Sin entered into the world from the fall of man, and has affected every man’s relationship with God ever since. Part of God’s requirements for admitting fallen mankind back into his presence is for sinful humanity to acknowledge and confess their sins in order to obtain mercy and forgiveness from God. The Bible tells us that whoever covers his sins shall not prosper, but he that confesses and forsakes them shall obtain mercy. The Scripture also reminds us that if we claim to have no sin, we make God a liar and the truth is not us; but if we acknowledge and confess our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive us and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. Thus, confession of sins is a necessary prerequisite for God’s forgiveness. Without sinful man acknowledging and confessing his sins, there can be no mercy and no forgiveness from God. That’s what the Bible teaches.
Proverbs 28:13 Whoever conceals their sins does not prosper, but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy (NIV).
1 John 1:8 If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.
1 John 1:9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.
1 John 1:10 If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us (NIV).
From the very beginning, the prerequisite for sinful man to approach a holy God has been the offering of an acceptable atoning sacrifice (to appease God), followed by confession of sins to God. Confessions of sins from the beginning were always made directly to God. Only God can forgive sins, and thus only he has the right to listen to confessions of man’s guilt and sin. In the Old Testament, we see God’s people approaching his presence and confessing their sins directly to him, without passing through an intermediary. Yes, prophets and high priests could intercede for the entire nation and confess the people’s sins to God for forgiveness and mercy; however, the people never confessed their sins to God through prophets or priests. Personal confessions of sins were made directly to God, after presenting the right atoning sacrifice.
Joshua 7:19 Now Joshua said to Achan, “My son, I beg you, give glory to the Lord God of Israel, and make confession to Him, and tell me now what you have done; do not hide it from me.” (NKJV).
Ezra 10:9 So all the men of Judah and Benjamin gathered at Jerusalem within three days. It was the ninth month, on the twentieth of the month; and all the people sat in the open square of the house of God, trembling because of this matter and because of heavy rain.
Ezra 10:10 Then Ezra the priest stood up and said to them, “You have transgressed and have taken pagan wives, adding to the guilt of Israel.
Ezra 10:11 Now therefore, make confession to the Lord God of your fathers, and do His will; separate yourselves from the peoples of the land, and from the pagan wives.”
Ezra 10:12 Then all the assembly answered and said with a loud voice, “Yes! As you have said, so we must do (NKJV).
Daniel 9:4 And I prayed to the Lord my God, and made confession, and said, “O Lord, great and awesome God, who keeps His covenant and mercy with those who love Him, and with those who keep His commandments,
Daniel 9:5 we have sinned and committed iniquity, we have done wickedly and rebelled, even by departing from Your precepts and Your judgments.
Daniel 9:6 Neither have we heeded Your servants the prophets, who spoke in Your name to our kings and our princes, to our fathers and all the people of the land.
Daniel 9:7 O Lord, righteousness belongs to You, but to us shame of face, as it is this day—to the men of Judah, to the inhabitants of Jerusalem and all Israel, those near and those far off in all the countries to which You have driven them, because of the unfaithfulness which they have committed against You.
Daniel 9:8 “O Lord, to us belongs shame of face, to our kings, our princes, and our fathers, because we have sinned against You.
Daniel 9:9 To the Lord our God belong mercy and forgiveness, though we have rebelled against Him.
Daniel 9:10 We have not obeyed the voice of the Lord our God, to walk in His laws, which He set before us by His servants the prophets.
Daniel 9:11 Yes, all Israel has transgressed Your law, and has departed so as not to obey Your voice; therefore the curse and the oath written in the Law of Moses the servant of God have been poured out on us, because we have sinned against Him (NKJV).
Psalms 32:1 Blessed is the one whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered.
Psalms 32:2 Blessed is the one whose sin the LORD does not count against them and in whose spirit is no deceit.
Psalms 32:3 When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long.
Psalms 32:4 For day and night your hand was heavy on me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer.
Psalms 32:5 Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD.” And you forgave the guilt of my sin.
Psalms 32:6 Therefore let all the faithful pray to you while you may be found; surely the rising of the mighty waters will not reach them.
Psalms 32:7 You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance (NIV).
St. Mark 2:7 “Why does this fellow talk like that? He’s blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” (NIV).
