.

The per­son must have al­ready es­tab­lished them­selves as a per­son of prayer, and is de­scribed as righ­teous. They are godly peo­ple.

2. This mu­tual ac­count­abil­ity helps us bear each other’s bur­dens.

(Gal 6:1-2) Brethren, if a man be over­taken in a fault, ye which are spir­i­tual, re­store such an one in the spirit of meek­ness; con­sid­er­ing thy­self, lest thou also be tempted.

Bear ye one an­other’s bur­dens, and so ful­fil the law of Christ.

The law of Christ is the law of love re­peated through­out the NT.

Help­ing each other with their bur­dens ful­fils this law. Too of­ten we go our own way and al­low peo­ple to sink un­der the weight of their bur­dens.

3. There are some dan­gers here that must be ad­dressed as well. This verse in no way teaches that con­fes­sion to each other is for for­give­ness of sins. The Catholic Con­fes­sional model is not taught out of this verse. Let’s look at the key dif­fer­ences be­tween the Catholic model and the Bi­ble teach­ing on this verse.

First of all, we are to con­fess to each other. The idea here is re­cip­ro­cal, not just one sided. This is mu­tual ac­count­abil­ity.

Se­condly, as stated, this is not for for­give­ness of sins, only help and ac­count­abil­ity. Je­sus is all we need for for­give­ness of sins. Con­sider these verses.

The only me­di­a­tor (go-be­tween) we need is Christ. (1Ti 2:5) For there is one God, and one me­di­a­tor be­tween God and men, the man Christ Je­sus;

(1Jn 1:9) If we con­fess our sins, he is faith­ful and just to for­give us our sins, and to cleanse us from all un­righ­teous­ness.

An­other dan­ger is get­ting into the lurid and messy de­tails. This is not what this verse is teach­ing. The word “fault” lit­er­ally means side-slip. It is “a go­ing off the path.” We ask for prayer and help in a cer­tain area, but we leave the messy de­tails out of it. This is be­cause we as hu­man be­ings have a propen­sity to sin, we don’t need any help. We don’t need our minds filled with sin­ful thoughts.

While God knows all about it, when ask­ing for prayer from a trusted per­son let’s be spe­cific in topic mat­ter but vague in de­tails. We don’t want to be a stum­bling block for others.

A fi­nal re­minder is that the power in our spir­i­tual lives is not from con­fess­ing, but from the prayer that fol­lows it.

This is vi­tal to spir­i­tual ac­count­abil­ity and vi­tal­ity.

Ryan King is pas­tor of Bethel Bap­tist Church in Westville and a colum­nist for The News.

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