Anyone who sins has an advocate with God:
Jesus Christ, the righteous one.
By his life, death, and resurrection,
he has found the lost sheep and brings it back, rejoicing over one sinner that repents.
In Jesus, we are never beyond the reach of Godâ€™s love.
And so today, in the name of Jesus,
I proclaim to all of you who believe the Gospel: In Jesus your sins are forgiven!
Receive the Good News!
As a worship leader, I particularly enjoy the assurance of pardon. The announcement of God’s great forgiveness ought to bring joy to the heart of anyone who is able to pronounce it over God’s people.
Since evangelicals do not have a “confessional” tradition (as in confessing one’s sins to the clergy), the assurance of pardon comes as a bit of an awkward part of liturgy for some evangelicals. They may particularly struggle with the aspect of the worship leader announcing God’s forgiveness for two reasons.
1. They may feel it is in appropriate to assure someone of forgiveness when there is no way to know if that person has actually sought forgiveness from God or from others in genuine repentance. This may leave the impression of a “willy nilly” announcement that does not take repentance seriously.
2. Also, some may feel the assurance of pardon goes too far into a Catholic use of the priest as “another Christ,” since some believe no human being ever has the right to speak for God in the matter of forgiveness.
Both these objections are unnecessary. The assurance of pardon comes in the context of other elements of worship. We do not say, “We cannot sing, because someone might not mean what they are singing.” The assurance follows the congregational confession, which also deals with the people of God as a corporate body, but doing so in no way suggests that the individual claims of the Gospel are being “automatically” bestowed.
We cannot let individualism make corporate worship impossible!
Further, no evangelical believes the worship leader or pastor has been authorized in this capacity to grant actual forgiveness to those who hear the assurance. (In other capacities, pastors may, in some traditions, be doing that in some situations, but that is another subject.)
In evangelicalism, the one announcing the assurance of pardon is doing nothing substantially different than any preacher or evangelist does in speaking the Gospel or inviting persons to come to Christ. He/she does so in the authority of Christ and not as Christ. The Gospel’s call to repent and believe can be announced, but the announcement does not create a “special dispensation” for those present and hearing.
It is much like the use of the public invitation- which I do not endorse. The preacher is not “opening a window” that is not open otherwise, but is, as a proclaimer and servant of the Word is “pointing to the window” that is open. If a pastor claimed “come on this last verse or the opportunity to believe will be over,” that would be a clear abuse.
The assurance of pardon speaks the word that the Gospel speaks to the people of God. With so many sour, legalistic, moralistic churches in evangelicalism, what a wonderful thing it is to confess corporately, and then silently, but to hear the announcement of God’s forgiveness, personally applied, followed by joyful celebration in song. (We always sing the Gloria Patri.)
I enjoy the fact that the assurance can be “customized” in various ways as we use the lectionary and the Christian year. It’s also a great way for children to hear the promises of the Gospel over and over. And I need it. I’m sure you do as well.