This post is part of the series which I started with Cross or Resurrection 1: Which is Determinative? But I am not numbering it as the third in the continuing series as it is not really new material. Instead I am writing to highlight one of my main points in Cross or Resurrection 2: Greater than John the Baptist.
In that post I wrote that
The ancient Jews offered regular sacrifices and sin offerings as a sign of their repentance. But these animal sacrifices had no power to change them
and backed that up from Hebrews 10:1-4. I continued:
Sadly we see the same attitude in many of our Christian churches. Roman Catholics are encouraged to confess their sins regularly to a priest in private. Anglican worshippers, among others, are expected to repeat at least every week words such as the following …:
We acknowledge and bewail our manifold sins and wickedness …
When the priest offers the absolution, they believe that their past sins have been forgiven – but also that they are expected to continue to sin, so they have something to confess the next Sunday. Clearly this kind of repeated ritual is no more effective than Old Testament sacrifices …, as it cannot “make perfect those who draw near to worship”.
The biblical picture of the true Christian believer is very different …
So I would appeal to Christians to stop dragging up and confessing trivial or imaginary sins, and to churches to stop expecting them to do so. Yes, there is a place for Christians to confess their sins, when they have gone seriously astray and need to be brought back into God’s path. In such cases it may well be appropriate to confess privately to a church leader, and receive personal counsel and assurance of forgiveness. But if a Christian needs to do that regularly, there is something seriously wrong with their understanding of the Christian life. And if a whole congregation is expected to recite a weekly General Confession like the Anglican one, then they are being taught that wrong understanding.
As Christians, we shouldn’t expect to sin, and we shouldn’t let others teach us that expectation.
So, I appeal to churches, especially Anglican ones, throw out your lengthy prayers of General Confession. Instead, expect most of your congregants to be living good Christian lives, and encourage those who do need to put something right to deal with the matter individually, either alone with God or with the help of one of your ministry team.