Monday, June 11, 2012

Corporate Confession of Sin

Here is a commonly used corporate confession of sin:

"Almighty and most merciful Father, we have erred and strayed from your ways like lost sheep. We have followed too much the devices and desires of our own hearts. We confess that we have sinned against you in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done, and by what we have left undone. We have not loved you with our whole heart; we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. We are truly sorry and we humbly repent, for the sake of your Son Jesus Christ, have mercy on us and forgive us; that we may delight in your will, and walk in your ways, to the glory of your Name. Amen."

Yet too often these sorts of confessions are heard:
“As fallen sinners we hate your Word…We do not love our neighbor; holiness is burdensome to us and at every turn we prefer to go our own way…”
During a transition period at one Reformed congregation the corporate confessions that were being used could not be truthfully read by any believer, like the second one above; the confessions were a testimony that could only be recited by an unbeliever who somehow possessed a sanctified understanding of his own sinful condition.

One of the goals of corporate confession is that redeemed sinners agree with God about their sin, to the end that they might be confirmed in the forgiveness and absolution they have in Christ. The former pattern of confession makes way for affirmation and confirmation of this covenant promise held out to every believer in assurance of pardon. Whereas the latter pattern of prayer actually denies the power of the gospel through its implicit rejection of God's covenant promise to definitively and progressively sanctify those who are in Christ. 

The motive behind exposing sin through corporate confession so that it might not be cloaked is not in question.  Notwithstanding, the confession of sin being used should be soteriologically sound as it relates to the converted heart of every believer, and not undermine the intended goal of leading sinners to draw near to God in full assurance of faith. Hebrews 10:22
I’m grateful for churches that understand the biblical case for corporate confession and assurance of pardon. In the practice of this Reformed gospel principle, may we never diminish the believer's confidence in God’s promise to complete the work that He has already begun in the life of every believer! Philippians 1:6 

Let us confess our sin in a manner that is consistent with our utter need for Christ without denying His work of grace in our lives. False humility is no humility.
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