4 Reasons You Should Confess Your Sins To Someone

In James 5:16 we are commanded to do the following: “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed.”

“Therefore” means “because the preceding is true”… In other words, he is saying “You should do this… it will be good for you.”

Confess your sins to one another. When is the last time you did that? What does it mean, anyway?

There at least four reasons why this mutual confession is good for us:

1. It causes us to consider the sin in our lives

When we consider this, a panic may set in about how much of our sin we want to confess to someone else. Will we reveal all our sin or will we hold back the “really big ones”?

If we never confess our sins and faults to one another, it is easier to minimize the seriousness of the sin and ignore the potential consequences. This is less likely if we confess these faults to one another. In addition, if we are going to approach this practice honestly, there will be a deterrent effect. If I know I will be sharing mutual confession with you on Friday, I may rethink my actions in the days before when I am tempted to sin.

2. It causes us to seek out trustworthy people

One of my favorite songwriters, Bill Mallonee, has a lyric in a song called “A Certain Slant of Light” (have a listen here) that goes like this:

Tell me your deep, dark secret,
And I will tell you mine.
Is that your deep, dark secret?
Oh, well, nevermind…

There is always this fear. What if… the secret sin you’re about to confess is way “out of league” with your mutual confessor? What if… that person tells others about your sin? Will you take the risk? Of course we do need to be wise about what we reveal and to whom. Confession to the wrong person can quickly become a sinful form of exhibitionism. But avoiding mutual confession completely is clear disobedience.

3. It encourages dependence on others

I have found this to be true in my relationships. Perpetual platitudes and shallow talk, while enjoyable, will not lead you into intimacy of relationship. It is not until we have seen both sides of a person that we really begin to know them. And it is not until we have revealed both sides, or all sides, of our selves that we are really known.

There is no intimacy without risk, but we fear this vulnerability, not realizing that without it our hearts become stone and not only do bad things not get out, good things can no longer get in.

4. That we may be healed

Like Jesus, James uses words that have meaning in a physical as well as a spiritual sense. “Healed” is one of those words. Clearly in the preceding verses he is speaking of physical sickness, but in verse 16 he must not be telling people only to pray for each other when they become fatally ill. Here the healing he speaks of is spiritual.

But how can we possibly “confess our sins” to each other if we are not in authentic relationship with each other, or if we don’t cling to grace as a pillar of our faith? God has put us together to suffer with each other and also rejoice together.

Practicing mutual confession will allow us to enjoy the full spectrum of relationship with God and others.

When was the last time you practiced what is clearly commanded in James 5:16?

  • http://lisanotes.blogspot.com Lisa notes…

    Great post. It takes faith for us to confess–to God, to each other, even to self. May the Lord bless each of us with more….

  • Steven

    You never answered the question you raised at the beginning of your post: “What does it mean, anyway? Does it mean I apologize to you for being harsh or critical? Maybe I’ll confess that I said something I shouldn’t have…”
    You seem to assume in the rest of your post that it does not mean simply the sort of the thing you mention above, that is, confessing sins to the person against whom you’ve sinned, but that, rather, it means having a Christian friend with whom you mutually confess all of your sins and pray for each other. Your question at the beginning, however, made me think you would make an argument for that reading. Not saying there isn’t one,  but perhaps you’d like to offer it in a follow up post or in a comment.

    Anyways, I would agree that it is good to have brothers or sisters whom we regularly uphold in prayer, and who pray for us, and to whom we mutually confess failings, struggles, sins, as well as encouragements and growth. The Christian’s path through life is not meant to be traversed alone, but with a band of faithful fellow travelers.

  • Bethany

    I agree with Steven – it was a bit confusing because your entire post other than the 3rd paragraph was regarding general confession of all sins, not specific confession to someone you have sinned against.

    Confession of sin is commanded in scripture, and since I have practiced it regularly, it is such a powerful tool against sin! As one pastor noted, though confession doesn’t guarantee perfectly conquering that sin, “hidden sin grows; confessed sin withers.”

