Sorry for the delay on this post!
Last Saturday, I talked a little bit about the discipline of confession and how we actively have to come before God and one another regularly in confessing where it is we have fallen short.
The blessed reality of confession is that for the Christian it is accompanied by “assurance of pardon.”
In the church that I currently serve, our traditional service has an official time called “assurance of pardon.” It always follows a brief time of corporate and personal confession.
Before I share a little bit about what assurance of pardon is, I want to first say what it is not.
Someone visiting our church once asked, “why do we do assurance of pardon? Isn’t it God who forgives us of our sins? Why does the pastor absolve us like a catholic priest would?”
This individual had a background in the Catholic church, and theologically for them, the priest would receive your confession and pronounce you forgiven. The priest functions like a mediator between the confessor and God.
That is not how protestants understand assurance of pardon.
1 Timothy 2:5-6 says, “For the is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time.”
Jesus, the Son of God, the Second Person of the Trinity, is the only mediator between God and humanity. There is no need for a priest to mediate on your behalf because Jesus, as our High Priest, already has mediated for you with God.
So assurance of pardon is not being pronounced forgiven in the sense that a priest is mediating between you and God. The priest has no ability to forgive you in God’s place. (As is with many short explanations, this is but a reduced view, if you are Catholic and have any further clarification, please comment in the comment section, I’d love to hear from you!)
So for Protestants, what is assurance of pardon?
Simply put, because of the perfect work of Jesus in his life, death and resurrection, a divine substitution has taken place in the life of a Christian. Jesus takes our sin and penalty for sin upon himself and gives us new life, a resurrected born-again spirit, and credits to us His perfect righteousness.
So what that means is that when we come before God in confession, and we confess our sins to Him, the Christian has full assurance that their sin has already been dealt with by Jesus on the cross. Sin no longer holds power over them and rather they can now turn in repentance, forsaking their sin and turning to following Jesus, all on the basis of Jesus’ finished work in the cross.
We confess because we know our sin has been dealt with totally in Jesus.
So in our church service, when we give an assurance of pardon, all the pastor is doing is proclaiming this reality to all who have placed their faith in Jesus. “If you have put your faith in Jesus and you have confessed your sin, know with full confidence that He has already dealt with it in its entirety. He has forgiven you and you can be sure of this because of what He has done on the cross.”
For us who are Christians, this ought to be our deepest comfort.
I mess up and fall short of God and His glory every day. Sometimes I’m extremely selfish and hurtful. Sometimes I haven’t taken care of myself as I should and so I become short with people or I become bitter. Sometimes I get mad when I shouldn’t and I don’t nearly extend the grace that I ought to when God has so abundantly extended His grace to me in Jesus Christ. I need this assurance every day that God has forgiven me, not because of something I did or said, but because of the finished work of Jesus on the cross.
That is why we can sing the song “Blessed Assurance” with such confidence. He has taken my sin and my shame and has nailed it to the cross. God no longer holds my sin against me because of the work of Jesus.
Christian, would you be assured of your pardon, that God has forgiven you because of what Jesus has done. We could never earn God’s forgiveness. It is His free gift of grace in Jesus for all who place their faith in Him for their salvation and life.
If you’re reading this and you haven’t yet placed your faith in Jesus, I want to invite you to do so. We are all broken because of the power of sin in us and in the world. We have been spiritually dead from the moment of our birth and we desperately need to be born again and receive a new life and a resurrected spirit. This only comes through Jesus Christ who lived the life we were called to live but couldn’t, who died the death we deserved because of our sin, and who rose from the dead and conquering sin and death and gives us that new life if we place our faith in Him. Won’t you place your faith in Him. He loves you and deeply longs for you to receive the grace He is already extending to you.
Tomorrow’s Reading: Numbers 21-22; Psalm 52; 1 Corinthians 11:17-12:11