We’ve all read the below Scripture, but do we really understand what it means. And though the immediate context concerns healing and sickness, there is a principle within a wider biblical context concerning the confession of sins to others, which may be misunderstood within the context of open confession in the church.
The question becomes – are we to confess the details of our sins, or even the types of sins which we are guilty of before the congregation or other believers?
The proof text – James 5:16, states:
“Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.”
The word used here concerning sin (which is translated into the English word “faults“), is not the common word used concerning “sin” in the New Testament.
James, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, does NOT use the common word for “sin” – (Greek: hamartia [G266] used over 90 times in the New Testament ), which is why the English word “sin” is not used.
He uses the word translated into the English, “faults,” (KJB) which is from the Greek: (paraptoma [G3900] which is literally translated “to fall by the wayside,” “lapse,” “error,” “mistake,” “wrongdoing,” “fault“) which does not have the same meaning as word hamartia.
Stay Out of the Details
Paraptoma aligns with the thought of a shortcoming without getting in the details of what the sin is – it is not normally used of a detailed, meticulous, and specific description of the particulars of the act – this type of language addresses is in a generic sense without the need of getting into the gutter to explain all the nuances that were involved.
This displays the wisdom of God. If we stood up in church and confessed the particular details of the sin we committed, the devil would have a field day with those it overheard our confession, allowing must be conceived in their heart, with even the temptation to take advantage of the person concerning their confession. It would also make us potential victims by those it would take advantage of the weakness that we confess.
Could you imagine lustful young man wood tends church simply to appease his parents, then here’s a young lady speak about her lustful desires concerning sex – what a wise God have us can best the details so that more sin would abound.
We are not to get up and talk about those things which God would not have us speak about in public. We are to confess that we are fallen creatures, and that we’ve been overtaken in the sin – refusing to allow ourselves to pride to act like we were less simple than others – humbling ourselves, not speaking about those things which entice others due to our simple imaginations.
You see what makes being a Christian so difficult is that we will sin every day of our life (see below), though we are to stand in the grace in the mercy of God, we are putting on the mind of Christ (1 Peter 1:13-15); seeking the Holy Spirit in avoiding and even fleeing from sin (1 Cor. 6:18; 10:14; 1 Tim. 6:11; 2 Tim. 2:22; James 4:7) – sin brings death and devastation.
I am by no means saying that we should readily accept sin in our lives. Yet at the same time we must understand that we sinful creatures and will keep on doing so every day we are on this earthly body (see below).
It is such a shame that there are with those that teach that we can totally stop sinning once we are a believer.
The Teaching that Believers can Totally Stop Sinning
This teaching distorts the Word of God. Many well-known teachers have taught this heresy – yes I say heresy – the devil uses this form of pride more than any other promote overt sins which are easily seen by others, by due to the self-denial are unseen by the person himself.
Whereas the pride that states that you must no longer sin, and have the ability to do so is a sin so well hidden, whose aim is to hide other sins – because if you’re truly saved, and the truly saved cannot sin; then you must not be sending if you are saved; or even worse yet, if you sinned as a believer, then you have lost your salvation and you’re going to hell .
What does the Biblical text say in 1 John 1:8:
“If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.”
Why would I go so far as to say that teaching that the believer can become sinless is a heresy, it is because this is what God says in His Word.
You see, if we go so far as to say that we have no sin; the Scripture says the truth is not in us – which is to enter into heresy (Is an opinion or doctrine held in complete opposition to an Orthodox position which undermines a foundational truth concerning an essential belief.).
And for those that would say that this is prior to the Christian’s conversion, speaking about our prior life as unbelievers, they ignore the Greek grammar which God utilizes to make the point.
You see the verb translated into “we have” (Greek: echo) is in the perfect tense – meaning: it is a continuous action that never stops – period!
The full grammar of this verb is:
present tense, meaning it is: Continuous Action – Never stops
active voice, meaning it is: Subject Causes the Action (Object Receives Action)
indicative mood, meaning it is: Mood of Certainty – A Reality
first-person, meaning it is: Applies to the Speaker (“I” – “We”)
plural number, meaning it is: Applies to All
So you see this applies to everyone, believer or not (as seen in the grammar of the word: “we”); especially in light to the fact that John was addressing believers only as seen throughout this letter.
And to validate this point even further, we read 1 John 1:10, which states:
“If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.”
The verb “sinned” (Greek: hamartano, a derivative of hamartia, meaning: “missing the mark“- it is an archery term, wherein the bull’s-eye is the size of the arrow dead center in the target, and anything outside of dead center – perfection, is missing the mark – sin).
The Greek grammar of the word hamartano used here is:
Tense Perfect Completed in the Past, Results in the Present
Mood Indicative Mood of Certainty – A Reality ~ it is an undeniable fact
Voice Active Subject Causes the Action (Object Receives Action) ~ we choose to do it
Person First Applies to the Speaker (“I” – “We”) ~ this is to you and I
Number Plural Applies to All ~ it applies to everyone
And as we know, the perfect tense is meant to show a complete unmovable reality that the thing has occurred, yet is ongoing in the present.
It is not that the results of the sin are present without the action present also.
The idea is that the reality of the presence of the thing is so assured that it is stated in the past tense (within the grammar to express the complete solidity of something, it is referred to in the past tense – this does not mean that it occurred only in the past and is not present in now. The idea is you cannot change the reality of something’s existence anymore to change the past).
This, among many other Scriptures teaches that believers are still sinners; and will sin as part of their makeup (Read Romans 7:14-25, is also in the present tense).
Yet at the same time we are not captive to sin – it is not our master that we MUST succumb to it EVERY TIME sin is presented. We have choices.
By no means am I rationalizing sin.
The choice to sin is a moment by moment decision.
And we’re told in God’s Word over and over TO NOT CHOOSE SIN!
The problem with the singular sin is it many times leads to an habitual sin – plural sin – and then the sin solidifies within our lives, it takes root in is much harder to remove.
This means that a sin then becomes a habit, and once it becomes a habit; we have yielded ourselves to it as our master, which is what Paul refers to in Romans.
Yet based upon 1 John 1:9 (“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”); the Scripture found between the two above Scriptures, it is when we confess our sins and relinquish its control and choose not to let it be our master, that the power of sin is broken in our lives again.
Warren Wiersbe States:
“Christians do sin, but this does not mean they must be saved all over again. Sin in the life of the believer breaks the fellowship but does not destroy the sonship. A true Christian is always accepted even if he is not acceptable. How does God provide for the sins of the saints? Through the heavenly ministry of Christ. We are saved from the penalty of sin by His death (Rom. 5:6-9), and we are saved daily from the power of sin by His life (Rom. 5:10). The word “advocate” means “one who pleads a case” and is the same Gk. word as “Comforter” in John 14:16. The Holy Spirit represents Christ to us on earth, and the Son represents us to God in heaven. His wounds testify that He died for us, and therefore God can forgive when we confess our sins. Read carefully Rom. 8:31-34. The word “confess” means “to say the same thing.” To confess sin means to say the same thing about it that God says. Keep in mind that Christians do not have to do penance, make sacrifices, or punish themselves when they have sinned. Every sin has already been taken care of at the cross. Does this give us license to sin? Of course not! The Christian who truly understands God’s provision for a life of holiness does not want to deliberately disobey God.”