Meetings For The Public Confession Of Sin And Humiliation Needed

"Confess your faults one to another"



Are public meetings for the confession of sin and humiliation appropriate?


Short Answer

Yes! Though such meetings are often greeted with ambivalence, they are needed and called for in the Scriptures and the writings of Ellen White. Needless to say, they must be conducted in appropriate ways.


Introduction And Some Context For United Prayer

Public confession is probably the most questioned aspect of United Prayer. The questions come for a variety of reasons, but the bottom line is that many people do not feel comfortable with the public confession of sin. The Bible calls for such prayer, however, as does the Spirit of Prophecy. The history of revival also reveals that confession has often played a key role in such movements of the Spirit—you will this to be true, for example, in the revival work of Jonathan Goforth and the revivals that took place in Korea around 1907. Accordingly, on this page, texts and quotations are provided that speak to the need for public confession. Such confessions should be appropriate, should follow the guidelines laid down in Scripture and be genuine. Guidelines include private sins being confessed to God; specific wrongs towards another confessed to the person wronged; open confession where the larger group has been affected. Some sins—for example, moral failures—should only be confessed to God, since sharing these failures can weaken the individuals hearing them. However, there are appropriate ways to express shortcomings in ways that will not hurt the people present: "I have been struggling in my devotional experience"; "I have not been as kind as I should have been lately"; etc. Sometimes the Spirit leads to more specific delineation of sin, which is okay, but the Spirit should do the leading. Even though people may not feel comfortable with public confession—Mrs. White speaks of the "cross of confession"—it is necessary. Therefore, having time for appropriate confession when God's people come together in prayer and social meetings is very appropriate and Biblically sanctioned. However, such confessions should be a part of the larger meeting, but not the main subject, and not everyone attending should be required to make confessions.


Bible Answers

General Confession of Sin

Isaiah 57:15 "For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones."

Malachi 3:16-18 "Then they that feared the Lord spake often one to another: and the Lord hearkened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the Lord, and that thought upon his name."

Acts 19:18 "And many that believed came, and confessed, and shewed their deeds."

Hebrews 3:12-13 "Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God. 13 But exhort one another daily, while it is called To day; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin."

James 5:16 "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."

1 John 1:7-10 "But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin. 8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us."


Guidelines For The Confession Of Sin

Matthew 18:15-17 (NKJV) “Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother. 16 But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that ‘by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.’ 17 And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector."


A Longer Quote On The Need For Such Meetings

Try To Have Special Meetings Of Humiliation In Every Church

"Brethren in every church, will you follow the conditions God has specified, and prove the Lord, and see if he will fulfill his promises? I believe he will. I have not the shadow of a doubt of it. He will do just as he has said he would, and the exceedingly broad promises of rich blessings will be realized if we but comply with the conditions. Your heads may be hard and sound, but let not this hardness steal into your hearts. If you will fall on the Rock and be broken, then your self-righteousness will no longer exist. There will be instead soft, impressible hearts, kind, tender, true hearts, like that of Jesus, who was ever touched with human woe. You will weep with those who weep, and mourn with those who mourn. Try it, brethren; God’s way is always best. You have tried your own way very perseveringly, and it does not work for the prosperity, union, and up-building of the church. Therefore let us no longer think our own plan the right one, climbing upon the judgment seat; but let us in the spirit of God bear the testimony he has given us to bear, receiving the melting love of God in our hearts while we speak plain truths to tear away the vail of deception from the eyes of those in error, giving instead the earnest, sincere, genuine love of Jesus. {RH December 16, 1884, par. 12} This work of confession must be done sooner or later. Shall it not be done in the dying hours of the old year? Shall we not put away our sins by confession, and let them go beforehand to judgment? Shall we not strive now as we never have before, that we may commence the new year with a clean record? Shall we not individually take hold of this long neglected work, humbling our souls before God, that “pardon”—blessed pardon—may be written opposite our names? Shall we not be truly Christians—Christ-like? {RH December 16, 1884, par. 13} Try it in every church. Have special meetings when you can,—meetings of humiliation, of afflicting the soul,—meetings where the rubbish shall be cleared away from the door of the heart, that the blessed Saviour may enter. What a wonderful time the dying of the old year and the birth of the new might be! If we individually try to do what we can on our part, God is faithful that hath promised, and he will fulfill on his part abundantly more than you can ask or even think. Let no more moments be wasted. Let us now arise, and make earnest efforts to cherish the subduing love of Jesus. We need to be melted over, that the dross may be removed. We need to learn in Christ’s school meekness and lowliness of heart, drawing closer and closer to Jesus." {RH December 16, 1884, par. 14}

Let Ample Opportunity Be Given For All To Humble Themselves Before God And Confess Their Sins

"Let there be meetings in every church; and let ample opportunity be given to all to humble themselves before God, and confess their sins, that they may receive the peace of pardon. When we will bring our hearts into unity with Christ, and our lives into harmony with his work, the Spirit that descended on the day of Pentecost will fall on us. We shall be strong in Christ’s strength, and be filled with the fullness of God."


