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True2Ourselves Forums   > Community Topics > Theology  > The Sacrament of Confession

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  #1  
Old 09-28-2009, 09:27 AM
CatholicCrusader
 
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Default The Sacrament of Confession

Okay. In another thread I was asked about the Sacrament of Confession and I said I would start a thread.

As with some of my threads on Baptism, it is important to understand the wider issue of what a Sacrament itself actually is. I will get into that too. But for now I am going to begin with these four points about Confession:


1. Why do I have to go to a priest for confession instead of going straight to God? After all, the Bible says that "there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus" (1 Tim. 2:5).

The Lord does want us to come to him when we fall into sin. He wants to bring us forgiveness so much that he gave the apostles the power to forgive sins. This power given to the apostles and their successors does not come from within them but from God. Throughout the New Testament, Jesus gave the apostles authority over unclean spirits, the authority to heal, the authority to raise people from the dead, et cetera. No Christian assumes that these powers came from the men themselves, since God is the one that has chosen to use them to manifest his power and mercy.

In the words of Paul, "All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation" (2 Cor. 5:18). The apostles and their successors are merely ambassadors for Christ (2 Cor. 5:20), bringing his forgiveness to the world through the sacraments and the message of the gospel. If God has chosen to bring his message of forgiveness to the world by means of sinful, human ambassadors, why would he not be able to give these messengers the power to forgive and retain sins? And why would this not be a natural way for Jesus to extent his merciful presence on earth for all generations?

If Jesus has set up a way for us to draw near to him and receive his grace, why should we prefer another route? We would be like the three-year-old with his father who, in a rush to get home from the store, begins to run. "Let me pick you up," the father offers. The child says, "No, Dad. I’m fast. Just watch me." It takes them much longer to get home because the child’s pride prevents him from accepting his father’s help. Likewise, God does hear us when we ask for forgiveness, but it is dangerous and often prideful to stay away from what the saints call the "medicine box"—the confessional. Why would a person wish to overcome their sins alone when they have the God-given power of the apostles’ successors at their disposal?


2. Where is the sacrament of confession in the Bible?

As soon as Jesus rose from the dead and earned salvation for us, he brought his apostles a new gift. After speaking peace to them, he said, "As the Father has sent me, even so I send you" (John 20:21). Just as Jesus was sent by the Father to reconcile the world to God, Jesus sent the apostles to continue his mission.

Jesus then breathed on the apostles. This is a verse that is often passed over, but it has extraordinary significance because it is only the second time in all of Scripture where God breathes on anyone. The other instance was at the moment of creation, when God breathed his own life into the nostrils of Adam. This should tell us that something of great importance is taking place. Upon doing this, Jesus said, "Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained" (John 20:22–23).

Notice that Jesus is not simply commissioning the apostles to preach about God’s forgiveness. He is not saying, "Go tell everyone that when God forgives men’s sins, they’re forgiven." In using the second person plural you, Jesus is telling his apostles that by the power of the Holy Spirit he has given them the power to forgive and retain the sins of men. Having the power to forgive and to retain sins implies that the apostle knows what a person’s sins are, which in turn implies oral confession. Otherwise, how is the apostle to know what to retain or forgive?

In the same way that Jesus gave his apostles other supernatural powers (such as raising men from the dead), he gave them power to absolve sins (raising them from spiritual death). In Matthew 9, we read that Jesus forgave a paralytic and then healed him so "that you may know that the Son of man has authority on earth to forgive sins" (Matt. 9:6)

After he exercised this power as a man, the crowds glorified God for having given "such authority to men" (Matt. 9:8, emphasis added). Notice that Matthew indicates this power to forgive sins had been given to men, and not simply to a man.


3. Doesn’t confession of one’s sins imply that Christ’s work was insufficient? The Bible says that if I believe that Jesus is Lord, I’ll be saved.

The passage you referred to is Acts 16:31, which reads, "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved." Sounds pretty simple. However, the Bible says much more about salvation and forgiveness. Jesus repeatedly affirmed that if we do not forgive others, we will not be forgiven (Matt. 6:15). When Jesus breathed on the apostles in John 20, he gave them the power to retain sins. But if one’s salvation is contingent upon nothing other than a verbal profession of faith, then there is no reason why Jesus would given any man the power to retain sins. In the midst of all of these passages what we need to be careful of is that we do not camp out on one particular Bible passage without consulting the rest of Scripture.

It is because of the work of Christ that we obtain forgiveness. All Christians can agree on that. What needs to be discussed is how that forgiveness comes to mankind. When Ananias spoke to Paul in Acts 22:16, he said, "And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized, and wash away your sins" (Acts 22:16). Later in the New Testament, the forgiveness of sins is tied to the sacrament of the anointing of the sick (James 5:13–15). Just as these Biblical practices are channels of God’s forgiving grace, the sacrament of confession does not add to or take away from the finished work of Christ. It is evidence of the finished work of Christ in our midst.


