What Lutherans Teach about Sin and Forgiveness

Lutherans teach that, since Adam and Eve fell into sin (Genesis 3), all people are “brought forth in iniquity” and conceived in sin (Psalm 51:5). Forgiveness is a gift of God that is obtained by grace through faith in Jesus Christ.

What Lutherans Teach about Original Sin

Lutherans teach that, since Adam and Eve fell into sin (Genesis 3), all people are “brought forth in iniquity” and conceived in sin (Psalm 51:5). This sin is a hereditary sickness that prevents us from fearing, loving, and trusting in God above all things, because “every intention of the thoughts of [humankind’s] heart [is] only evil  continually”  (Genesis  6:5). This inborn sickness causes us to commit all kinds of evil deeds and merits only God’s eternal  wrath.

What Lutherans Teach about Forgiveness of Sins

Lutherans also teach that no human being can earn or obtain forgiveness of sins or life with God by any human efforts or works. A person is not justified—made right—with God “by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ” (Galatians 2:16). “For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by His grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:22–24). Whoever “trusts Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness” (Romans 4:5).

What Lutherans Teach about Repentance

Lutherans teach that the whole life of the Christian is one of continual repentance, as Jesus proclaimed, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 4:17).

Since all Christians can and do sin after Baptism, all must live in repentance, that is, having sorrow and terror over their sins and receiving and trusting the Gospel’s word of absolution, namely that Christ has obtained forgiveness of sins and restores life with God. “[Faith] comforts the conscience and delivers it from terror” (Augsburg Confession, XII 5). In this life of repentance, the Christian learns to forsake sin and amend his sinful life, thus bearing “fruit in keeping with repentance” (Matthew 3:8).

What Lutherans Teach about Private 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).

lutheranism-101-coverLearn more about what Lutherans teach in Lutheranism 101.

Read Lutheranism 101



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