Micah 4:1 It shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the house of the LORD shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and it shall be lifted up above the hills; and peoples shall flow to it, 2 and many nations shall come, and say: “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.” For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. 3 He shall judge between many peoples, and shall decide for strong nations afar off; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore; 4 but they shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig tree, and no one shall make them afraid, for the mouth of the LORD of hosts has spoken. 5 For all the peoples walk each in the name of its god, but we will walk in the name of the LORD our God forever and ever. 6 In that day, declares the LORD, I will assemble the lame and gather those who have been driven away and those whom I have afflicted; 7 and the lame I will make the remnant, and those who were cast off, a strong nation; and the LORD will reign over them in Mount Zion from this time forth and forevermore. (ESV) Continue reading
In the church year, we celebrate and commemorate the season known as Advent; a time of reflection on Jesus’ birth and anticipating His second coming. Advent comes from the Latin word adventus, meaning “coming.” This is a key term in the New Testament which was always used to refer to the second coming of Christ, but was also a word used to describe the arrival of royalty. In such instances, the leaders of the city would be preparing for such a guest and go outside the city gates to meet the royal leader and escort him or her back into the city as an honored guest.
This is an interesting way to think of Advent. Advent is not just passing time waiting for Christmas, but rather preparing to greet our King. This season of Advent is a time for both looking back to Jesus’ first coming and looking forward to His second coming in glory.
The other emotion associated with Advent is waiting expectantly. Specifically, watching and waiting and being prepared for the return of Christ. This return fulfills all God’s promises to His people and to set right what has gone terribly wrong in a world marred by sin.
This feeling is demonstrated in the Advent hymn, “O Come, O Come Emmanuel.” It’s a paraphrase of parts of the liturgy dating back to at least the Middle Ages. Each verse invokes biblical titles for Christ—Emmanuel, Root of Jesse, Day Spring, etc.—and then rehearses why His people yearn for His presence among them.
Immanuel – God with us. We rejoice in the coming of the Christ child over 2,000 years ago revealing God’s plan of salvation. We look forward to His triumphant return, living and reigning with Him for all eternity. In the end of the book of Revelation Jesus promises, “Surely I am coming quickly” (Revelation 22:20 NASB). May we be like John in our response, “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!”
Augsburg Confession, ARTICLE XII: Repentance
“ They also condemn those who argue that some may reach such a state of perfection in this life that they cannot sin.”
Are you repentant of your sins today?
I don’t know how often you think about your sins or when it was you last confessed them. Most of us would readily admit that we are not perfect, and some would say that we’ve done some legitimately bad things. Despite this, most of us would rather not focus too specifically on the details of how truly sinful we are. You may wonder, “Why focus on the negative? Doesn’t that just bring depression or guilt and shame? I’d rather just keep moving. If I ignore it, it will probably just go away.” Contrary to these thoughts, sin must be dealt with or the consequences grow rather than fading away.
Sin is like cancer. Ignoring cancer or accepting it as if it is not a problem is not a cure. The cancer will spread more freely. With sin, as with cancer, it is necessary to recognize that we need help and a cure coming from outside of ourselves.
We may also move from ignoring our sin to embracing it. We start to give excuses for our sin. Our excuses can say things like, “If God forgives me all my sins, then it probably won’t hurt anything if I just sin a little more.”
This subtle straying, a seemingly harmless act of embracing sins comes with a great danger. You see, the danger of persistently embracing sin and refusing to repent is not that it will overwhelm the grace in which you find assurance, but that it will choke out your faith. Our sins have already been paid for, but unbelief is the one danger for your soul. Our natural bent is towards embracing sin and it is God working repentance in us that directs our faith towards His promises and away from our sin and self-reliant idolatry.
Romans 2:4,5 says, “Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.” (ESV)
“But,” you may say, “I’m not like that guy! You see I am getting better! I have been improving in my efforts to stop sinning and I am even doing more good works. I am one of the good Christians who is well on my way to the victorious Christian life of sinless perfection. Christ will have His victory in me yet! I will see to it!” This, my friend, is just the other side of the same coin. While you look at your brother and see him selfishly embracing sin that is visible to others, you are hiding your idolatry behind a mask. This is your pride and self-reliance finding a clever way to root itself without you noticing that it is even there!
