TABLE TALK

Official Publication of the LMS-USA

February 2009

Volume 16, Number 1


In this Issue:


Annual Conference and Convention 2009
June 19th Friday Ministerial Meeting
June 20th Saturday Conference
June 21st Sunday Divine Worship and Convention


The problem of Sin

It is, of course, nothing new. We read the Bible from beginning to end, and it is clear, that for the most part, man has very little if any understanding of the awfulness of sin, or of its consequences. God had warned of it. "... you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die." Disobedience would result in death. But this seemingly did not register. If it had been understood Adam and Eve would not have so easily yielded. Of course Satan/the serpent made it look attractive. But if our first parents had understood even to a degree the awfulness of willful disobedience, they would have avoided it at all cost. And yet today, if people had any real understanding of sin, they try to avoid it at all cost. Further, if they had any real understanding of it, they having yielded to it, would seek to find a way out of the mess sin had/has gotten them into. But rather than looking to the light for what we need, it seems that we love darkness rather than light because of our evil deeds (see John 3:19-20).

All this is important to understand. If sin is not understood for what it is... then the salvation which God, in his mercy and grace, holds out for us, in the person of Jesus Christ is of no value to us. Why do we need to be saved, if we have nothing to be saved from? It is what Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote of in his book, The Cost of Discipleship when he wrote of what he labeled, cheap grace. Church people live as they please six days a week, and then they come to church on Sunday and mouth the prayer of confession and hear the pastor announce that they are forgiven. Then they go back to life as usual. Then it is back again the next Sunday to go through the motions once again. But there is no sense of what is sin... no understanding of how, in so many ways they have fallen short of the glory of God. There is no sorrow over sin. There is no sense of what is involved in repentance. Thus confession and forgiveness to them has no meaning.

Well, things haven't changed much in the 60 plus years since Bonhoeffer wrote of this problem. People today - "church" people today - don't want "their deeds to be exposed" (Jn. 3:20). It is not uncommon today that if a pastor preaches of sin, he will be talked to, and if he continues, he may well be dismissed.

Persons today who have concern in this area, we find, even in the Lutheran family of churches, that it is difficult to find a congregation where the Confession of Sin and Absolution are a regular part of the worship service.

But an honest dealing with sin is central to a Lutheran understanding of salvation. Luther ties all this in with Baptism. "What does Baptism mean for daily living? It means that our sinful self, with all its evil deeds and desires, should be drowned through daily repentance, and that day after day a new self should arise to live with God in righteousness and purity forever."

If we need daily repentance of sin we certainly need it also when we seek to come to God in worship. "Who may ascend the hill of the Lord? Who may stand in his holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to an idol or swear by what is false. He will receive blessing from the Lord and vindication from God his Savior" (Ps. 24:3-5).

As a starting point for a look into this subject, we are going to first look at Man. Jacob Tanner in his book, Ten Studies in Church Doctrines, explores this topic. This book was first published by Augsburg Publishing, Mpls., MN and we have permission of the Tanner family to reprint from this volume.

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MAN
by Jacob Tanner, A.M., S.T.D.

A great distinction is made in the first chapter of Genesis between man and the other living things. This is expressed in the words: "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the heavens, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creep-eth upon the earth." (Gen. 1:26.) Then it is told that God created man in His own image, and it is repeated that "in the image of God created he him, male and female created he them." Again it is added: "And God blessed them: and God said unto them, be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the heavens, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth."

It is clear from these words that man is different from the animals in origin, nature and purpose. He is endowed with powers that the animals do not have, and he has another purpose in life than the animals. All this is included in the term "the image of God."

The image of God.

We speak of the image of God in a wider sense and in a narrower sense. In the wider sense it contains six features:

  1. Man is a religious being, capable of communing with God and conscious of his likeness to God.
  2. He is an intelligent being, with the power of speech and the ability to handle ideas. This is also called the power of abstraction.
  3. He is a moral being with free will and an inherent realization of moral obligations. He knows himself responsible to God for his acts.
  4. He has the power to change his environments.
  5. He has the power of heredity. He propagates in his own likeness intelligent, religious, and moral beings.
  6. He is without sin.

