Is there a point where we can go too far in confessing our sins to one another?
NICHOLS: If it’s a particular sin against a brother or a sister, sometimes we think, “Well, I’ve confessed that to God. I’m now forgiven of that sin.” But I think we do have another obligation if it was a particular sin and a particular offense.
Yes, we confess that sin to God, because ultimately all sins are sins against God. But we also have an obligation to go to that brother or sister and confess that offense and seek restoration and even restitution, if necessary, so that we can have fellowship again within the body of Christ.
But there are also some sins, whether private or otherwise, that would not benefit the body of Christ or a small band of fellowship for us to air or give voice to. So there is a need for wisdom, discretion, and judgment to be exercised in those cases.
GODFREY: Perhaps in the English-speaking world we do not often enough avail ourselves of the help and comfort of a brother or sister in Christ when we’re struggling with guilt and keep things too much to ourselves. I think Luther would be the first to say, “When you cannot feel God’s forgiveness, you should ask a brother or a sister in Christ to speak the word of the gospel to you.”
You can’t always preach the gospel to yourself. You need someone else to preach the gospel to you—that’s important. But, obviously, you have to do that with wisdom and discretion to not further inflame a troubled situation.
Lightly edited for readability, this is a transcript of W. Robert Godfrey’s and Stephen Nichols’ answers given at our 2017 National Conference. To ask Ligonier a biblical or theological question, just visit Ask.Ligonier.org or message us on Facebook or Twitter.