Holy Cross Lutheran Church - Kerrville, TX

Holy Absolution

As Christians we are commanded to confess our sins. We do this each Sunday at the beginning of the Divine Service so that we have receive Christ's absolution of all our sins. However, the church throughout the ages has maintained the practice of private Confession and Absolution. This practice is sinners who especially feel the guilt of their sin and desire to confess their sins to their pastor (as Christ's representative) and hear Christ's absolution spoken directly to them for the sins that trouble them. Private absolution is not necessary. It is a man-made practice which the Lutheran Church retains because of its ability to clearly teach and apply the Gospel of Jesus.


Private Confession and Absolution is available upon request. Please speak with the Pastor.


Why Private Confession & Absolution?


“Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.” (Psalm 32:1-5)


Confession: Telling God the Truth


When you hear the term “confession” you may think of a tiny booth in a Roman Catholic church. Confession isn’t a place you go to though. Confession is a practice which Scripture teaches and the church upholds because of its great benefits for us. 


Confession simply means to tell the truth about yourself to God. In the Divine Service we
regularly confess our sins to our Lord in heaven. We admit that we have not loved God with our whole heart and that we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. We are all guilty of breaking the Ten Commandments. In fact, James writes, “For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it.” (James 2:10)


The Apostle John writes in 1 John 1:8-10, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.” St. Paul writes in Romans 3:2b-3, “There is no distinction, for all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” When we confess our sins before the Lord we not only confess that we commit sins; we confess that we are sinners. 

 
Absolution: Hearing God’s Truth


Martin Luther writes in his Small Catechism, “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.” 


Absolution is the forgiving of sin. During the Divine Service this takes place immediately
after the confession of sin. Absolution is not assurance that your sins are forgiven. Absolution is not a reminder of what God has already done. Absolution is a present tense action. Your pastor is forgiving your sins right then and there. 


Who can forgive sin?


The idea of a fellow sinner forgiving sins may raise some objections. In Mark 2:7 some Pharisees ask this question amongst themselves, “Why does this man speak like that? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” The Pharisees were correct. Only the Lord can forgive sins. 


However, it should not disturb us to hear that the pastor forgives sins. Jesus has given this authority to all Christians and to pastors specifically. Our Lord establishes Absolution as a practice for His church in John 20:21-23, “Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.’ And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of anyone, they are forgiven; if you withhold forgiveness from anyone, it is withheld.’” 


With this Word our Lord gives to His church one of his most precious gifts, the forgiveness of sins in audible words for our benefit. We do not have to wonder if our sins are really forgiven. We hear those blessed words and rejoice with the Psalmist, “I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the LORD,’ and you forgave the iniquity of my sin.” (Psalm 32:5)

When your pastor forgives your sins, he does so in the stead and by the command of Christ Himself. So we are to receive that Word of forgiveness in faith, trusting that
it is true before God in heaven. Absolution is the only way to properly deal with sin because Absolution removes sins, “as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.” (Psalm 103:12)
 
Is Private Absolution Necessary?

The freedom and release from sin and its guilt is available every Sunday morning in
the Divine Service. However, the church throughout the ages has practiced
Private Absolution. Private Absolution is not necessary but it is beneficial to
the soul. There are times when a certain sin and its guilt may plague you.
David writes in Psalm 32:3-4, “For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my
groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my
strength was dried up as by the heat of summer.” Private Absolution is God’s Word of forgiveness given directly to you. Private Absolution is a clear and certain word of God that silences Satan’s accusations and calms the terrified conscience. (Zechariah
3:1-4)