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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions
“The Forgiveness of Sin”

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From the Word: 1 John 1:5–10

From the Confessions: The Small Catechism

The Third Article

I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic Church,* the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen

What does this mean?

I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ my Lord or come to him; but the Holy Spirit has called me through the Gospel, enlightened me with his gifts, and sanctified and preserved me in the true faith. In the same way, he calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian church on earth, and preserves it in unity with Jesus Christ in the one true faith. In this Christian church, he daily forgives abundantly all my sins and the sins of all believers; and at the last day, he will raise me and all the dead and will grant everlasting life to me and to all who believe in Christ. This is most certainly true!

*or “holy Christian Church” (“catholic” here refers to the fellowship of all believing Christians)

Pulling It Together: Everywhere we turn, there are two things before us: sin (and lots of it) and forgiveness of sins. That we sin is perhaps the clearest indicator of our humanness. That God forgives our sins is the one of greatest expressions of his divinity. When we confess that there is forgiveness of sins, we are admitting that we are sinners and claiming that the Lord is merciful and gracious toward us.

Let us be clear, however: the forgiveness of sins is available to those who admit their condition, their need of a Savior, and the truth that the Father sent his Son into the world to accomplish this very thing once and for all (Heb 10:10). If we deny our sins, we deny the truth and are the worst sort of liars. We are fooling no one else but ourselves, stumbling through life in dark denial, if we say we have not sinned.

But if we acknowledge our sins, then God is not only faithful to forgive, he is just in doing so. He is righteous in his forgiveness (as opposed to that kind of bad parent who always lets their kid off the hook) since this is the very reason he sent his Son among us. When we walk in the light, Jesus' blood cleanses us from our sins. Now this walking in light is not walking without sin, as some will say it is. It is quite the opposite. Walking in the light is a living honestly before God, not hiding our sins from him as Eve and Adam tried to do, but coming out from the bushes and into the open before him. This is where God forgives; he does not forgive us in the bushes.

We believe in the forgiveness of sins so much that we are bold to announce with the authority of Jesus Christ the forgiveness of sins to repentant sinners. So, as you go through this life, you will sin by what you say and neglect to say, and by what you do and refuse to do. You will sin in thought, word, and deed. Yet, by the power of the Holy Spirit within you, you will remember, sometimes even as you are sinning, that the Father sent a Savior. Do not run for the bushes. Do not deny. Confess! For we believe in the forgiveness of sins.

Prayer: Help me walk in the light as you are in the light, Lord. Amen. 

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Learning About Confession teaches the meaning of Confession and Forgiveness according Luther's guidance in the Small Catechism. It is recommended for the Sixth Grade Level. 

Teacher's Guide

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