Fagerberg, Holsten, and Eugene Lund. A New Look at the Lutheran Confessions (1529-1537). St. Louis: Concordia, 1988. Kindle Electronic Edition.
Chapter 8, “Penitence” Loc. 4810-5296.
Fagerberg discusses penitence, a major factor in all the reformational writings. “In the Lutheran Symbols the doctrine of penitence is highly complicated . . . in part because they attach various meanings to it, and in part because its status as a sacrament was uncertain” (Fagerberg 1988, Loc. 4816). The division between the Roman and Evangelical church was based on whether repentance was mediated by a man, such as the priest (Rome) or was an act of God’s working on the human will (Evangelical) (Fagerberg 1988, Loc. 4838). In the Lutheran Symbols penitence is seen as an existential act, a sacramental act, and an act of confession (Fagerberg 1988, Loc. 4846). Fagerberg discusses the various features of this one idea.
First, the Christian lives a life of penitence (Fagerberg 1988, Loc. 4859). This is composed of contrition, or sorrow for sin, and faith in Christ who forgives. The Reformers consistently view this as God’s work, not man’s Fagerberg cites FC IV to show penitence as akin to a daily baptism as we are immersed in sorrow and brought back to hope (Fagerberg 1988, Loc. 4915). Although this is God’s work, man “can examine himself and come to see that he is guilty of transgressing God’s law” (Fagerberg 1988, Loc. 4957). This contrition, when it leads to faith, brings life (Fagerberg 1988, Loc. 4974).
In addition to living a life of penitence, it is also seen as a sacrament (Fagerberg 1988, Loc. 5002). This is the specific confession and declaration of forgiveness, again God’s promise and God’s work. Fagerberg observes that confession and absolution do not require a pastor but that Luther seems to have valued pastoral involvement more as time went on (Fagerberg 1988, Loc. 5077).