Confession: Old Testament Insights1 -- By: Clifford Rapp, Jr.

Journal: Chafer Theological Seminary Journal
Volume: CTSJ 005:4 (Sep 1999)
Article: Confession: Old Testament Insights1
Author: Clifford Rapp, Jr.

Old Testament Insights1

Clifford Rapp, Jr.*

[*Editor's note: Clifford Rapp, Jr., earned his B.A. degree from Biola University; and a Th.M. degree in Old Testament Literature and Exegesis from Dallas Theological Seminary. He is an adjunct professor at Chafer Theological Seminary and pastors Clovis Free Methodist Church, Clovis, California. His e-mail address is [email protected]]

The New Testament promises that if we confess our sins [God] is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).2 This essay addresses the nature of confession.

The paucity of New Testament material on confession makes this question difficult. A few confessions exist: the prodigal son (Luke 15), the tax collector’s confession (Luke 18), and Simon’s plea for mercy (Acts 8). Probably the longest and most detailed confessions of sin are Paul’s public testimonies in which he acknowledged his sin.

The New Testament uses the homologeō, “confess,” word group (ὁμολογέω, ὁμολογία, ἐξομολογέω) only forty times. Furthermore, 1 John 1:9 is the only time where the direct object of homologeō is sins, iniquities, transgressions, debts, etc. Four times the related term exomologeō, is used of confessing sin, faults or evil practices (Matthew 3:6; Mark 1:5; Acts 19:18; and James 5:16).

This scarcity of New Testament material leads many to rely on an etymological explanation to define confession of sins. Specifically,

homologeō is a compound word (homo “same” and logeō “to say” or “to speak”). Thus, they conclude that to confess sins means to say the same thing that God says about the sins, or to agree together with God about one’s sins. The etymological definition does not specify whether saying the same thing about one’s sins (that God does) must include contrition, repe...

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