What Lutherans Teach about Holy Absolution

Lutherans teach that “private Absolution should be retained in the churches” (Augsburg Confession, XI 1), because Jesus commissioned His disciples to forgive sins: “If you forgive the sins of anyone, they are forgiven; if you with- hold forgiveness from anyone, it is withheld” (John 20:23). We do not coerce individuals to go to their pastor for Confession and Absolution, nor do we require complete enumeration of all sins. However, we do encourage people to go to their pastor for private absolution, because it is “the very voice of the Gospel” and “shows consciences sure and firm comfort” (Apology of the Augsburg Confession, XI 2).

One of the sayings that came out of the Reformation was, “The Church always needs to be reformed.” This does not mean that the Church, the bride of Christ (Revelation 19:7), becomes unfaithful to her bridegroom, Jesus Christ. After all, “the church of the living God” is always the “pillar and buttress of truth” (1 Timothy 3:15). However, this Reformation slogan does mean that the Church always needs to devote herself “to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers” (Acts 2:42). When human opinions and ideas creep in and eclipse the message  of  “Jesus  Christ  and  Him  crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2) for the forgiveness of sins, for life, and for salvation, the Church must always  “contend  for the faith  that  was once for all delivered  to the saints” (Jude  3).

Therefore, Lutherans teach what Scripture teaches and what faithful Christians have taught through the centuries: Since “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8), Lutherans boldly and consistently teach that “since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1)


Learn more about what Lutherans teach in Lutheranism 101.

Read Lutheranism 101

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