The early church, confession, and the JWs

by greendawn 3 Replies latest jw experiences

  • greendawn

    In the early Christian Church they had the institution of confession which they probably took over from the Jews, eg people went to John the Baptist to confess their sins and he would baptise them in confirmation of their repentence.

    And in the book of Didachi which was written very early, around 70AD and gives us a good picture of how the church worked then:

    "Confess your sins in church, and do not go up to your prayer with an evil conscience. This is the way of life. . . . On the Lord’s Day gather together, break bread, and give thanks, after confessing your transgressions so that your sacrifice may be pure"

    It appears that they confessed freely and frequently and that washed away the sin and its power. Publicly admitting sins made it unlikely to repeat them.

    Now how does that compare with the JW practice, does a JW feel free to confess to the elders or does s/he fear sanctions that are likely to be imposed?

  • Narkissos

    Cf. the Commentary of the Letter of James, which is the work of the "apostate" Ed Dunlap and strangely is still part of the official WT library:


    Therefore openly confess your sins to one another and pray for one another

    How encouraging toward ‘openly confessing sins to one another’ if the sincerely repentant wrong-doer knows that those to whom he confesses are primarily interested in helping him ‘get healed’ of his spiritual sickness! However, if such a repentant one felt that the elders would automatically deal with him as one meriting a reprimand before the whole congregation as a ‘practicer of sin,’ the effect would be quite different. Such a feeling could create a barrier between the congregational shepherds and those sorely needing their help to overcome a drift into continued wrongdoing. On the other hand, where confidence existed that the elders would take into account one’s sincerity in wanting to turn away from the wrong course or attitude, being desirous of never going back to it, this would surely be an encouragement to call upon the older men for assistance, and to respond to their help as would an ailing sheep to that of its conscientious shepherd.—Contrast Psalm 23:1-5 with Ezekiel 34:4.

    The tense of the Greek verbs used here has a continuative sense, as saying, ‘Make it a practice to confess openly your sins to one another.’ Thus, Phillips’ The New Testament in Modern English reads: "You should get into the habit of admitting your sins to each other."

    James has previously dealt with matters that exemplify the family-like interest and warm concern that should exist within the Christian congregation as a brotherhood. With such a spiritual atmosphere, there should indeed be a confidence among its members that contributes to freeness of expression, and that confidence could be especially notable when it came to acknowledging one’s faults and wrong acts. Christians are shown in Scripture that they can and should have freeness of speech in going to God with their petitions and problems, for they have a loving Father and a compassionate, understanding Helper with the Father, God’s Son. (Heb. 2:17, 18; 4:14-16; 1 John 2:1, 2; 3:19-21; 4:17-19) What is true of the heavenly courts should be reflected in the earthly realm of God’s servants.

    This confessing is not like a "confessional" arrangement where one is viewed as obligated to appear and confess all sins in order to obtain absolution from guilt in the eyes of God. Although James had previously made specific mention of the congregation elders with regard to sick ones needing aid, he here says to "confess your sins to one another," not limiting the matter to certain ones within the congregation. While this is so, it is reasonable that the one confessing his sins would seek a person who could be of real help to him in a spiritual way. Along with the desire to unburden himself, he doubtless desires the counsel and prayer of another. Galatians 6:1, 2 speaks of the readjusting of one who takes a false step and shows that it is those "who have spiritual qualifications" who are in a position to do this. Elders should have such qualifications, and others in the congregation may also have these. A woman, for example, may seek the help of a Christian sister, possibly someone older than she is, as is indicated by Paul’s counsel at Titus 2:3-5. Thus the source of the help is not limited to a certain few; the important thing is that the person have "spiritual qualifications." James shows that the object and result of this humble seeking for help should be a brotherly (or a sisterly) interest manifested in prayer to Jehovah on behalf of the one confessing the fault.

    The expression "to one another" is most appropriate since all must honestly recognize their own sinful nature, thereby eliminating any basis for pride or superiority in responding to the needs of the erring one. (Compare Luke 18:9-14; 1 John 1:8-10.) Rather than superiority, there obviously should be a sense of mutual compassion, all having their own particular faults and weaknesses. The one extending help now should realize that he may someday need help himself. Along with calling for humility, such open confessing of faults can also serve as a restraint toward sinning. It leads away from a secretive course of life that deprives one of the balancing effect that the counsel of others can provide.

  • vitty

    What happens to a catholic if he doesnt go to confession ?

    I bet he doesnt get excomuncated....................not like the JWs who can be DFs for not confessing their sin.

  • barry

    The confessional presently practiced in the catholic church comes from the monastries of the 6th century although in the early church sins were confessed to a priest or bishop for very grevous sins.

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