“Concord” is a weekly study of the Lutheran Confessions, where we will take up a topic from the Book of Concord and reflect on what we believe, teach, and confess in the Lutheran Church. The purpose of this series is to deepen readers’ knowledge and appreciation for the confessions of the Lutheran Church, and to unite them “with one heart” to confess the teachings of Holy Scripture.
You can’t get too far in a theological discussion before you run into sin. It’s kind of a big deal in the Bible. And it also happens to be the topic of the second article of the Augsburg Confession. Everyone who’s ever gotten into trouble as a kid, or has gotten pulled over by police officer for breaking the speed limit has a pretty good idea of what sin is. It’s when you disobey. It’s when you break the rules.
Although we have a general, intuitive sense of what sin is, we also tend to have a pretty high view of ourselves. Our default assumption is that sins are the occasional misdeeds done by otherwise good people. We want to think that if we can peel enough layers away, we can find a spark of good inside.
If our only problem were occasional sins, we would be able to cancel out our sins with our good works. For every bad thing we did, we could do something good to balance out the divine scales of justice. Sin, however, is much more than a few misdeeds here and there. It’s a problem that goes much deeper than outward behaviors.
“Also they teach 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” (Augsburg Confession II.1-2).
Concupiscence is the $200 word. It’s the desire to sin, the inclination to sin. It’s what Jesus means when He says that whoever is angry with another person has committed murder and whoever lusts after a woman has committed adultery (see Matthew 5:21-30). It means that you’re a sinner before you even commit a sin.
Sin is the condition in which we are conceived and born. It’s inescapable. But God has given us a cure in Baptism. Baptism is a washing of regeneration and renewal by the Holy Spirit (Titus 3:5). All sins, whether original or actual, are drowned in the waters of the font, because that’s the place where Jesus has put His promise of forgiveness.
You can read the Book of Concord at https://www.bookofconcord.org
Rev. Jacob Ehrhard serves as pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church in New Haven, MO.