In the New Testament, believers are still required to approach God personally, with the required sacrifice to present now being the blood of Jesus Christ. We are to call upon the name of the Lord in salvation, believing in him with our heart and making confessions unto him, with our mouth, following repentance. Every knee is to bow before God, and every tongue is to confess to him. In the model prayer the Lord Jesus taught his disciples, he enjoined us to pray directly to God, our heavenly father. In that prayer guide, the Lord instructed us to ask God directly for forgiveness of sins, as we confess our sins directly to him. The only person we’re to pass through to approach God, both in prayer and in confession of sins, is the Lord Jesus Christ, the only mediator between God and mankind. We approach God and present our petitions (including our confessions) to him through Jesus Christ only.
Romans 10:9 that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.
Romans 10:10 For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.
Romans 10:11 For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.” (NKJV).
Romans 14:10 But why do you judge your brother? Or why do you show contempt for your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.
Romans 14:11 For it is written:
“As I live, says the Lord,
Every knee shall bow to Me,
And every tongue shall confess to God.”
Romans 14:12 So then each of us shall give account of himself to God (NKJV).
St. Matthew 6:9 “This, then, is how you should pray: “’Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name,
St. Matthew 6:10 your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
St. Matthew 6:11 Give us today our daily bread.
St. Matthew 6:12 And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
St. Matthew 6:13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. ’
St. Matthew 6:14 For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.
St. Matthew 6:15 But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins (NIV).
1 Timothy 2:5 For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus,
1 Timothy 2:6 who gave himself as a ransom for all people. This has now been witnessed to at the proper time (NIV).
John 14:12 Truly, truly, I say to you, He that believes on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go to my Father.
John 14:13 And whatever you shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.
John 14:14 If you shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it (AKJV).
For offences committed against our fellow men, Scripture requires us to confess such to them and seek forgiveness from them. If you sin against your brother or sister, you’re to confess such sins to the person you offended, as you ask for their forgiveness. Jesus taught his disciples to always seek reconciliation with people they’re not in good terms with. Part of that reconciliatory process involves confessing sins and faults to people we’ve offended. The Apostle James encouraged us in his epistle to confess our faults to one another (whenever we offend one another) and to pray for one another for healing. Thus, the only occasion we’re required to confess sins or faults to a fellow human being is when we directly sin against them or offend them. In such cases, as soon as we realise our faults or are confronted with them, we should apologise and acknowledge our wrong doing. For sins against God, we’re to confess them to God, and for sins against man, we’re to confess them to man.
St. Luke 17:3 So watch yourselves. “If your brother or sister sins against you, rebuke them; and if they repent, forgive them.
St. Luke 17:4 Even if they sin against you seven times in a day and seven times come back to you saying ’I repent,’ you must forgive them.” (NIV).
St. Matthew 5:23 “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you,
St. Matthew 5:24 leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift (NIV).
James 5:14 Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord.
James 5:15 And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven.
James 5:16 Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective (NIV).
After his resurrection, Jesus appeared to his disciples and empowered them to both remit and retain certain sins, as leaders of his church. This mandate given to the original Apostles of the Lord has generated unnecessary confusion as to the powers men of God wield in forgiving or retaining sins. Let’s look at this portion of Scripture in John’s gospel carefully, and try to analyse it in context, to understand the Lord’s intention and how the Apostles understood it.
St. John 20:19 On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!”
St. John 20:20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.
St. John 20:21 Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.”
St. John 20:22 And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.
St. John 20:23 If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.” (NIV).
Some denominations have latched onto this portion of Scripture quoted above to empower priests to listen to people’s confessions of sins and to offer forgiveness on God’s behalf, claiming the Apostolic authority derived from the mandate given to the original Apostles on that occasion after Christ’s resurrection. Thus, such denominations have foreclosed direct confessions of sins to God, making priests intermediaries between God and the people. The laity in such churches must confess their sins to the clergy before they can receive pardon for such sins. Such pardons are usually pronounced by the clergy on behalf of God! Even the Levitical priesthood under the Law wasn’t this restrictive in granting the people access to God! Under the law, the people could still confess their sins directly to God and obtain pardon directly from him. Why then should God’s children who are supposed to enjoy the extravagant liberty of sonship under grace be so muzzled and restrained? Why should any New Testament church deny people direct access to God?
