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Do You Need to Repent and Confess?


By Don Umphrey

(with scriptural citations from the NIV)

Repentance and confession are important practices among both Christians and people in 12-step recovery. 

“Repentance is a profound change of mind involving the changing of direction of life from that of self-centeredness or sin-centeredness to God- or Christ-centeredness.  God’s forgiveness is available only to those who are repentant, for only they can receive it.”1

Why can’t unrepentant people receive forgiveness?  Because they are still in denial.

 “To confess is to openly acknowledge the truth in anything, as in the existence and authority of God or the sins of which one has been guilty.”2

 Repentance is often followed by confession.  For example, the Lost Son described by Jesus in Luke 15:11-24 repents while he is still in the far country and then heads toward home to confess his wrongness to his father. 

Below are 12 quotations from the Bible related to either repentance or confession.  Each is followed by one of the 12 steps which sometimes do not have direct parallels to the Bible verse. 


“For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign Lord. Repent and live!” (Ezekiel 18:32).

Step One: We admitted that we were powerless over our addiction—that our lives had become unmanageable.


“The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!” (Mark 1:15).

Step Two: Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.


Jesus answered them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” (Luke 5: 31-32).

 Step Three: Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood him. 


“When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night
your hand was heavy on me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer. Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the Lord.’ And you forgave the guilt of my sin” (Psalm 32:3-5).

 Step Four: Made a searching and moral inventory of ourselves. 


“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

Step Five: Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs. 


“Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses” (1 Timothy 6:12).

Step Six: Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character. 


“Produce fruit in keeping with repentance” (Matthew 3:8).

Step Seven: Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings. 


“Whoever conceals their sins does not prosper, but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy” (Proverbs 28:13).

Step Eight: Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.


“Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.… (James 5:16). 

Step Nine: Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.


“In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent” (Acts 17:30). 

 Step Ten: Continued to take personal inventory a

nd when we were wrong promptly admitted it. 


“If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14). 

 Step Eleven: Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out. 


“This is what is written: ‘The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem’” (Luke 24:46-47).

Step Twelve: Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to people who are addicted as we were, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.


“Repent and be baptized, every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 2:38).



Copyright  2023 by Don Umphrey

All rights reserved.

“New International Version” and “NIV” are registered trademarks of Biblica, Inc. Used by permission. 

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  1. J.D. Douglas and Merrill C. Tenney, editors, The New International Dictionary of the Bible, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, p. 853.
  2. Douglas and Tenney, op. cit., p. 230.