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Article XII: Of Repentance.
1] Of Repentance they teach that for those who have fallen after Baptism there is remission of sins whenever they are converted 2] and that the Church ought to impart absolution to those thus returning to repentance. Now, repentance consists properly of these 3] two parts: One is contrition, that is, 4] terrors smiting the conscience through the knowledge of sin; the other is faith, which is born of 5] the Gospel, or of absolution, and believes that for Christ’s sake, sins are forgiven, comforts 6] the conscience, and delivers it from terrors. Then good works are bound to follow, which are the fruits of repentance.
7] 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 8] perfection in this life that they cannot sin.
9] The Novatians also are condemned, who would not absolve such as had fallen after Baptism, though they returned to repentance.
10] 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.
Pr. Todd Wilken opens this broadcast of Issues, Etc. by pointing out just how important the topic of “repentance” is to the protestant reformation when he says, “repentance… is the spring-board for the entire protestant reformation”. The ninety five theses begin with the subject of repentance and the importance of the subject is carried into our Lutheran Confessions as we read in article XII of the Augsburg Confession. However, the topic of “repentance” is not just left in the Augsburg Confession as a historical relic to read about, but is quite important to us in the Church today. In this broadcast of Issues, Etc. pastors George Borghardt â€” St. Mark Lutheran Church, Conroe, TX; Mark Nebel â€” St. John’s Lutheran Church, Redbud, IL, and Tony Troup â€” Immanuel Lutheran Church, Waterloo, IL will discuss article XII, what repentance means and why it is important.
The discussion is started by Pr. Wilken who asks for the members of the roundtable to contrast what Lutherans teach regarding repentance with what the Roman Catholic Church teaches. Pr. Borghardt responds that the Roman church misses the single most important element of repentance and that is faith. The Roman teaching of repentance is contrition: “one is really sorry for their sins and it stops there.” Pr. Nebel compares the Roman teaching with the correct scriptural understanding of metanoia (greek for “repentance”), which is “a change of mind and heart about sin.” Pr. Troup adds that repentance is coming to “grips with our sin” and appreciating “its offense to God”. When we understand just how harmful sin is to us we grasp the significance of God’s forgiveness of our sins.
Later in the program Pr. Borghardt offers that repentance is not something we do. Instead, “it is something God works in us. He does the ‘doing’.” Repentance is not merely “I turned” but it includes the “open hand in faith receiving forgiveness.”
Pr. Wilken asks the panel to reflect upon the sentiment held by some Christians that we don’t really need to repent, since we are already forgiven. That is, why is repentance necessary? Can’t we just talk about sin, skip the subject of repentance, and focus just upon Jesus? And is repentance just a “one day turning point… on the path of self-improvement”? Pr. Nebel points out that people need to know that by our very natures we are living contrary to God. We have rejected our creator and need to turn away from “that selfishness”. Pr. Borghardt responds that we daily live in repentance and daily receive forgiveness. He says, “We think that ‘repentance’ is such a law thing” but the truth is that we are “called to repentance” much like we are called to follow Jesus. “There is a lot of Gospel in there”.
“When it [Article XII] talks about people falling after baptism it sounds like it is about me? Are they talking about ordinary Christians?” asks Pr. Wilken. Pr. Nebel points out the key word is “baptism”. “That is the gift of God… He has chosen us. Our baptisms have daily meaning, since they connect us to the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. They are also a gift because we “remember them every day when we get up and can plant our feet on the ground”. Repentance is given to us as a gift through the Holy Spirit given to us at our baptisms. Pr. Troup reflects further upon this thought by pointing out Christians have “ups and downs” and our baptisms remind us that we are children of God. Remembering our baptisms bring us to a life of repentance and forgiveness.
Pr. Wilken asks whether or not we need to repent of our sins daily; after all, “I am not that bad”, or am I? Pr. Borghardt reminds us that we often compare ourselves with others in order to minimize the severity of our own sins. I am not as bad as a murderer. No, “let’s talk about how we measure up to the law… the standard is God’s Holy Law… in the light of that I need forgiveness”, says Pr. Borghardt. Indeed, I am a poor miserable sinner who needs the forgiveness of God. It took one sin for Adam and Eve to be cast out of Eden. It only takes one sin to demonstrate we don’t obey the law perfectly. In fact, if we could do so, then why would we need Jesus as our savior? The truth is that we sin daily and need to confess our sins and receive absolution. As Pr. Borghardt says, “The whole of our life needs to be covered by the waters of our baptism”.
There is much more great discussion on the important topic of repentance in this segment of Issues, Etc. I highly recommend listening to it, since I think others will find it equally as up-lifting as I did. I would like to end on some words of comfort from Pr. Troup, “Forgiveness is always a gift. It is not earned.”