In a narrower sense the image of God consists of light in the understanding, holiness of the will, and peace in the conscience. It is in this narrower sense that the term is generally used.

Man different.

Man's difference from the animals can be summed up in that he is a personality, endowed with the powers of knowing, willing and feeling. He has the power of reason; the animals have only instinct. This difference manifests itself in several ways.

He is a religious being; he worships God. The animals do not worship.

Man is a moral being who knows himself responsible for his acts. He has conscience. The animals do not have this inherent moral sense.

And man has the power of speech and the ability to handle ideas, or the power of abstraction. He can therefore invent the necessary tools. He can also transmit to his descendants the knowledge gathered as a result of his experiences and investigations. The animals lack these powers.

We thus see that man from the first was equipped for the work God gave him to do. This work consisted in subduing the earth, and ruling over it. Man's mission was thus given. He was to study the world in which he was placed, to explore all its forces and make use of them for the benefit of himself and the animals, over which he ruled. He should build up this civilization under responsibility to God, that is, he should handle all the forces of nature and deal with all the living things in harmony with God's will. As God from the first had revealed Himself as holy love, so man's rule on earth should be a rule of holy love. Thus man was equipped for a special mission in which he would have an opportunity to develop all his powers and gifts to the glory of God and for the blessing of himself and his fellow-beings.

While the Bible emphasizes man's relation to God as his most essential feature, many of those who claim to be scientists emphasize his relation to the animals as the most essential feature. The Bible lifts man above the beasts both as to origin, endowments, and mission. This so-called science makes him one with the beasts both as to origin, endowments and purpose of existence. The Bible teaches that man fell, became corrupted in his very nature, and needs a new birth in order to be saved from his sin and reunited with God; this science claims that he is essentially good and is himself fully capable of taking care of his destiny, whatever it may be.

Man Was Created without sin. This does not mean that he could not sin, but it means that there was no evil in him.

A test.

Man Was Created without sin. He was in the state of innocence. This does not mean that he could not sin, but it means that there was no evil in him. A test was necessary, because he was a free moral being. By a moral being we mean one who under responsibility has the freedom to choose between right and wrong, good and evil. The test and the possibility of a fall are therefore a necessary part of the privilege of moral freedom.

Even in the state of innocence man's fellowship with God depended upon his trust in God. He should live by faith. As soon as the devil had led him to mistrust God the life nerve of his relation to God was destroyed and the act of disobedience was the natural result.

When we discuss the possibility of a fall, we must remember that sin is not something that exists in and by itself. Sin is unbelief and disobedience. Of course we realize that to fathom the mystery of sin is more than man can do. It is equally impossible for us to understand how beings created without sin and enjoying the friendship of God and all the blessings of the state of innocence, could

Sin is not something that exists in and by itself. Sin is unbelief and disobedience.

be led to disobey their creator. However, we are all facing the same mystery in our own lives. There is not one of us who has not done what he knew was wrong, and knew he could refrain from doing it. Still he did it. Our inability to explain these things, however, does not alter the fact that man did fall, and thereby lost the image of God.

Characteristics of sin.

A study of Genesis 3 will reveal to us five characteristics of the sin of Adam and Eve.

  1. It is unbelief. They distrusted God and believed the devil.
  2. It is dishonesty. Adam tells God that he was naked, but he did not tell that he had been disobedient (v. 10).
  3. It is selfishness. Adam puts the blame on his wife. It does not seem to concern him what will happen to her, as long as he can free himself.
  4. It is ingratitude. When God brought Eve to him, Adam said: "This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh." (Gen. 2:23.) He was glad that he finally had found a companion that could be with him. This gratitude entirely disappeared after the fall.
  5. It is rebellion. Adam says to God : "The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree." He really blames God for his disobedience. This is open rebellion.

We have here a complete analysis of sin. The Bible adds nothing further to these characteristics. They are fundamental and are found more or less in all forms of sin.