Additional Inspired Answers

"A revival of true godliness among us is the greatest and most urgent of all our needs. To seek this should be our first work. There must be earnest effort to obtain the blessing of the Lord, not because God is not willing to bestow his blessing upon us, but because we are unprepared to receive it. Our Heavenly Father is more willing to give his Holy Spirit to them that ask him, than are earthly parents to give good gifts to their children. But it is our work, by confession, humiliation, repentance, and earnest prayer, to fulfill the conditions upon which God has promised to grant us his blessing." {RH March 22, 1887, par. 1}

"The objects of camp-meetings are to separate from business cares, and burdens, and devote a few days of time exclusively to seeking the Lord. The time should be occupied in self-examination, close searching of heart, and penitential confession of sins, and renewing our vows to the most high God. If any come to these meetings for less worthy objects, we hope the character of the meeting will be such as to bring the minds of all to the proper objects of the meetings." {T20 38.2}

"Our early morning meetings were well attended and were precious seasons of confession of sins, of defects. Confessions were made of unimproved opportunities; and there were many testimonies filled with expressions of gratitude and thankfulness for the precious tokens of God’s love and favor they had experienced during the meeting." {Ms15-1884.8}

"I have presented to my brethren that less time needs to be occupied in sermonizing. Let companies be broken up and several meetings be held for testimony and prayer and confession of sins. Let more time be given to earnest labor for the reformation of souls of youth and for the church generally." {Ms24-1889.26}

"I have been very much burdened in regard to the future of the work. Our camp meetings should be made all that God designed they should be. The spiritual necessities of those who attend should not be neglected. From the very commencement of the meeting, social meetings for prayer, confession, and spiritual awakening should be held." {Lt210-1899.1}

"Those who are of the household of faith should never neglect the assembling of themselves together; for this is God’s appointed means of leading His children into unity, in order that in Christian love and fellowship they may help, strengthen, and encourage one another. My brethren and sisters in Greater New York, if you would come together for prayer meetings; if, after confession of sin and humiliation of soul, you would have a love-feast—every heart filled with true love for his brethren—you would see the salvation of God." {Lt98-1902.17}

"There is one thing that I want to ask those assembled at this conference to do: pray earnestly for the blessing of the Lord. I am glad to know that you are having early morning meetings. These meetings are of the highest value. Every time you come together at one of these meetings, lay your hearts open before God, and do not be afraid that your experience will be spoiled if you make confession. Take the stumbling blocks out of the way. May God give us light that will clear away everything which would prevent us from having that love for one another which we should have." {Ms56-1905.32}

"My brother, do you remember the meetings held in a certain place where there were apparently two parties present? The Spirit of the Lord was seeking entrance into the hearts of those present. Had the word that God gave during the meeting been heeded, there would have been a general time of humiliation and confession of sins before God, and the whole room would have been filled with the glory of God. But in the place of every soul humbling his own heart, clearing away the rubbish from the door, and making a way by which Christ might enter, some took a wrong course, like a car that jumps a track, and many words were spoken in an effort to lay blame upon others. Such words should never have been spoken. If hearts had been broken, melted by the Spirit of God, there would have been such a scene that souls now in darkness would have been led to clear the King’s highway by confessing their shortcomings." {Lt216-1906.14}

"At the meetings appointed for confession, the Spirit of God was present, and holy angels were in the assembly; but men had their own ideas and determinations to work out. They thought it a good time to bring Brethren Prescott and Daniells to terms. Far better would it have been if they had sought to bring their own souls into a humble, teachable condition. With such a spirit as was manifested at Berrien Springs, it was not the time to present all of the message that was needed." {Lt225b-1906.28}

"I spoke twice in the church at San Diego, on Sabbath and Sunday afternoons. I had a burden for this church; and after speaking for one hour, I presented their needs before God in prayer. The Holy Spirit was in the meetings, and hearts were impressed. Confessions were made by a few. There were many present whose hearts should have been broken; and had they realized their true condition, they would have cleared the King’s highway. What was needed was humiliation of heart and confession of sin, in order to remove the difficulties. But this chapter in their experience, though much needed, did not come. We left this place, sorry that they did not all clear the King’s highway. We shall soon see the working of the enemy, and we shall see the working of the power of grace." {Lt194-1907.2}

"There is a special work to be done in clearing away the malarial atmosphere that has been coming into our churches. There is only one way in which this work can be accomplished, and that is by leading the believers fully into the light. Let special meetings be held in the churches that shall be seasons of humbling the heart before God and of confession and cleansing of the soul. I pray that the believers in Southern California may improve this opportunity, and open the door of the heart to the Holy Spirit, that He may work through them without let or hindrance. If they will draw nigh to God, He will draw nigh to them." {Lt72-1908.2}

"Read the words over and over again, and then go to work upon God’s plan, that hearts may be knit together, that the unity among God’s followers may be even as the unity existing between the Father and the Son. Ministers of the gospel are to strive earnestly and constantly to answer this prayer. This will be their defense against the attacks of Satan. It will give beauty and fragrance to the character. Let those who occupy responsible positions as church leaders take up this subject, that the unity for which Christ prayed may be seen among His followers. Let church members yield their will and their way to Christ. Let all tale-bearing cease. Clear away the difficulties, whether they be large or small. The Holy Spirit is given to purify the church of these annoyances. The Holy Spirit is given to dwell always with believers. Let confessions be made till the church is relieved of the sin that rests upon it and all grievances are settled." {Ms47-1902.33}


Further Written Information

Key Article Calling For Meetings For Confession And Humiliation

This article was written just prior to the beginning of a new year. As preparation for the new year, a call was made for special meetings of confession and humiliation.

The Confession Aspect Of A Week Of Prayer In 1898

In this document you read of the desire for confession as part of the week of prayer.