Let it be stated categorically here that the original Apostles of the Lord to whom that instruction was given did not interpret it to mean they were now to become mediators between God and men. They didn’t interpret that mandate to mean they now had the authority to admit auricular confessions of sins and to forgive sins (or refuse to do so) on God’s behalf. Those Apostles of the Lord still taught that there was only one mediator between God and mankind, and that confessions of sins should be made to God and not to man, as we find in their epistles written years after that post-resurrection mandate was given to them.
1 Timothy 2:5 For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus,
1 Timothy 2:6 who gave himself as a ransom for all people. This has now been witnessed to at the proper time (NIV).
Hebrews 7:24 but because Jesus lives forever, he has a permanent priesthood.
Hebrews 7:25 Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.
Hebrews 7:26 Such a high priest truly meets our need —one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens (NIV).
If the Apostles understood that mandate not to mean their authorisation to stand in God’s place to both admit confession of sins and offer forgiveness of sins, what then was the mandate they were given by the Lord? To answer this question, let’s examine a similar instance where the Lord had given the disciples such powers to forgive or retain sins before. We find that example in the power of the church to either forgive an erring believer or to cast out an unrepentant one who had sinned and refused to repent, even when confronted by the church government. When church leaders sit in judgement to adjudicate disputes between believers, they have the power and authority to pardon repentant offenders or excommunicate unrepentant ones. In such situations, the government of the church can forgive or retain sins. The church government has such authority only in judging those within their jurisdiction who stand in judgement before them for gross sins that are capable of tarnishing the image of the church, or for rebellion/heresy. It’s not a universal power to forgive or retain the sins of all men.
St. Matthew 18:15 “If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over.
St. Matthew 18:16 But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ’every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’
St. Matthew 18:17 If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.
St. Matthew 18:18 “Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.
St. Matthew 18:19 “Again, truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven.
St. Matthew 18:20 For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” (NIV).
1 Corinthians 5:1 It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that even pagans do not tolerate: A man is sleeping with his father’s wife.
1 Corinthians 5:2 And you are proud! Shouldn’t you rather have gone into mourning and have put out of your fellowship the man who has been doing this?
1 Corinthians 5:3 For my part, even though I am not physically present, I am with you in spirit. As one who is present with you in this way, I have already passed judgment in the name of our Lord Jesus on the one who has been doing this.
1 Corinthians 5:4 So when you are assembled and I am with you in spirit, and the power of our Lord Jesus is present,
1 Corinthians 5:5 hand this man over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved on the day of the Lord.
1 Corinthians 5:6 Your boasting is not good. Don’t you know that a little yeast leavens the whole batch of dough?
1 Corinthians 5:7 Get rid of the old yeast, so that you may be a new unleavened batch—as you really are. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed.
1 Corinthians 5:8 Therefore let us keep the Festival, not with the old bread leavened with malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.
1 Corinthians 5:9 I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people —
1 Corinthians 5:10 not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world.
1 Corinthians 5:11 But now I am writing to you that you must not associate with anyone who claims to be a brother or sister but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or slanderer, a drunkard or swindler. Do not even eat with such people.
1 Corinthians 5:12 What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside?
1 Corinthians 5:13 God will judge those outside. “Expel the wicked person from among you.” (NIV).
1 Corinthians 6:1 If any of you has a dispute with another, do you dare to take it before the ungodly for judgment instead of before the Lord’s people?
1 Corinthians 6:2 Or do you not know that the Lord’s people will judge the world? And if you are to judge the world, are you not competent to judge trivial cases?
1 Corinthians 6:3 Do you not know that we will judge angels? How much more the things of this life!
1 Corinthians 6:4 Therefore, if you have disputes about such matters, do you ask for a ruling from those whose way of life is scorned in the church?
1 Corinthians 6:5 I say this to shame you. Is it possible that there is nobody among you wise enough to judge a dispute between believers?
1 Corinthians 6:6 But instead, one brother takes another to court —and this in front of unbelievers! (NIV).
Titus 3:10 Reject a divisive man after the first and second admonition,
Titus 3:11 knowing that such a person is warped and sinning, being self-condemned (NKJV).