    Also, I absolutely love the ESV Study Bible notes on 1 John 1:7 about walking in the light:

    “Walk in the light means to reflect God’s perfection in the human sphere and includes both correct doctrine (truth) and moral purity (holiness). The symbolism of light as knowledge also implies that when Christians ‘walk in the light’ their lives will be known, and will not contain hidden sins, falsehoods, or deception. Such walking ‘in the light’ results in deep divine and human fellowship and progressive cleansing from all sin.”

    It does not say believers’ lives will not contain sin (see many other verses in 1 John), but rather that it will not contain HIDDEN sins. The fellowship with God and others resulting from this transparency is indeed divine and sweet!

  • Wyeth

    You wrote, “If we are going to approach this practice honestly, there will be a deterrent effect. If I know I will be sharing mutual confession with you on Friday, I may rethink me action in the days before when I am tempted to sin.”

    That’s certainly true.  But, I wonder, is it a good thing to be more motivated by the fear of man than the fear of God?  And, although we’re talking about honest confessions, sinful human nature being what it is, might this “deterrent effect” also motivate some to lie?

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  • Saved from Sin

    I find it interesting that confession of sin was done prior to baptism in John’s day but is seen less (if at all) today, especially in Baptist churches. What are your thoughts on that?

    • Brandi

      I’m not sure where you might get the idea that anybody confessed sins at all prior to John. There’s baptism for repentance prior to Jesus and then baptism as obedience after His death and resurrection, but confession is primarily a means of breaking demonic strongholds kept due to hidden / unspoken sins. I believe it is the same reason God spoke through prophets in the Old Covenant and even today: He literally needs to have someone speak in the earth so that He can move. Ever since God gave dominion of the earth to Adam, He legally stepped out of it. Even when Adam failed to govern God’s creation, God still could not just bust in and start fixing things. He needed someone with Adam’s authority, a man (or man-kind) to physically speak.

      I personally believe it’s the same with forgiveness. God can blanket-forgive all our sins (eternal salvation) when we believe in Jesus and confess Him as Lord, but He can’t just forgive our temporal sins if we fail to confess them AFTER we’ve been saved.

      For example, I know a guy who kept going back into the same sin – drug addiction – over and over again. He was considered the black sheep by his parents, who never failed to tell him how much of a failure he was. (Voice of the accuser.) Subsequently, he didn’t tell them everything he’d done. That being said, he confessed to me, and through much prayer (since those sins of his also affected me) I personally was able to forgive him, and his knowledge of MY forgiveness – having an ally in the earth (Gen. 2:18) destroyed that stronghold, enabled him to KNOW he is loved and forgiven, and empowered him to break out of that sin and never go back. He’s now about 2 years sober. Even when he was in and out of secular drug counseling, the first and biggest part of that healing process is always confession.

  • annon

    It’s tough to trust anyone. So I don’t tell anyone anything that I actually feel. Feelings are very personal. Sins I tell to my lord and ask for forgiveness. Other tan that, noone knows how I truly feel or what I truly think. And though it says to do this, I don’t think I can. My sins are mine and I make them subconsciously everyday. I don’t feel it’s necessary to tell my sins to someone else. People are very judgmental now a days and I don’t care to talk to anyone really. Weather they judge me or not, I just don’t want to share my feelings with another human being.

    • RaynMan

      Annon, I understand you. I too was a prisoner to my own way of thinking and actions. You can never be free if you do not follow God’s plan blind to your own. You must shine light on the dark places of your heart so that you can find deliverance. God put people here for us to help us. If you can’t do this then you won’t be able to help someone who needs to release. Then we are not fulfilling God’s purpose in our lives and ultimately not walking in obedience and servitude. What’s the point in confessing to God if we are not going to trust His word? Free yourself, pray and seek God for guidance and ask Him to send you someone you can trust. He will do that. He did it for me.

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  • felix

    Felix, i no is good to confess your sins, because the bible says we should confess our sins and he will forgive us,because he love us that is why he died for our sins. AMEN!!!!!!!

  • S.C.

    We don’t or at least I, don’t confess to other people because of what they will think of the “real” me and something about confessing just to the Lord not that it isn’t enough but that I thing Jesus knew we would need to so that we could love each other more deeply too. I confess Iv’e made a mess of my personal private time for my biggie and i littered the other day as my “small” one.