Hebrews chapter three says,
“Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, on the day of testing in the wilderness, where your fathers put me to the test and saw my works for forty years. Therefore I was provoked with that generation, and said, ‘They always go astray in their heart; they have not known my ways.’ As I swore in my wrath, ‘They shall not enter my rest.’ ”
Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end.” (Hebrews 3:7-14 ESV)
To live in daily repentance is not a life of distress, but of freedom from distress! It is to daily recognize that you are in need of God’s mercy and grace AND that He has given it to you! To live in unrepentance is to say, “I don’t need God’s mercy. I am fine on my own and I would rather have my sin and be my own savior, so God, you can take your mercy and grace and leave me alone.” Unrepentance is hardheartedness and a rejection of God’s help and forgiveness. To daily repent is to let God rescue you again from the sin that you admit daily plagues you beyond your own control.
This is a battle we will continue to fight until Christ comes back again or until He calls us home for we are simultaneously Sinner and Saint. You are a Saint because Jesus died for your sins, thereby giving you forgiveness for your sins and He is the guarantee of your eternal salvation as a gift from God. Believe this good news! At the same time, you continue to carry around this “body of death” that is weak, sinful and wrestling with your new heart and faith. Though the battle continues on, even when you fail to win victories in your struggles against sin, remember that Christ has already won the war for your soul.
“Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, 20 that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus”. (Acts 3:19 ESV)
During the time of the 16th century Reformation the emphasis and understanding of sin was primarily on the series of actions that one did or did not do. Sin wasn’t based upon evil thoughts or inclinations of the heart but upon the actions that manifested themselves physically and visibly. As a result of this narrow view of sin some people did not consider themselves to be guilty of sin. The reason being, they ran to the monasteries and religious communities and diligently worked on repenting of external sins in order to be in the good standing of holiness. In the Smalcald Articles Luther comments on his days in the monastery saying,
“We fought against evil thoughts by doing such things as fasting, staying awake, praying, saying Mass, wearing coarse garments and sleeping on hard beds. According to our teaching, some monks were regarded as holy, without sin, and full of good works. Also, since we had more good works than we needed to get to heaven, we could communicate and sell our good works to others.”
The problem with seeing sin primarily in the dimension of a series of external actions is that it leads to what the Reformers called ‘False Repentance.’ Through all the diligent work of external repentance, “these holy ones did not need repentance. What would they repent of, since they had not indulged their wicked thoughts? What would they confess about words they never said? What should they render satisfaction for, since they were so guiltless that they could even sell their extra righteousness to poor sinners?.”
Repentance is not your work. It is not that one tiny sliver of work that you do which causes God to save you. In some ways, it seems that the Roman Catholic doctrine of ‘penance’ (making restitution for your sins [i.e. pray the Lord’s Prayer five times and the rosary ten times]) has found a strong foothold in our understanding of repentance. If repentance is your work, than how can you ever be sure that you have repented and turned away from your sins well enough? You can’t.
The verb repent often carries with it the whole idea of conversion. Dr. Jeffrey Gibbs, in his commentary of Matthew, notes that every time Matthew uses the verb to repent and the noun repentance it has the meaning of and implies be converted. You do not convert yourself. You cannot make yourself alive from the deadness of your sin. Praise God that He can and does.
Jesus does a nice job of reorienting our picture of what repentance looks like in Luke 15.
Jesus concludes the parable of The Seeking Shepherd, “Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance” (Lk. 15:7). The sheep only got lost. The shepherd found the sheep and changed its course. Jesus concludes the parable of The Persnickety Woman, “Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents” (Lk. 15:10). The coin was simply lying in a dusty crack of the floor until the woman picked it up. That is what repentance looks like.
Even in the parable of The Wasteful Father (Lk. 15:11-32), the younger son doesn’t finish his confession (compare Lk. 15:18-19 with Lk. 15:21) or live his changed life as the Father’s slave. In fact, the lost son’s speech is merely his proposition to work his way out of the pig sty. While getting out of the pig sty would be a nice change it does not restore his relationship with his father. Only the father could do that, and he does.
