"Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one." (Deut. 6:4)
The essence of the Bible's word for "confession" is "to say the same thing as." When we confess our sins (e.g., 1 John 1:9), we say the same thing about them as God does. This assumes, of course, that God has told us things that we can confess. Christian faith is agreeing with God about what he says about himself and about us.
Usually when we think of confession, we think of a confession of faith. We agree with God about what he has told us to believe. (Otherwise we make a religion out of our own imagination.) We confess our faith individually when we publicly take the vows necessary to become communicant church members (that is, church members who may partake of the Lord's Supper). We also confess our faith individually when we tell others what we believe regarding Christ and salvation. We are called to confess Christ before others (Matt. 10:32).
From the earliest times, God's people were also taught to confess their faith corporately, that is, when they were gathered together as a body for worship. Israel's basic confession was, "The Lord our God, the Lord is one." In the New Testament, we have a much fuller revelation of God to confess: The Lord our God is one, but he exists in three persons. These persons all act for our salvation. The focus of their work is on Jesus Christ. We are to believe in him as Lord, and we are to confess him with our mouth (Rom. 10:9).
We use various "patterns of sound words" (see 2 Tim. 1:13) for our corporate confession of faith. Next month we will consider the purpose of using these patterns. For now, be thankful for the time of corporate confession of faith in worship. In a world in which so few people say the same thing about religion, we join with Christians of all ages in confessing what God has already said about himself in his inspired and infallible Word!
The author is pastor of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, Franklin Square, New York. Reprinted from New Horizons, August-September 2006. First article in series. Next article. Index.