From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession
These things occur in the first act. What occurs when they come to confession? What a work there is in the endless enumeration of sins—in great part devoted to those against human traditions! In order that good minds may be even more tortured by these means, they falsely assert that this enumeration is by divine commandment. While they demand this enumeration under the pretext of divine right, they speak coldly concerning absolution, which actually is of divine right. They falsely assert that the Sacrament itself confers grace ex opere operato, without a good disposition on the part of the recipient. No mention is made of faith apprehending the absolution and consoling the conscience. This is really what is generally called “departing before the mysteries.”
Pulling It Together
The first step in repentance is being contrite. God does not desire sacrifices from us, in order to appease him (Psa 51:16). This offering has already been accomplished by Jesus (Heb 10:12). What God desires is broken hearts that are sorry for sins (Psa 51:17). Then he wants our faith—trust that he really does forgive us for Christ’s sake.
Godly minds understand that this cannot be accomplished through sacrifices, works of devotion, endless itemization of sins, or ritual observances. Forgiveness is apprehended through faith, through total trust that Christ alone has delivered us from all our sins (Gal 1:3–4). The faithful add nothing to what Christ has already finished. They are at peace before the mystery of God, knowing that Christ has fully accomplished what they cannot. So we confess that contrition and then faith are required for true absolution.
Prayer: Spirit of the Living God, fall afresh on me as I humble myself in confession before your holiness. Amen.
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