If the original Apostles of the Lord did not stand in the place of Christ to hear confessions of sins and claim to forgive same, where did this doctrine come from? If Christ’s original apostles taught of the priesthood of all believers and the birthright of every child of God to approach God directly (for both confession of sins and supplications), without the need of human intermediaries, how come some churches insist on dividing the body of Christ into a holy clergy (alone qualified to approach God) and an unholy laity that are forbidden to approach God on their own? This reversion to the Old Testament Levitical priesthood (or even worse) is recorded in the book of Revelation as one of the damnable heresies sneaked into the church by demon-inspired teachers. It’s called the doctrine of the Nicolaitanes. The word “Nicolaitanes” is derived from two Greek roots, “Nicos” (meaning to conquer), and “laos”, (meaning the people or laity). It’s a doctrine designed to create a priviledged class of believers (holy priests) who alone are deemed worthy to approach God, through conquering or subduing the rest of the believers (laity). This doctrine thus divides the body of Christ into two- a holy clergy consisting of priests who have priviledged access to God, and an unholy laity who are subdued and prevented from accessing God on their own. The doctrine of the Nicolaitanes is hated by the Lord and is satanic in origin. For the avoidance of doubt, there is no special class of believers who alone have the priestly right to approach God on behalf of others. All believers in Christ are priests unto God, and all have the right to approach God on their own, through our common high priest Jesus Christ. To teach and practise otherwise is to teach and practise a demon-inspired lie. The doctrine of the Nicolaitanes is indeed a damnable heresy. Believing in it is a sure sign of departing from the true faith and giving heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of devils!
Revelation 1:4 John to the seven churches which are in Asia: Grace be to you, and peace, from him which is, and which was, and which is to come; and from the seven Spirits which are before his throne;
Revelation 1:5 And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. To him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood,
Revelation 1:6 And has made us kings and priests to God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen (AKJV).
Revelation 5:5 But one of the elders said to me, “Do not weep. Behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has prevailed to open the scroll and to loose its seven seals.”
Revelation 5:6 And I looked, and behold, in the midst of the throne and of the four living creatures, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as though it had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent out into all the earth.
Revelation 5:7 Then He came and took the scroll out of the right hand of Him who sat on the throne.
Revelation 5:8 Worthy Is the Lamb
Now when He had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each having a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.
Revelation 5:9 And they sang a new song, saying:
“You are worthy to take the scroll,
And to open its seals;
For You were slain,
And have redeemed us to God by Your blood
Out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation,
Revelation 5:10 And have made us kings and priests to our God;
And we shall reign on the earth.” (NKJV).
1 Peter 2:9 But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that you should show forth the praises of him who has called you out of darkness into his marvelous light;
1 Peter 2:10 Which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God: which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy.
Revelation 2:6 But this you have, that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitanes, which I also hate.
Revelation 2:14 But I have a few things against you, because you have there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balac to cast a stumbling block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit fornication.
Revelation 2:15 So have you also them that hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitanes, which thing I hate.
Revelation 2:16 Repent; or else I will come to you quickly, and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth.
1 Timothy 4:1 The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons.
1 Timothy 4:2 Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron (NIV).
In conclusion, after the fall of man, God designed that sinful mankind could only be reconciled back to him through the offering of an acceptable atoning sacrifice, coupled with the acknowledgement and confession of personal sins. From the very beginning, confessions of sins were made directly to God, as only he can forgive sins. Even under the Law where the Levitical priesthood acted as an intermediary between God and the people, the people were still required to confess their sins directly to God. Under the new covenant of grace, every believer is a priest unto God, and all can approach him directly by virtue of the blood of Jesus Christ that has opened the way into God’s presence for all believers. We do not need to go through the clergy to approach God, nor do we need to confess sins to the clergy, or obtain God’s forgiveness through them. The doctrine of the necessity of a priviledged, holy clergy, who alone can approach God and are authorised to listen to confessions of sins, is a fallout of the doctrine of the Nicolaitanes, which divided the body of Christ into a holy clergy and an unholy laity. That doctrine is hated by our Lord Jesus Christ, as it is satanic in origin, seeking to take believers back to the yoke of the Law and the Levitical priesthood that the Lord Jesus Christ has delivered us from. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ makes every believer a child of God and a joint heir of God with Christ. We all have unhindered access to God’s presence by the blood of Jesus Christ. We all can pray directly to God and obtain mercy and grace directly from him, without the need of passing through any Nicolaitane priest!