4. How can Catholics claim confession to a priest is an apostolic tradition? I heard it was invented in 1215 at the Fourth Lateran Council.

What you heard probably came from the anti-Catholic book Roman Catholicism by Loraine Boettner. This book is well known for its inaccurate history, and the reference you gave is a primary example. During the Fourth Lateran Council, the Church reminded the faithful in an official way what had already been the ancient practice of the Church—to confess mortal sins at least once a year. In no way was this the initiation of a new sacrament or even a new way to celebrate an old sacrament. If the Church did initiate the sacrament of reconciliation in 1215, why were there no cries at the time of invention? The obvious answer is no one objected because they were aware that the sacrament was over a millennium old at the time of the Council.

Consider the following early Christian writings from the first five centuries:

"Confess your sins in church, and do not go up to your prayer with an evil conscience. This is the way of life. . . . On the Lord’s Day gather together, break bread, and give thanks, after confessing your transgressions so that your sacrifice may be pure" (Didache 4:14, 14:1 [A.D. 70]).

"[Regarding confession, some] flee from this work as being an exposure of themselves, or they put it off from day to day. I presume they are more mindful of modesty than of salvation, like those who contract a disease in the more shameful parts of the body and shun making themselves known to the physicians; and thus they perish along with their own bashfulness"(Tertullian, Repentance 10:1 [A.D. 203]).

"[The bishop conducting the ordination of the new bishop shall pray:] God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ . . . pour forth now that power which comes from you, from your royal spirit, which you gave to your beloved Son, Jesus Christ, and which he bestowed upon his holy apostles . . . and grant this your servant, whom you have chosen for the episcopate, [the power] to feed your holy flock and to serve without blame as your high priest . . . and by the Spirit of the high-priesthood to have the authority to forgive sins, in accord with your command" (Hippolytus, Apostolic Tradition 3 [A.D. 215]).

"Priests have received a power which God has given neither to angels nor to archangels. It was said to them: ‘Whatsoever you shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatsoever you shall loose, shall be loosed.’ Temporal rulers have indeed the power of binding; but they can only bind the body. Priests, in contrast, can bind with a bond which pertains to the soul itself and transcends the very heavens. Did [God] not give them all the powers of heaven? ‘Whose sins you shall forgive,’ he says, ‘they are forgiven them; whose sins you shall retain, they are retained.’ What greater power is there than this? The Father has given all judgment to the Son. And now I see the Son placing all this power in the hands of men" (John Chrysostom, The Priesthood 3:5 [A.D. 387]).

Last edited by CatholicCrusader : 09-28-2009 at 01:55 PM.
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  #2  
Old 09-28-2009, 01:54 PM
Redeemed
 
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Default Re: The Sacrament of Confession

Thanks, Terry, for helping me to understand your understanding. Very helpful.

Nancy
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  #3  
Old 09-28-2009, 04:44 PM
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Default Re: The Sacrament of Confession

Wait, so can a priest bind someone to their sin? That is, can they use the power you mention to condemn as well as forgive? Not that they would, but still.

I hope this doesn't seem like a wise-guy reply. I'm honestly just curious.
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Old 09-28-2009, 05:04 PM
CatholicCrusader
 
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Default Re: The Sacrament of Confession

Quote:
Originally Posted by mirutsa View Post
Wait, so can a priest bind someone to their sin? That is, can they use the power you mention to condemn as well as forgive? Not that they would, but still.

I hope this doesn't seem like a wise-guy reply. I'm honestly just curious.
Its a very good question. The answer is, yes, he can.

Let us say I were to go to confession and confess my sins but I didn't really sound too repentent, and so the priest asked me, "Are you sorry for your sins?" And I reply, "Nah, not really. I just want you to absolve me."

Well the priest would be justified in saying, "Well then, I cannot absolve you of your sin." In so doing, he would essentially be binding me.

I would also add that if I decided to lie to the priest and say I WAS sorry when I wasn't, the Church teaches that the sacrament is null and void if a person merely goes through the motions without true interior contrition.
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  #5  
Old 09-28-2009, 05:13 PM
preachergirl
 
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Default Re: The Sacrament of Confession

This all seems to have a shadow of letter vs. spirit. As if we are getting our sins forgiven by the letter...in fleshly ways like confessing to a Priest, and then if he judges our intents are sincere he will then dismiss your sins...it's like a picture of what Christ does...who we are told we can come boldly to in times of need...because the veil in the Holy of Holies has been rent and there is free admission and access now to God personally through Christ....who lives "in" us so where do you need to go to access him if he is "in" you? Not trying to be an aggitator, it's just honest thoughts.
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  #6  
Old 09-28-2009, 05:27 PM
CatholicCrusader
 
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Default Re: The Sacrament of Confession

As I said in the OP, I need to get into the Sacramental Principle in general to better explain any sacrament, be it this one, or Baptism, or whatever.

