Confession or Interrogation?
“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”1 John 1:9
Modern men are initially repulsed by the thought of confession. They are blinded by religions’ misuse of the practice, and they are ignorant of the Bible doctrine concerning it as well. The growing guilty conscience of men also causes them to shy away from ‘coming clean.’
An old proverb states, “Confession is good for the soul.” Another says, “The softest pillow is a clean conscience.” The Bible says, “For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged.” (1 Corinthians 11:31) Joseph Scriven sang,
“Have we trials and temptations?
Is there trouble anywhere?
We should never be discouraged,
Take it to the Lord in prayer!”
Surely there is something to this?
Confession vs. Interrogation
There is a distinct difference in confession in the Bible from what is practiced in religions and cults today.
Catholicism has their ‘Sacrament of Confession’ where one sinner tells another sinner his or her sins in detail. Scientology has ‘Security Checks’ where two sinners have a session of questioning while one is hooked up to an ‘E-meter’ (lie detector). Both are two tails of the same leviathan of unbiblical practice for a couple of reasons. Reason 1, Sins need NEVER be confessed to another man for salvation. James 5:16 says, “Confess your FAULTS one to another, and pray for one another.” Reason 2 we will discuss further here, and that entails the way confessions are extracted. What cults call ‘confession,’ I call ‘interrogation.’
To show you what I mean, let me show you a glimpse into the hopeless world of religion. In her documented exit from Scientology, Jenna Miscavige details the painful extraction of her confessions:
“All this interrogation did was to make me doubt the purpose of the whole ordeal. It would be one thing if I simply had to confess what I’d done and repent, but the additional details could not have served any purpose. According to Scientology, the more details you gave, the more relief your were supposed to get, but after everything I’d revealed, I didn’t feel relieved, I felt used.”-Jenna Miscavige Hill, Beyond Belief
Admittedly, if that is the outcome of a believer in Christ privately praying and admitting his sins to his Heavenly Father, I would stray from it as well. In fact, I would run as fast and as far as I could! How awful to think that Catholic, Protestant, Heathenistic, and idiotic (my term, not theirs) religious sects practice this! Men and women are being grilled for facts by a person who is as much (or MORE) of a sinner than they are!
Two Types of Confession in the Bible
There are only two kinds of necessary confession for a person today. The first confession is Romans 10:9,
“That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.”
This is where a man confesses his status as a sinner, and Jesus’ status as the Saviour. Nothing more. No list of past sins and no details of ungodly deeds are necessary, just to confess “the Lord Jesus.” Not TO the Lord Jesus, but confessing Him. In the ABC’s of salvation, this is letter ‘A.’
- A. Admit you are a sinner.
- B. Believe Jesus died for you.
- C. Call on him in prayer and ask Him to save you.
That is the first necessary kind of confession. It is neither accompanied by a nagging priest nor is it recorded for the ‘posterity of the church’. Nor yet does it have to do with enumerating the commission of sinful acts. It has to do with coming clean about your need for a Saviour.
The second kind of confession we see in our title verse, 1 John 1:9,
“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
In the case of the priest falsely-so-called, the confession is directed at an uninterested third party to the sin in question. Sin is not a victimless action, for there is always someone affected by it. Sin is primarily a crime against the holiness of God, and He is the first victim as well as the judge. An earthly priest is definitely NOT the judge, and so if he is also not the victim, why on earth tell him what you did against the Lord?
If I were to tell a stranger of a ‘fast one’ I pulled on a certain person, I am not seeking to restore a relationship with that person, I’m just bragging and burning bridges. If I seek love and forgiveness, I would go back to the person I hurt, and tell them.
Confession is a Repairer of your Relationship
Now, this is not to say that sin doesn’t affect others. It does. And when it does, the FAULT (that is the error) should be confessed to the person affected (again, not to a totally uninvolved third party). But the SIN (that is the evil) should be confessed to the One who said, “Thou shalt not…”
And here is where Bible confession of sins parts ways with the world’s. When the Lord confronted Peter after his threefold denial before his crucifixion, He did not say, “Peter, tell me what happened there around the fire.” Instead, He asked, “Lovest thou me?” (John 21:15) Even when interrogation would be warranted, that tactic was not used. Why? “He that covereth a transgression seeketh love; but he that repeateth a matter separateth very friends.” (Proverb 17:9)
Confession is a Medium For His Mercy
This story serves best in my mind as an illustration of the cleansing or restorative potential of Biblical confession of sins. It comes from the tale of President Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt in the book, “The River of Doubt.”
After Theodore Roosevelt’s defeat for re-election in 1912 as President of the United States, he embarked on an exploratory expedition in South America to trace the roots of an uncharted river, the Rio da Duvida- today known as the Roosevelt River. Teaming with native Brazilian camaradas led by a Col. Rondon, they set out to trace the route of this mysterious Amazon tributary. The river was lined with danger, from native savage tribes to the rain forest’s natural ferocity. During their long sweltering months of deprivation, only a thin line of decency and discipline kept the American/Brazilian alliance from turning on itself.
Three months into their four month-long adventure resources and resilience began to run low. The trek was harder than ever, and the expedition’s strength and health was giving out. Many times when the rapids were too rough, the team would have to carry their heavy hollowed-out tree trunk canoes (called dugouts) over land while hacking a trail in the dense forest. It was tedious, tiring work.
During one grueling portage, one of the native camaradas snapped. In a petty argument, fueled by fatigue and hot tempers he shot his fellowlaborer in cold blood. President Roosevelt and Colonel Rondon were incensed that one of their own could so shamefully turn on his brother. When they tried to apprehend him, he ran. The president and the colonel knew that an extended search to bring him to justice would endanger the lives of the rest of the explorers. The team gathered, buried the victim, and proceeded further into the Brazilian jungle.
Three days later found them floating down the Rio da Duvida once again in their dugouts with the grief from losing their friend still fresh in their mind. Just ahead of them, clinging to a tree branch that overhung the river, was the murderer. Three nights in the jungle had taken an excruciating toll on him, and he looked more pathetic than ever. He begged for them to take him back along on the expedition. He cried, he begged, he threatened for them to take him back, but not a word acknowledging the wrong he had done. Neither Brazilian nor American would so much as look at the miserable man, much less pull their dugout to the shore for him to board. The river soon carried them away from his screams, and the murderer was left to whatever fate the jungle would give him.
This Brazilian criminal had the same arrogance about him that some carry in these civilized times. He refused to admit his actions were wrong. He attempted to justify his behavior. He never confessed to the murder. He- as anyone who refuses to confess their sins to God- was a dangerous person to be around.
It is not a question of guilt- that is already an established fact. It is a question of character, and whether a man will be honest with himself and with God, regardless of the sin. Dr. Peter S. Ruckman said, “God will deal with an honest man, even if he is wrong.” That is, if a man can tell the truth, there is hope for him yet. Confession is a medium for mercy, because it allows a man to admit the truth about himself.
Saved or lost, it is crucial to seek God’s good graces. It is not below God to leave you ‘hanging’ if you refuse to confess your sins to Him. He’s not going to beat you down for it, and He has nothing to gain from it. He does, however, have an offer of forgiveness and cleansing. He offers those in exchange for a private, honest prayer from us. That’s just the way He is.