When we first come to God, we may come just as we are with all our sins, poor, and blind, and naked, and God will receive and forgive us. He will not turn us away; He will not scold us; nor will He be angry. Our sins may be as scarlet, they may be red as crimson, but God, enfolding us in His arms, will cover us with His robe of righteousness and bring us in triumph to the feast which He has prepared. We are at peace with God, with man, and with ourselves. The former things have passed away, all things have become new, and profound thankfulness we sing, “It is well, it is well, with my soul.”


However, after we are converted and are walking softly before God we suddenly become aware that the evil one has not left us alone, but has tripped us up, and we have made a misstep. We did not intend to sin, we did not transgress deliberately; but we are sorrowfully aware that we have fell short of the glory of God. We have sinned. What are we to do? There is only one thing to do: Go to God and confess all, and if we have wronged others or hindered them in their Christian life, confess this to the ones concerned; and if restitution is indicated, attend to this also. If from a full heart we honestly do our part, God will forgive. He will abundantly pardon.


However, we should remember that there are conditions attached to this pardon, and that forgiveness is linked to these conditions. They are intended to help us remember to be careful in our daily walk and heed Christ’s admonition, “Go, and sin no more.” John 8:11.


These conditions are the same as those God prescribed for ancient Israel, and while Christians are not to observe the ceremonies that Israel had to follow, the principles are the same. It will stand us in good stead to receive these ordinances, for they present to us in visual form what God wants us to do when we come short.


When an Israelite sinned, even though he did not know at the time that is was sin, “when he knoweth of it, then he shall be guilty. Leviticus 5:4.  It was a merciful provision that he was not counted guilty until hr was made aware of his sin. However, when he did discover that he had sinned, then he became guilty. He was not to pass the matter off lightly and excuse himself, because he did not know that it was sin. He had been guiltless before, but now he was guilty. This required confession. He was to “confess that he had sinned in that thing.” Verse 5.


Confession Not Enough

It will be noted that God was not satisfied with a general confession. It must be specific and concern “that thing.” Ordinarily it is easy to confess publicly that we come short in many things; but to make a specific confession is hard. To go to Brother James and confess that you have slandered and spoken evil of him, takes Christian courage. To go to a storekeeper and tell him that you have taken things out of the store and not paid for them, to ask forgiveness and make restitution – this is real Christianity and takes much grace. God demanded this of His people of old, and He has not changed.

To impress upon the sinner the sinfulness of sin, God required of Israel not only confession, but also sacrifice. The sinner was to bring to the sanctuary an offering of a lamb or other prescribed animal for a sin offering, confess his sin, and then slay the lamb. After this, the priest was to “take of the blood thereof with his finger, and put it upon the horns of the altar of burnt offering…. And the priest shall make an atonement for him, and it shall be forgiven him.” Leviticus 4: 28-31.


It will be noted that the sinner was to slay the lamb himself, doubtless to impress upon him the fact that he was guilty. It must have been a solemn moment when the priest handed him the sacrificial knife and commanded him to slay the lamb. As he plunged the knife into the innocent victim, he realized as never before the heinousness of sin and its great cost. He doubtless resolved never to sin again, which was the very effect God wanted to produce. He wanted to make vivid to the sinner that sin meant death and that the sinner should leave the temple grounds with the intention to go and sin no more.


This ritual of the lamb, the Christian, of course, does not observe. It pointed forward to the true Lamb of God, and after Christ came, the ritual ceased. The Christian has seen the true Lamb of God; he has seen the nails driven through the hands; he has seen the spear thrust in His side; he has heard the bitter cry, “My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me.” He has seen the blood shed for him, and if these scenes have not produced in him the same determination as it did in the Israelite, to go and sin no more, then to that extent Christ has died in vain. Such a one may not have done despite to the grace of God, but he has most certainly grieved the Holy Spirit.


The ancient Israelite understood more of the plan of salvation than we sometimes think. He must certainly have received a lively sense of the sinfulness of sin; and he could not have failed to understand that the Lamb that he slew signified no less than the Lamb of God of which the prophets had spoken and which he had seen illustrated in the Passover lamb.