Here is the general idea behind a sacrament:

God has always worked through men and things: Always. Men were prophets and men wrote the scriptures, with God working through them.

Here is a good example of the sacramental principle. When Moses raised his staff over the waters and split the Red Sea, who really parted the waters, God or Moses? It was God of course. BUT: The visible sign that the people could see was Moses raising his staff. God provided the people with a visible sign. Basically, that is the sacramental principle: A visible sign which God works through..

So today it is the same. Take Baptism: The visible sign we see is the water being poured over the person, and what we do not see is the miracle of God washing away that person's sins. This is the sacramental principle.

Now take confession. The visible sign we see is the priest holding his hands over us a speaking the words "I absolve you of your sin IN THE NAME OF the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit." What we do NOT see is Christ working through the sacrament to effect what the sacrament signifies.

An interesting example of this principle is Jesus rubbing mud in the blind man's eyes. What was it that cured the man's blindness, the mud, or Jesus? Jesus did of course. So why did he bother with the mud? Because God always works through men and things.
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Old 09-28-2009, 05:43 PM
preachergirl
 
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Default Re: The Sacrament of Confession

I used to be more of a stickler on such doctrinal differences but in these times I tend to think more that God knows our frame and our faith and cares more than we love him and "find" him! If I personally find him more by going directly into the Holy of Holies myself and may not have the truest heart to heart experience with him, in say confessing sins, via an earthly Priest, then what does God see as better? He looks at the heart and has said that little word about "according to your faith..."

In the same way, if I had been brought up in the Catholic doctrines, and to me personally I would meet God on this issue of confessing sins more truly in my heart by openly confessing them to a visible earthly Priest, then wouldn't it be better if I did it this way so that the main goal could be accomplished in my heart?

There is no doubt to me at all that I can go directly to God; I've been doing it for 30 years and have seen extensive evidence in my life of his responses, and I know I am his and I feel no spiritual discernment at all that tells me I need to do things a different way...

But at the same time....I know there are people who also know God and truly love him who know to do things this other way, through the earthly Priest, and would I really benefit them "If" I could get them to believe it my way? What if I did and then when they went to confess their sins they just didn't feel the real and full effect because "their faith" had been constructed with the belief that you had to confess to a visible Priest?

My inward feeling is that some things are "according to your faith.."...because while man looks on the outward, God looks on the "heart!"

I bet we can all agree that God is most concerned about the sincerity of our heart toward him? In my earlier years I would never have seen it this way....but today I really tend to believe that people can truly have a totally different perspective in some ways...that isn't necessarily wrong...and that we are better to not try to pluck them out of their faith if they are secure in God in it.

Ofcourse I'm not saying I'm so open that I believe there is another access to God besides Christ...some things just can't be compromised...but as God says it's the spirit that leads to life, not the flesh...if someone is led to spiritual life even via an earthly Priest...what matters is the result of true spiritual life, whether people gain it my way or another.
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  #8  
Old 09-28-2009, 07:07 PM
Redeemed
 
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Default Re: The Sacrament of Confession

Very good post, Kim. My thoughts also.
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Old 09-28-2009, 11:42 PM
colin's Avatar
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Default Re: The Sacrament of Confession

Wrong wrong wrong wrong wrong. How can a man in bondage to sin set a man fee of his bondage. You do not understand what it means to be forgiven in the bible. Jesus himself was given in the image of sin so what you see is the sin you are in and to be set free is to be given the proper image of a risen lord. The confession has to be a repented confession and it is the sinfull nature of your understanding you must confess and turn away from. All else is leglelism and the man that teaches this is a hipocrite and stands condemed infront of God. If you can't loose the scriptures for yourself how can you loose a man in bondage to them and that means you haver not athority from God to do so. A slave cannot set a slave free.And again you don't need to be a catholic to be a diciple of Jesus christ and anyman being disiplined by Jesus is one of his diciples. Did Jesus say to his diciples your cannot forgive anyone, only peter can do that.
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  #10  
Old 09-29-2009, 06:45 AM
CatholicCrusader
 
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Default Re: The Sacrament of Confession

Quote:
Originally Posted by preachergirl View Post
.....In the same way, if I had been brought up in the Catholic doctrines, and to me personally I would meet God on this issue of confessing sins more truly in my heart by openly confessing them to a visible earthly Priest, then wouldn't it be better if I did it this way so that the main goal could be accomplished in my heart?......
As I said to Nancy in another thread: Beware of "subjectivism". How either you or I were brought up is irrelevant. The question is: Is this true or not?

I would remind you that this is not just Catholic doctrine. This sacrament is practiced by Orthodox, Coptics, Traditional Anglicans..... .....in fact, this was Christian practice for ALL Christians until the 16th century when protestants rejected it. And today it is still the practice for all Christians except protestants & non-denoms.
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