Since this is the Pastor’s Ponderings article, you may well expect me to continue focusing my comments on the elements we have in our corporate worship services. I don’t plan to disappoint you, or I might, depending on what you have thought about my previous articles. In this edition of “The Beacon,” I’m dealing with the Corporate Confession. I have heard people say corporate confession is one of the most important elements of worship for them. I have also heard some people say they don’t understand why we do a corporate confession because they do not agree with confessing other people’s sin. I even heard one man in Christian leadership (you would not know him) go so far as to say, “I don’t like confessing sins I haven’t committed.” Needless to say I was shocked at that person’s lack of a biblical understanding of sin and community. Volumes could be filled and have been filled on the topic of sin, so do not expect an in-depth study on sin in this article, but I would like to try to give you a brief overview of why I think the Corporate Confession is so important as to warrant a place in corporate worship.
Let’s begin with sin. The Westminster Shorter Catechism says, “Sin is any want of conformity unto, or transgression of, the law of God.” If by any means we fall short of God’s Law or miss the mark in keeping it, we are in sin. James 2:10 “For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.” Romans 14:23c says, “and everything that does not come from faith is sin.” 1 John 1:8 “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.” Romans 3:23 makes it quite clear for us that, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” These verses don’t even begin to scratch the surface of biblical content on sin. The Bible makes the inescapable conclusion for us that we are sinners. Sin is pervasive, all-encompassing, it taints every aspect of our being.
Therefore we need to repent of our sin and confess it. The wonderful promise of God is that He will forgive. 1 John 1:9-10 “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives.” So we can see that how we deal with our sin is really a life and death issue. It is our sin that separates us from God and it is the atoning work of Christ that pays the penalty of sin and reconciles us to the Father. Decisively dealing with sin is one of the things about Christianity that is totally unique among all the religions of the world. Now I don’t know any person I consider a Christian that would not agree with me that we are sinners in need of forgiveness for our sins. So what does that have to do with Corporate worship and specifically the Corporate Confession? Bear with me a bit longer.
Consider for a moment how God deals with people (community). He deals with people as individuals; that is undeniable, but He also deals with people as corporate entities. Notice how often in Scripture God deals with an individual for the sake of that individual. It doesn’t happen very often. When God dealt with Abraham, why did He do it? Was it to save Abraham? What is the promise of God to Abraham? God’s covenant purpose is to set a people apart for Himself. God raises up Abraham to follow Him and He makes of Abraham a great nation. Why did God raise up Moses? It was to use Moses to bring deliverance to Israel. What about David? What about the Apostle Paul? Why was Paul converted? He was converted in order to be an apostle to the Gentiles (read “really big” people group). When the Lord speaks of the redeemed He speaks of people “from every tribe and language and people and nation.” The Lord has established His people the Church.
Now the flip side of that is how the Lord brings judgment upon peoples. I immediately think of the Lord’s reasoning for not giving “the land” to Abraham during his life time because “the sin of the Amorites is not yet full.” Yes God does deal with individuals, but if you take a big picture look at the Scriptures you will find it is with peoples and nations where He does His big work. The nation of Israel was judged many times for its rebellion. What about Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, etc.? There are two kinds of people, the redeemed (the Church) and the lost, yet we still see nations that are blessed and those that are not. Think of God’s dealings with our own nation. For a long time we have reaped the benefits of His blessings (believer and non-believer alike). Now we are beginning to reap the curse of our rebellion. Even the godly among the nation suffer when the hand of God brings judgment. If you don’t believe me, read Jeremiah.
So is it appropriate that we as God’s peculiar people in this particular place come together and confess our sins as a corporate body? Of course it is. Together we are sinners who have all broken the law of God. Together we as Americans are responsible for the sins of our nation: materialism, abortion, homosexuality, and other idolatries of every kind. When we confess our sins together we are simply following in the footsteps of the millions of saints that have gone before us. Both the Old and New Testaments bear witness to that truth. Go back to Joshua 7, Ezra 10, even the pagans of Niniveh confess together in Jonah, the church at Corinth repents. The Psalms are full of examples of corporate confession. In our culture, individualism is so strongly stressed that it is hard for us to think in terms of worship as corporate. I come to worship and I evaluate that worship by my own experience. However, that is not what is happening. The individual members of God’s church are gathering together to worship as one body. In corporate worship it is right and proper for us to come before God and confess together our sins that our hearts may be right before Him and that nothing would hinder our worship together. Keep those things in mind as we confess our sins together in worship.