Priest necessary for confession?

Hello everyone!

I’ve been asked a question, as a Catholic, I can’t really answer. I’m talking to a “non-denominational” Protestant about confessing sins. She says this: “We don’t need a priest, a human and also sinner, to tell us our sins are forgiven… Where is the faith? If we believe the Word then why do we need a human confirmation, what makes his speech any more powerful then God himself?” She uses 1 John 1:9 to support her case. I obviously used John 20:23 to support the Catholic view. The thing that is really getting me is that John seems to be either contradicting himself or Jesus.

I appreciate all answers!

Richard Feynman

In the Old Testament, **God **Himself set up the requirement for man to go to the priest to have his sins forgiven. Lev. 4:31 and 35. “Thus the priest shall make atonement for the man’s sin, and it will be forgiven.”

Nothing has changed in the New Testament, but rather than sacrifice an animal, Jesus is now the perfect sacrifice, but he also set up the requirement to go to the priest, within the John 20:23 scripture. How can one’s sins be forgiven, unless the priest “hears” what they are, and in the name of God, absolves him?

:thumbsup:

Sirach, I couldn’t have said it better myself. :thumbsup:

Have a blessed Easter.

Many thanks, P.P. and Nelka.
Have a beautiful sacred feast day also.

Had an interesting experience recently. I went to confession a couple weeks ago at a church where the Masses are all in Latin. And when my confession was done the priest gave me absolution in Latin! Talk about taking one’ s word for my sins being forgiven!!:shrug: The only thing I could understand was he made the Sign of the Cross over me. (He did tell me he was going to give me absolution in Latin)

In Matthew 3:6, John the Baptist’s converts confess their sins aloud.

In the Old Testament, especially, we confessed directly to God. Christ changed that in the New Testament.

Jesus breathed on the disciples in John 20:21-23. He says to receive the Holy Spirit, that what sins they forgive will be forgiven. Now, if Christ had intended us to continue to confess directly to God, why would he have instituted the sacrament of reconciliation?

Christ had his representatives, the disciples given this power and no one else.

Further, in Acts 19:18, penitents confess aloud their sins. In 2 Corinthians 5:18-19, Paul says his ministry is one of reconciliation and forgiveness of sins. In James 5:16, James says to confess sins to one another.

The sacrament of reconciliation was instituted by Christ, himself. Therefore, who are we to argue?

Cute egg! Happy Easter to you and to everyone!

You mean she tries to use “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just, to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all iniquity.”…? Well, it doesn’t seem to say that a priest can have nothing to do with this confession… Thus there is no contradiction.

Also, just in case she thinks of something else, in some cases sins are forgiven without confession - for example, baptism also forgives sins.

Anyway, the “draw” is good enough for you, as the tiebreakers are in your favour. :slight_smile: If both her version and your (Catholic) version seem to explain all verses she can find, how is she going to decide which of them is correct? Could the first Christians (Fathers of the Church) know the answer? Thus keep catholic.com/tracts/confession in reserve. :slight_smile:

One error of Protestantism is the idea that it’s just “Jesus and me” and the Church and all that goes with it is not necessary. That idea came out of the “Reformation” only about 500 years ago. From the very start of the Apostolic Age the need for a priesthood has been understood.

Thank you everyone! I will use al this and pray for her! :smiley:

I really appreciate all the replies! All this totally changed my view of confession! :thumbsup:

Richard Feynman

Richard,

What everyone has said here is excellent: let me add another thought…

In 1 John 1:9, we are told that if we might ὁμολογῶμεν (‘homologomen’) our sins, then Jesus might forgive our sin. To translate the word ὁμολογῶμεν as “confess” is somewhat problematic. In an archaic context, it’s a perfectly fine translation; in that context, it would be reasonable to say, “I confess that this is a beer that I’m drinking” or “I confess that these jeans I’m wearing are pretty grungy.” However, in that usage, we’re not talking confession in the sense that Catholics use it – that is, in the context of the sacrament of reconciliation. Rather, this sort of ‘confession’ really is just an acknowledgement – “yeah, this is a beer” or “yeah, I probably should’ve worn a clean pair a jeans.”

So, the context of 1 John 1:8-9 is a juxtaposition of opposites: either we say “I have no sin” or we say “I acknowledge my sins.” In one case, denial of sin shows that we deceive even ourselves; but in the other, acknowledgement of sin indicates that we are open to Christ and the possibility of forgiveness. What this verse isn’t talking about is an action that we take (namely, a verbal (or even non-verbal) prayer requesting forgiveness!). So, if your friend wants to use 1 John 1:9 as proof that we can take the action of praying for forgiveness, then she’s missing the point of this verse of Scripture.

