What does the Bible say about confession of sin to a priest?


Clarify Share Report Asked July 01 2013 Mini Anonymous (via GotQuestions)

Community answers are sorted based on votes. The higher the vote, the further up an answer is.

Shea S. Michael Houdmann Supporter Got Questions Ministries
The concept of confession of sin to a priest is nowhere taught in Scripture. First, the New Testament does not teach that there are to be priests in the New Covenant. Instead, the New Testament tea...

July 01 2013 17 responses Vote Up Share Report

Final avatar Johnny Cruz
Did not Jesus say, "do not call anyone on earth Father, for you have only One Father and He is in Heaven"?

October 04 2013 8 responses Vote Up Share Report

Picture Alfred Vella
Nowhere in the bible did the apostles ever confessed sins to one another. This wrong doctrine got started in 1215 together with the belief that bread and wine changes into real body and blood of Christ. God Knows exactly what sins we commit, He is the Judge; not an earthly priest, who at that moment can be a sinful man. 

We are Justified by Christ trough faith and saved by Grace alone, not our penance that a priest orders. Jesus PAID THE full PRICE FOR SINS.


October 06 2013 6 responses Vote Up Share Report

Baduya's image kingsley baduya Missionary at Chinsapo AG
My view is that, Jesus says in the book of John, "I Am the way, truth and Life, no one can enter to my Father except by me.

What He was trying to say is that He is the only one who has the capacity to take our sins to God for forgiveness, therefore in conjunction with what Paul is saying in James just shows to us that God has the power to forgive us through Lord Jesus Christ, not a priest. Let's not cheat ourselves, but we should follow and do what the Bible is telling us to do.

October 25 2013 1 response Vote Up Share Report

Mini Tom howard Contender of the Faith
Coming this October 31 we shall celebrate "All Saints Day", but to remember over 500 years ago Brother Martin Luther nailed his 95 thesis to the church door, on this same day! It seemed that he got up set with the Catholic church for selling "get out of hell tickets". The saying of the day was "As soon as the coin in the coffer rings, the soul from purgatory, into heaven springs." How cleaver, yet evil! Thats what they taught the people. Made Martin furious! I believe we should obey scripture and "Confess our faults one to another: James 5:16. Notice it says "one to another", "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." Thats means each other, not to just one particular man. Its talking about brothers and sister in the church body. We need to do this so that we know how to pray for each other. This is why It goes on to talk about the righteous. Thats you and me, Made righteous by the blood of Jesus Christ. By faith. Our prayers bring on the power, "avails much"!

October 26 2013 4 responses Vote Up Share Report

Stringio Vincent Mercado Supporter Skeptic turned believer, Catholic, father of 3
As a Catholic, who confesses my sins to a priest. I want to break my answer into three parts:

1. Convince you that confessing one's sins to one another is mandatory.
2. Convince you that confessing one's sins to a priest is beneficial.
3. Convince you that confessing one's sins to a priest is the way Jesus intended it to be.

Confessing is Mandatory.

God hates sin, but God loves the sinner. He loves us so much that He provided a way for our sins to be forgiven - with the condition of confession. In 1 John 1:9, the author writes, "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." If no sin is too great that God cannot forgive, then the only unpardonable sin is the sin that is not confessed.

Confessing to a Priest is Beneficial.

Think of the many advantages you get when you confesses your sins to a priest. It causes you to deeply reflect on what you have done, and how many times you did sin. To speak your sin out and see another person listening without judging you is humbling. You hear a voice telling you, "Your sins are forgiven." You feel peace in your heart. You get good advice from an elderly man wise enough like your dad or grandfather. 

Confessing to a Priest is the Way Jesus Intended it to be.

In John 20:23, Jesus gave this authority to the apostles, "If you forgive anyone's sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven." Only God can forgive sins. Jesus can forgive sins because he is God. Now, Jesus DELEGATES this task to his apostles. If you don't believe me, read the verse again.

September 20 2013 28 responses Vote Up Share Report

3crosses Kevin Carlson Registered Nurse and a Student of God's only Word, The Bible
When Christ died for each of Us, for each and every sin, past, present and future, we are forgiven of all our sins. God looks at Us as sinless as Jesus Christ and that is what the Bible says. To deny that, then you are denying what Christ did for Us on the cross. You are adding to what Christ has already done. 

