“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.” (Small Catechism, “Confession,” 26)
It is only by Christ’s forgiveness of sin won on the cross that we enter into Heaven. Our pastor, as a servant of the Word, announces this forgiveness as we prepare to enter Heaven on earth—God’s holy presence in the Divine Service. To confess our sins is to say back to God what He has said to us. It is to say, “amen” (truly or it is so) to God’s just verdict that we have sinned against Him and so deserve only eternal death. The truth of our sinfulness is answered by the Gospel truth of Christ’s forgiveness (1 John 1:8-10; Hebrews 10:22-25; Psalms 32:5, 124:8; John 20:19-23; Romans 7:14-8:4).