"You have come ... to the general assembly and the church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven." (Heb. 12:22-23)
There is so much more to corporate worship than what meets the eye!
One of the profound truths revealed in the New Testament is that, when we worship, we join our hearts and our voices with those of all other saints, living and dead, who are also worshiping the Lord. This is mind-boggling! The Scriptures even teach us that, when we worship, Jesus Christ himself is with us, singing his own praise and declaring his own name in the midst of his brothers and sisters (see Heb. 2:12).
That is another reason why our corporate confession of faith is so important in the early part of our worship. We join with the saints of all ages and those alive today in confessing the basic truths about God and what he has done for us by Jesus Christ and through the Holy Spirit. We confess that we are not alone in our faith, but part of a whole heritage of believers in the name of the Lord.
For our corporate confession of faith, we sometimes use basic biblical statements such as the Ten Commandments or Philippians 2:1-11 (which some biblical scholars believe was the first "corporate confession of faith" of the Christian church). At other times we use creeds of the early church, such as those commonly known as the Apostles' Creed (which was not written by the apostles), the Nicene Creed, and the Athanasian Creed. When we confess our faith using these statements, we demonstrate our unity with the catholic church, that is, the universal Christian church. At other times we use portions of the Westminster Confession of Faith or Catechisms or the Heidelberg Catechism to confess our faith. These demonstrate our unity with the Reformed churches of the Protestant Reformation.
What a joy it is that we begin our worship praising and confessing the God of our fathers, the God whom our children and children's children shall also, by his grace, confess!
The author is pastor of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, Franklin Square, New York. Reprinted from New Horizons, November 2006. First article in series. Next article. Index.