  • herdzcatz

    This is especially useful when dealing with specific strongholds you’ve had in your life. I have two different people that I have pre-arranged to go to–one for a certain area of vulnerability in my life, and the second for another stronghold I’d been dealing with. Both women know that I have committed to the Lord to tell them if I engage in the sin in question (I am female–I believe your accountability partner should be the same gender as you). One is the assistant to my pastor, and I told her that if I need to confess to her about this, she is free to tell the pastor, his wife, or get on the mike in front of the whole church and tell them all of my failing. Needless to say, since 2007, I’ve been free from that. The other is a counselor in my church (as well as a friend), and I set up a similar agreement with her in a second area of vulnerability. Unfortunately, a couple or so years after the original agreement, I blew it in that second area. I struggled for two weeks about telling my accountability partner, and finally I realized that if I neglected my vow, my word would become worthless, I would never experience freedom but would always play games with my integrity. I set up an appointment, told her, and have stayed free since then. This is how confession in key areas of temptation has worked for me. God has used it as a tool to implement freedom in my day to day life choices. It’s been very rewarding.

  • Eli Sandoval

    No, confessing sins are only between God and man not man to man as it is written in James 5:16 KJV. Confessing faults to one another is what we must do as christians. When a police officer comes to an accident scene does he ask for anybody to confess their sins? The answer is No, he wants to find out whose fault it is and as a Christians we must confess our faults. Although faults and imperfections derived from sin they are not the same. Confessing sins to another man is Catholic doctrine that derive from the codex saianaticus and the Codex vaticanus that were discovered in late 1800’s at St.Katherines catholic monestery and the vaticans library in rome the NIV NLT and ESV among other New Age Bibles use them. Unlike the Black Sea Scrolls or the Nag Hammadi the textus receptus was never found in any cave or any Catholic monastery or Catholic Vatican Library but has always been and always will be in the KJV… And the new kjv does not count since it has been tampered with the codex saianaticus which are Alexandrian manuscript from Egypt. The Textus Receptus is from Antioch,Syria where Christians were first called Christians according to the Bible… The true Bible that is KJV. But don’t take my word for it investigate and find out for yourself. You will find there are 17 scriptures completely deleted from the NIV Nlt and ESV amongst other New Age Bibles try looking up Matthew 18:11 ,Mark 7:16 or Acts 8:37 etc.

    • Brandi

      No, God commands us to confess our sins to one another to free us from demonic strongholds and also potentially the hearer / people who struggle with the same sin. The implication is that, of course, people will tend to commit minor offenses – like speeding – more readily than major or “shameful” ones, like murder or sexual perversion. He DOES NOT command us to confess to a priest, like the Catholics do. Think about how much more readily you’d confess behind a cloak of anonymity. Confession to a murder would likely NOT happen if the person receiving confession could see your face.

      We also can’t pick and choose which scriptures we accept and which we don’t. That being said, the additional books of the Catholic bible have been rejected by every other Christian denomination as heresy because they contradict the other books in spirit and were not even added until the Council of Trent, well after the Holy Spirit gave us James 5:16. The Catholic church usurped the command to exercise control over worshippers.

      And those verses haven’t been omitted / deleted; they’re referenced or in brackets. Reason being not all of the original manuscripts have the exact same thing word-for-word.

  • Eli Sandoval


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  • Brandi

    In this verse, “healed” is not only spiritual, but physical. I personally experienced physical healing after confessing to my husband decades-old sin. The enemy will hold you bondage in an area by creating an environment of fear to keep you from confessing your sin and being healed of it. Like every form of repentance, God can’t heal you completely until you put the trust of unhindered confession into His hands. That doesn’t mean you have to tell your deepest, darkest secrets to a priest with whom you have no personal relationship; tell a trusted friend. And if the Lord impresses upon you to deal with something, do it and do it immediately. Don’t let the enemy compound the bondage by being disobedient to the promptings of the Holy Spirit and adding onto the offense the sin of rebellion.