Before I became a member at my church here in Kansas City, I didn’t know anything about confession.

Don’t get me wrong, I knew that believers are supposed to confess more than once: there is confession initially at salvation, and then consistently throughout the life of sanctification.

I knew about the first part. I had done that. But I had never seen corporate confession in practice. Friends telling friends frankly about their sin, church members confessing to the body, actually walking together in killing their sin and mortifying their flesh. But I didn’t know what it looked like to fight sin in community, on a week-by-week basis. I had heard about accountability groups, but those were only for boys who had problems with lust, right? But what about the rest of us? What about our other sins?

The Bible tells us that once we’ve been saved and the Holy Spirit has entered our hearts, we are no longer enslaved to sin. We are no longer obligated to obey sin. We are released from sin’s all-consuming grip on our lives. Praise God! This is a marvelous grace from him. From this point on, when we encounter sin’s alluring call: we are able to choose either to gratify our flesh, or to turn to the Spirit for help.

As believers, we no longer are enslaved to sin. So when we sin, we volunteer to it. We make a significant choice every time we turn towards sin. No one is without excuse—the Bible makes this clear. But when believers sin, they must actively disregard the voice of the Spirit and disobey the Word.

1 Corinthians 10:13 is a clear voice calling out to believers to walk in wisdom and endurance: “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide a way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.”

There is so much hope packed into this verse—enough for another article altogether. But pertinent to confession is this idea that God gives us a way to escape from temptation: not to just avoid it, but to endure it in a way that is sinless and glorifying to God. What a glorious, hope-filled thought.

One of the many ways that he provides an escape is through the body of Christ. Participating in the community and covenant of church membership is an intimate way that God has given for believers to drink from streams of grace: to be held accountable, to be rebuked, exhorted, and encouraged to turn from their sin and to walk in the newness of life that has been purchased for them by the blood of Jesus.

The body intercedes for each other, lifting up the needs of the saints. The body cheers for each other, participating with the great cloud of witnesses, encouraging believers to throw off every weight and sin that entangles. The body rebukes one another, offering accountability and the wisdom that accompanies many counselors.

Of course, there is modesty and discernment in our confession. “Venting” is not a biblical practice, nor is gossip in the name of prayer requests. What’s more, the explicit details of intimate sin are often not necessary to fully confess. We can deal with our sin truthfully and still speak with modesty. Godly confession abides by the biblical boundaries of modesty and moderation.

As I’ve begun to practice this type of confession myself, and see it practiced by my covenant family, I’ve come to realize why it is so rare: confession is hard. Confession is ugly, and painful, and exhausting. Mortification is often violent and requires steady aggression. It is wearying to be reminded of sin and its pervasiveness, in our own bodies and in the body of Christ at large.

But confession done rightly never stops at sin. Just as we confess both our sins and our dependence on Christ as Lord and Savior in salvation, we repeat these affirmations when dealing with particular sins in our day-to-day life.

We confess our need for Jesus. We need his atoning work. We need his death. We need his sacrifice. We need his current intercession and advocacy for us. What’s more, confessing sin tears down the idol of self—lit humbles us both before God, and before other people. Milton Vincent deals with this in his gospel primer: “Why would anyone be shocked to hear of my struggles with past and present sin when the Cross has already told them I am a desperately sinful person?”[1]

Confessing Jesus as our Savior and as our ultimate way of escape is where our hope lies. When we lock arms with other believers, we walk alongside those who help us fight our sin. When we confess corporately, we warn each other of the deceitfulness of sin and of the truthfulness of Jesus’ body broken for us. Ultimately, the practice of confession reminds us that our identity is not in our sin, but in the blood of Christ that covers us. Thanks be to God.


[1] Milton Vincent, Exposed by the Cross. From The Gospel Primer for Christians.