The reason we confess to one another is to remain or return into fellowship with one another, not in order to be saved again. We are saved once for all time. Otherwise, you believe in grace plus works. Works is not a gift of grace. Works is something you're paid for. If you, a man, could do anything to work his way into Heaven, then Christ didn't need to die for us. Just like Islam, they don't know whether they're saved. They believe their good works have to outweigh their sins. That's not Grace!

March 02 2015 2 responses Vote Up Share Report

Open uri20131025 13871 3p8s2x Dom McCune Osba
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, please pray for this unworthy servant as I attempt to offer my views.

As an Orthodox Christian, I was taught that we do not confess our sins TO a Priest, but THROUGH a Priest, who is there to keep us thinking and searching our hearts in order to insure as much as possible that we are honest with ourselves in REMEMBERING and RECOGNIZING our sins so that we may confess them as fully as possible. As for the title "Priest", the Greek word from which this is derived, "Presbyteros" is best translated "Elder", which is mentioned numerous times in the New Testament. It is unfortunate that the fallen nature of mankind, and ignorance throughout the ages have placed the human shepherd above his intended station in the minds of so many argumentative people, but that is not how the Office was intended.

The Elder of each Church/Community was originally just that: an Elder. Eventually the Apostles began delegating some of their granted authority, delegating them to the Elder of each group by the laying on of hands...thus was born the role of "Presbyter" or "Priest".

Not some demagogue with allknowing and almighty powers, but an extension of the Office of "Episkopos", the "Overseer" or "Shepherd" here on earth, as our Lord geve the Apostles the authority while He was here (...I will give you the Keys of the Kingdom of Heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in Heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in Heaven. (Mt 16:19)). This authority was deemed important enough by the Apostles and their successors that as the Church grew they found that they had to delegate this to others.

In the Orthodox Church we kneel before the Icon of Christ holding a Bible and a Cross, and our Confession is given to HIM with the Priest there to pray and to ask questions, not for prurient curiosity, but to prod our memory. Then he PRONOUNCES absolution as was given to him. He is here the tool of God so that we in our fallen state may physically HEAR the words of comfort. The Absolution, like the Confession, goes THROUGH the Priest, not FROM him. This has been handed down, as far as we can determine, since BEFORE the Scriptures were written and compiled, as a part of the Holy Apostolic Tradition. God bless you all, and may God forgive me for the poor use of His gifts.

Exarch Archbishop ++ Kenneth McCune, ACOC, COBA

October 25 2013 3 responses Vote Up Share Report

Mini Bryan Diel
The pivotal subject of confession, will always depend on biblical facts. Using a priest as a go between was part of the old covenant God Made with Moses. The verse argued by Catholics John 20:23, they are overlooking the previous statement in verse 22. When Jesus breathed on the disciples, he said " receive the Holy Spirit" Verse 23 " If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you with-hold forgiveness from any, it is withheld" Keep in mind that Jesus was giving a pledge that the Holy spirit would come. (which happened at Pentecost 40 days later. Lets go back to the context of this passage when Jesus came and stood in the midst of the disciples who were hiding out in fear of persecution.In verse 21; Jesus said to them 'Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I also send you'. (this is the building block of the Great Commission see Mathew 28:19,20.) Now as verse 23 Jesus was not giving the disciples authority to forgive sins, but rather something the disciples can proclaim boldly the certainty of a sinners forgiveness by the Father(God) if the person believes the Gospel and repented of their sins. See Mathew 16:19, and 18:18 That certainty also goes for the ones who do not respond to the message of Gods forgiveness through faith through Christ Jesus, that they will not be forgiven. References I used are the ESV and NKJV MacArthur study Bible. 

As to the reference used James 5:16 "Confess you sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working". Now the redeemed of the Lord are covered in Jesus righteousness upon repentance to Christ and conversion, so believers are counted as righteous see Romans 1 and 4 for clarification on Gods righteousness. The reason why we confess to one another,and make our requests known is for mutual honesty, openness and sharing of needs to uphold each other in the spiritual struggle(study note from MacArthur study bible on James 5:16.)

The verse is not specific, but can include other believers, pastors elders and so forth, which is what a priest should really be considered, because both were considered overseers in the early church. See Acts 20 :28 As Paul Exhorted the elders at Ephesus ' therefore, take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood' Paul made it clear that overseers were necessary for the upholding of the church, but that self examination by the leaders of churches See also 1 Timothy 4:16 and 2 Timothy 2:20,21. 

