CONCERNING THE PRACTICE OF CONFESSION
Let me say a few words concerning the practice of confessing sins. We all know whom we have offended and defrauded before we were saved. After we were saved, we felt sorrowful in our heart and wished to confess to those same people. This is something that we should do. God commands, even compels us to do so. It is something taught in the Scriptures. Having seen God’s righteousness and the glory in His presence, we now realize that it is unrighteous to be indebted to others. What then shall we do? We refuse to be unrighteous persons. We even tell ourselves, "I am saved. I will be a righteous man. I will thoroughly deal with all the areas in which I have been unrighteous or not right with others so that they may forgive me." There is no problem with your sins being forgiven before God, but you must make confession to men of your offenses to men. However, confession and restitution are absolutely not the way of salvation. You do not need to make confessions and recompense before you can be saved. As a saved person, and one who is just, you are merely asking pardon from people you have wronged.
The thief on the cross must have robbed many and sinned against many. However, he had no opportunity to confess and make recompense to anyone, because he could hardly move on the cross. He was not able to return any item which he had plundered from others. Yet, without any confession or restitution, he still could be saved. The Lord Jesus said to him, "Today you shall be with Me in Paradise" (Luke 23:43). We may consider this robber as the first person to be saved in the New Testament. He was the first to be saved after the Lord’s death. Hence, the problem is not one of confession. The thief on the cross, though deprived of the opportunity of making recompense, was nevertheless saved. If he had lived on, he should have made recompense for righteousness’ sake. But the question of his salvation was resolved on the cross in an instant. Confession is something that follows salvation. He was already saved on the cross; his salvation was altogether not due to any kind of confession or restitution. If he confessed his sins again at some later date, it would not have saved him more. Here we are clearly shown that salvation is by faith, whereas confession is a spontaneous expression of Christian living. Since we now know our righteous God, we desire to clear up the problem of our sins before man. Our salvation is totally a matter between us and the Lord Jesus; it is resolved through Him alone.
There are three things here which we must be clear about. First, we confess our sins before God, judging ourselves, repenting, and acknowledging that we are sinners. All these are done before God. This causes us to have faith to receive the Lord Jesus as our Savior. Second, after we are saved, we become aware of our offenses towards others and wish to clear them up. We wish to make recompense and to confess to those whom we have defrauded so that we may live a righteous life on earth. Third, after we are saved, as the Holy Spirit works in us, we want to tell others what kind of sinners we were and how many sins we have committed. We may do this during our baptism, and we may do this after baptism.
I do not know if you are clear or not. Never deem the confessing of sins so highly. We must put it in the place accorded by the Scriptures. Since the Bible never considers it as a way to salvation, neither should we. Thank God it is the Lord Jesus who saved me. I did not save myself. Thank God it is the cross of Christ that saved me. I am not saved by my own cross; the cross of Christ did the saving work.
(Gospel of God, The (2 volume set), Chapter 12, by Watchman Nee)