Your Bible question was:
> the question is, when people come before the church to confess their
> do they need to say just what kind of sin or fault they did, or can they
> brothers and sister I have sinned which is sufficient, because it seems
> in todays society the people who go to church now would find it
> to say specificly what they have done so now all that I hear is the sorta
> traditional way, and that is brother and sisters I have sinned, if you can
> answer that I'd really appreciate it. thank you and God bless you.
One of the primary passages appealed to approve the practice of public
confession of sin is James 5:16: "Confess your trespasses to one another,
and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The efective, fervent
prayer of a righteous man avails much."
It is right to seek such prayers, and to use the assembly of the saints for
such confession is equally proper. We might more appropriately describe
this act as the public confession of public sin. The amount of publicity we
give to confessing sin depends upon how public the sin was. Let me explain
from the scriptures what I mean.
In Matthew 18:15, one brother sins against another brother. Here is
private, personal sin occurring. What is the remedy? To begin with, a
private, one on one meeting. Go privately to the person who sinned against
you, point out his sin to him, and urge him to repent. Confession of sin is
implied in the phrase, "If he hear you, you have gained your brother."
Nothing was ever made public about this sin, because there was no public
knowledge of it. Only when the sinner refuses to confess his sin and repent
of it is the sin made public. And even then, that publicity occurs
gradually, until finally (in the absence of repentance) the whole church is
made aware of it.
Now, let's suppose that instead of the sinner being persuaded to repent by
the one-on-one meeting, two or three must be brought into the situation, but
again the sinner refuses to repent (Matt. 18:16). Finally, the church is
told about the sin and it tries to persuade the man to repent (Matt. 18:17).
Now, suppose he comes to his senses and repents of his sins. Now, how
public ought his confess be? The Bible answer is, just as public as is the
knowledge of his sin. When there was only private knowledge of the sin (v.
15), the sinner confessed to the person against whom he had sinned. If he
had repented when 2-3 others got involved, that would be the extent of the
needed confession (v. 16). If common knowledge of one's sin exists, then a
public confession of that sin is in order (v. 17).
There is nothing in the NT that says one must publicly confess private sin,
much less specifically name that private sin. Now, if that sin is publicly
known, then to specify it during public confession is simply a matter of
good communication. Everyone, because they have knowledge of the sin, needs
to be informed of the confession so that they know that the sin has been
So, the purpose for the public confession of sins is at least two-fold:
1) To obtain the prayers of the righteous on one's behalf (Jas. 5:16; cf.
2) To make knowledge of one's repentance as public as was the knowledge of
We should remember that when we repent of sin, we confess our sin to God,
since all sin is against Him (1 Jno. 1:9).
If one desires the prayers of the brethren concerning sin which they have
committed, there is nothing wrong with a generic description of the sin.
Wisdom should be used in declaring the sin - not so much because it might
seem "disgraceful" to tell exactly what the sin was, but to spare the sinner
unnecessary hardship over a sin he is now repudiating. I have been told of
occasions when one came forward confessing the sin of adultery when the
spouse was not aware of it, but was also in the audience. To publicly
annouce the specific sin under those circumstances would not at all be wise,
nor demanded from the word of God.
So, generally, it is a good rule of scripture to say that sin should be
specifically confessed to the extent that knowledge of the sin exists.
I hope this helps as you consider this Bible topic.
Joe R Price
Mt. Baker church of Christ