Back to confession, I believe scripture was not too specific for and against going to a priest or elder or pastor, Old covenant vs. New covenant, except that Jesus became our priest who goes before Father God. I believe the believer knows whom he will be more honest with, and more open and humble. You decide. With the love of Christ, let us uphold one another. Be blessed, and may Christ be with you. Bryan

October 25 2013 1 response Vote Up Share Report

Mini Chris Dibbern
As a Catholic, I cannot remember the last time I confessed to a Priest. However, I don't disagree with the practice, because of James 5:16, and elsewhere. It reads:

"Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective."

Does "each other" include priests? Of course. :-) In fact, they, and other religious leaders, have a special position, in this respect, since many people get to know them, personally, and come to trust them more than average joe believer. They did devote their lives to Christ, after all. God speaks to us, in many ways, and it's commonly accepted that, when we ask for God's consult (James 1:5), He will often reply through people we interact with, friends giving wise advice, etc. How much more can someone who devotes their life to this sort of service offer wise advice?

However, personally, I like to think of confessing to priests as less essential. If you have any friend who is a believer, in whom you believe you can confide, and whose advice you typically trust, why not ask them?

October 24 2013 4 responses Vote Up Share Report

Mini Eduardo Po
My trust is in our Lord who conquers all through His Son Jesus. Confessing our sin, or acknowledging our sinful act through Him gives us the peace in us. We can directly go to Him through our personal relationship with Him without hindrance whatsoever.

May 10 2017 0 responses Vote Up Share Report

Open uri20130923 15840 15htij1 John Fernandes
When I sin, I have sinned against man by faulting one of the commandment, It is triangle, Me, God & Man, So when I commit a sin against man the flow of Grace from above is cut.

Similarly, when I hate my neighbour, I cheat my co-worker, I abuse a helper, I should have to visit all of them and say' Sorry I have done so and so.'

Hence I go to a priest and confess my sins.
It is very easy to confess one sins to God but very
difficult to confess one sins to a man.

October 09 2013 2 responses Vote Up Share Report

Mini Christa Mennad
In my view, the discussion misses the point.
Thinking too much about HOW it should be done easily clouds the fact THAT it should be done.
More important than formalties is an awareness of our daily transgressions, of how we hurt others and ourselves, and how we offend God by our disobedience.
If we then - fully aware of our imperfections - turn to God and Christ and the Holy Spirit, openly confess to them what we feel guilty of, if we open our heart to correction, then the most important step is done.
I believe that also confessing to another human being helps us in laying open our mistakes. We tend to hide them. Once revealed to another, this is no longer possible. Therefore it is helpful to do this.
If the Catholic church made an organized event out of this, it does not represent Christian dogma. It represents an institutional support for this important relationship-clearing with God.

October 25 2013 0 responses Vote Up Share Report

Dscf1720 Myron Robertson Seeking God's heart
Contrary to what many Christians teach, the Old Testament laws were not done away with. The writer of Hebrews did not tell us we are no longer to take blood into the temple to atone for our sins and that we are not to follow these rituals. Instead he said the types and shadows had given way to the real thing. The blood of doves, lambs, goats and cattle are not the only types at play here. The temple itself was only a type for the New Testament temple which is defined in various ways. Paul says you are that temple. He uses both a singular you and a plural you, speaking to individuals regarding their body and to the congregation as a whole. Peter tells us we are each living stones in that temple. He also reminds us of what God told us on Mt Sinai, we are a nation of priests.

The types have given way to the reality, and that confuses the issue when studying the types, but the types still tell us how the blood of Jesus is to be ministered by and for us, if not precisely where we are to minister it. Confession is an important part of fulfilling those rituals.

Before the sacrifice could be killed and its blood ministered the supplicant had to confess his sins. This was done with his hands on the head of the sacrifice, transferring the confessed sin to it. It was also done in the presence of the priest. So regardless of protestant preaching on the matter, there is biblical precedent for confession to (or in the presence of) a priest. Since as I believer it is not so clear that I must confess to another priest, but I must confess to Jesus.

Also prior to presenting his sacrifice a supplicant had to pay off the restitution for his sins to his victims. To pay restitution implies confession, whether that confession was forced on him by the court or whether he did it voluntarily. The amount of restitution was affected by whether the confession was voluntary or not. Normally the restitution was 200% with certain sins requiring more, but with confession it was reduced to 120%. 

The redeemer could pay your restitution for you and then determine later whether how much you repaid him. Paul constantly pointed out that he was a bondservant to Christ, thus still repaying the debt he owed to Christ after being redeemed. When we accept him as our redeemer Jesus takes responsibility for repaying our debt to our victims, and we now work for him in everything we do in life. Sometimes he forgives our entire debt. Most of the time he requires we do some form of discipline to learn a lesson that will prevent us from sinning in this manner again (Isaiah 26:9, 10). Either way, our obligations now are to him, not to our victims, but at the same time he now takes the place of our victim. Again the confession to him is necessary.

