Confession is mentioned at different times in the Psalms. " 'I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,' and You forgave the iniquity of my sin" (32:5). Such confession of sin, which is made to God, is contrition itself. When confession is made to God it must be made with the heart, not only with the voice. Confession is contrition in which, feeling God's anger, we confess that God is justly angry and that He cannot be reconciled by our works. Yet, we seek for mercy because of God's promise. Such is the following confession, "Against You, You only, have I sinned … so that You may be justified in Your words and blameless in Your judgment" (Psalm 51:4). This means, "I confess that I am a sinner and have merited eternal wrath. Nor can I set my righteousnesses, my merits, against Your wrath. So I declare that You are just when You condemn and punish us. I declare that You are clear when hypocrites judge You to be unjust in punishing them or in condemning the well-deserving. Yes, our merits cannot satisfy Your judgment. But we will be justified if You justify us, if through Your mercy You count us righteous." Perhaps someone may also cite James 5:16, "Confess your sins to one another." But here the reference is not to confession made to priests, but is the reconciliation of brothers to each other. Confession should be mutual. (paragraphs 10-12)
Condensed from CONCORDIA: THE LUTHERAN CONFESSIONS, copyright 2005,2006 by Concordia Publishing House. Used by permission. All rights reserved. To purchase a copy of CONCORDIA, call 800-325-3040.