Confession Is Necessary
Confession is necessary for the following reasons: i) because it is a commandment of God; ii) because it brings back and restores the peace between God and man; and iii) because it benefits man both morally and spiritually.
It is evident that confession is a divine commandment from the Holy Scriptures, both the Old and New Testaments. In the name of God, Moses says to the sons of Israel: “Every man or woman who shall commit any sin that is common to man, or if that soul shall in any wise have neglected the commandment and transgressed; that person shall confess the sin which he has committed” (Num. 5:6-7). And again: “and if a soul sin…then shall he declare his sin…he shall even restore it in full; and he shall add to it a fifth part besides;…And he shall bring to the Lord for his trespass, a ram” (Lev. 5:6). In Solomon’s Proverbs it is written: “He that covers his own ungodliness shall not prosper: but he that blames himself shall be loved” (Pr. 28:13). All the prophets, and especially David, command confession.
Confession has always followed repentance. They who came to the Preacher of repentance, the Prophet and Forerunner John the Baptist, would confess their sins prior to baptism. Behold the words of the Evangelist: “Then there went out to him Jerusalem and all Judea and all the region round about the Jordan. And they were baptized by him in the Jordan, confessing their sins” (Mt. 3:6). Therefore, confession is a divine commandment; and as such, it is necessary to be performed with precision for the salvation of those who repent.
This commandment obtained new validity in the New Testament. Confession was the door of entrance into Christianity, as is shown satisfactorily from the confession of those being baptized in the Jordan River by Saint John. This baptism was a prelude to Christianity, because he would say: “I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance, but He that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear. He shall baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire” (Mt. 3:11).
This is also witnessed in the Acts of the Apostles. As the Apostle Luke narrates the Ephesians’ entrance into Christianity, he notes that they would come confessing their deeds – even in front of others. Behold the words of the Apostle: “And many who believed came, and confessed, and showed their deeds” (Acts 19:18).
The prayer “Our Father” is a continual and daily confession: the petition for the forgiveness of our sins is a confession of our sins.
The Apostle James, the brother of our Lord, also recommends confession and says: “Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much” (Jas. 5:16). While John the Evangelist advises: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 Jn. 1:9).
Confession, as an ancient ritual of the Church, is mentioned by Irenaeus, by Tertullian, by Clement of Alexandria, by Origen, and by Cyprian.
The ancient Greeks considered confession necessary and beneficial, because as they were initiated into the Eleusinian and Samothracian mysteries, they would confess their sins beforehand (Plutarch, On Sparta: Sayings). Socrates spoke of confession as salvific: “If he is unjust, he should willingly go there, where he will give an account as quickly as possible as if to a physician, hastening so that the ailment of injustice does not remain for a long period of time and render the soul infected and incurable” (Plato, Gorgias).
Pythagoras would also say: “do not attempt to cover your sins with words, but to treat them with reproval.” And Aristotle asserts: “the person who confesses the sin committed honestly renders himself not far from sinlessness.”
Confession is a truly divine commandment because it is an injunction of the heart. The person who has sinned feels his heart burdened and does not find relief unless he confesses his sin before God.
-From Repentance and Confession by Saint Nektarios, Bishop of Pentapolis, translated and published by Saint Nektarios Greek Orthodox Monastery, Roscoe, NY