Lutherans/question about Lutheranism


Hello. I was wondering do Lutherans believe that Like the Catholics, that forgiveness of sins comes only from the Holy Absolution through confession to a pastor? Or can a person be forgiven by praying in faith directly to God, privately?
Thank you and God bless.


Thanks for your question.  This can be an interesting topic, since most Christians who find out that Lutherans do retain private confession simply assume that it is the same as the Roman Catholics, and at the same time, many Lutherans do not even realize that private confession is still done among many Lutherans.

So, Lutherans do believe that forgiveness of sins is delivered through confession and absolution.  Lutherans do not, however, believe this in the same sense that Roman Catholics do.  

While Roman Catholics declare it to be mandatory to participate in Reconciliation (the new name for what used to be known either as confession or penance), Lutherans offer private confession and absolution, but do not demand it.  Additionally, while Roman Catholic priests specify penance to be done in association with the sins confess, Lutheran pastors declare God's grace freely in absolution without assigning penance (Hail Marys, Our Fathers, Rosaries, etc.).  

This also was a topic of debate between Lutherans and Roman Catholics at the time of the Reformation.  At that time, the Roman Catholic theologians insisted that only the sins that are confessed are forgiven by God. Sins that were not confessed, whether because of embarrassment or because they were forgotten, or any other reason, are not forgiven, and must be paid off later in purgatory.  Lutherans, on the other hand declared that all sins are forgiven to the Christian, whether they are confessed orally or not.  

This is because God's forgiveness is a gift, and the Christian does not "build up" sins throughout the week, then shed them in confession, repeating this cycle week after week and living in fear that they will die with sins on their account if they were to have a car accident or sudden heart attack prior to completing confession.  This touches on the final aspect of your question:  The Christian, as Christian is always forgiven as long as they are preserved in their trust in Christ.  The hypocrite (false believer) or unbeliever is never forgiven, no matter how strenuously or frequently they confess, because they live in denial of Christ.  The forgiveness is God's gift, and nothing, not even our prayer, is given in exchange for it.  

However, this does not mean that Christians are not in need of frequently receiving God's forgiveness as long as they remain in this life.  God has graciously promised to deliver His forgiveness through diverse means--Baptism, the Lord's Supper, Confession and Absolution, and the Preaching of God's Word--so that we would know with certainty where it may be found and have assurance that it has, in fact, been delivered to us to sustain us in the One True Faith to everlasting life.  

I have also written about this at:


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Rev. Jason P. Peterson


I welcome the opportunity to answer questions regarding the beliefs and practices Lutheran Christians, especially questions comparing Lutherans with other Christian denominations or questions which contrast between various kinds of Lutherans. I am especially familiar with the more conservative Lutheran denominations (LCMS, ELS, WELS, etc.). I also take a great interest in examining new Christian movements and popular trends in Christianity from a Lutheran perspective. In addition, I can answer most questions about the original Greek text of the New Testament and its meaning, as well as questions regarding liturgy, evangelism, and preaching. A special area of interest in my ministry is race track chaplaincy/ministry, and I would love to provide information and guidance for anyone interested in this area.


I have been a pastor in the Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod for the past six years at St. John's Lutheran Church in Burt, IA. I currently serve as chairman of the Commission on Ministerial Growth & Support of the Missouri Synod's Iowa District West and as Track Chaplain at Algona Raceway in Algona, IA. I also write as a religion columnist for two local newspapers.

Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod

Algona Upper Des Moines (newspaper) Bancroft Register (newspaper)

B.A. Concordia University - Ann Arbor, MI (Biblical Languages) M.Div. Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, IN (Exegetical Theology, Pastoral Ministry & Missions)

Past/Present Clients
Zion Lutheran Church (Columbia City, IN) Zion Lutheran Church (Altamont, IL) St. John's Lutheran Church (Burt, IA) Zion Lutheran Church (Lu Verne, IA) Algona Raceway (IA) Fairmont Raceway (MN) Hancock County Speedway (Britt, IA) Clay County Fairgrounds Raceway (Spencer, IA)

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