God’s forgiveness, our forgiveness, and living in faith.
Psalm 37:1-11, 39-40
Commit your way to the Lord;
trust in him, and he will act.
— Psalm 37:5
Verse 5 is quoted in The Augsburg Confession, Article 25: Confession (AC 25.11) within a quote from Chrysostom's Concerning Confession that uses the translation from the Vulgate. The point in turning to this Church father is that he says that when confessing we should confess what is on our conscience. This may not seem like much of a claim, but the reformers turn to Chrysostom to support the point that no person can fully enumerate all of their sins when confessing, so expecting and teaching this way should be stopped. Not that confession should be stopped, but that forcing people to try and list all of their sins is silly and should be stopped.
Do not judge, and you will not be judged; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven…
— Luke 6:37
Verse 37 is cited in Apology of the Augsburg Confession, Article 4: Justification (AP 4.254ish) in a section where Melanchthon is responding to arguments from Rome. The last part of verse 37, “Forgive, and you will be forgiven,” is one of the passages held up against the reformers to show that works are necessary for justification. Melanchthon consistently points out that admonitions to good works in scripture are only acceptable and possible because of faith. Without faith, anything done that follows God’s law is not acceptable to God—a theme that runs throughout the New Testament.
Luther quotes the same last part of verse 37 in The Large Catechism, Part 3: The Lord’s Prayer, The Fifth Petition (LC 3.96). Luther sees this verse as a verse of hope. God promises to forgive us. When we forgive others that forgiveness is a sign of God’s forgiveness bearing fruit in our lives. Forgiving other is good news!
The reframing of forgiveness as a spiritual practice helps our relationship with God and other people reflect the grace God shows us. We can’t list off all our sin, but it is worth remembering that there are ways we sin that we don’t know. So when asking God for forgiveness, God calls us to trust that we are forgiven. We live in God’s forgiveness as we forgive others.