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Vieraskieliset / In-english

Con­fes­si­on – a he­a­ling sal­ve for wounds of the soul

Vieraskieliset / In-english
11.5.2015 14.34

Mar­tin Lut­her wri­tes about three ty­pes of con­fes­si­on. Con­fes­si­on in which ack­now­led­ge­ment of sins is di­rec­ted to God is con­fes­si­on of faith or con­fes­si­on of the he­art. Pri­va­te con­fes­si­on hap­pens in the pre­sen­ce of a trus­ted con­fes­sor fat­her or mot­her. In the con­fes­si­on of love a transg­res­si­on is ack­now­led­ged to the per­son against whom one has transg­res­sed.

In pri­va­te con­fes­si­on one is ab­le to speak of spe­ci­fic sins in­to which one has fal­len or which bur­den one’s cons­cien­ce. Upon he­a­ring the pro­noun­ce­ment of ab­so­lu­ti­on by a be­lie­ving con­fes­sor fat­her the pe­ni­tent per­son can be as­su­red that “God Him­self through the mouth of man for­gi­ves him his sins and proc­laims him free” (Lar­ge Ca­tec­hism).

Re­pen­tan­ce and con­fes­si­on are dif­fe­rent is­su­es. A per­son be­co­mes a child of God when a be­lie­ving per­son pre­ac­hes the gos­pel of for­gi­ve­ness of sins to him or her. On the ot­her hand, con­fes­si­on is lin­ked to a child of God’s en­de­a­vor in faith. Con­fes­si­on is used in or­der that we would be pre­ser­ved as child­ren of God.

Con­fes­si­on is ba­sed on the Scrip­tu­res

So­me­ti­mes con­fes­si­on has been qu­es­ti­o­ned be­cau­se the Scrip­tu­res do not speak about con­fes­si­on. It is true that the words “pri­va­te con­fes­si­on” do not ap­pe­ar in the Bib­le. Ne­vert­he­less, the ele­ments of pri­va­te con­fes­si­on are pre­sent in the Bib­le: ack­now­led­ge­ment of sins and ab­so­lu­ti­on.

The Let­ter to the Heb­rews ex­horts: “Whe­re­fo­re see­ing we al­so are com­pas­sed about with so great a cloud of wit­nes­ses, let us lay asi­de eve­ry weight, and the sin which doth so ea­si­ly be­set us.” (Heb 12:1). The Epist­le of Ja­mes inst­ructs: “Con­fess yo­ur faults one to anot­her.” (Jam 5:16). John’s re­min­der is si­mi­lar: “If we con­fess our sins, he is faith­ful and just to for­gi­ve us our sins, and to cle­an­se us from all un­righ­te­ous­ness.” (1 Joh 1:9).

Ab­so­lu­ti­on is al­so ba­sed on the Scrip­tu­res. Christ left His cong­re­ga­ti­on and its mem­bers the so-cal­led po­wer of the keys, me­a­ning they have the aut­ho­ri­ty to for­gi­ve sins and to with­hold for­gi­ve­ness. “Then said Je­sus to them again, Pe­a­ce be un­to you: as my Fat­her hath sent me, even so I send you. And when he had said this he bre­at­hed on them and saith un­to them, Re­cei­ve ye the Holy Ghost: Whose so­e­ver sins ye re­mit, they are re­mit­ted un­to them; and whose so­e­ver sins ye re­tain, they are re­tai­ned.” (Joh 20:21–23).

Je­sus con­nects the Holy Spi­rit to the po­wer of the keys. This me­ans that on­ly ab­so­lu­ti­on by a per­son who has the Holy Spi­rit–a be­lie­ving per­son–af­fects the for­gi­ve­ness of sins be­fo­re God. On the ba­sis of the uni­ver­sal priest­hood, or the priest­hood of the Holy Spi­rit, each and eve­ry be­lie­ver can act as a con­fes­sor fat­her or mot­her.

The core of con­fes­si­on is ab­so­lu­ti­on. No one is ca­pab­le of per­fect con­fes­si­on of sins whe­rein one is ab­le to re­la­te all his or her sins. Ho­we­ver, God’s ab­so­lu­ti­on is comp­le­te and all-inc­lu­si­ve. It can be be­lie­ved wit­hout con­di­ti­ons and wit­hout any de­mands.

God does not re­mem­ber for­gi­ven sins (Jer 31:34). The­re­fo­re, one may think that mat­ters which have been for­gi­ven in con­fes­si­on can­not be tal­ked about af­ter they have been con­fes­sed. Ne­vert­he­less, ab­so­lu­ti­on does not exc­lu­de a per­son from tem­po­ral res­pon­si­bi­li­ty. Paul wan­ted to pre­ser­ve a clean cons­cien­ce be­fo­re God and man (Act 24:16).

What about pub­lic con­fes­si­on?

Pub­lic con­fes­si­on me­ans pub­lic ack­now­led­ge­ment of sins be­fo­re the cong­re­ga­ti­on. In the Ear­ly Church, in the be­gin­ning of the third cen­tu­ry, pub­lic con­fes­si­on was used for ma­jor cri­mes such as mur­der. In spe­a­king about pub­lic con­fes­si­on it is ne­ces­sa­ry to dif­fe­ren­ti­a­te bet­ween pub­lic ack­now­led­ge­ment of sec­ret sins and pub­lic ack­now­led­ge­ment of pub­lic sins. No ba­sis is found in the Scrip­tu­res for a Chris­ti­an nee­ding to pub­lic­ly tell of sec­ret sins be­fo­re the cong­re­ga­ti­on. Pri­va­te con­fes­si­on is me­ant for such sins, and the con­fes­sor fat­her has an ob­li­ga­ti­on to pre­ser­ve the con­fi­den­ti­a­li­ty of con­fes­si­on. The Scrip­tu­res are not si­lent re­gar­ding pub­lic sins, for examp­le, spe­a­king of Da­vid’s adul­te­ry and mur­der (2 Sam 11). Pub­lic­ly known sins can al­so be for­gi­ven in a sec­ret con­fes­si­on. It is up to the pe­ni­tent per­son to de­ci­de whet­her he or she al­so pub­lic­ly re­pents of his or her sins.

Con­fes­si­on is a gift that brings bles­sing to the life of a child of God. We do not be­co­me more righ­te­ous through con­fes­si­on, sin­ce we are al­re­a­dy righ­te­ous by faith upon the per­fect me­rit of Christ. As par­ta­kers of this me­rit, the ato­ne­ment blood of Je­sus con­ti­nuo­us­ly cle­an­ses us of all sins.

Text: Ari Pel­ko­nen

Trans­la­ti­on: KK

Sour­ce: Siu­naus, Ajan­koh­tais­ta 2013

Jul­kais­tu eng­lan­nin­kie­li­ses­sä kie­li­liit­tees­sä 6.5.2015.