I don’t get the opportunity to post very often, but I had this conversation, and wanted to get your input.
One of my Protestant friends asked me about Confession. She wanted to know why I couldn’t go directly to God to ask for forgiveness. My response was “I don’t really know. It’s just the way Jesus asked it to be done.” Then I asked her, “When you decided to be baptized, did you baptize yourself or did baptism come through the ministry of the church?” She replied that her minister baptized her. I asked her why that was necessary. Why couldn’t she dunk herself in water and say “I baptize me in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit?” Was her conversion not a matter between her and God. Did she need a “mediator?” She wasn’t really sure.
I then cited James 5:14-15 “Is anyone of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him in oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven.” I asked her, “Can Jesus heal somebody if an elder of the church does not anoint the sick person?” She responded, “Of course!” I said, “I believe that too. But for some reason, scripture instructs us to call in the elders of the church. I don’t know why. But obviously, Jesus prefers to work through the ministry of the Church.”
Then I went back to the subject of Confession. I cited John 20:21-23 “Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.” I explained that when I realize I have sinned, I feel real remorse. The first thing I do, is say in my heart “Oh, God. I’m so sorry!” But then I humble myself and ask forgiveness under what I believe to be HIS terms – not mine. I allow Him to work through the ministry of His Church.
She seemed to understand that but said “But man can’t forgive sins. Only God can!” So I went back to James 5:14-15 and said, “If the elders of your church anoint you and you are healed, who healed you, the elder or God?” She said “God.” I agreed but reminded her that He did it through the elder of the church. And scripture specifies that it be done that way. I explained that confession works the same way. It is God who forgives our sins, but He does it through the priest. She didn’t actually have an answer for that, but still questions the practice of Confession.
Sorry to be so lengthy, but I really don’t understand why non-Catholics believe that baptism must go through the ministry of the church, and anointing must go through the ministry of the church, but forgiveness of grave sin, is between the individual and God because there is only one mediator between God and man. What else could I have said to help her understand?