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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions
Concerning Repentance part 75

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Acts 20:18–21

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning Repentance 

Ambrose also speaks well about repentance: “Therefore it is proper for us to believe that we are to both repent and be pardoned, but to expect pardon through faith, like it would obtain it from a written contract. Again, “It is faith that covers our sins.”

So, there is material in the Fathers, not only about contrition and works, but also concerning faith. But since the adversaries understand neither the nature of repentance nor the language of the Fathers, they select passages concerning only a part of repentance, namely works. Since they do not understand the statements made elsewhere concerning faith, they exclude them.

Pulling It Together

Of what use is repentance, if it is merely being sorry for sins and then doing something good? People will remain in guilt, knowing that they are never good enough to merit forgiveness. That kind of repentance focuses on self and our guilt, not on God and his peace. So, faith must always be joined to confession. We must believe that, for Christ’s sake, we are forgiven all of our sins, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Strictly speaking, good works should not be considered in repentance; for good works come after repentance. We must believe the words of absolution before we can do good works. Once we have believed in the promise, or had faith in Christ, repentance is finished. Now is the time for good works—because God desires them, not because they are required for forgiveness.

In summary, repentance consists of these two parts. One, we must acknowledge through confession that we have sinned. Two, we must then have faith that the Father forgives us because of his Son.

Prayer: Help me to faithfully serve you, Lord, because I do not need to worry about your love and forgiveness. Amen. 

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