We had a dinner scheduled afterward with an Evangelical who would hold confession with disdain. “All we need to do is confess to Jesus himself, not a priest.” Why would they think that way? Because of a fundamental difference in perspective on what the Church is. Is the Church an invisible association of lovers of Jesus or is it a familial organization with a government?
Jesus said, “I will build my Church (not churches)” and later says, “If your brother sins…take it to the Church.” (Matt 16:18; 18:15, 17). Jesus also gives the authority men to forgive or retain sins (Jn 20:23). If the words of Jesus mean anything, there must be an authority in the Church and it needs to be worldwide and we need to know where to find it. If a Baptist brother sins against a Methodist brother, where is the church with authority that can deal with the issue? There is no such mechanism among Protestants.
Called out for what? To be a new society, a new city, a new community, a new kingdom. The Church is the new Israel, so we would expect it to be similar in structure and authority. This “Church” would necessarily have laws and rules, the authority to legislate and to adjudicate. In short, using the biblical terms, the authority to “bind and loose.”
Even Jesus had a Judas in his small band. We don’t leave Jesus and Peter because of Judas. If it can last for 2,000 years with every conceivable onslaught having thrown at it–and it still exists around the world bringing us the grace and forgiveness of God, laws and courts, beauty and worship–it is obvious that it is not from man but from God.
Sitting in the line for confession I realized that by virtue of my being there, I was acknowledging that I am part of something bigger than just “me and Jesus.” I was part of the governmental entity that was started in the Upper Room and continues today. I am accountable to Jesus, yes. But he is building a Church and I am a member of this new visible kingdom. My going to confession is a clear statement of that fact and of my submission to and recognition of that kingdom’s authority.