Repentance is God’s work in life of the dead sinner:
- Acts 5:31 31 God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins.
- Acts 11:18 18 When they heard these things they fell silent. And they glorified God, saying, “Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life.”
- 2 Timothy 2:25 25 correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth,
Just as dead-as-a-doorknob Lazarus could not obey Jesus’ command, “Lazarus, come out” (Jn. 11:43), neither can you obey Jesus’ command, “Repent.” However, the Word of God carries with it the grace, power, and strength to do precisely what it demands.
What is repentance? This month on Ad Crucem, we look at the issue of repentance as addressed in the 12th Article of the Augsburg Confession.
Ask 100 people what repentance is and you might get close to 100 different answers. Repentance is not the same as “doing penance,” as though we have to make a special sacrifice to God to prove that we are sincere. To confess our sins means to speak together or agree with God. True repentance is admitting that what God says in His Word is true – we are sinners.
The message of repentance was not new to the Jews, for John the Baptist had preached it and so had Jesus (Matt. 3:2; 4:17). In one sense, repentance is a gift from God (Acts 11:18); in another sense, it is the heart’s response to the convicting ministry of the Spirit of God (Acts 26:20).
It is imperative to understand the meaning of true repentance. True repentance is more than feeling sorry for your sins. It is also more than mere regret. One can be sorry for speeding, but only because they were pulled over by a state trooper. Such feelings of simple regret will pass away over time and don’t lead to true change.
True repentance means to agree with God that we are sinners, and to feel contrition that we have not and cannot keep God’s law. Tullian Tchividjian has stated that we cannot cry out to God, “Abba”, as a child of God until we have first cried, “Uncle!”, in our own ability to keep the righteous decrees of God’s law. The prophet Isaiah speaks of the fact that “all of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are as filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6). God graciously works repentance in our hearts to show us our desperate need for Him.
True repentance also speaks to the idea of a changed mind or purpose. The word used for repent grammatically refers to an active imperative; that is a continual and ongoing command to continue to turn away from sin. This too is a gracious work of God and not our doing.
Repenting and returning to the Lord go together. Unless we are turned from our sins, we cannot be turned to faith in Jesus Christ. Ray Comfort has commented that it is unfortunate that some preachers have so ignored the doctrine of repentance that their “converts” lack a true sense of conviction of sin. Balanced evangelism presents to the sinner both repentance and faith. Without recognizing our own sin, what are we being saved from? Without contrition and confession of sin, people are mistakenly asking for God’s blessings.
Repentance also brings a changed mind and heart. A changed heart bears the fruits of repentance and good works are bound to follow. Good works don’t come from our own determination or godliness.
The Gospel announcement of God’s work in repentance is described by Peter, “in order that your sins may be wiped away, in order that the times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord” (Acts 3:19). Repentance is linked with us being absolved and forgiven. We are forgiven because of Christ. The passive tense of this verb points us to forgiveness for the sake of (or because of Christ). Faith and repentance receives this wonderful gift personally.
Because of Christ, our sins are wiped out, erased and obliterated. The same word is used here in Colossians 2:14 which speaks of Christ canceling the certificate of death. This canceling and obliteration points to a deed done in the past but affecting our future. This is of course points us in confidence and humility to the work of the cross.
Such a wonderful gift brings times of refreshing. The word refreshing literally means to recover breath or revive. It is a beautiful picture of freedom from guilt, shame, and the condemnation of the law. This refreshing however is subjective, grammatically pointing to the fact it is true for those who do repent and allow God to do this gracious work in their life.
This is not man’s work, or anything we can take credit for. Rather it is of God and from God. It is found nowhere else except in Jesus, the anointed (hand-picked) one by God. We can thank and praise God for such a gracious calling and redeeming of sinful and lost mankind being called to a holy Lord. We rejoice in our sins being wiped away and finding justification before the Lord in Christ alone. Praise be to Him!
Of Repentance they teach that for those who have fallen after Baptism there is remission of sins whenever they are converted and that the Church ought to impart absolution to those thus returning to repentance. Now, repentance consists properly of these two parts: One is contrition, that is, terrors smiting the conscience through the knowledge of sin; the other is faith, which is born of the Gospel, or of absolution, and believes that for Christ’s sake, sins are forgiven, comforts the conscience, and delivers it from terrors. Then good works are bound to follow, which are the fruits of repentance.
