In many languages, including the languages of the Bible, ‘confession’ is a word with a range of meanings. In the Bible’s usage of the word, these meanings fall into two groups, those concerned with confession of sins, and those concerned with confession of faith.

Confession of sins

God is willing to forgive people’s sins, but he requires on their part repentance and faith; that is, he requires that they see their sin as rebellion against God, that they confess it to God as deserving his punishment, that they turn from it decisively, and that they trust in God’s mercy to forgive them (Ezra 10:10-11; Ps 32:5; 51:3-4; Matt 3:6; 6:12; Luke 18:13; 1 John 1:5-10). There is no suggestion that sin causes believers to lose their salvation and that confession is necessary to win it back. When sinners turn to Christ for salvation, God declares them righteous and free from the penalty of sin, on the basis of what Christ has done. Failures will spoil their fellowship with God and they will need to confess them, but if their faith is truly in what Christ has done for them, their salvation is secure (1 John 1:6-9; 2:1-2). (For fuller details see JUSTIFICATION, sub-heading ‘Justification and forgiveness’.) If believers sin against others, they must also confess their sin to those concerned and put right whatever wrong they have done (Num 5:6-8; Matt 5:23-24; James 5:16). Such confession is usually a private matter, but some cases may require public confession (Acts 19:18). Confession of sin is a necessary part of prayer, and a lack of confession could be one reason why prayers are not answered (1 Kings 8:33-36; Ezra 9:6-7; Neh 1:4-11; Ps 66:18; Dan 9:4-9; Matt 6:12; Luke 18:13). (See also FORGIVENESS.)

Confession of faith

If confession of sin is, in a sense, negative (admitting oneself to be a wrongdoer), confession of faith is, by contrast, positive (declaring oneself to be a believer in and follower of God). The confession of faith that Christians make is an open acknowledgment of their belief in Jesus Christ as the Son of God, the Messiah, the chosen one of God who died on the cross and rose victoriously to be crowned Lord of all (Matt 16:16; John 1:49; Rom 10:9; 1 Tim 6:12; 1 John 4:2,15). Jesus made such a confession in relation to himself and suffered persecution as a result (Mark 14:60- 62; John 18:33-37; 1 Tim 6:13). When his followers make a similar confession, they too may be persecuted (Matt 10:32-33; John 9:22; 12:42). Those who by their confession of faith identify themselves with Christ will be rewarded by God, but those who deny Christ will suffer God’s judgment (Matt 10:32- 33; 2 Tim 2:11-13; 1 John 2:22-23). One day all people will confess Jesus Christ as Lord, to the glory of God (Phil 2:11).

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