19 – Question 3

Let’s look in the scriptures to James 5:16 which says, “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.”  This refers to wrongs that we commit against one another.  While we should certainly confess this to the Lord, we should also confess to the one that we have sinned against.  Consider  Matthew 5:23-24 which says, “Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift.”  This shows the importance of being reconciled to the one you have offended.  Bringing your gift to the altar would be a form of worship.  We see that sinning against another and not confessing it will interfere with our worship of the Lord.  How hard it is for the believer to draw into the presence of the Lord when he knows that he has offended someone.

Besides confessing our faults one to another, we may also find it necessary to make restitution when it is possible.  The seriousness of sinning and making restitution against others is spelled out in detail in the Old Testament.  Numbers 5:6-7 says, “Speak unto the children of Israel, When a man or woman shall commit any sin that men commit, to do a trespass against the LORD, and that person be guilty; Then they shall confess their sin which they have done: and he shall recompense his trespass with the principal thereof, and add unto it the fifth part thereof, and give it unto him against whom he hath trespassed.”  Here we see that if one person took from another, he was to restore it, plus add 20 percent to it.  How could we possibly be truly repentant of stealing from or cheating someone without doing our best to pay back what we have taken?

In Luke 19:1-10, we have the story of Zaccheaus, a tax collector who came to the Lord in faith.  He was so repentant of his past deeds that he declared to the Lord in Luke 19:8, “…Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken any thing from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold.”  Fourfold was the amount one was to restore to another if convicted of the theft of sheep by trial.  Read Exodus 22:1.  How great was the repentance of Zaccheaus that he was willing to go way beyond the required amount to make restitution to those he had cheated.

We are not able to make physical restitution in all cases.  If we lie to someone, or if we lie against someone; if we treat someone unkindly; if we spread rumors; if we speak harshly; the examples are almost endless.  These things we cannot restore.  So, we must go to that person in humility and shame and confess to them what we have done.  Is this hard to do?  Is it embarrassing?  Well, if we have truly repented, and our desire is to obey the Lord and be reconciled to the one we have sinned against, we won’t find it so hard to do.  Afterwards, we will be able to enjoy the friendship and fellowship of the one we have sinned against.  Being restored to that person will bring us much joy and it will honor the Lord.

We read from Matthew 5, which spoke about being restored to our brother or sister in Christ.  We read of Zaccheaus in Luke 19, which spoke about making restitution to anyone we have sinned against.  We need to realize that if we sin against anyone, whether they are Christians or not, we need to confess this to them and make restitution wherever possible.

Of course, the one thing we need to do before we confess our sin to the one we have sinned against, as we said at the outset, is to confess our sin to the Lord.  Every sin that we commit is sin against the Lord.  In Genesis 39, we learn how that Joseph was tempted by his master’s wife to commit adultery with her.  Let’s read Genesis 39:7-9, “And it came to pass after these things, that his master’s wife cast her eyes upon Joseph; and she said, Lie with me. But he refused, and said unto his master’s wife, Behold, my master wotteth not what is with me in the house, and he hath committed all that he hath to my hand; There is none greater in this house than I; neither hath he kept back any thing from me but thee, because thou art his wife: how then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?”  Joseph knew that if he committed this act of adultery, he would not just be sinning against his master, he would be sinning against the Lord.  If we sin against one another, we sin against the Lord and we need to confess this to Him.  We cannot truly confess our sin to one another in true repentance until we have first confessed our sin to the Lord.