Why should we, as the gathered church, confess our sins, out loud, as a group? Many churches never do this and it seems very strange to even consider doing so. Some churches do it and congregants never really consider why they confess their sins publicly and privately in the course of a worship service.
The first blurb is from Reformed theologian John Frame…the second thought is from me.
By John Frame
When we approach God in prayer, we should approach him not only as servants, but also as sinners saved by grace. We have offended God; we can approach him only in Jesus’ name—only on the basis of his shed blood.
Although God forgives our sins once for all in Christ, we may not forget about sin as we approach God’s presence. We must remember and honor the sacrifice of Christ as the basis on which we come to God. And we must admit that we continue to sin every day (1 John 1:8-10). The sins of Christians are not less grievous to God than those of unbelievers. If we love Jesus, we too will grieve over our sins…and will regularly admit our sins and ask God’s forgiveness for the sake of Jesus.
“The Church” is not merely the plural of “Christian”; it is the institution which Christ is using to fashion a Bride for himself. God’s Spirit, having been gifted to his people to will and to work to his good pleasure (Phil 2), is grieved when any of us in the Church sin.
Two notable examples in the life of Christ’s Bride in which sin was considered an opportunity for public repentance and confession of sin are found in Scripture. When David sinned with Bathsheba, he penned Psalm 51, thus creating a penitential psalm that was not simply a private song he sang to God; instead, it was a psalm designed to be sung by all of the covenant people of God. When Paul addressed a sinful sexual relationship in 1 Corinthians 5, he emphasized the impact such sin would have on the community and encouraged the community to own that sin and repent of it, encouraging them to mourn and to purge the wicked from their midst.
When we gather together to hear the Word preached, to sing the Word to ourselves, to witness the baptism of new believers and to partake of Christ’s body and blood, we should also be mindful of the sins that the Body of Christ has committed—the ones of which we are guilty and the ones of which our neighbor is guilty. Mere awareness of these sins, however, stops short of what Christ would have us do. The message Christ proclaimed was that of repentance and the forgiveness of sins in Christ. Apart from an understanding of our sin, there is no sweetness of the Gospel. By confessing this sin out loud and praying for forgiveness, we prepare our hearts to hear the sweetness of the Gospel in the assurance of pardon which we hear after our confession of sin.