We seek for mercy because of God's promise. Such is the following confession, "Against You, You only, have I sinned … so that You may be justified in Your words and blameless in Your judgment" (Psalm 51:4). This means, "I confess that I am a sinner and have merited eternal wrath. Nor can I set my merits, against Your wrath. So I declare that You are just when You condemn and punish us. Yes, our merits cannot satisfy Your judgment. But we will be justified if You justify us, if through Your mercy You count us righteous." Perhaps someone may also cite James 5:16, "Confess your sins to one another." But here the reference is not to confession made to priests, but is the reconciliation of brothers to each other. Confession should be mutual.
Our adversaries will condemn many well-respected teachers if they will agree that in Confession a listing of offenses is necessary according to divine Law. We approve of Confession, and conclude that some examination is helpful, so that people may be instructed better. Yet, Confession must be done in such a way that consciences are not entrapped. They never will be quieted if they think that they cannot receive the forgiveness of sins unless a precise listing is made. A full confession is impossible. The conscience is trapped when a full confession is required! Who will know if the confession is complete? (paragraphs 10-14)
Condensed from CONCORDIA: THE LUTHERAN CONFESSIONS, copyright 2005,2006 by Concordia Publishing House. Used by permission. All rights reserved. To purchase a copy of CONCORDIA, call 800-325-3040.