Why Do We Do That? – Confessions of Sin & Assurance of Pardon
Adapted with permission from Christ Church Presbyterian, Evans, GA.
Public confession of sin, while often neglected or even disdained in our own time, was an accepted element of worship in virtually every branch of Christendom from the early church through the end of the 19th century. But make no mistake, it is Biblical (read Nehemiah 9 and the Psalms).
As the American church increasingly emphasized relaxation and spectacle in worship, and particularly the “comfort” of non-believers, confession of sins in public worship was abandoned in favor of friendlier activities.
For us as a Reformed congregation, corporate confession of our sins is an important part of the dialogue between God and His people because the Bible clearly teaches that unconfessed sin disrupts our relationship with the Lord, and is a barrier to worship (Psalm 24:3-5, Psalm 32, II Chronicles 7:14). Once our sins are sincerely confessed we are able to offer acceptable worship to our holy God.
Now, as we confess our sin before our God, what assurance do we have that God has heard our earnest confession and has indeed forgiven our sins? How do we hear God’s part in the dialogue? We have the unfailing promises of God in His word that are “yea and amen” to us at Christ Community Church just as they were to His people of old (See 2 Corinthians 1:20).
We must never forget that forgiveness of sins comes only through the mediation of our risen Savior, and not through the pronouncements of any man (Acts 5:31, Ephesians 1:7-10).
For this reason, the Assurance of Pardon that appears (at times) in our Order of Worship is drawn directly from Scripture. When the Pastor pronounces the Assurance of Pardon he is appropriating it for himself as well, a believer among fellow believers.
Before the throne of God above, I have a strong, a perfect plea,
A great High Priest Whose name is Love, Who ever lives and pleads for me.
My name is graven on His hands; my name is writ-en on His heart;
I know that while in heav’n He stands no tongue can bid me thence depart.
When Sa-tan tempts me to despair, and tells me of the guilt with-in,
Upward I look and see Him there, who made an end to all my sin.
Because the sinless Savior died, my sinful soul is counted free;
For God, the Just, is satisfied to look on Him and par-don me.
Behold Him there! the risen Lamb, my perfect, spotless Righteousness,
The great unchangeable “I AM,” the King of glory and of grace!
One with Himself I cannot die, my soul is purchased by His blood;
My life is hid with Christ on high, with Christ, my Savior and my God.
Charity L. Bancroft, 1841-1923
We encourage you to hold on to these corporate prayers and the assurances of pardon for your own personal reflection through your week. We often pull from the Scripture and also from prayer books of long ago which unite us in heart and voice with the saints who have gone before us.