Over the years I have written several "book" or "booklets" and many, many, many newsletter and bulletin articles. Because the book market seeks writings to meet specific needs at specific times, my material has never been accepted. I have a tendency to write what is on my mind and so I am left with self publishing. So, with the encouragement from my wife and others, I am beginning this blog in order to put my "ramblings" "out there"! I hope you enjoy!
Please note that while my intentions are to use good grammar, because of the way in which some of the material presented here is presented (orally) the grammar and syntax might not always be the best English. Also note that good theology is not always presented in the best English so there may be times when the proper grammar rules are purposely broken.
Friday, March 25, 2016
Confession and Absolution - Good Friday - March 25, 2016 - Text: 1 John 1:8-9
This year during the season of Lent and all the way through Easter morning we have been looking at the various parts of our Divine Worship Service and seeing how the various parts reflect God’s working in our lives; God’s giving His gifts to us, our being given to and our response of faith. We have been following along with the parts of the Divine Service as they are in the hymnal however we have omitted one part which we take up today and that is Confession and Absolution. I felt that this part of the Divine Service was quite fitting as this is Good Friday, the day our Lord gave His life on the cross because of our sins so that as we confess our sins we rejoice in the forgiveness He has earned and paid for, for us.
Last night we looked at the words of the Lord’s Supper and connecting it to the Passover which is what Jesus was celebrating with His disciples. This evening we will move back to the beginning of our service, as you recall our service usually begins with an invocation followed by our confession of sins and God’s Word of absolution on us, that is His forgiving our sins. In following our divine service it is indeed fitting that on this Good Friday, the day in which we commemorate the death of our Savior for our sins, that we are reminded of our sin and the very reason Jesus was born, lived, suffered and died, because of our sins. Thus it is fitting that we are reminded of this means of grace of Confession and Absolution.
As we make profession in the fifth chief part of the catechism, confession embraces two parts, the first part is that we confess our sins. We might inquire that if God already knows our sins, then why would there be a need for us to confess? We confess our sins so that we acknowledge our part in Jesus’ suffering, so that we acknowledge and admit that we have sinned and for the simple fact that to not confess our sins is to refuse the forgiveness that is pronounced upon our confession. As we confess in our liturgy, “8If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:8-9). Indeed, if we do not think we have sinned, if there is nothing for which we need to repent and confess, then there is no need for forgiveness.
So, the first part of confession is that we confess our sins and the second part is absolution that is that we are absolved, forgiven of all our sins, and really not just those we confess. Unfortunately, too often some of us have a hard time with this absolution part as well. For not only can we refuse forgiveness by not confessing our sins, but we can also refuse forgiveness by not believing that our sins are forgiven and we do that, not believe our sins are forgiven by continuing to dwell on those sins and continuing to confess them even though they have already been forgiven, indeed cast as far as the east is from the west, forgotten by God, forgiven by Jesus. So the devil would tempt us to believe we have no sin and when we do confess he would tempt us to believe that God could not and would not forgive such sins. And so this is why we live by faith and not by sight, this is why we do not trust our emotions because too often we may not feel very forgiven or very saved, yet that is when we kick our minds into gear and we know, because God has told us so in His Word, which does what is says and gives the gifts of which is speaks, and indeed as God has pronounced to us through the mouth of the pastor, we know that as God has spoken, so our sins are forgiven. Nothing more needs to be done.
Now, to suggest that there is a third part of confession, that is to suggest that one needs then to make satisfaction for sins, as some do, this making of satisfaction simply stated means that what Jesus did on the cross was not enough and that now there is something that I must do to earn forgiveness. This thought process brings several problems such as, if sins are forgiven then there is nothing more which needs to be done because there is no more sin. Of course we have Jesus’ word that He died, once for all and that His death was sufficient for us. We also have the difficulty of the fact that just as a drowning person cannot save himself and if he could he would not be drowning, so we who are spiritually dead in our trespasses and sins cannot make ourselves alive because if we could we would not be dead. So we understand that there are only two things that are necessary, one is that we confess and two is that we are given absolution, the forgiveness of sins and we rejoice and give thanks because that is all that is necessary.
Why do we confess? We confess because we are compelled, not by the law, but by the Gospel to confess. Remember the purpose of the law it so show our sins and that is what the law does, it shows us our sins and just how sinful we truly are. The law is like a mirror showing how we have not kept any of the Ten Commandments. The law is rule measuring how far we have gone astray from God’s will. The law is a curb keeping us on the straight and narrow or at least attempting to, but please know this, the law does not move us to confess. If anything the law may lead us to works righteousness that is it may lead us to think we can earn forgiveness, that is that we might be good enough, or we might do some good things that will counter the bad things we do, but the question then is before us, “Have we done enough and how would we know?” Indeed there are those who would tell you that you can be the person God wants you to be, but if that were true then we would have no need for God and thus we would be lost and condemned persons.
If the law does not lead us to self-righteousness it might lead us to despair. We would despair because we might imagine that we have sinned so badly that there is no way that God could forgive us and so we would simply give up hope, denying forgiveness because we cannot believe that our sins are forgiven, such as was the case with Judas. He did not believe Jesus could forgive him and so he was condemned. Again the purpose of the law is to show our sins and that is what it does and it does so quite well.
On the other hand, the Gospel shows our Savior and leads us to confess. The Gospel announces, tells us, all that Jesus has done for us and given to us. The Gospel proclaims forgiveness and indeed as it proclaims so it is. Thus, to not confess would mean gift refusal, but to confess means gifts given, gifts received. Thus, it is when we know that our sins are already forgiven that is what leads us to confess our sins.
I have used this illustration before and I will use it again this evening because I believe it explains confession and absolution quite well. Mrs. Smith passed out a new box of crayons to all the children in the class. She told them to be careful, to not push to hard so they would not break their new crayons. As the class began coloring, little Johnny pushed too hard and broke his crayon. A little later Mrs. Smith told the children to put their broken crayons on their desk. Little Johnny, not wanting to get into trouble, placed the bottom part of his crayon in the box and the top part on top. No one would be the wiser he thought.
A little later Mrs. Smith came around the classroom, picked up the broken crayons and gave the children new crayons. All the children received new crayons except little Johnny who refused a new crayon by not confessing that he had broken his crayon. The same is true with forgiveness, when we fail to confess our sins, we refuse God’s forgiveness.
Now, if Mrs. Smith had begun by telling the students that she was going to give them new crayons for broken crayons, little Johnny may have been motivated to confess that he had broken his crayon. Here we see that repentance is motivated, not by the law, but by the Gospel. It is the Gospel message that we have forgiveness, already earned by Jesus that motivates us to repent. And with repentance is forgiveness, life and salvation.
This evening as we recount Jesus’ perfect life, His taking our sins upon Himself, His suffering the complete punishment for our sins, eternal spiritual death, and His dying on the cross for us and because of us, we are moved to confess, it is I who put Him on the cross and we know for certain also that even if I were the only person in the world, Jesus would have given His life for me because of His great love for me. And so we do confess, and so we do hear His words of love and forgiveness, “your sins are forgiven.” Thanks be to God and to Him be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.