Confession and Absolution
“Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made.
He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’” But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.
And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” And he said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.” He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.” Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this that you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”
The Lord God said to the serpent,
“Because you have done this,
cursed are you above all livestock
and above all beasts of the field;
on your belly you shall go,
and dust you shall eat
all the days of your life.
I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and her offspring;
he shall bruise your head,
and you shall bruise his heel.”
To the woman he said,
“I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing;
in pain you shall bring forth children.
Your desire shall be contrary to your husband,
but he shall rule over you.”
And to Adam he said,
“Because you have listened to the voice of your wife
and have eaten of the tree
of which I commanded you,
‘You shall not eat of it,’
cursed is the ground because of you;
in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life;
thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you;
and you shall eat the plants of the field.
By the sweat of your face
you shall eat bread,
till you return to the ground,
for out of it you were taken;
for you are dust,
and to dust you shall return.”
The man called his wife’s name Eve, because she was the mother of all living. And the Lord God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them.
Then the Lord God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil. Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever—” therefore the Lord God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken. He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life.”Genesis 3
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How Christians should be taught to confess
What is confession?
Confession has two parts.
First, that we confess our sins, and
second, that we receive absolution, that is, forgiveness, from the pastor as from God Himself, not doubting, but firmly believing that by it our sins are forgiven before God in heaven.
The headline that starts this section of Luther’s Small Catechism makes us wonder, why do we need to teach Christians to confess? Isn’t confession something Christians do naturally?
Experience says, not so much.
Think about conflicts between children in your care. Do they readily admit their parts in an altercation?
If not, do they act out of ignorance, fear of punishment, or avoidance of failure?
Most people prefer to protect, hide, and blame others instead of facing their shortcomings, identifying their own sins, and accepting responsibility.
Adam and Eve used these tactics in the account of the very first sin in Genesis 3. Sin opened their eyes and exposed their nakedness. They covered up, and then hid. When confronted by the Lord God, they admitted they ate the fruit of the forbidden tree. But Adam blamed Eve, and she blamed the temptatious serpent.
If defensiveness came easily to the first humans, imagine how we have honed it over the centuries!
Acknowledging sins is a first step for Christians, flowing from the work of the Law in our lives. We don’t understand our need for a Savior until we know that sin corrupts us completely and we cannot escape its effects on our bodies, souls, relationships, and eternity.
When we confess, we receive forgiveness directly from Jesus, who nailed our sins to the cross. He comforts and assures the broken. He revives the wounded, the wandering, and the weary. Jesus replaces our burdens with a new start and a new heart. Thanks be to God!
Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Catechism quotations are from Luther’s Small Catechism with Explanation, copyright © 1986 Concordia Publishing House. All rights reserved. Used by permission.