“Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much” (James 5:16).
Confession plays an essential role in the life of the godly. Confession of your genuine belief that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God is essential to becoming a Christian, a child of God (Acts 8:37). Confession of sin—as described above—is essential to a child of God’s spiritual health and well-being.
Because of its importance, the four facts about confession found in this verse deserve your focused attention and diligent retention.
“Confess” (homologeo) literally means “same words/saying”. It communicates the idea of adopting the same terms of language as God. To confess that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God is to say the exact same thing about Mary’s firstborn as God did (Matthew 3:17, 17:5; John 20:30-31). When a Christian confesses his trespasses, he speaks of his sinful behavior with the same terms and black-and-white language God does. David’s penitent “I have sinned against the Lord” (2 Samuel 12:13) is the perfect model for God’s people to follow.
The way by which James composed this word is important to note. It is written as a present imperative which communicates to its original readers that it is a command of an ongoing action. Just as frequent bathing rids the skin of dirt and potential diseases, confessing your trespasses/sins rids the inner person of spiritual dirt and disease. No healthy person takes only one bath in his lifetime.
“Your trespasses” communicates the seriousness of the action commanded. Identifying and confessing that your thoughts, words, actions, and/or motives missed the mark of God’s righteous standard is authentic Christianity at its transformative best.
Confession of sin is not a half-hearted attempt to halfway apologize. It is to plainly and vocally state the heinousness of your evil behavior using God’s words. “Trespasses” (or sins) are not insignificant “boo boos”; they are the very things which severe your sweet fellowship with God and others (Isaiah 59:2). Therefore, your expression of penitence, shame, and remorse ought to be plainly seen and heard in your confession of your trespasses.