Thursday, May 11, 2006
Why Confess your sins to a Priest?  

I recently received the following email:
I have a friend who is educated in Catholic schools. She said the Bible states that you are forgiven upon confession to a Catholic priest. What is she reading? Please tell me where this is found in the Scriptures? She can not tell me. In need of help.
I appreciated the question because it made me think of why I do believe that it is necessary to confess my sins to a priest. The shortest answer is that I trust that Christ established the sacrament of confession, and He provides this sacrament through His Church. However, as the questioner asked, where is the foundation for this article of the Catholic Faith? The question begs the idea that it is always helpful to have solid support for what you believe. I thought of at least two passages in Scripture which point to the need for aural confession of sins, but I needed to do a little more searching to provide a cogent, but somewhat brief reply. One online resource that I used for my answer (and which I would recommend) is the Bible Christian Society.
The Bible does teach that sins are forgiven through what Catholics call the sacrament of confession. The sacrament of confession is the way that God has provided for the forgiveness of sins. In James 5:16, we are exhorted to confess our sins to one another. The passage does not say that we are to confess our sins to God alone. Instead, we are to confess our sins to one another.

In John 20:21-23, we read:

Jesus said to them again, "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I send you." And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained."

The passage describes the apostles' encounter with the risen Lord. He sends the apostles forth with the authority which He received from the Father. Part of that authority is the ability to forgive sins. (See Matthew 9:6 where Jesus indicates that He has the authority to forgive sins.) Of course, only God can forgive sins, yet, because the apostles are sent with the authority of the Father through Jesus, they have the authority to forgive sins. It is God who forgives sins, but He works
through the apostles and their successors to administer that forgiveness.

However, in order to forgive sins, priests must know what the sins are. Therefore, it is necessary to confess sins. Unless the sins are submitted to the authority of a priest, they cannot be forgiven.

In order to provide for future generations, the authority to forgive sins can be passed on to other men. It has been passed on from the apostles to today's priests. Thus, today's priests have the same authority in order to give people the opportunity to have their sins forgiven as Jesus established.

Hope that helps. Let me know if you have any other questions.

Posted by David at 12:08 AM  |  Comments (0)  | 


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