Explaining Confession


Hi everyone,

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?


You actually did a very good job! But remember that although many protestant Christians are baptized, they do not see it as necessary for salvation. They refer to baptism as an ordinance. To them this is a public display of obedience once someone “accepts” Jesus as their personal Lord and savior. So in essence nothing really goes through the ministry of their Church since, in their theology, no regeneration of the soul takes place during Baptism. Also, many non-liturgical fundamentalist Christians do not believe in a church as established with a hierarchy and a ministerial priesthood. To them the church merely represents all believers ( which is limited truth) and that’s all.

I know that your conversation planted seeds and directed her to areas in Scripture that she may have never pondered. I can only imagine that Jesus asked Himself the same question while hanging on the cross; What more could I do to help them understand?

One last thing. Many Catholics need catechizing in the need for this Sacrament. Check out the lines on saturday. Sad.


Some other Bible quotes in the NT that might help:

Matt 3:6 (as they acknowledged their sins)
Acts 19:18 (openly acknowledged their former practices)
James 5:16 (confess your sins to one another)
2 Cor 5:18 (God has…given us the ministry of reconciliation)


I just wanted to say you did an outstanding job! :thumbsup:


Me too!

She obviously is not ready to hear it yet, but you planted some very good seeds that hopefully, the Holy Spirit will bring to fruition:)


You could also remind her of the story about the paralytic where his friends lower him through the roof so Jesus could heal him. When Jesus heals him and says ‘your sins are forgiven’ the people around him are amazed because God had given such power to man. So, God did give the power to forgive sins to man - Jesus was a man, right? Jesus then passes on to the Apostles what the Father had given him. “He who hears you, hears me.”

I can’t remember the verse but its in Matthew’s gospel, read it, it makes more sense than my weak recitation.


You might also point out that a man (or rather a woman) forgives her sins – that is, she decides she’s forgiven.

No one who has sincerely examined his soul and confessed to a priest can deny that it is a more thorough examination than merely deciding, “Well, I’m sorry and I’m forgiven.”


Yet the scripture passage you quoted shows quite definitely that Jesus gave his apostles the power to forgive sins in his name.


Yeah, I don’t really get that! How do non-Catholics interpret that passage? I’ve asked several, but they act like they never heard that before. Then they say they’ll get back to me and they never do.

It seems kind of ironic though. God gave Jesus the authority to forgive sins, as a man, yet people objected and said “Only God can forgive sins” (even though Jesus worked miracles which proved His authority came from God.) Then Jesus gave His Church the authority to forgive sins, and non-Catholics still say “Only God can forgive sins!” (even though John 20 clearly shows He gave ‘men’ the authority.) But then again, somewhere in Scripture doesn’t Jesus say something to the effect “If they rejected me, they’ll also reject you?” Maybe this is one of the things He was referring to! Just a thought.

Well thanks for everyone’s input. I’m going to have to make note of those other scripture passages that you guys recommended. I really appreciate everone’s input.


This is what I call, “Sola scriptura but not wholla da scriptura.” Meaning, “We only use those parts of the bible we like.”:wink:


Like the previous poster said, “Sola Scriptura” except not this verse.:tsktsk: Makes us glad we’re Catholic, doesn’t it? We don’t have to go away and never come back…:slight_smile:


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