This month I have just a little bit to share with you, and then I want to share a passage that Martin Luther wrote about repentance. It’s well worth reading a couple times and thinking about. Especially note in Luther’s words the emphasis on the gift of repentance as nothing other than an acknowledgement of total need for Christ’s saving work, rejecting any effort on our past whatsoever.
Also in the newsletter this month I’ve included a short article written by Pastor Tim Pauls about marriage and how it pictures for us Christ and His bride, the Church. Please give it a read and share it with others. It’s important that we remain a clear and compelling voice for marriage in our society.
We have Friendship Sunday and Rally Day on September 11th. Would you please think of one friend, family member, or neighbor that you know and invite him/her/them to church that Sunday? We’ll have a potluck meal together after Sunday School and Scripture Study.
Finally, a reminder about the Small Catechism Challenge (see last month’s newsletter article). The weekly Small Catechism portion and Scripture verse will be in the bulletins soon. Let’s together spend each week treasuring God’s word and the teaching of that word in such a beautifully simple way in the Small Catechism.
Peace be with you,
Martin Luther on Repentance, from The Smalcald Articles, Part 3, Article III
[Luther is writing as if John the Baptist is preaching in this first paragraph.] “Therefore, if you want to repent, repent rightly. Your works of penance will accomplish nothing. As for you hypocrites, who do not need repentance, you serpents’ brood, who has assured you that you will escape the wrath to come and other judgments?” [Matthew 3:7; Luke 3:7].
33 In the same way Paul also preaches, “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one” (Romans 3:10–12). 34 And God now “commands all people everywhere to repent” (Acts 17:30). “All people,” He says. No one is an exception who is a human being. 35 This repentance teaches us to discern sin: We are completely lost; there is nothing good in us from head to foot; and we must become absolutely new and different people.
36 Such repentance is not partial and beggarly, like that which does penance for actual sins. Nor, like that, is it uncertain. For it does not debate what is or is not sin. Rather, it hurls everything together and says: Everything in us is nothing but sin ‹there is nothing in us that is not sin and guilt [Romans 7:18]›. What is the use of always investigating, dividing, or distinguishing? This contrition is certain. For we cannot think of any good thing to pay for sin. There is nothing left. There is only a sure despairing about all that we are, think, speak, do, and so on.
37 Confession, too, cannot be false, uncertain, or fragmentary. A person who confesses that everything in him is nothing but sin includes all sins, excludes none, forgets none. 38 Neither can the satisfaction be uncertain, because it is not our uncertain, sinful work. Rather, it is the suffering and blood of the innocent Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world [John 1:29].
39 This is the repentance John the Baptist preaches [Matthew 3:1–12]. And afterward, Christ does this in the Gospel [Mark 1:15], and so do we. By this preaching of repentance, we dash to the ground the pope and everything built upon our good works. For all of that is built upon a rotten and vain foundation, which is called a good work or law. And yet, this foundation has no good works but only wicked works. No one keeps the Law (as Christ says) but all transgress it (John 7:19). Therefore, the building ‹that is raised upon that rotten foundation› is nothing but falsehood and hypocrisy, even where it seems most holy and beautiful.
40 In Christians, this repentance continues until death. For through one’s entire life, repentance contends with the sin remaining in the flesh. Paul testifies that he wars with the law in his members (Romans 7:14–25) not by his own powers, but by the gift of the Holy Spirit that follows the forgiveness of sins [Romans 8:1–17]. This gift daily cleanses and sweeps out the remaining sins and works to make a person truly pure and holy.