They condemn the Anabaptists, who deny that those once justified can lose the Holy Ghost. Also those who contend that some may attain to such perfection in this life that they cannot sin.
The Novatians also are condemned, who would not absolve such as had fallen after Baptism, though they returned to repentance.
They also are rejected who do not teach that remission of sins comes through faith but command us to merit grace through satisfactions of our own.
Confession of sins is not about you. Really, it’s not. 1 John 1:9 isn’t about you – “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
That verse, which does speak about confession, is about God. Don’t believe me? Let me ask you, “If the verse is about you, does God cease to be faithful and just when you do not confess your sins?” May it never be! God is always faithful and just. He has faithfully and justly forgiven your sins because of His only-begotten Son, Jesus.
It is basically impossible to speak about confession without speaking about forgiveness. The two are like peas and carrots.
However, we wrongly think that God’s forgiveness is based upon our confession of sins. We think that way because that is how we miserable, sinfully-leprous fools operate. Well, God operates a little differently than us, thank God.
Two passages dealing with confession and forgiveness – a narrative and a parable:
“Why does this man speak like that? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” The scribes were grumbling in their hearts as Jesus pronounced absolution over the paralyzed man who had been lowered through the roof (Mk. 2:7).
On what basis did Jesus forgive the man’s sins? Back in v. 5, “Jesus saw their faith.”
Notice that Jesus doesn’t say to the paralytic, “If this is your sincere confession, and if with penitent heart you earnestly desire the forgiveness of your sins…” Nope. Jesus simply says, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” Christ’s declaration is concrete and absolute.
Or how about this one…
“The tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’” (Lk. 18:13). That very tax collector went down to his house justified.
Imagine, please, that this is the 1,947th time these two went to the Temple. Every one of those times, the Pharisee stood off by himself thanking God that he is not like other men. He rattles off all his accolades and moral accomplishments. But that despicable tax collector returns with his pathetic little plea, “God be merciful to me, a sinner!”
Just as he was the first time he came to the Temple and prayed this prayer, he is still cheating people out of their hard-earned money. He is still sipping $400-a-bottle single-malt scotch. He is still lying and sleeping around with hookers. Still he prays, “God be merciful to me, a sinner!” Does that scum still go down to his house justified?
If God wasn’t impressed with the Pharisee’s list of morality, He won’t be impressed with a scurvy list of moral improvements, “I stole less. I drink cheaper, blended scotch. I lie less. I sleep around less.”
Often, our contemporary view of confession fights against this. Can I confess something to you, please? Today’s common understanding of confession, and my own, personal understanding of confession – well, it stinks. I pray that I will continue to learn better from God’s Word.
The Small Catechism teaches regarding Confession:
Confession consists of two parts. One is that we confess our sins. The other is that we receive the absolution, that is, forgiveness, from the confessor as from God himself and by no means doubt but firmly believe that our sins are thereby forgiven before God in heaven.
Without absolution, there is no confession of sin.
Without the pronouncement of the free forgiveness purchased for the world by Christ, you are stuck. The Law and the Gospel have not been rightly divided. And where the Law and Gospel are not rightly divided, the Gospel has been withheld.
Confession and absolution go hand-in-hand, and they are a Gospel thing.
 Kolb, Robert, Timothy J. Wengert, and Charles P. Arand. The Book of Concord: The Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2000.
Augsburg Confession, Article XI
“Concerning confession it is taught that private absolution should be retained and not abolished….”[i]
What is absolution and why should it be retained in the Church?
