Sin: Confession of Sins

This document reflects commonly held beliefs based on scripture which have been endorsed by the church's Commission on Doctrinal Purity and the Executive Presbytery.

What is the Assemblies of God belief about confession of sins? How is this to be practiced in relation to God and to one another?

The word confess means "acknowledge." Confession of sins is an acknowledgment or admission of sins, with the intent of seeking forgiveness. The Scriptures promise, "If we confess our sins, he [God] is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins" (1 John 1:9). Today when we come to Jesus with our sins our prayer ought to be that of the repentant tax collector, "God, have mercy on me, a sinner" (Luke 18:13).

In the days when Christ physically lived on earth, some of His critics were right when they challenged Him, "Who can forgive sins but God alone?" In their rhetorical question they were correctly stating an important truth, that only God has the authority to forgive sins. But what they failed to recognize was Jesus as God, the one who has authority. Therefore, they were wrong when they suggested He had no authority to forgive sins (Mark 2:6-10).

When we share the gospel with sinners, God uses us to challenge them to repent and receive His forgiveness. In leading people to Christ, the confession of sins is to be directed to God through Jesus Christ. Nowhere does God’s Word tell us to confess our sins to a clergyman or human mediator in order to receive God’s forgiveness. Instead this is to be done from the repentant heart of the sinner directly to the Savior–Jesus Christ.

On the human level, there are times when we should confess our sins to one another and forgive one another (Matthew 6:12,14,15; James 5:16). This is true when we have wronged or offended a person and are truly repentant. In such cases we are to ask that person for forgiveness. This is best done on a private, personal basis rather than publicly. However, as Christians we must carefully follow the leading of the Holy Spirit so as to discern when we are to practice confession with others. Confession in the body of Christ, when practiced merely at whim without discernment, can cause great harm and hurt to many. Often when done improperly it only causes aggravation and reinjury to the offended parties, and becomes a root for increased bitterness, gossip, division, and emotional stress. However, when confession among one another is handled properly with good motives, discernment, and at the prompting of the Holy Spirit, it will always produce positive results and bring relational healing.

When practicing confession in the body of Christ it is good to remember the circle of confession should be limited to the circle of the sin.

The above statement is based upon our common understanding of scriptural teaching.

All Scripture quotations are from the New International Version (NIV) unless otherwise specified.