What Is Confession? (and how to confess your sins to God)

Let’s be honest, most of us don’t like confessing our wrongs. It’s not fun and it can be very uncomfortable. Or maybe you just don’t know how to confess your sins. The reality is many of us simply avoid this practice and in doing so we miss out of the growth and joy that God has for us. 

I know this topic can be a little intimidating, but that’s largely because we have a bad understanding of what it means to confess. And if you spend a few minutes looking at what the Bible says about confession, I think your life and faith will be transformed. 

In this blog post we are going to look at confession in the Bible and see what it says. And not just what it says, but also how we can practically apply it to our everyday lives. 

So, what is confession anyway? 

What Is Confession?

Let’s start off by looking at what confession actually is. Depending on your religious upbringing you will likely define this term through that lens. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it does mean that we will approach it differently. This is particularly true if you grew up in the Catholic church. 

In this article we will be looking at what confession is from a Biblical standpoint. Meaning we aren’t looking at this from a Roman Catholic standpoint. Rather as a spiritual discipline that all followers of Jesus should do. 

So, what is confession? To confess our sins is to make an admission that we did something wrong before God and others. Think of a court of law; when someone pleads guilty they are confessing that they broke the law. Similarly, when we confess our sins we are admitting that we broke God’s law. 

To confess means to stand before God and admit our sins. This is where the Christian life starts, but it’s also an ongoing practice through our walk with God. 

Confession In The Bible

It’s clear throughout the Bible that the confession of sin ought to be a central part of a Christian’s life. Both the Old Testament and New Testament attest to this. But because the topic of confession in the Bible is so prominent we won’t be able to look at every verse in a single post. So we will focus primarily on the New Testament while highlighting some Old Testament verses as well. 

The most common word in the New Testament that is translated as confess is homologeō (ὁμολογέω) meaning to say the same thing as another or to concede/profess/confess. We also see the word exomologeō  (ἐξομολογέω) which is the idea of joyful praise as we confess. And finally homologia (ὁμολογία) which isn’t used as much and simply means confession. In all, these words appear over 40 times in the New Testament. 

In the Old Testament we find confession used well over 100 times and the primary word is yada (יָדַע) meaning to know or to make known and also can mean to praise

What I hope you see is that confession in the Bible is a common theme, and it’s shown in a very positive light. Confessing should bring JOY into our life. 

Bible Verses About Confession

Let’s look at a few of the most common Bible verses about confession, and then we will look at how to confess our sins to God. 

Some of these verses I have written full length blog posts on; those will be linked below the verse.

  • “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 (read more here)
  • “Therefore, confess your 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.” James 5:16 (read more here)
  • “Because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. For the Scripture says, ‘Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.’ ” Romans 10:9-11 (read more here)
  • “Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God.” 1 John 4:15
  • “I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,’ and you forgave the iniquity of my sin.” Psalm 32:5
  • “Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.” 1 Timothy 6:12
  • “When he realizes his guilt in any of these and confesses the sin he has committed.” Leviticus 5:5
  • “So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 10:32
  • “Speak to the people of Israel, When a man or woman commits any of the sins that people commit by breaking faith with the Lord, and that person realizes his guilt, he shall confess his sin that he has committed. And he shall make full restitution for his wrong, adding a fifth to it and giving it to him to whom he did the wrong.” Numbers 5:6-7

How To Confess Your Sins

Hopefully by now you see the importance of confession in the Bible. It’s something every Christian should practice. But my guess is you are a little hesitant or wondering how this should look like in your life.

So, to end I want to give you some practical tips on how to confess your sins. We will start by looking at who we should confess to. 

Who Should We Confess Our Sins To? 

We know that we should confess, but who do we direct our confession toward? Here’s four people we should confess our sins to. 

  • We Confess Our Sin To Ourselves

This might sound a bit weird, but before we do anything else we need to admit to ourselves that we have sinned. So often we bury our sin and pretend it doesn’t exist. The first step in confession is acknowledging that we made a mistake. Hidden things don’t go away, they fester. 

  • We Confess Our Sin To God 

Ultimately all sin is against God, therefore we should confess our sins to him. This isn’t telling God anything new, rather it’s showing that we are on the same page. We acknowledge that our sin was wrong, and we are seeking forgiveness for what we’ve done. This is the first step in following Jesus and something we continually do. 

  • We Confess Our Sin To Someone We Trust 

James 5:16 tells us to confess our sins to one another if we want to be healed. The reality is we need others in our lives to help us move forward. When we confess to someone what we’ve done they can help us. This person should be someone we trust and who is following Jesus. 

  • We Confess Our Sin To Who We Hurt 

When our sin hurts someone else there’s a barrier in our relationship. To remove that barrier we need to confess. If we sinned against someone and hurt them, then the final step is to go to that person and confess our sin to them. We are seeking forgiveness from them so that both parties can find healing. 

Tips For Confession 

Let me end by giving you a few tips on confession. 

  • Pray

Prayer should be where confession starts but also through each step. Confession can be hard, so pray for strength and boldness. Pray for the people you’ve hurt, and ask God to heal the relationships. Pray through your confession. 

  • Be Vulnerable

I know this is hard and for many of us something we’ve never really practiced. But remember, hidden things don’t get better; ignored problems won’t go away. They will only get worse. If you want to find the healing that God has for you, then you will have to take the risk and be vulnerable. You have to confess your sins to someone. 

Again, this doesn’t mean you have to tell everyone. In fact you probably shouldn’t. Instead, find one or two Christians you can trust and confess to them. 

This isn’t just a one time time thing; this should be a regular habit. That we live in community with others and allow them to help us overcome our sin. 

  • Trust God 

I know this whole process might seem daunting for many of us. I get that, it can be a really hard thing to do. But trust God. It’s clear throughout the Bible that the confession of sin is how we find healing and life that God has for us. Trust that when you do what God says, he will care for you and lead you into what is best. God doesn’t want to condemn you, but to free you. So trust in him. 

Now that you konw more about confession check out: What Does Repent Mean? (3 powerful ways to understand the repent definition)

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Jeffery Curtis Poor
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