Pertinent Matters Relating to Confession
God wants us to know that He provides a remedy for sin—Jesus proclaims the blessed invitation, “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28). Although God is the offended one when we sin, He is also the one who prepares the way for our return to Him. Through Jesus, both alien sinners (Eph. 2:12-13) and brethren who are “overtaken in a fault” (Gal. 6:1) may appropriate the remedy that our loving, longsuffering God provides. Many know that “aliens” from the covenant relationship with God who are outside of the church of Christ must hear, believe, repent, confess Jesus as Lord and obey God with immersion for the remission of sins.
However, some do not seem to know that Christians who continue in error and sin have returned to the condition of spiritual death. These are among the offenders (James 5:19-20). Peter adds his inspired voice to that of James:
For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning. For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them. (2 Pet. 2:20-21)
Thus, through the grace of God, though we have devoted a certain period of our lives to sin, even Christians may escape wrath through confession of sins. Therefore, the council of God has clearly drawn out the arrangement of forgiveness for a Christian who has sinned.
Let us observe that periodic public confessions are not necessary. It seems that many sincere and dedicated Christians feel that it is necessary periodically to “go forward.” To some, it seems to be a “just in case I missed something” attitude, in which they confess no specific sin. In the past, preachers and elders, in whom the congregation had the greatest of confidence, appear to think that they “teach by example” in making public confessions. In addition, some whole congregations have “gone forward” at one service, even the faithful and the best. Years and years ago, one preacher from the South went to the North and reportedly “planted” people in the audience to “go forward.” The Billy Graham Association had suggested that this arrangement would encourage people who really needed to come to respond! It seems as if young people become targets at camps, colleges, retreats and other youth outings when the intention is to stir them emotionally to restoration. Of course, we do not dare question the sincerity of these individuals, but they certainly need to engage in a closer study of the word of God concerning confession of sins. Some who really need to confess public sin are hesitant and discouraged because of many who have misused and multiplied the act of “walking the aisle.” Many preachers do not speak out on this subject because of a fear that the congregation will misunderstand them.
Let us observe another pertinent point relating to the confessing of our sins. We are blessed to have caring shepherds who meet individuals during the invitation.
Such times may entail some quite personal matters that should probably only be between the sheep and the shepherd. A current trend is for members to come immediately and sit beside them as a means of support. While in some circumstances, this might be helpful, in other circumstances, this might be detrimental, and we may not have the information to distinguish between the two. Moreover, if people come too early to support, it can confuse the elders as to who may be truly responding to the gospel invitation and who is simply coming for support. It seems as if the practice seems to have gotten out of hand. On one hand, young children are coming forward without really knowing what they are doing. On the other hand, some members may feel guilty about not responding as quickly as other members, because they feel the appropriate timing would be to wait until the end of the prayer or the end of the service. Are these members not as sincere and caring as others are, although they do not respond as quickly? Might I suggest that decorum in the situation would allow some time for the shepherd to speak to the sheep? When he is finished (and really when the time of invitation is over), then caring Christians should desire to come and support. This would alleviate many problems that have arisen recently.
I beg everyone that none should fail to confess public sins for fear of misunderstanding or misjudgment. It takes a great amount of courage for most of us to admit our wrongs. When heaven is in the balance, the confession of sins is certainly an appropriate act.