Liturgy is a loaded word. Liturgy can communicate a myriad of things to different people. For some, it conjures images of dusty pews, stuffy worship, and archaic language. For others, it brings comfort, knowing the order and structure pertaining to the worship gathering. For those coming to the church that I pastor (Coram Deo), many are confused or unaware of why we do various things in our worship services. In this short series, I want to break down the various parts of our liturgy, explain why we do them, why we do them in a particular order, and what the biblical grounds are for each liturgical component. This week we will focus on the third aspect of our liturgy: assurance of pardon
WHAT IS THE ASSURANCE OF PARDON?
After spending time confessing our sins, either privately or corporately, the reader will then declare a word of promise of Gospel hope over the congregation. We believe that confession is not a means to twist God’s arm into loving us, rather, we confess because God loves us. The assurance of pardon is God’s gift to weary sinners who need to be reminded of God’s continual and gracious pardon. Note the language of the liturgical element: through the finished work of Christ and the proclamation of the Scriptures, we can have real assurance that we have been pardoned from all of our sin.
The assurance of pardon is God’s constant reminder to his people—I have cast your sins far as the east is from the west, I know it no more. Just as a prisoner who receives a presidential pardon receives a note of absolution, so too does the minister proclaim that every sin which has shackled a poor sinner has been absorbed by the work of Christ. We have a tangible, personal, and corporate reminder of God’s great love for us in Christ when we receive the assurance of pardon.
WHY DO WE NEED THE ASSURANCE OF PARDON?
We are a people prone to wander and prone to forget easily. We forget the depths of God’s compassion towards us in Christ. We forget the height, breadth, depth, and length of God’s love for us. We forget that the Father accepts the Prodigal Son rather than condemning him. Put simply: we need the assurance of pardon because we need to be reminded continually—daily and weekly—that we are in need of God’s pardon.
The Bible continually calls the people of God to remember the promises and benefits of being united to Christ. The Psalmist exhorts himself, “Bless the Lord, O my soul and forget not all his benefits” (Psalm 103:2). Paul writes to the the Roman churches that he may diligently remind them of precious truths (Romans 15:15). Peter stirs up the congregation as a means of reminder (2 Peter 1:13). We need to remember, and what better by God constantly reminding us in corporate worship.
EXAMPLES OF ASSURANCE OF PARDON IN the Bible?
Psalm 103:8–13 (ESV)
8 The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. 9 He will not always chide, nor will he keep his anger forever. 10 He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities. 11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; 12 as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us. 13 As a father shows compassion to his children, so the LORD shows compassion to those who fear him.
1 John 1:9
9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.
1 Therefore having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.