Theological Fragments: Forgive us our debts

“Here again there is great need to call upon God and pray: ‘Dear Father, forgive us our debts.’ Not that he does not forgive sins even apart from and before our praying; for before we prayed for it or even thought about it, he gave us the gospel, in which there is nothing but forgiveness. But the point here is for us to recognize and accept this forgiveness. For the flesh in which we daily live is of such a nature that it does not trust and believe God and is constantly aroused by evil desires and devices, so that we sin daily in word and deed, in acts of commission and omission. Thus our conscience becomes restless; it fears God’s wrath and displeasure, and so it loses the comfort and confidence of the gospel. Therefore it is necessary constantly to run to this petition and get the comfort that will restore our conscience.”

–Martin Luther, Large Catechism, Third Part: Fifth Petition.88-89, (Kolb/Wengert edition)

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Luther: Contrition

“Whether our contrition is genuine or not is a question which cannot be left to our own discretion, but must be left to the judgment of God. Therefore, no one can say without presumption that he is truly contrite.

“…If a man were required to say that he was truly contrite, he would be driven to presumption and to the impossible task of knowing all sin and evil in his heart. And since all the saints still have sin and evil within them, it is impossible for anyone to have such contrition as will be adequate in God’s judgment… …If no one will be found justified, how will anyone be found contrite, since contrition is the beginning of justification?

“… God’s promise in the sacrament is sure; our contrition is never sure. For this reason God would have us build not on our uncertain contrition, but on his certain promise, so that we may be able to persevere in every time of trouble” (“Defense and Explanation of All the Articles”, LW 32, 55).

Luther: Confession

“It is for this reason that I have taught the people, and everybody ought to teach it, that they should fear God, and after they have diligently confessed, say to him with David, “Behold, dear Lord, I have confessed this sin and that, but thy judgments are secret and terrible; if thou wilt enter into judgment with me I shall never stand, no matter what I do. For who can know all his sins? Therefore, I flee from thy judgment to thy grace and pray that thou wilt cleanse me from all my unknown sins.” In this way the people can learn to find comfort in God’s grace and not in their own contrition, confession, and satisfaction…” (“Defense and Explanation of All the Articles” (1521), LW 32, pg 43).