“Oh come, let us worship and bow down;
Let us kneel before the LORD our Maker.”
Fourth in a Series–
The Amen and the Confession of Sins
Amen is a common expression found throughout our liturgy, hymns, and prayers. It is often said at the conclusion of a prayer, hymn, or confession of faith. What does it mean?
Actually Amen is a Hebrew word taken over–just as it is–into the Greek and English languages. In other words, it is pronounced the same in these languages and has the same meaning.
In Isaiah 65:16 Amen is used to describe God as “the God of truth” (Amen). In Isaiah 49:7 it is used to speak “of the LORD who is faithful” (Amen). Thus, since God is “truth” and “faithful,” His words are sure, that is, Amen. As the apostle Paul writes: “For all the promises of God in Him [Christ] are Yes, and in Him Amen” (2 Cor. 1:20). In fact the word Amen is used as a name for Christ when the apostle John is inspired to write: “These things says the Amen, the Faithful and True Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God” (Revelation 3:14).
Thus we see that Amen is not merely a convenient conclusion to a prayer. It is a definite statement of confident faith. As Luther describes it in the section of the Lord’s Prayer in his catechism: “‘Amen’ means that I should be certain that these petitions are really heard by the Father in heaven; for He himself has commanded us to pray in this way and promised that He will hear us. ‘Amen, amen,’ that is, Yes, indeed, it shall be so.”
Each time we use the word, may we use it with confidence, knowing that our faithful and gracious God will always keep His promises without question.
Amen, that is, so shall it be. Confirm our faith and hope in Thee That we may doubt not, but believe What here we ask we shall receive. Thus in Thy name and at Thy word We say: Amen, Oh, hear us, Lord!
The Confession Of Sins
Confession of sins is spiritually good for us! Of course, God already knows that we have sinned. It is not as though we are telling Him something that He doesn’t already know. True confession is an action which flows out of a heart of faith–a heart which fully realizes that we have done, said, and thought things that are contrary to the will of God. In short, we have sinned. A heart of faith is burdened by sin and will only be released when we have fully admitted it before God and are assured of His forgiving love.
The LORD gave Moses these instructions: “Speak to the children of Israel, ‘When a man or woman commits any sin that men commit in unfaithfulness against the LORD, and that person is guilty, then he shall confess the sin which he has done'” (Num. 5:6f). In the New Testament James is inspired to urge confession as part of the spiritual healing process: “Confess your trespasses to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed” (Jms. 5:16). Sometimes we speak of this as private confession. We may need to confess specific sins in a private setting with our pastor or another fellow believer. This will enable the hearer to “talk things through,” so he can be assured from the Word of God of forgiveness through the shed blood of Jesus Christ. (Such an assurance of forgiveness also may include private communion.)
The apostle John makes the matter of confession crystal clear when he writes, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His Word is not in us” (1 Jn. 1:8-10).
Confession of sins is something that we do privately, regularly, many times a day. How many silent confessions go on in the heart of the child of God each day as he slips and says, thinks, or does something that is not demonstrating love toward God or his fellow humans. We may catch it and silently pray: “Oh Father, I have sinned. For the sake of Jesus my Savior, forgive me. Help me by Your Spirit to make amends if possible. Help me to avoid this kind of action in the future.”
Confession is also part of our worship service. As we approach the Lord in this special worship experience, we need to humbly acknowledge that we are coming before the holy God of heaven and earth as sinful human beings.
The pastor addresses the people in a loving fashion, “Beloved in the Lord!” We need to be assured that, sinners though we be, we are indeed “Beloved in the Lord!” By faith in the Lord Jesus Christ we are drawn together by the Holy Spirit into the family of God’s people. We are dearly loved by God, and we are loved by each other in the Lord. This expression is used at many places in Holy Scripture. For example, the apostle Paul addressed the believers in Rome, “To all who are in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints” (1:7). The apostle John urges believers, “Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another” (1 Jn. 4:11).
We who are God’s beloved people are now invited to come before our Lord and confess our sins. “Let us draw near with a true heart and confess our sins unto God, our Father, beseeching Him in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to grant us forgiveness.”
The beginning words are taken from “Let us draw near with a true heart . . . ” (Heb. 10:22). Our confession ought never be merely “lip service,” for remember, it is for us! We need to confess our sins, and to do it from the heart, as David prays, “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and a contrite heart–these, O God, You will not despise” (Ps. 51:17).
This is something which needs continual emphasis with all of us, namely, heartfelt worship. Familiarity may easily result in mechanical words and responses. The final outcome of heartless, mechanical involvement can easily be no involvement at all. The Lord spoke to His people about this matter in these descriptive words: “These people draw near to Me with their mouths and honor me with their lips, but (they) have removed their hearts far from me” (Is. 29:13). Worship, whether it be private or public, needs to be a matter of the heart, or it is no worship at all.
The invitation also reminds us that we need to “confess our sins unto God, our Father, beseeching Him in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to grant us forgiveness.”
We are fully aware that we sinners are able to approach the heavenly Father only “in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” The prophet Isaiah tells us, “Your iniquities have separated you from your God; and your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He will not hear” (Is. 59:2). We are described as “having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been made near by the blood of Christ” (Eph. 2:12-13). Through the shed blood of Jesus Christ, true God from eternity, we now have access into the very presence of the living God.
What a blessing this is. What a privilege to hear this invitation. What a joy to come into His presence with heart and mind and voice:
Just as I am, without one plea But that Thy blood was shed for me And that Thou bidd'st me come to Thee, O Lamb of God, I come, I come.
–Pastor L. Dale Redlin