What’s the Difference Between True Biblical Confession of Sin, and Roman Catholic Confession?
By Dr. Paul M. Elliott (From the TeachingtheWord Bible Knowledgebase)
Part one of a series
At issue is nothing less than the difference between eternal life and eternal death.
Vital Questions Reveal Vast Differences
In this era of Evangelical postmodernism, few in the church understand what it means to be a Protestant – that the differences between authentic Biblical Christianity and Roman Catholicism are not small and bridgeable, but vast and irreconcilable. Like Paradise and Hades, there is “a great gulf fixed” between them (Luke 16:26) – the difference between eternal life and eternal death.
At the core of the difference is the issue of confession of sin. The answers to vital questions on this subject reveal vast, life-and-death differences between Biblical Christianity and Roman traditionalism:
What does it mean to confess your sins? The essence of Biblical confession is for the believer to say the same thing that God says about sin: It is abhorrent to His holy nature, and was paid for in full by the death of His Son. The essence of Roman Catholic confession is for the individual to say the same thing that the Vatican says about sin: It is an opportunity for the church-state to exercise power by exacting further payment.
Does God deal with the problem of original sin, and the problem of specific sins, in two different ways, or one? Authentic Christianity says that Christ’s full and final atonement deals once and for all with both our sin nature inherited from Adam, and specific sins we commit as the result of that nature. Rome says that water baptism deals with original sin, that the sacraments of confession and penance deal with so-called “mortal” sins, and that time in purgatory deals with so-called “venial” sins.
Where must you come to confess your sins? Biblical Christianity says that Christians may come directly to the throne of grace at any time and any place. Romanism says you must come to the confessional booth.
To whom must you make that confession? Authentic Christianity says that confession must be made to God the Father alone through Christ alone. Roman Catholicism says it must be made to one of its earthly priests, who the church designates as “father”.
On what basis do you make that confession? Biblical Christianity says that the basis of confession of sin is faith alone in the person and work of Christ alone. Romanism says that the basis of confession is membership in the church.
What is the basis of that person’s authority to absolve you? Biblical Christianity teaches that God alone can forgive sin. Romanism teaches that God has delegated the authority to forgive sins – or withhold forgiveness – to a human priesthood through the Pope.
What payment is required for your sins, and when? Authentic Christianity says that the believer’s sins were paid for, in full, by Christ on the cross. Rome’s counterfeit Christianity says that people must continually pay for “mortal” sins by performing acts of penance, and spend hundreds, thousands, or even millions of years in purgatory to pay for their “venial” sins.
What assurance do you have that your sins are forgiven? Authentic Christianity teaches that the believer has full assurance of the forgiveness of sin. Romanism insists that you can never have such assurance, and by that assertion Rome keeps its followers in bondage.
In this series we’re going to focus on each of these questions in greater detail. We’ll examine what authentic Christianity’s authority – God’s Word, Holy Scripture – says, in contrast to Roman Catholicism’s authority – man’s word, embodied in papal tradition.