“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.”
Verse sixteen springs from verse fifteen.
The word “confess” means to confess or admit openly or fully. “Confess” comes from three Greek words: to say, same, and out. The idea is to speak out about something you agree is wrong. The readers of James needed to confess their sins of rebellion (5:15) openly to one another; otherwise, they would end in divine discipline.
A “trespass” is not the same as a sin. A trespass is a violation of the rights of someone else. It means to cross the rights of someone else. Hatred will root in the souls of others if we do not deal with wrongs we did against them. There is danger of people developing irreconcilable attitudes in this. This believer committed the sin unto death (5:20).
to one another,
We do not have to confess our sins to an intermediary or priest. We do, however, have the right to confess sins to mature Christian leaders (elders).
Confession of sin keeps spirit, soul and body healthy.
Protracted, unconfessed sin will eventually undermine the soul and even cause physical illness. We need mature leaders to help us get out of this spiral. Sometimes confession of sin will heal physical illness, especially sin that is directly related to sin. In this case, the issue is primarily spiritual, not physical.
Confession of sin can keep spirit, soul and body healthy. This is no absolute guarantee for physical healing because sin can cause permanent ravaging of the body. Sometimes God chooses not to heal physical illnesses.
Acknowledging our sin is the first step in spiritual restoration. Confession is not penance. Jesus did the penance for us on the cross (1 Jn 1:7). His blood keeps on cleansing us from sin, not our self-punishment. It is Christ-punishment, not self-punishment that sets us right with God.
Our part is simply to acknowledge our part in what took Jesus to the cross. We cannot have forgiveness without the shedding of the blood of Christ (He 9:22). “What can wash away my sin? Nothing but the blood of Jesus.”