One other note: verb tense is important here. In these verses, we aren’t seeing a command (“confess your sins!”) or even an indicative statement (“we confess our sins”); rather, it’s in the subjunctive mood, so it’s expressing probability. Wallace, in Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics, indicates that this appears to be an instance of a “consecutive or ecbatic” use of the conjunction ἵνα (‘hina’, meaning “so that” or “with the result that”). What Wallace means here is that we have two verbs: the main verb (“we might acknowledge”) and the verb attached to ἵνα (“he might forgive us”). Now, the ἵνα verb is a result, but it’s not an intended result: in other words, we don’t do the main verb in order that the ἵνα verb might occur – instead, we do the main verb, and the ἵνα verb just happens to occur. It’s kind of like saying that I drove to the mall, and as a result, I got a flat tire. I didn’t intend it – in fact, that wasn’t in my mind at all – but it happened nevertheless. (cf Wallace, 1996, p 473).

So, if this is true, then it really hurts your friend’s case. After all, what the inspired writer isn’t saying is “confess your sins with the intent of receiving forgiveness,” but rather, “if you confess your sins, guess what? Jesus might just forgive you!”. That’s hardly the kind of statement that leads to confidence! Rather, John 20:23 is exactly the kind of action-result statement that we’re looking for – when someone with apostolic authority forgives sins, these sins are unequivocally forgiven by Jesus!

Hope this helps…!

G.

A little correction to my previous post: I should have said that verb mood is important here, not that verb tense is important. I was making an argument from the former, not the latter… :wink:

Ask your protestant friend what James 5:16 would mean:

Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.

This helps a lot! Now I have as much information about these verses as a theologian! :smiley: :cool: I guess all verses need to be taken in context. All these verses are in total harmony together! I can’t believe I even doubted in the first place!

Thank you so much! I really can’t tell you all how much this and every other contribution helps me in my journey to grow deeper in the Catholic faith.

Richard Feynman

So, if Im sincere in my request and I ask God for forgiveness for sins Ive committed, he will NOT grant it JUST because I did not go thru a priest?

I have a hard time believing that.

And in case you are not familiar, there is oral ocnfession in the OT too:

2Sam 12 (please read the whole chapter, will only cite this verse):

13 Then David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the LORD.”

Nathan replied, “The LORD has taken away your sin. You are not going to die. 14 But because by doing this you have shown utter contempt for[a] the LORD, the son born to you will die.”

Job 42:

7 After the LORD had said these things to Job, he said to Eliphaz the Temanite, “I am angry with you and your two friends, because you have not spoken the truth about me, as my servant Job has. 8 So now take seven bulls and seven rams and go to my servant Job and sacrifice a burnt offering for yourselves. My servant Job will pray for you, and I will accept his prayer and not deal with you according to your folly. You have not spoken the truth about me, as my servant Job has.” 9 So Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite did what the LORD told them; and the LORD accepted Job’s prayer.

Question: Why did God, who spoke directly to Eliphaz, not just forgive him directly? And why did God order him to go through Job?

The Catholic Church teaches that if one has perfect contrition and true repentance, those sins may be forgiven by God in confession through prayer to God. However, people may not have perfect contrition. The priest acknowledges the confessed sins for the Church that they may be forgiven, as Christ has given the power to bind an loose sins to the Apostles. The priest also gives a penance. What must mended is the bond of charity to God and to the Church, and of course reparations must be made.

Can you cite or provide the chapter and verse in the NT on the manner of how to go about asking God for forgiveness of sins?

Where does the NT say the manner of confession?

And I have a question also below:

Job 42:

7 After the LORD had said these things to Job, he said to Eliphaz the Temanite, “I am angry with you and your two friends, because you have not spoken the truth about me, as my servant Job has. 8 So now take seven bulls and seven rams and go to my servant Job and sacrifice a burnt offering for yourselves. My servant Job will pray for you, and I will accept his prayer and not deal with you according to your folly. You have not spoken the truth about me, as my servant Job has.” 9 So Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite did what the LORD told them; and the LORD accepted Job’s prayer.

Question: Why did God, who spoke directly to Eliphaz, not just forgive him directly? And why did God order him to go through Job?

Just a word of caution here. This does not prove or disprove confession to a priest. Job was not a priest, but he was asked to “intercede” - therefore HE did not forgive their sins, God did.

Whereas, in Lev. 4:31, God had commanded direct confession to a priest, and the priest was the only one commissioned to absolve the Israelites’ sins. In other words, they could not just stay in their camp and confess privately to God.

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