Image of God lost.

As soon as Adam and Eve had disobeyed God, they saw they were naked. Up till then the powers of the body had been under the control of God's Spirit in them. The moment man disobeyed God, the powers of his body participated in his rebellion against God. The result was that these powers no longer were under the control of the Spirit, but under the control of selfishness and the resultant evil desires. Selfishness changes natural instincts to lust. When Adam thought back to what happened that day, this change was an outstanding part of the experience. He remembered how he blushed when standing before Eve. It was the first experience of such a feeling. God had placed in him a sense of what was seemly and unseemly. It was a part of his conscience. It was a necessary equipment for a holy life. With man's fall this sense manifested itself as a feeling of shame, and as such continued its mission to protect and guide man.

Man lost the image of God. It is the image in the narrower sense that he lost. He is still an intelligent, religious, and moral being, but he has lost the light in the understanding. The purity of his will, and the peace of his conscience. He has no true fear and love of God, neither a true trust in God. On the other hand he now has evil desires or concupiscence.

Inherited sin.

Man's sinful nature is transmitted to his children. Of the theories that have been advanced to explain how the new soul comes into existence, two should be mentioned. The one is that God created the soul directly for each child. This theory causes a number of difficulties, the main one being that it is impossible to explain how the soul then in every instance shows the sinful traits of the parents. The other theory is that the soul is transmitted from the parents, just as the body is. This explains the likeness between parents and children, and also the presence of the sinful traits in the children. The first theory is called creationism and the last traducianism.

The transmitted sinful nature is called original sin. It originated with Adam, and it becomes a part of each individual from his very first beginning. This original sin has a negative and a positive character. It consists first in the lack of a true fear and love of God, and a true trust in God, and then in concupiscence or evil desire.

Original sin condemns, because a nature filled with concupiscence and lacking fear and love of and trust in God, is in that condition not in possession of the life of God. It is spiritually dead.

The Bible uses several names for man's sinful nature. Generally it is called flesh. (E.g. John 3:6; Rom. 8:4,5, etc.) It is also called our old man (Rom. 6:6 etc.), the body of sin (Rom. 6:6), the law of sin (Rom. 7:23), and the body of death. (Rom. 7 :24)

Seat of Sin.

The seat of sin is not in man's physical part. It is not in his blood or nerves or muscles or physical organs. It is in his psychical nature, his will, understanding, and feeling, what the Bible calls his heart. It is therefore not what may be called the physical manifestations of the sin, such as adultery and drunkenness, that constitutes the real nature of sin, but what may be called the spiritual, such as unbelief, selfishness, covetousness, envy, hatred, pride and hypocrisy.

Out of this sinful nature comes the actual sin or the evil things that we do. They are the result of the influence of the devil, the world and our own flesh. The relation between original sin and actual sin is as that between the root and the tree.

What the Church confesses.

Of the original sin the Augsburg Confession, Art. II teaches that: "Since the fall of Adam all men begotten in the natural way are born with sin, that is, without the fear of God, without trust in God, and with concupiscence; and that this disease or vice of origin is truly sin, even now condemning and bringing eternal death upon those not born again through baptism and the Holy Ghost."

Of the cause of sin the Confession, Art. XIX teaches, "That, although God does create and preserve nature, yet the cause of sin is the will of the wicked, that is, of the devil and ungodly men; which will, unaided of God, turns itself from God, as Christ says in John 8:44: When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own.

The reason why the Confession on the basis of the Word of God so emphatically maintains that original sin condemns, is that a nature filled with concupiscence and lacking fear and love of and trust in God, is in that condition not in possession of the life of God. It is spiritually dead. Spiritual life must be implanted, in other words, man must be regenerated by the Holy Spirit. Only thus does he come into possession of life in God which is the only eternal life.

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What Is Sin?
by Rev. John Erickson

Author's note: Quite a number of years ago, A. A. Zinck wrote a small volume titled, What a Church Member Should Know. This article is based on an outline of chapter three of that volume, titled, "The Problem of Sin."

