Beckett: Pastoral Thoughts – Final Confession & Restitution in Christ (Numbers 5:5-10)

And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the people of Israel: When a man or woman commits any of the sins that people commit by breaking faith with the LORD, and that person realises his guilt, he shall confess his sin that he has committed. And he shall make full restitution for his wrong, adding a fifth to it and giving it to him to whom he did the wrong. But if the man has no next of kin to whom restitution may be made for the wrong, the restitution for wrong shall go to the LORD for the priest, in addition to the ram of atonement with which atonement is made for him. And every contribution, all the holy donations of the people of Israel, which they bring to the priest, shall be his. Each one shall keep his holy donations: whatever anyone gives to the priest shall be his.”

Numbers 5:5-10

For atonement to be made for any sin committed, the Israelites not only had to confess their sins to their priests, but they also had to make restitution by giving back to whom they owed in addition to the ram that would be sacrificed to make atonement for them. This is the exchange that took place.

Christ is our final restitution. We owe Christ our lives for every sin we’ve committed and will ever commit. But instead of taking our lives, He let His own life be taken for the wages of our sins (Romans 6:23). The exchange that took place is that on the cross, Jesus took our sins, and He gives us His everlasting atonement by His blood, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29). We do not give Him our good works or “decision,” for what good are these things from spiritually dead people (Ephesians 2:1)? Rather, He received your sins on the cross to atone for them on your behalf and He receives them in His ascension to make intercession for you for the forgiveness of your sins.

Therefore, that we distribute His body and blood at the altar every Divine Service rather than every other service is of paramount importance. For why go one week without His atoning body and blood? Are you so great and self-controlled that you are ever without need of it? Consider Luther’s words:

Thus you see that we are not granted liberty to despise the sacrament. For I call it despising when people, with nothing to hinder them, let a long time elapse without ever desiring the sacrament. If you want such liberty, you may just as well take the further liberty not to be a Christian… if a person stays away from the sacrament, day by day he or she will become more and more callous and cold and will eventually spurn it altogether. To avoid this, we must examine our heart and conscience and act like a person who really desires to be right with God… If you choose to fix your eye on how good and pure you are, to wait until nothing torments you, you will never go.

LC Part 5, 49, 53-54, 57

The Lord’s Supper is not cake for special occasions; it is bread for daily living.

Furthermore, let us also re-establish the regular practice of private Confession & Absolution. Even Luther strongly encouraged this in his theological last will and testament, “Because private absolution is derived from the office of the keys, we should not neglect it but value it highly, just as all the other offices of the Christian church” (SA Part III, VIII, 2). As our Confessions say elsewhere, “private absolution should be retained and not abolished” (AC XI, 1). But we do not require that penitents “enumerate all misdeeds and sins, since it is not possible to do so” (AC XI, 1-2). For as we need Christ’s atonement every day, we need not only wait until Sunday for it. The people can go to their priest—their pastor—at any time they are available to confess their sins and receive Christ’s atonement whenever their consciences are burdened by their sin.

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