“If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins
and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
1 John 1:8-9
“Why do we include confession of sin in each week’s worship?” I’m asked that question from time to time. For some, it feels strange. Over the last hundred years or so, Baptists have not generally included confession as part of worship (though early Baptists certainly did, and most reformed churches still do). Others may feel that confessing sin each week is a “downer.” After all, I’m not guilty of every sin we confess! Or perhaps some feel it’s ‘praying by rote’ to confess a prayer in unison. But there is a gospel logic in public confession that has deep roots in the Bible and in the reformation faith that comes from the Bible.
Biblical worship in the reformed tradition seeks to be a display of the Gospel every time we gather. In the call to worship, we hear God summoning us to come to him in faith. As we come, we hear God declaring Himself and His ways to us in His word and in songs that point us to His majesty, holiness, power and grace. Confession is our Gospel-driven response to that vision of God’s majesty. Just as Isaiah fell down and confessed his sin when he saw the Lord in the temple (Isa 6:1-5), so do we as well. (Or think of Peter’s response to Jesus in Lk 5:8).
So each week, rather than pretend we can draw near to God on our own merit, we humble ourselves through confession of sin and remind ourselves, once again, of the gospel promise of forgiveness . In this way, each week’s worship service becomes a “gospel dialogue” where we hear God’s Word with it’s warnings and promises summoning us to repentance and faith in Jesus. We then respond to that summons by confession our sins, hearing his word of pardon, giving thanks and praise for his mercy, and then departing to go back into the world to live by faith.
May we worship the living God with willing ears, believing hearts and renewed minds