People may not want to call it sin, but even so, the presence and the power of sin is well known. Everyone knows about such things as envy, and greed, and lust, and hatred and of the problems and difficulties that these things bring about. Also, most people are fully aware of wrongdoing or of their failure to carry out what they promised. People have consciences that accuse them of disobedience to the will of God.

What is sin?

1 John 3:4 tells us, "Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness." 1 John 5:17 says, "All wrongdoing is sin." Paul tells us that "everything that does not come from faith is sin" (Rom. 14:23). In other words, whenever a person is living without trusting in God, that person is sinning. If a person is not living in obedience to the Word of God, that person is sinning. But even more than this, sin, according to the Bible, has to do with the depravity that lies at the very core of who we are.

A word used in a number of Bible translations in reference to sin is the word iniquity. Iniquity speaks of something that is not equal... it is not even... it is not true or right. It refers to something crooked or twisted or bent. It is a very descriptive term when applied to oneís life.

The most common Greek word that we have translated with the word sin, is a word they used when someone shot an arrow at a target and missed. In other words, sin is missing the mark. It is failing to hit what was aimed at. The Greeks also used the word of a person who aimed at a worthwhile goal but then fell short of it, or of a person who wasted his or her talent.

These words point to the fact that sin is not an insignificant matter. And neither are the consequences of sin of little matter. Rather, unless it is resisted... unless it is overcome... sin has the power, ultimately, to destroy.

The fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil hung temptingly within the reach of Eve. With the words of the serpent whispering in her ear, the forbidden fruit seemed more desirable than all the pleasures of the Garden.

For people who do not know God, or the Word of God, their consciences indicate to them that they are doing wrong (see Romans 2:14-15). But for the person who has some knowledge of the Word of God, there is a heightened sense of sin, and the guilt of sin, and thus that individual will come to see sin as the enemy of all that is good, and that it is destructive of life itself.

God gave our first parents permission to eat the fruit of every tree in the garden of Eden, except for one. If they eat of "the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, [they would] surely die." But, they were free to either obey or disobey that prohibition. Well, as we know, Satan tempted Eve to eat what was forbidden. And she did. And when she suggested Adam try it, he also ate of it. They acted in disobedience to the will of God, and did what they wanted to do. What we see here in our first parents is characteristic of all sin. Sin is presumption Sin is a disregard for will of God. Sin is an insistence to go in oneís own way.

Notice how Satan appealed to Eve. He appealed to her eye. The fruit was "pleasing to the eye." He appealed to her through the flesh. The fruit "was good for food." And he appealed through her sense of pride. The fruit was "desirable for gaining wisdom" (all this from Gen. 3:6).

Sin is to be something other, or to do something other, than that which God wills for us.

What is the cause of sin?

The cause of sin is not to be found in God. God is holy, and he created man in his own image (Gen. 1:27). This means that as man was created, he willed what God willed. It also means that sin is not a result of some weakness in man. Rather, the source of sin must be understood as being found in the devil. The devil by his own choice, deliberately turned away from God. Then after first sinning this way himself, he tempted our first parents. Our first parents, by their own free and deliberate act, then yielded to the devilís beguilement. We may not always think of it this way, but "sin is a matter of the spirit; the flesh cannot sin."

There are kinds of sin. The term original sin is most often used with reference to the first sin committed in Eden. It speaks of the sinful condition into which all people are born. Ever since the fall, all persons are, by nature, born in sin. They are born without the fear of God. They are born without a trust in God. They are born with concupiscence (i.e., evil desires). The Augsburg Confession, Article 2 speaks of it. "Since the fall of man all men begotten according to nature are born with sin; that is, without the fear of God, and without trust in Him, and with concupiscence; and this disease or vice of origin is truly sin, even now condemning and bringing eternal death upon those not born again through Baptism and the Holy Spirit."

And then there is actual sin. Actual sins are words, thoughts, and deeds, that are contrary to the will of God. Actual sin is the natural result of original sin. These acts of sin may be open, and therefore seen, in the lives of men, or, they may be secret, therefore not seen, and known only to God.

