Confess Your Sins to One Another (revised)
Being Acceptable in His Sight
James 5:16 (NASB)
Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.
There are three sections to this passage, each having a key word of concern that needs to be examined in depth and understood with clarity. Each segment could stand alone, but when combined they add special significance to the message James is teaching.
James gives a clear instruction to confess your sins, and then to confess them to someone other than yourself. This simple act alone goes a long way in the process of sanctification and bringing one closer to the likeness of Christ. Confession makes one humble, allowing for the recognition of just who and what we are; sinful man. It also gives us a chance to reflect on where we are in our relationship with God, defining our place and what we are in need of because of it; the redemption of Christ. Then there is the honesty factor, confession provides a means for being accountable. Without it, there is always the temptation to conceal those acts that we know are against us.
In the King James Bible, the word confess, appears for the first time in Leviticus 5:5, and is described within the context of the obligation of the sinner, and penalty necessary for the sinful act’s atonement. It’s interestingly significant that when first introduced it involved the need for an intercessor going before God; a kind of prelude to Christ being our intercessor today.
Leviticus 5:5-6 (KJV)
And it shall be, when he shall be guilty in one of these things, that he shall confess that he hath sinned in that thing: And he shall bring his trespass offering unto the LORD for his sin which he hath sinned, a female from the flock, a lamb or a kid of the goats, for a sin offering; and the priest shall make an atonement for him concerning his sin.
The second section focuses on prayer and specifically what should be prayed for; healing. If a person has to be urged to confess, it’s a safe bet that they are also unaware of their need to be healed. James instructs us to pray for the healing of one another, and once again the first uses of a form of the word heal, in the King James Bible; comes associated with prayer by an intercessor. Abraham prayed for the House of Abimelech, who had sinned and confessed it.
Genesis 20:17 (KJV)
So Abraham prayed unto God: and God healed Abimelech, and his wife, and his maidservants; and they bare children.
The story of Abraham and Abimelech sets forth an illustration of rich applications concerning confession, prayer, and the power of an intercessor for true healing. A study of Genesis 20 might bring about a better understanding of today’s problem situations. There are times when our prayers alone are not enough. Without confession the assistance necessary might not be available.
Abimelech took Sarah, Abraham’s wife, as his own; without knowing who she really was.
(See vs. 1-2)
Often in our faith walk, we continue unaware of our behavior that is not in right standing with God. It is through continued study of the Word that we receive revelation from God, and the counsel of the Holy Spirit that we are first reminded, and then convicted of our sin.
Just as we receive guidance from the Holy Spirit, Abimelech was given revelation from God in a dream. (See vs. 3-7)
Unlike so many of us today, Abimelech confesses his sin, first to God, then to others in his household, and finally to the man he has committed an injustice to. (See vs. 8-13)
It is necessary to take ownership of our responsibility in our sin, as well as to take the action which brings about a correction in our behavior.
Even though He was unaware of the wrong in his action as it occurred, Abimelech was not without a penalty to pay for that action. (See vs. 14-16)
Usually, the actions we take stem from our own desires; without direction from God, and the example of Christ, our actions reflect our sinful nature.
There is another dimension to making confession to one another in that we sometimes cause the actions of others to be miscarried unintentionally. Abraham’s effort to conceal his marriage was the act that set this whole course of events in motion. When we develop dialogue between one another, discussing our part in a bad situation, the overall healing of everyone is given a chance. Abraham was given the opportunity to not only see, but better understand the hand he played in the events. (v. 11)
Where did Abraham get his information, and what was the basis he used to draw his conclusion?
Abraham leaned to his own understanding without seeking the guidance and council of God. Had he asked for direction this whole encounter might have been avoided. Sometimes God will allow us to go so far on our own in order to point out to us the need to always remain under His direction.
Proverbs 3:12 (KJV)
For whom the LORD loveth he correcteth; even as a father the son in whom he delighteth.
A Righteous Man:
The House Of God
Jesus was sent by God, He obediently followed the Will of God, and with everything He did, He sought to please God. Jesus understood that His body was the “House of God.”
In the Old Testament, God had a dwelling place in the midst of His people. First it was in the tabernacle, and later in the temple. In both cases special instruction and care was given to the construction and requirements necessary for God’s dwelling place. It was a place that was respected and held sacred in the highest honor. The Holy of Holies was so sacred in fact that the rank and file were not allowed to enter, and even the priest that did would fall dead if they were not right in the sight of God. You can get an idea of how important it was regarded through the dedication of the temple by Solomon.
1 Kings 8:22-23 (KJV)
And Solomon stood before the altar of the LORD in the presence of all the congregation of Israel, and spread forth his hands toward heaven:
And he said, LORD God of Israel, there is no God like thee, in heaven above, or on earth beneath, who keepest covenant and mercy with thy servants that walk before thee with all their heart:
Solomon in his splendor and position as King understood that he was still a Servant of the Lord. He also understood that the officials, the elders, and all the people under his authority needed to know that being humble before God was a serious thing. The keeping of the covenant was dependant on God’s people walking faithfully with all their heart. Solomon also gives us a hint that this “Earthly Temple” made by his hands would not stand as the dwelling place of the Lord forever.
1 Kings 8:27-29 (KJV)
But will God indeed dwell on the earth? behold, the heaven and heaven of heavens cannot contain thee; how much less this house that I have builded?
Yet have thou respect unto the prayer of thy servant, and to his supplication, O LORD my God, to hearken unto the cry and to the prayer, which thy servant prayeth before thee to day:
That thine eyes may be open toward this house night and day, even toward the place of which thou hast said, My name shall be there: that thou mayest hearken unto the prayer which thy servant shall make toward this place.
From Solomon’s dedication prayer it’s clear that he is asking God to forever give ear to those who are His servants and to the house that bears His name. We know that the Jerusalem temple was destroyed and rebuilt several times. Jesus, when He made reference to rebuilding the temple in three days, was not referring to the stone walls that His disciples and the Pharisees held in their view. Instead he alluded to His own resurrection from the grave because He was the temple in the midst of the people; being Emanuel… God among us.
Today the “Church” and all of us who make up the “Body of Christ” has become the “New Temple”, and as such we are the dwelling place of God. Our dedication to, and reverence for God house (our bodies as vessels), should be no less than that of Solomon’s as he dedicated the stone building built long ago. Our righteousness is obtained as we accept Christ in faith. Responsible, reverent, and respectful faith is the only kind that can then be counted as the “Righteousness of God.” It is with this righteousness that our prayers become effective and accomplish much.