The church of Luther’s day (what he often calls “Rome”) maintained a flawed view of this very common biblical word: Repentance. In the word repentance, Rome understood three essentials:
1) Penitence – sadness over sin, 2) Confession – an oral naming of sin(s), 3) Satisfaction – a making amends for sin (Apology to the Augsburg Confession, Art. XII).
Penitence, Confession, and Satisfaction all have a role to play in biblical Repentance. But in Rome’s portrayal, all three stages of repentance are “man-centered.”
The Reformation writings served to reshape this inward and deadly estimation of repentance. This took place by letting the Scriptures bend repentance back into its biblical shape – from man’s line to God back to God’s encircling of man in the Satisfaction of Jesus for sinners.
When the Gospel records call for repentance, they speak to contrition and the verbalizing of our sins. But the Satisfaction is already done, and more – it’s present! The Good News is already Good (Mark 1:15).
The Kingdom of Heaven is already at hand (Matthew 3:2, 4:17, 10:7). Reformation repentance is biblical repentance. It knows nothing of repentance unless it is powered by and revolves around Jesus’ person and work – The One in whom the Father is entirely satisfied (Matthew 3:17, 17:5).
Luther’s first of 95 theses stands, then, as a generous fountain of Gospel: “When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said “Repent,” He intended that the entire life of believers should be repentance.”
Repentance: Contrition over sin and confession of sin growing from and circling back to THE Satisfaction – JESUS.
Reverend Kyle Madson
Editor, The Lutheran Sentinel
Divine Mercy Lutheran Church, Hudson Oaks, TX