Sin is universal.

It is a part of every human life. "There is none righteous, not even one... all have sinned and come short of the glory of God."

The consequence of sin.

This was announced by God when Adam and Eve were put in the Garden. "When you eat of it you will surely die" (Gen. 2:7). Sin brought with it, and to all men, physical death, spiritual death, and eternal death. Dr. Joseph Stump writes of the outcome of the sin of our first parents: "The far-reaching consequences of the fall are seen in manís entire nature and in all his relations. Physically, he not only became mortal, but he became subject to sickness, pain, and sorrow. Mentally, his powers suffered deterioration and enfeeblement; for while the history of the world shows that man still possesses wonderful intellectual powers, these would have been vastly greater, if they had not been dimmed by the fall. Morally and religiously, man became alienated from God; he was no longer able by his natural powers to perceive spiritual things (I Corinthians 2:14); his sensibilities were perverted so that his love was centered on the world and on self instead of on God (Romans 8:7), and his will was helpless in spiritual matters, so that he was no longer able to do Godís will (Romans 8:8). Viewed with regard to manís inner state of well-being and comfort, the consequences of the fall were an evil conscience, inner contradiction, and the misery resulting from the introduction of a fundamental discord into his nature. Viewed with regard to his relation to God, the consequences were guilt and condemnation (Romans 6:23), separation from God (Isaiah 59:2), and the prospect of endless misery in the world to come (Matthew 25:46)."

The Law.

Created in the image of God, our first parents knew the will of God. However, when sin came into the world, the minds of people became so darkened that they no longer were able to differentiate between right and wrong. Things continued on a downward spiral until we read in Genesis 6:5 how that the wickedness of man had become so great that "every inclination of the thoughts of [manís] heart was only evil all the time. In time, God gave his Law anew through Moses at Mount Sinai (see Exodus 20:1-17). Here we have the Ten Commandments (the moral Law). These laws are binding upon all men, everywhere, and at all times. Besides the Ten Commandments, God also gave his people civil and ceremonial laws. These laws were meant for a certain people and for a particular time in history and are, therefore, no longer binding on us. The moral law can be summarized in two commandments. "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind," and "Love your neighbor as yourself" (Matt. 22:37-40). These commandments clearly express the will of God for us. For us to resist them or to disobey them is to place ourselves in opposition to the will of God.

The fulfillment of the Law.

"Love is the fulfillment of the law" (Rom. 13:10). If we should try to obey the commandments of God only according to the letter, it will lead to spiritual death. All the commandments have to do with much more than merely the outer act. Jesus taught that murder includes anger (Matt. 6:22) and that adultery includes lust (Matt. 6:28). God is concerned with the attitudes and motives of our heart. Only love can help us to understand good of the Law as it affects all of life. Only love will give us the desire to obey.

There are people who do not believe they have broken a particular commandment. But when the spiritual implications of the Law are understood, then there is no question, all are guilty, no one is without sin. No one, save Jesus, has kept the Law perfectly. Some claim that they have never broken certain commandments. Nevertheless when the full spiritual import of the divine Law is considered, no one is free from sin. He who offends in one part is guilty of all (James 2:10-11).

The purpose of the Law.

The purpose of the Law is to convince us of our sinfulness, and to show us our need of a Savior. Further, the Law also serves as a check upon sinful man and it will always remain the rule and guide of conduct for those who are the children of God. "If you love me, you will obey what I command" (John 14:15).

Our helplessness in all of this.

Because we are fallen creatures, we are unable in and of ourselves to attain to the perfection the law demands (see Matt. 5:48). We are unable to change our love of self to love for God. As Jesus said, "Everyone who sins is a slave to sin" (Jn. 8:34). Paul said it this way, "The sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God's law, nor can it do so." (Rom. 8:7). Further, we are unable to free ourselves from the penalty of sin. Only by the grace of God can we gain victory over sin and the punishment our sins deserve.