Simply put, absolution is the declaration of the forgiveness of sins for Jesus’ sake to individual persons. All gospel proclamation, whether through the oral word preached or through the water-word of holy baptism or through the bread-and-wine-word of holy communion, all gospel proclamation is absolution, for the gospel always declares and bestows the forgiveness of sins for Jesus’ sake.[ii] However, when we speak specifically of “absolution,” we mean that personal proclamation of the gospel to individual persons.[iii]
Absolution is firmly rooted in and taught in Holy Scripture. John 20:22-23 says, “As he [Jesus] spoke this, he breathed on them [the disciples], saying, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of anyone, they have been forgiven them; if you hold in place [the sins] of any, they have been held in place.’”[iv]
In this passage we see that it is given to those who have received the Holy Spirit – all Christians – to forgive sins and to hold them in place, i.e., withhold forgiveness. How can this be? Is not God the only one who can forgive sins and withhold sins? Indeed he is. However, we must remember that God is a God who works through means, he works mediately and not immediately. Just as God forgives sins through the medium of the written word of God, through medium of the water-word that is holy baptism and through the medium of the bread-and-wine-word that is holy communion, so he also forgives sins through the medium of the voice of the one whom he has filled with his Holy Spirit and commissioned to proclaim the forgiveness of sins that has come through the life, death and resurrection of the crucified Savior.
Along with John 20:22-23, Matthew records Jesus’ words to his disciples in Matthew 16:19: “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”[v]
We might ask, “What is the purpose or function of absolution?” The purpose and function of absolution is to deliver the forgiveness of sins that Christ won for sinners through the blood of his cross. The consequence of this is that there is great comfort delivered to the broken sinner – comfort that their sins have been paid for by the blood of Christ and that God no longer counts their sins against them. Along with this comfort, assurance of our salvation is delivered to the sinner as well, for their forgiveness is as sure as the very life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Absolution, because it is gospel proclamation of the forgiveness of sins for Jesus’ sake, is unconditional.[vi]
Absolution does not depend upon the contrition of the one being absolved, nor does it depend upon the faith of the one being absolved, any more than holy baptism or holy communion depend upon contrition or faith in order for it to be what it is. Absolution, like the other sacraments, depends upon the word and promise of God. Martin Luther put it this way:
“Then remember that the key, or the remission of sins, is not founded on our contrition and worthiness…but, contrariwise, that our contrition, work, heart, and what we are, is to be founded on the keys with full confidence to rely them as on God’s Word…True, you should have remorse [over sins committed], but that this should make certain the remission of sins and confirm the work of the keys is a forsaking of faith and a denial of Christ. He is minded to forgive and pardon your sins not on your account, but for His sake, from sheer grace, through the key.” (St. L. XIX:943)[vii]
This is an important thing to consider. For you or I to have any assurance or comfort that our sins are truly forgiven for Jesus’ sake and that God looks upon us with kindness and grace, we must have an unconditional promise for faith to hold on to. We must have something objective, something unchanging, something outside of ourselves to hold on to and trust.
When one places conditions on absolution, any comfort and assurance that absolution is designed to bring is lost, for the condition directs my eyes back to myself and I can only be comforted and assured if I am absolutely convinced that I have perfectly met this condition. For example, one common condition that is often placed upon absolution is the penitent state of the one who would be absolved. If being penitent is the condition that must be met in order for me to be absolved, I can never be sure that my sins are forgiven, for I will ever wonder if I was truly penitent, or penitent enough. As soon as this happens, the doubt and uncertainty that absolution is meant to remove returns. A conditioned absolution is no comfort at all and indeed is no absolution at all. Just as a conditioned gospel is no comfort and indeed no gospel at all.
One of the reasons that is often given as to why absolution should have a condition attached to it is a desire to not give gospel comfort to those who are comfortable in their sins. This is a good desire, for to do so would be to confuse law and gospel. However, must one place a condition on absolution in order to avoid this error? I would suggest that the answer to that question is ‘no.’ I would contend that conditioning absolution is not the appropriate way to avoid this error, for this response also confuses law and gospel, does not solve the problem and we gain nothing from it but rather lose everything.
It is true that faith must be present in order for the benefits purchased by Christ through the shedding of his blood on the cross. And so there is a condition for salvation (e.g. “Unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” (Lk 13:3-5)). And we certainly do not want to ignore that or we go headlong into universalism.
But rather than trying to address this problem by conditioning absolution (which is, in reality, to condition the gospel), I would suggest that we deal with the necessity of faith in Christ for salvation with the law of God. Just as Mark says, “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.” (16:16) The Law threatens and terrifies and condemns the one who does not have faith. The Law places the condition that is to be met upon the sinner: unless you repent you will perish. Conditions belong to the Law. Leave them there.
