Repentance is a way of life for Christians. Maybe we don’t want it to be this way, but it is. I would like to think that, after repentance, I’m just good, and I don’t need any more repentance. I would like to be able to say, “I turned my life around, Jesus forgave me, now everything is great, and I’m great.” But that’s not how it is. Faith and obedience are a struggle. I constantly need repentance. We all do. It’s a way of life for Christians. It’s the way of life.

In the Augsburg Confession the Lutheran reformers teach that,

“Strictly speaking, repentance consists of two parts. One part is contrition, that is, terrors striking the conscience through the knowledge of sin. The other part is faith, which is born of the Gospel or the Absolution and believes that for Christ’s sake, sins are forgiven. It comforts the conscience and delivers it from terror. Then good works are bound to follow, which are the fruit of repentance” (Augsburg Confession, Article XII, 3-6).

The important distinction in defining repentance this way is to keep good works out of the formula. Good works are good, and they follow repentance, but they are not part of repentance. They do not make us more acceptable to God, and they do not change our hearts. The Holy Spirit does that through the Law and the Gospel. So repentance consists of only two parts: contrition and faith.

We might not want it to be this way, but it is better. It’s the only way we can be saved. If good works were part of the formula, every honest Christian would have to admit that we never really achieve repentance. My good works are never as good as they should be.

But repentance is the work of the Holy Spirit through the Law and the Gospel. Through the Law he makes us aware of our sin. This awareness will even terrify our consciences. But this is a good thing, as long as we don’t remain in that terror. So through the Gospel, the Holy Spirit teaches us that our sins are forgiven because of Jesus. This is faith. Faith is not something we create or something we do. Faith simply trusts in what Jesus did for us. It’s all about what he did.

The Augsburg Confession goes on to condemn those who teach that, once a person is justified, they cannot lose the Holy Spirit; those who argue that a person can reach a state of perfection in which they cannot sin; those who deny absolution to those who have fallen after Baptism; and those who teach that we must earn grace through some kind of works.

So we reject those who teach differently about repentance. We have to. It’s a matter of the salvation of souls. Repentance has to be all about what Jesus has done for us, because we are incapable of saving ourselves. So in our hearts repentance consists only of these two things: contrition and faith. So we confess our sins, and we trust God forgives us for the sake of Jesus’ innocent sufferings and death.

The peace of Christ be with you all,

Pastor Dan Antal