The sin that will not be forgiven.

Jesus said: "Whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; he is guilty of an eternal sin" (Mark 3:29). It is not Godís will that "anyone should perish, but that all should come to repentance" (2 Pet. 3:9). And our Lord has made the forgiveness of sins possible through his life, death, and resurrection. But there are those who cannot be forgiven because they are not willing to accept the means whereby forgiveness is offered. It is the Holy Spirit who makes Jesus real to people and he leads them to believe on Jesus. But if people refuse to permit the Holy Spirit to work in their lives, they have committed what is called the sin against the Holy Spirit. Such sin will harden a person in their sin and unbelief.

The question.

Since all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, a most important question is this: "What must I do to be saved?" The answer to this question is found in Holy Scripture and proclaimed by the Christian Church. "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved" (Acts 16:31). Jesus Christ is the only Savior. "Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved." Acts 4:12).

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What Ever Happened To... The Confession of Sins
by Rev. Ralph Spears

In revisiting a notable book, Whatever Happened To Sin, published just past the middle of the Twentieth Century, the title itself is a telling answer. The query was posed not by a zealous preacher, nor an ardent moralist, but by Dr. Karl Menninger, a noted behavioral scientist. He used the medium of his well documented book to complain that already by the 1960ís there was a lack of moral markers in society that had previously been known for centuries as Ė sin. Instead of setting off a firestorm of debate and a refocusing of societyís moral compass, Menningerís work is remembered now only for its clever title. The question remains largely unanswered still, whatever did happened to sin as a recognized and worthy concept with the exception of the realm of ecclesiastical lore. Sin is biblical of course, occurring several hundreds of times in Holy Writ; more than three times as often in the Old Testament in references to "sin offerings" for instance, from the days of Moses; as in the New Testament. The meaning is unchanged between the two, sin is a transgression, misdeed or a missing of the moral target as an old English connotation would have it - just as arrows missed the succeeding rings of a medieval bullís eye.

However, this begs another question that belongs almost exclusively to the realm of the Church, Whatever happened to...The Confession of Sins? As the Church reflects society, some would say, far too much, so the confession of sin(s) in the Church reflects a lack of the acknowledgment of sin Ė in society.

The negative understanding of the confession of sin - has an important Ė in fact an essential role in the historic liturgies of the Christian Church as it directs the proper order of our worship. That is to say, without such confession, the importance of worship suffers immeasurably.

These liturgies are hundreds even thousands of years old. Why liturgical? As we reference the Confession of Sins, we immediately think of Ö the liturgy, and the Order for Worship. Yes, there it is an early entrant near the top of the page, The Confession of Sins. Just before the INTROIT Ė in the course of the proper order. (The Propers) The Order of Service is not just for its value on paper alone, that edition serves as a valuable diagram of what happens in the precision of the worship experience. In the same way, the petitions of the Lordís Prayer follow a natural progression that defines what all prayer should be as a perfect flow of consciousness to God, Our Father!

Some argue and rightly so Ė that not very many decades ago, the time of Confession in some Lutheran congregations (including the one I serve) was not only before the Introit but before the Service altogether, even the night before. On Communion Sundays, the congregants would come on Saturday evening and make confession to the Pastor, before the Worship on Sunday morning. The Service would begin then with the Incoming of the Holy Spirit Ė the Introit - as we properly understand it today.

As we moved closer to the idea of One Stop Shopping in society, the idea of one stop Worship was also much more appealing in the Church for people who had other stops to make on a Saturday night (even before the days of Lawrence Welk.)

Of course itís more than the Ďscheduling of timeí factor even if it is liturgical; there is also what we might call - the embarrassment factor. This is a curiously difficult thing, this confession of sin or sins and it can strain the patience as an unresolved intrusion. If we think that this is a modern phenomenon of people being embarrassed by and about the admission of sin, look back to the time of Jesus and His Apostles and remember at least two people, one I think was blind Bartimaeus and the other a woman from Greece. As Jesus and his retinue passed by they both cried out for mercy - a real Confession if you will, and the reaction of the people about them was embarrassment. "Jesus, Son of God, have mercy on me!" With a voice that just hung in the air. Immediately those about these two in the separate passages, tried to quiet them. With the woman, the Apostles said to Jesus that He should do something because she was "crying after them!" How awkward and embarrassing it was! To make matters worse, Jesus ignored her, seeming not to hear.