One respondent pointed out that Jesus has the right under God's law to delegate his authority and that is done through the priests. This respondent seemed to forget we are all priests. Jesus talked about this many times, usually in terms of telling us to take up our cross and follow him. In Matthew 10:38 he said, "Whoever does not take up his cross and follow me is not worthy of me." Popular interpretation says this is something else, but Jesus was telling us that we must occasionally be redeemers to others and thus take their confession, pay their restitution and later teach them not to sin. If we refuse to do this we are not worthy of the name Christian. 

Jesus also put the matter in other terms. In Matthew 25 he tells us that whatever we do (or refuse to do) to any he calls brethren we do (or refuse to do) to him and the list was things necessary to redemption.

By confessing we tell our redeemer or his delegate what our problems are and that delegate is then to help us solve them. The priests of Christ, whether clergy or laymen, are not always good at this, but this does not relieve us of the obligation to confess to them.

October 26 2013 5 responses Vote Up Share Report

Mini lawrence stone
I attended Catholic school Preschool-High school graduation, and it was just my understanding that the sacrament of Reconciliation (or confessing sins to a priest) was just to help the individual to deal with their own sins weighing on them. Sometimes it's nice to just tell your sins to a confidential person so that you can get them off your chest and then receive a penance to do to try to help atone. Some people just need to do this to help them digest their sins. Just like how other people might see a psychologist, and other might do good acts to balance Karma, etc...

I don't know if I'm the only one who believe this, I just wanted to put that idea out their. 
Thank everyone for your time and your answers/ opinions.

May 10 2017 0 responses Vote Up Share Report

Solo Solomon Osei-Kyere Student of the Word
I intended to contribute my opinion but as I came across this verse today- Hebrews 8, I prayed that through the Holy Spirit, God Himself will enlighten our understanding of His Words through which we may understand what confession is, why and who to? Brothers and sisters, please read Hebrews 8 and meditate on what God is telling His people today. Hope someone catch the revelation.

Hebrews 8

1. Now the main point of what we are saying is this: We do have such a high priest, who sat down at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, 2 and who serves in the sanctuary, the true tabernacle set up by the Lord, not by a mere human being.

3 Every high priest is appointed to offer both gifts and sacrifices, and so it was necessary for this one (Jesus Christ) also to have something to offer. 4 If he were on earth, he would not be a priest, for there are already priests who offer the gifts prescribed by the law. 5 They serve at a sanctuary that is a copy and shadow of what is in heaven. This is why Moses was warned when he was about to build the tabernacle: “See to it that you make everything according to the pattern shown you on the mountain.”6 But in fact the ministry Jesus has received is as superior to theirs as the covenant of which he is mediator is superior to the old one, since the new covenant is established on better promises.

7 For if there had been nothing wrong with that first covenant, no place would have been sought for another. 8 But God found fault with the people and said:

“The days are coming, declares the Lord,when I will make a new covenantwith the people of Israel and with the people of Judah.
9 It will not be like the covenant I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt,because they did not remain faithful to my covenant, and I turned away from them,
declares the Lord.

10 This is the covenant I will establish with the people of Israel after that time, declares the Lord. I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.
11 No longer will they teach their neighbor, or say to one another, ‘Know the Lord,’because they will all know me from the least of them to the greatest.
12 For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.13 By calling this covenant “new,” he has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and outdated will soon disappear.

I do not want to make the Word in this verse have no effect and therefore will entreat everyone to meditate on the whole verse and then allow the Holy Spirit to teach and direct them to the truth. From this base, I think it will be clear the "position of the pope", our responsibility as Children of God to see him as a Father and the Purpose of the works of Christ on the cross in relation to confession.

finally, I would love if all the Catholics making their stand on the superiority of the pope on all churches and confessing to priest as mandatory to take their time when reciting "The Lord's Prayer" and pause when they get to "Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us"- Matthew 6:9-15. May God grant us all peace in our Spirit to phatom the depths of His Word and the Power of His Love and to increase in all spiritual knowledge.


October 25 2013 2 responses Vote Up Share Report

Open uri20160825 6966 rhyaou John Matthews Retired Professional Singer, Conductor and Seeker
Confession is good for the soul (old Scottish proverb.) Whether it be to God, a priest, your AA group, whatever; it cleanses. 

