Repentance and Forgiveness

In our corporate Lutheran liturgical Divine Services, a prominent critical element is repentance, the confession of our sins, followed by the forgiveness of those sins.  It is an element missing in many modern churches that do not mention sin or see the need for the forgiveness of sins in corporate worship.  We, however, hold with Martin Luther that “When our Lord and Master, Jesus Christ, said ‘Repent’ [Matt. 4:17] he called for the entire life of believers to be one of penitence.”  Each of us confesses that God “daily and richly forgives all my sins and the sins of all believers.”  In the Divine Service, each of us holds with the Psalmist “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord, and you forgave the iniquity of my sin” [Ps. 32:5].

Due to our sinful nature, we all stand in need of forgiveness.  Luther warns us to “take care, therefore; take care, lest you presume to get rid of the smallest of your sins through your own merit before God, and lest you take the title away from Christ, the Lamb of God.  John [the Baptist] testifies and says ‘Mend your ways, or repent.”  But he does not mean for us to mend our ways and to take off our sins by ourselves.  He declares this powerfully by adding” ‘Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!’…he means that each one is to know himself and his need for correction; yet he is not to look for this in himself, but in Jesus Christ alone.” (Luther’s Works, vol. 75, p. 186)

We all are in need of forgiveness of our sins.  When we repent of them, God provides that forgiveness through the absolution.