Even today our Confession of Sin is private even though we say it corporately, or in a booth set aside for that purpose where this is still practiced in the Roman Church. Except for Jimmie Swaggert and his tearful confession on live TV before millions, we try to reduce the embarrassment factor and keep our confessions quiet and even sedate at least in most liturgical churches.

But in an increasing number even of the liturgical bodies, the Confession is abandoned in a way to make the liturgy user friendly and less embarrassing. They miss the point, of course. Itís what comes next that brings the justification for any embarrassment before man and certainly before God. Without it Ė this Confession of Sin Ė the Absolution cannot take place.

As Peter would say, "Humble yourselves therefore, under the mighty hand of God, so that he may exalt you!" The Chief Apostle at the end of his first Epistle graphically adds that "the devil prowls around like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour!" But in a much more subtle manner the devil catches those who no longer think Confession chic! No the Confession of Sins begins the process that ends in forgiveness and the uplifting of the soul.

Personally, like many others who have shouldered the task of leading the Worship and Preaching the Word, I have found it essential to use a personal Confession of sin, and of sins. How else can one undertake such a sacred task?

Other than Martin Lutherís Sacristy Prayer (for the preacher), I have found his personal diagram of the problem of sin most helpful; Brother Martin lays it to the devil (which he considered most subtle and personal) the world and our sinful nature. I submit that this is not old fashioned in the slightest, but "right on the mark!"

To confess oneís sin is to deal personally with all that has to do with sin. It is to deal with the origin of our sinful nature - as in forgive my involvement in original sin (which Our Lord has thankfully absolved); as well as with my sins or those deeds known and unknown which have grown from that original sin. There now, was that so difficult?

For otherwise, as Psalm 19 reflects, "Who can discern his errors (sins)? Keep (me) also from presumptuous sins, let them not have dominion over me. Then (and only then) shall I be blameless and innocent of the great transgression!" Make no mistake Ė the Great Transgression IS the failure to be humble, the presumption that we do not need to confess our sin and our sins, that we can bypass that great moment of truth before GOD. Jesus realized this, saying at His baptism, "Let it be so now, (also for me) for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness!" (Matt. 3:15) when John would have demurred, exempting Him from baptism. What a meaningful moment that was, as the bearer of the Kingdom was Himself anointed into the Kingdom!

The coming of the Kingdom of God then - in the person of Jesus Christ was heralded by the simple Kerygma formula, "Repent, be Baptized, for the Kingdom of God is at hand!" for everyone.

This means both a turning from sin and a return to the right path. Baptism provides the passage and "a hitting the mark" for living in that Kingdom that was coming but already present.

Without the Confession of Sin and sins, the threat of great transgression is very near the Church and the individual Christian. Who today could have expressed it better than David who knew a thing or two about personal sin - in Psalm 19!

Let the words of my mouth
and the meditation of my heart
be acceptable in Thy sight
O Lord, my strength
and my Redeemer.

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Contact Information

The LMS-USA is a Biblical, Confessional, Evangelical, Liturgical, Congregational expression of the universal (catholic) orthodox Church on earth. It is a 'Forum by Subscription.' As a 'Forum' the intent is that there will be an ongoing discussion of theological issues and concerns among clergy and lay alike. The LMS-USA meets annually for a Theological Conference and this publication, besides carrying news of the Ministerium and Synod, functions also as a vehicle for this continuing dialogue.

For information or to make comment contact:

President/Pastor, LMS-USA
2837 East New York St.,
Indianapolis, IN 46201

Table Talk
P. O. Box 31
Chetek, WI 54728

email - revralphs@sbcglobal.net or revjse2@chibardun.net

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