Questions From Readers
In view of Jehovah’s willingness to forgive sins by the merit of the ransom sacrifice, why is it necessary for Christians to confess to the older men in the congregation?
As can be seen in the case of David and Bath-sheba, Jehovah forgave David’s sin, grave though it was, because of David’s genuine repentance. When the prophet Nathan approached him, David openly confessed: “I have sinned against Jehovah.”—2 Samuel 12:13.
However, Jehovah not only accepts a sinner’s sincere confession and extends forgiveness but he also makes loving provisions to help the erring one progress to spiritual recovery. In David’s case, the help came through the prophet Nathan. Today, in the Christian congregation, there are spiritually mature older men, or elders. The disciple James explains: “Is there anyone [spiritually] sick among you? Let him call the older men of the congregation to him, and let them pray over him, greasing him with oil in the name of Jehovah. And the prayer of faith will make the indisposed one well, and Jehovah will raise him up. Also, if he has committed sins, it will be forgiven him.”—James 5:14, 15.
Skillful elders can do much to ease the pain of heart that is felt by the remorseful sinner. They strive to imitate Jehovah in their dealings with him. They never want to be harsh, even though strong discipline may be warranted. Rather, they compassionately consider the immediate needs of the individual. Patiently they strive to readjust the erring one’s thinking by using God’s Word. (Galatians 6:1) Even if a person does not voluntarily confess his sin, he may still be moved to repentance when approached by the elders, as David was when approached by Nathan. The support thus rendered by the elders helps the erring one to avoid the danger of repeating the sin and the serious consequences of becoming a hardened practicer of sin.—Hebrews 10:26-31.
It is certainly not easy to confess to others deeds that one feels ashamed of and to seek forgiveness. It takes inner strength. Reflect for a moment, though, on the alternative. One man who failed to reveal his serious sin to the elders in the congregation said: “I felt a pain in my heart that would not go away. I increased my efforts in the preaching work, but the sickening feeling remained.” He felt that confession to God in prayer was enough, but clearly it was not, for he experienced feelings similar to King David’s. (Psalm 51:8, 11) How much better to accept the loving assistance that Jehovah provides through the elders!