From the recital of how sins were forgiven in the old dispensation, we should have clearly in mind that forgiveness is not merely a matter of God’s overlooking our faults, forgiving and forgetting them. Every sin required blood atonement; every transgression meant the death of an innocent victim. God can and does forgive, but the cost is Calvary.


We are always to confess our sins to God; but if the transgression is such that others are affected or involved, it may be necessary to make confession to man, and in certain cases to make restitution. If we have stolen ten cents or a thousand dollars, it is not enough to confess that we have done so; we must pay back that which we have stolen, with interest. As soon as Zacchaeus was converted, he said to the Lord,  “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken anything from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold.” Luke 19:8. God does not require fourfold, but in some cases in the Old Testament, one fifth was to be added. Leviticus 5:16.  There is no rule in the New Testament in regard to adding a certain sum in addition to that which has been lawfully taken; hence we take it for granted that this is left to the individual conscience.


There are some things that cannot be restored, especially where there have been slander, criticism, false witness. Though no real restitution can be made, they come under the general rule of confession and restitution. Charity demands that every effort be made to undo the evil.


Where Others Are Involved

In cases of sexual misconduct, care should be taken lest innocent persons be made to suffer because of confessions made. Where a case involves the husband or wife, and the sin is not known to the other mate or to the children, the procedure calls for great wisdom.  While no hard and fast rule can be given, let all move cautiously lest harm be done by the unwise confession. In fact, it is only in very exceptional cases where confession should be made to an innocent person, though we think of circumstances where it may be necessary. However, often it may be best to let the matter rest and not bring sorrow and disaster to innocent parties. We do not feel free to give this advice in cases not personally known to us. It is too dangerous. We know of incalculable harm that has come from unwise advice.


In a certain church, a deaconess had for years been a leader in good works and an example to the flock. Her reputation was unspotted, and she held in high esteem. In her youth she had a misstep, however, of which she deeply repented. The man was never a church member, and the case was not known.


Twenty years had gone by, and then the partner in the transgression became converted and joined the church where the deaconess also was a member. He felt it his duty to confess his past sin, naming the deaconess as the other party. The pastor stood aghast. The deaconess’s family was a happy one, and the two daughters were enrolled in one of our schools. What should the pastor do? He did not feel that the matter should be published, and yet he did not think the good sister should continue her work. Therefore, at the next election she was quietly relieved of her office.


This caused wonderment in the church. She was the best fitted for the work. Why could she not serve? At last, the news leaked out, and under the circumstances, the sister felt it best to tell her husband. Result, a blasted home, a bewildered and crushed husband, a disgraced wife, and the two children called back from school where it had become impossible for them to remain. This was the result of one’s person’s confessing for another.


Involving a Third Person

There may be times when it seems best to consult with some experienced and godly saint, one who will lock the confession in his heart and never divulge to anyone the secret entrusted to him. However, let the confessor be sure that he selects the right kind of person. No woman should confess to a man alone, and no pastor should permit a woman to confess to him alone. The pastor’s study is not a place for confessions of that kind, since often he is not in the building alone. What then, is to be done? If the pastor thinks it not best to have his wife present, let him select an old and trusted friend and let the two hear the case. Even then, it may be best to stop the confession when it appears that no good will be gained by hearing it to the end.


One reason for discouraging confessions on this subject is that some people like altogether to well to confess. They seem to think that it gives them a certain standing. For once, they are important and intend to make the best of it. They tell unnecessary details, and the pastor gets uncomfortable feelings that they might not be averse to repeating their transgression. However, let the young minister beware, and the old also. Hearing confessions of sexual misconduct is a dangerous practice. Let none be moved unduly by the penitential tear or the bid for sympathy. Danger is near. It is doubtful that hearing confession should be a large part of a minister’s work. In addition, this goes for the minister in a church and the chaplin in a school.


Let no one draw the conclusion that all confession should be discouraged or that counsel should not be sought. However, let each individual think twice before he bears his soul to a human being. It is in the confessional that Catholic clergy get their power over the people. Let the minister beware lest he be contaminated by their example.


Memory Verse:

“But there is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared.” Psalms 130:4


1.      Are we always to confess our sins to God or man? Explain.



2.   What is restitution and does the Lord require us to undo the evil that we caused? 




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