Confession involves either a commitment to Christ in becoming a child of God or a commitment to God in turning from sins confessed (either privately or publicly).
The word homologeo means "to speak the same thing, to assent, accord, agree with"
(W.E. Vine). It may refer to a confession of faith based upon conviction (Mt. 10:32; Rom. 10:10), or admitting oneself guilty of a sin (1 Jn. 1:9). An intensive form (exomologeo) means to "confess freely, openly" (Vine). Through the work of Paul in Ephesus, "many who had believed came confessing and telling their deeds" (Acts 19:18). James said, "Confess your trespassed to one another..." (Jas. 5:16). The Bible does not teach us to advertise our sins, nor to make a general confession to brethren that we have sinned. Everybody knows that! We do not need to forgive sins that are unknown to us.
When Biblical confession is made, the person who makes the confession is also making a commitment to turn from the sin and those who hear the confession are able to assist him through prayer and encouragement to avoid that sin. When brethren know about the sin, they need to know about the repentance. Too often the statement, “If I have done anything wrong, I am sorry,” sounds more like a denial than a confession. The Corinthian who was living with his father’s wife (1 Cor. 5), obviously repented of that sin and confessed it. We are not told whether he went to each Christian personally, or went to all of them at once (in an assembly), but we are told that that they were to “forgive and comfort him, lest perhaps such a one be swallowed up with too much sorrow” (2 Cor. 2:7). Godly sorrow had produced repentance in the brother. When he confessed his sin they could assist him through prayer and encouragement.
When Simon, the sorcerer, offered money for the miraculous power of the Spirit, Peter told him to “repent therefore of this your wickedness, and pray God if perhaps the thought of your heart may be forgiven you” (Acts 8:22). Simon’s plea, “Pray to the Lord for me” (v. 24), clearly shows his commitment to turn from that sin. If he had not confessed it, Peter could not have prayed for him, nor encouraged him to avoid such sin in the future.
The confession needs to be only as public as the sin. Since God knows all our sins, we should confess all that we are aware of to Him, as well as confessing that we are sinners. The tax collector did not specify every sin that he had committed, but said “God be merciful to me a sinner” (Lk. 18:13). We may not be aware of every sin that we commit, but we are aware that we are sinners, and that God knows all our sins of omission and commission. Since men do not know all our sins, they need to know of our repentance only when they know our sin.
Jesus made “the good confession” before Pilate when he asked “Are You the King of the Jews?” Jesus confessed “it is as you say” (Mk. 15:1,2; 1 Tim. 6:13). In order to be saved, we must “confess with the mouth the Lord Jesus” (Rom. 10:9,10). This is a commitment to surrender our wills to His, which begins a life of not only saying that we believe in Christ, but showing it by our actions.
The gospel of John tells about many of the Jewish rulers who “believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they did not confess Him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue” (Jn. 12:42). Believers must confess Christ in order to be saved, and they must continue to confess Him to remain saved.
From the Midway Messenger, May 16, 2002