If we sin against someone, must we confess our sin to them?
Matthew 18:21 tells us that one day Peter asked Jesus what he should do if someone sinned against him. Most people are willing to forgive a person one time or maybe a couple of times. But if the offense continues, many are unwilling to continue forgiving the offender. Eventually, they want to punish the person in some way or to get even. So we should not be surprised that Peter asked Jesus how many times should we forgive someone. Peter asked Jesus how he should respond.
Then Peter came and said to Him, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.” Matthew 18:21-22 (NASB)
Jesus’ reply reveals that God wants us to forgive and forgive and never stop forgiving. But a question that Peter did not ask was, “If we sin against someone, must we confess our sin to them?” The important part of the question is “must we confess our sin to the person?” The answer to that question is the purpose of this article. What should we do if we sin against a person?
Confess Your Sins To God
First, Scripture says that whenever we sin, we sin against God. An excellent passage is Psalm 51:3-5, where King David admits that he sinned against the Lord. A search of the Bible reveals that at least fifteen times the Bible refers to our sins being against God. A few examples are Exodus 10:16; Numbers 32:23; Deuteronomy 1:41 and Jeremiah 40:3. Another important Scripture says we can also commit a sin against a person, and in the process we sin against Christ.
And so, by sinning against the brethren and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. 1 Corinthians 8:12 (NASB)
So when we sin against someone, we also sin against God the Father and Jesus Christ.
Confess Your Sin To One Another
This means that if we sin against someone, we will need to confess that sin to them. Therefore, the question we need to answer is how do we know we have sinned against another person? The following are some verses that reveal we sin against:
- Our parents by dishonoring them. — Exodus 20:12
- Someone by murdering them. — Exodus 20:13
- Our spouse by committing adultery. — Exodus 20:14
- Someone by stealing from them. — Exodus 20:15
- Someone by distorting the truth about them. — Exodus 20:16
- Someone when we commit sexual sins with them. — 1 Corinthians 6:9
- Someone by calling them names. — 1 Corinthians 6:10
- Someone by displays of anger and arguing. — Galatians 5:20
All of these sins describe actions that are directed at someone or someone is negatively impacted by the sin.
Let us focus on adultery as an example. Adultery requires at least one spouse from one marriage and another spouse from another marriage or a single person. Malachi 2:14 states that marriage is a covenant relationship. Therefore, the spouse(s) not involved in the adulterous affair are sinned against by the offending person(s) involved in the sexual activity. In addition, those who commit the adultery have sinned against the person with whom they engaged in the sexual activity. Consequently, the two people involved in the adultery need to confess their sin of adultery to a) the person with whom they engaged in the sexual activity and b) to the non-adulterous spouse(s).
In addition, the two individuals who committed the sexual sin(s) need to confess their sin(s) to God as well as to their spouses.
In conclusion, 1 Samuel 2:25 teaches us that when we sin against someone, we also sin against God.
If one man sins against another, God will mediate for him; but if a man sins against the LORD, who can intercede for him? 1 Samuel 2:25 (NASB)
1 Corinthians 6:18 also teaches that we can sin against our own body when we engage in sexual sins. Those who say sexual activity is a private activity are correct, but God warns that sexual sin is also against your own body. There is a divine principle at work that results in damage to ourselves.
Therefore, what should we do when we have sinned against someone and God? The answer is that when we sin against someone, we must confess and apologize to them. But first, we must confess the sin to God. 1 John 1:9 tells what to do,
If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9 (NASB)
For an explanation of this verse, please visit How do I repent of my sins? What are the steps? Notice the verse says that “if we confess our sins,” God will forgive us. He will forgive because He is righteous and faithful. God’s forgiveness is based on His character. That is how we confess our sins to God. Confession involves more than “I am sorry.” It includes repentance or turning away from the sin.
Then we must go to the person against whom we sinned, clearly describe the sin we committed to them, and then ask for their forgiveness. Here are a few wonderful verses about God’s forgiveness for our confessed sin.
As far as the East is from the West,
So far has He removed our transgressions from us. Psalm 103:12 (NASB)
Though your sins are as scarlet,
They will be as white as snow;
Though they are red like crimson,
They will be like wool. Isaiah 1:18 (NASB)
You have cast all my sins behind Your back. Isaiah 38:17 (NASB)
I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more. Jeremiah 31:34 (NASB)
Suggested Links:Is there a sin that God will not forgive? When does He forgive?
What is the meaning of the word repent or repentance in the Bible?
Pursuing Holiness - Forgiving & Offending
How long can a person sin and still be a Christian?
How do I repent of my sins? What are the steps?
How can I get away from the past and move on with God?
Is it worse to knowingly sin or sin due to ignorance?
Am I a Christian since I struggle with sin?