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Concerning Repentance – part 27
Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions

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Galatians 2:19–21

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning Repentance 

Amidst these terrors, the conscience senses the wrath of God against sin, which is unknown to secure people who walk according to the flesh. It sees its depravity, and genuinely grieves that it has sinned. The conscience then flees from the dreadful wrath of God, because human nature cannot endure it unless sustained by the Word of God. This is why Paul says, “For I through the law died to the law” (Gal 2:19). For the law only accuses and terrifies consciences. In these terrors our adversaries say nothing of faith. They only present the Word that convicts of sin. When this alone is taught, it is the doctrine of the law, not of the gospel. They say that people earn grace through these griefs and terrors, provided they love God. But how will they love God if they are truly terrified, having sensed his terrible and inexpressible wrath? What do they teach other than despair when they only present the law during these terrors?

Pulling It Together

How does one know if repentance comes from a pure heart? Perhaps that person does not truly love God, but merely fears hell. Indeed, it is very likely that a person is terrified of damnation and wants to turn to God with sorrow for sin, yet in the next moment, doubts that genuine repentance has occurred because the fear remains. Such people are mired in feelings, and they will never escape them unless they hear the gospel. In the gospel, one moves from feelings to faith. Feelings are certainly real, and they never go away. What persons are able to doubt the reality of fear, anxiety, and guilt when they feel these emotions after having sinned? But what of peace and hope? These joys of the Spirit will never be known until one moves from feelings to faith.

As long as we live in this flesh, we will experience all of these feelings. For the law will never cease to accuse us of sin. But the person of faith has died to the law. The law has no legal power in the kingdom of God’s Son. So the person of faith senses the law’s accusation but is able to proclaim, “I am dead to the law, for I have been crucified with Christ in my baptism!” Christ now lives in that person. This is why the law holds no sway in the heart of faith. Thus, genuine repentance requires faith be added to contrition.

Prayer: Holy Spirit, grant to me full confidence in your forgiveness, through Jesus Christ my Lord. Amen. 

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Numbers and Deuteronomy in Sola's "Old Places, New Faces" series is an adult Bible study that uses the geographical locations of Biblical characters to symbolically refer to places we find ourselves with respect to our faith. The Bible is not only intended to give the reader knowledge about events and people in the past, but through these events and people, inspire greater faith.

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