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Second Coming

Doesn’t James 5:16 mean that we should confess our sins to a priest?

Hello K,
Thank you for contacting BibleAsk.
“Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed” (James 5:16).
Confessing in James 5:16 is not the same as confessing sins to a priest, rather it means that we should confess our faults to each other and pray for each other. In the context of this verse, it is the sick who are to confess their sins. Some hold that James means that they are to do so in the presence of “the elders of the church” (v. 14) who have been asked to pray for them. Confession is to be a per-requisite to the offering of prayer for healing. The prime requirement for sincere faith in prayer is a clear conscience, therefore sins that involve others are to be confessed to those who have suffered injury. A guilty conscience raises a barrier to unreserved reliance upon God and will defeat prayer.
The Bible declares, “For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Tim. 2:5). Only through Jesus can the sinner be reconciled to God (John 14:5–6; Romans 5:1–2). Paul here clearly rules out the need of human mediators and the supposed value that some have attached to such attempted mediation.
Christ is our “advocate with the Father” (1 John 2:1). Wrong deeds secretly done are to be confessed to God alone. David wrote, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord, and You forgave the iniquity of my sin” (Psalms 32:5). The apostle John assures us that, “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). Thus we should confess our sins to God who alone can forgive.
The Catholic Church teaches we should confess our sins to priests, yet the the Bible doesn’t teach this. The practice of confessing one’s sins to another sinner is not only degrading to the confessor, but harmful to the hearer. Paul said “it is shameful even to speak” of certain sins (Ephesians 5:12). If we do, we are planting the seeds of evil in another mind. Paul wrote, “Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers” (Ephesians 4:29). So, if we sin against someone, we should make it right with them, but otherwise, we should not confess our sins to another sinner. We should confess our sins to Jesus Christ and He will forgive us.
In His service,
BibleAsk Team


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  • Joe Hinkle

    Try reading ‎John 20:23 instead of James.

    • Tina

      In John 20:23, Jesus does not tell His disciples that they should have people come to them and confess their sins to them. The verse also does not say that the disciples forgave sin, but rather remitted sin. The word remit as a verb means ” something remitted to another person or authority.” Thus, when they were to tell all nations of the gospel of Jesus, the sin of the people were remitted (transferred) to Jesus Christ, or retained and those people had to pay their own penalty for the wages of sin (Romans 6:23). Jesus has power to forgive sin (Matthew 9:6). His disciples (including us) who receive the Holy Spirit, as they did in John 20:22, can remit sin by telling others Who they can transfer their sin to, which is Jesus the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29).