Confession is good for the soul and James 5:15-16 states we are to confess to "each other." There is no qualification on "each other." Doesn't that include your pastor or priest? Most clergy will counsel, after the confession, to right any wrong done to another, as will others, I'm sure. 

Confession is good because it allows us an avenue to release pain and inner conflict. We often confess to a loved one seeking forgiveness. All confession done with another or with a group is still known by God. And the only one who knows if the confession is sincere is God. 

Confession is not the same as forgiveness. God has no problem with forgiveness; humans do.

January 12 2019 0 responses Vote Up Share Report

Mini Marlin Vrbas
One thing I have never seen in a Protestant forum on the discussion of confession, the sacrament of reconciliation, is how Protestants interpret and follow James 5:16 which says “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed.” I only see “I confess to Jesus.” Sounds nice, but I don't think it is biblical, whereas I believe confessing to a priest is. 

There is little I can think of that is more comforting and uplifting than to hear my priest say, “Your sins are forgiven!” He does not say, “I forgive your sins.” We know it is only by the grace of God, earned by the sacrifice on the cross, that our sins are forgiven. We Catholics have a clear process for receiving that grace. What is yours? 

By one account, confession and reconciliation was an outcome of the persecutions in the early church over the question of how to deal with the lapsed, i.e. those who had in some way given into their persecutors. It is one of many aspects of church history and formation which most Protestants seem to ignore, all the while claiming equal or greater benefits. 

As far as “no priests in the NT” – to whom did Jesus send the lepers in Luke 17:14? Hebrews 5:1 describes the selection of priests from among men and the correlation with the One High Priest, Jesus Christ. The biblical three-tiered structure of Apostles, presbyters / episcopacy and deacons has been handed down since the very early church, subsequent to the physical death of the Apostles, in the form of bishops (episcopacy), priests (presbyters) and deacons. To my knowledge this is true in Lutheran and Episcopalian / Anglican churches.

May 26 2019 1 response Vote Up Share Report

Mini Ken White
Many of you are taking this too literal... I have been a Catholic my entire life and nobody ever said we HAD to confess to a priest, but the Bible is clear about confessing our sins. The Catholic church developed a viable way to do that and where humans can understand and actually get something from it.

I see too many non-Catholics trying to defend their faith by listening to false teachings or twisted interpretations for personal agenda. The Catholic Church may not be perfect, but in my opinion they hold their ground better than most... although even they are slipping lately.

Bottom line, stop wasting your time arguing amongst each other and just celebrate each other's faith.

November 12 2019 0 responses Vote Up Share Report

Stringio William Luebbert
1. The same logic (and similar arguments) are used by protestants to say there is no need for an ordained priesthood within the church at all (for any purpose) since every Christian is a priest. But they forget that the OT Israelites were also, as a body, “a royal priesthood” --yet God chose certain of them for sacerdotal priesthood, to perform certain functions within, and on behalf of, the whole body. Same is true in the church today which, today, is the embodiment of God’s Israel (and biblical truth I’ve found MANY protestants reject).

2. Any Christian can confess sin to any other Christian. Both protestants and catholics do that regularly (to a trusted friend/ally/prayer partner). Having thus confessed, however, they often are still beset by guilt and worry about God’s forgiveness.

3. In sacramental confession in the catholics traditions, the penitent IS confessing to God. (Read the Reconciliation form in the Prayer Book), but also owning up to that sin before the Church, represented by the priest. The priest does not forgive sins, he “absolves” sin in the name God, as God’s ordained representative to his (God’s) Church, so that the penitent has the assurance of forgiveness, which many, in confession to a friend, lack.

4. Confession is to God. God, through Jesus Christ, the only mediator between man and God, is the one forgiving. The priest acts as the personal representative of the Lord to hear the spoken confession and to speak back to the penitent full forgiveness of God.

October 25 2013 3 responses Vote Up Share Report

1345758527 Mike Giannamore
Christ´s authority includes his ability to delegate it. To the Church, he gives the power to bind and to loose. "Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained" (John 20:23). Moreover, Number 891 of the Catechism observes that "The Roman Pontiff, head of the college of bishops, enjoys […] infallibility in virtue of his office, when, as supreme pastor and teacher of all the faithful -- who confirms his brethren in the faith -- he proclaims by a definitive act a doctrine pertaining to faith or morals." When we follow the Holy Father´s teaching, we honor the One who gave him authority.

October 04 2013 5 responses Vote Up Share Report

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