The Gospel, and thus absolution, however, is unconditional. After the Law has been proclaimed and done its work, absolution assures and comforts the terrified conscience that his or her sins have indeed been forgiven on account of the shed blood of the Crucified Savior. Absolution rests upon the objective truth that God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself (2 Cor 5:19; Rom 5:10). God reconciled us to himself through the death of his Son while we were still enemies of God – God did not wait for our repentance or faith before he reconciled us to himself through the Crucified Savior. It is upon this objective reconciliation that absolution stands.
Absolution is the unconditional gospel declaration that one’s sins have been forgiven for Jesus’ sake. And this is objectively true, whether one actually believes it or not, because it rests upon the sure word and promise of God. Absolution is the comfort and assurance of the broken sinner.
Because of all of this, [unconditional] absolution should be retained and not abolished in our churches.
For further study:
Francis Pieper, Christian Dogmatics, vol. 3, pp. 189-203
Smalcald Articles, part 3, Article 4: Concerning the Gospel and Article 8: Concerning Confession
Large Catechism, A Brief Exhortation to Confession
Small Catechism on Confession and Absolution (found between Baptism and the Lord’s Supper)
[i] Robert Kolb, Timothy J. Wengert, and Charles P. Arand, The Book of Concord: The Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2000), 44.
[ii] Francis Pieper, Christian Dogmatics, vol. 3, p. 189
[iii] Ibid., p. 189
[iv] John 20:22-23, my translation
[v] The “keys” are the preaching of law and gospel…the withholding of forgiveness and the absolving of sins. These keys belong to all Christians, for they all have been given the Holy Spirit. The keys are not reserved only for pastors or priests or bishops or popes but rather they belong to the priesthood of all believers. See Pieper, Christian Dogmatics, vol. 3, pp. 189-191; 193-194; Luther in the Smalcald Articles, Part 3, Article 4: Concerning the Gospel, where he says “…fourth, through the power of the keys and also through the mutual conversation and consolation of brothers and sisters.” Footnote 128 says, “Luther uses a Latin phrase (per mutuum colloquium et consolationem fratrum), which may have originated in the monastic practice of mutual confession, as a way of referring to absolution by a neighbor or friend. See Sermons on Matthew 18–24 (1537–40) (WA 47:297–305) and The Babylonian Captivity of the Church (1520) (WA 6:546, 11–547, 35; LW 36:86–88).” Robert Kolb, Timothy J. Wengert, and Charles P. Arand, The Book of Concord: The Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2000), 319.
[vi] Pieper, Christian Dogmatics, p. 194. As is so often the case, there can be more than one meaning to “conditional absolution.” Pieper notes, “Even Luther says in an opinion addressed to the Nuernberg Council: ‘Every absolution, both general and private, has the condition of faith.’ But, as Luther immediately adds, here the part of faith is ‘only this much, that it takes the absolution and says Yes to it.’ (St. L. XXIb:1847 ff.) In other words faith is necessary on the part of man (ex parte hominis) for the acceptance or reception of absolution. But the term “conditional absolution” has also been used in the sense that absolution has contrition and faith as its cause. Luther is at a loss for words adequately to reject a conditional absolution in this sense, as his words just quoted show.” (Christian Dogmatics, vol. 3, pp. 199-200. The quote Pieper is referring to is the quote by Luther that I include in this article.). It is this second sense of “conditional” that I address here.
[vii] As cited in Pieper, Christian Dogmatics, vol. 3, p. 199
Article XI: Confession
Our churches teach that private Absolution should be retained in the churches, although listing all sins is not necessary for Confession. For, according to the Psalm, it is impossible. “Who can discern his errors?” (Psalm 19:12)
The Article before us this month on Ad Crucem is concerning Confession. The Augsburg Confession addresses one specific error that was putting an impossible task upon Christians. They were told that they had to articulate all deadly sins in specific detail. At the time, the Fourth Lateran Council was in effect and confessions were required once a year at Easter. The Reformers were not, however, attempting to disparage Confession or to reject its use. They were very clearly saying that private Absolution should be retained. Continue reading