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Confession a prerequisite for forgiveness

A confession is an expressed acknowledgement of one’s sin. The wholehearted admission of a wrong and a genuine remorse for it is enough to qualify for forgiveness. You then have to communicate about your guilt, either to the aggrieved person or to a trusted person. The confession should normally be a secret between the two parties. Offences have repercussions if they go against the laws of society, should the authority get wind of whatever the misdeeds.


The Lord our God knows about the perpetration of every sin committed by whoever, such that no transgression is hidden from Him. For those fearful of the Lord, the forgiveness of the sin would first require a confession of the wrong. A plea for mercy then follows. Courts of law will punish you for any wrong, but our loving God will pardon those who seek for His forgiveness.

In Leviticus 26:40-42, God spoke on the need for a confession; “But if they confess their sins and the sins of their fathers in their treachery which they committed against me, so that in walking against me, I also walked against them and brought them into the hand of their enemies; if their uncircumcised heart is humbled and they make amends for their iniquity, then I will remember my covenant with Jacob, Isaac and Abraham; and I will remember the land”. Clearly confession is God’s directed path to the forgiveness of sins. Proverbs 28:18 also reads; “He who conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy”. However, in the Old Testament, confession was accompanied by a ritual process that required the sacrifice of some specified animals for the cleansing of sins. It was the blood of the animals that washed away the sins. Leviticus 17:11 gives God’s words on the significance of the blood; “For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it for you upon the alter to make atonement for your soul; for it is the blood that makes atonement by reason of the life in it”.

While the confession of our sins still remains a prerequisite,  the Lord our God then sent His begotten Son, Jesus Christ, to symbolise and replace the need for any further blood sacrifices for the cleansing of our sins. By dying on the cross, Christ was thus sacrificing his own blood to universally fulfil the sacrificial ritual to cleanse our sins for the benefit of all mankind. At the onset of his sermons, Jesus spoke on the need to first communicate about our guilt before forgiveness could be effected. In Matthew 5:23-25, he speaks; “So if you are offering your gift at the alter, and their remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the alter and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. Make friends quickly with your accuser before he takes you to court, lest your accuser hands you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard and you will be put into prison”.

In essence, Jesus is teaching us that we should always be quick to acknowledge our transgressions by way of confession first, so that those we have wronged may exercise mercy on us. In so doing a resolution and forgiveness can be effected. Worst of all is to go before the altar to receive and eat of the holy communion (body of Christ) or to drink of the wine (blood of Christ) before confession of any of our sinful acts. Our offerings would be rejected by the Lord, and the eating and drinking of the body and blood of Christ would be rendered of no value.

How the confession is to be conducted in the absence of the wronged person may differ according to varying practises in the different churches. In the religious denomination under whose auspice I was raised, everyone is encouraged to appear before a priest for a confession at regular intervals, prior to the start of a church service or Mass. The Priest who hears of the confessions would be seated or kneeling in a conveniently designed confession box situated within the church. A person then confesses one’s sins orally to the priest, who will then on your behalf seek for the forgiveness of sins from the Lord through prayer. The priest will also act on behalf of the Lord our God to then declare the sins as forgiven, regardless of whether one has sought the forgiveness or reconciliation with the victim, if any. The priests are sworn to secrecy. Many other related churches undertake varying methods to secure confessions from congregants.

St James wrote on the subject to the 12 tribes scattered around the world. James 5:16 reads; “Therefore confess your sins to one another, that you may be forgiven”. The message here is also that we should first confess our sins before we seek forgiveness. Normally, for anyone to do a direct confession to the person wronged, there have to be some degree of hope that the aggrieved will not punish or seek immediate prosecution for the matter at hand. It is, therefore, necessary that we should equally preach to those who have suffered the injustices for them to exercise restraint when someone comes forward to confess a transgression. The message of forgiveness has to be taught across the divide, both to the perpetrator and to the victims. In that vein, Jesus Christ taught everyone when he spoke these words; “For if you forgive men of their trespasses, your heavenly father will also forgive your trespasses”.

There are other Christian sects who do not subscribe to the doctrine of confession, but would rather cling to the doctrine of grace. They mostly quote from the teaching of St Paul who hugely promoted the gospels of grace. In a letter to the Romans he wrote;  “Since all have sinned [and] fell short of the glory of God, they are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as an expiration (to make amends for) by his blood to be received by faith.” The gift in this instance is the grace from the Lord our God which may be reserved for selected groups. I have always argued that this gift should not be taken for granted as it is a prerogative vested in the Lord our God to use according to his own will. In Romans 6:1-2, St Paul warns those who are wholly reliant on grace alone; “Are we to continue to sin that grace may abound? By no means!” Paul’s assigned mission from the Lord was to preach to the Gentiles who were not bound by the law, hence he tuned his teachings at every turn to suit his audiences (1 Corinthians 9:19- 21).

In Romans 7:7, St Paul ponders: “What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means!! Yet if it had been not of the law I should not have known sin.”

  • Prosper Tingini is the scribe of Children of God Missionary Assembly. His contact details: WhatsApp-0771260195; email: ptingini@gmail.com

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