Kolb, Robert. The Book of Concord: The Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2000.
Augsburg Confession XII, “Concerning Repentance” pp. 45-46.
Apology to the Augsburg Confession XII “Repentance” pp. 188-219.
Article 12 of the Augsburg Confession defines repentance as sorrow for sin and belief that sin is forgiven in absolution. This “absolution should not be denied them by the church” (Kolb 2000, 45). The Apology points out that the opponents approve the first part but reject the second part of AC 12. In the second part, “we say that the parts of repentance are contrition and faith” (Kolb 2000, 188). Particularly, the denial is to the role of faith in repentance. Because this is at its core a denial of the gospel itself, Melanchthon begs for the doctrine to be heard out clearly. It was put forth piecemeal and possibly in bad order by Luther (Kolb 2000, 189). He lists eleven teachings of the opponents which he considers key to their rejection of the Gospel (Kolb 2000, 189-191). These are controverted by the two parts of repentance previously mentioned. Good works following forgiveness will also be entertained (Kolb 2000, 192). The discussion of whether contrition is rooted in love or fear is sidestepped. It is sufficient that it is “genuine terror of the conscience” (Kolb 2000, 192). This is released only by the forgiveness of Christ. Melanchthon observes that learning to live in Jesus’ forgiveness takes a lifetime (Kolb 2000, 193).
After citing several Bible passages in which people sin, are moved to repentance, and are forgiven, Melanchthon cites witnesses from church history (Kolb 2000, 197). The question of faith is then brought up. Melanchthon affirms that forgiveness is received by faith and that faith is therefore involved in repentance. He cites several Scriptures to this effect as well (Kolb 2000, 198ff). There are no doubt many teachers within the Church who would use means other than faith to remove sin. Yet those are not giving a biblical answer (Kolb 2000, 199). Melanchthon then pursues biblical passages yet again, commenting at length on forgiveness of sins as a matter of promise (Gospel) rather than law. As a final point, he asks “when will the conscience find peace if we receive the forgiveness of sins because we love or keep the law? For the law will always accuse us” (Kolb 2002, 202). The conclusion must be that we receive forgiveness, not that we earn it.
Melanchthon goes on (Kolb 2000, 204ff) to make an eloquent argument for maintaining private confession as a means of bringing comfort to troubled consciences, not as a means of asserting power and control over a congregation or a priest.