Admonishment and Astonishment
Confession of sin is the second main heading of our liturgy every Lord’s Day service. We acknowledge our sins and seek forgiveness for sake of restored fellowship before we continue to meet with God in worship. If confession clears the way, why not do it first?
We could. There wouldn’t be anything wrong with confessing at the very beginning. But here are a couple other thoughts.
First, our service starts at the same time every Sunday, so, unless you sin on the walk in from the car—which is possible—you can confess personal sin before we start. You should wash your hands before grabbing your handle on the worship battering ram as we take a swing at the gates of hell. The more we are ready individually, the more we can confess corporately. So it doesn’t necessarily mean that everything before confession is warm-up worship until the signal can be unblocked.
Second, and this is more significant, confession comes after the call to worship and a couple songs of praise because it puts us in context of who we’re confessing to. Praise is not just what we have to do, but reminds us with whom we have to do.
A call to confession doesn’t always require explicit reference to the Lord’s holiness, though He is holy, holy, holy. Any man who encounters God is humbled by God’s glory. God’s righteousness and law convict us, but so does His power and grace.
Jacob was afraid after God met him and reassured him of protection and promised prosperity (Genesis 28:17). Peter asked Jesus to depart after Jesus made fishing nets overfull, not after a sermon on total depravity (Luke 5:8). Any attribute of God rightly considered, enough that we recognize due praise to Him for it, is sufficient to bring us to a place of submission. We confess not just when we’re admonished but when we’re astonished.