Friday, June 11, 2010

Scriptural Confession, Part I

Today's reading consists of an examination of confession as set before us in Scripture.  Calvin looks at confession before both God and men.  Also, he looks at both public and private confession.

Apparently the translators of the Septuagint and later the Vulgate improperly translated a word in the Psalms.  The word meaning "to praise" was translated as "to confess".  This was troublesome to Calvin because it really changed the way certain Psalms come across.  We read some yesterday about confessing to a priest.  Calvin makes some really cogent points about that today.  He writes, "...since it is the Lord who forgives, forgets, and wipes out sins, let us confess our sins to him in order to obtain pardon.  He is the physician; therefore, let us lay bare our wounds to him.  It is he who is hurt and offended; from him let us seek peace..."  He continues in this manner, which would make a great call to confession.  The important thing here is that it is not a priest who we offend, sin against, or seek forgiveness from, but God alone.

Now that he makes his case for confession of sins before God, Calvin then turns to confession of sins before men.  He stipulates that a secret confession before God must come first.  Then, only if it is demanded by divine glory or our humiliation, public confession before men.  The example of this was shown in the Old Testament (one example is Leviticus 16:21).  People were called to publicly confess their sins in the temple to show the goodness and mercy of God.

Calvin explains that there are two sorts of public confession: ordinary and extraordinary.  Ordinary confession seems to be like the prayer of confession that we in reformed churches pray on a weekly basis.  They are done by the entire congregation.  It is interesting that Calvin notes when not everything in the prayer of confession seems to apply to us personally.  He writes, "Nor does it matter if sometimes a few in one congregation be innocent, for when they are members of a feeble and diseased body they ought not to boast of health.  Nay, they contract some contagion and also bear some part of the guilt."  Extraordinary confession is when the entire people are guilty of some transgression.  We see this in the Old Testament when the entire people would be guilty of a sin, and would eventually come back together to pray for forgiveness.  Going back to ordinary confession, Calvin writes at the end of the section, "...we see this custom (prayer of confession) observed with good results in well-regulated churches: that every Lord's Day the minister frames the formula of confession in his own and the people's name, and by it he accuses all of wickedness and implores pardon from the Lord.  In short, with this key a gate to prayer is opened both to individuals in private and to all in public."

Normally this is where I place "Tomorrow's reading," but I hope to write about sections 12-13 later today.  They are read, but a certain puppy kept me very busy and did not leave enough time for me to finish writing.

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