Luther and the penitential system
The abuse of the penitential system of the medieval church was a substantial factor in bringing about the Reformation.
Luther addressed the issue in his Babylonian Captivity announcing at the beginning that there were, not seven sacraments of the Church, only three: baptism, penance and the Lord’s Supper. By the end of his book, he had reduced the three sacraments reduced to two. Luther could find no dominical authorization for the practice and he recognized that the early Church knew only two sacraments. In one of his works, Luther asserts God’s absolution is absolute and no human being can or is required to make restitution to God for their sins.
Yet the Augsburg Confession and the Apology of the Augsburg Confession as well as the local ecclesiastical ordinances affirmed the existence of three sacraments that included penance. The sacrament of penance also receives favorable mention in the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification adopted by Lutheran World Federation and the Catholic Church. The Lutheran understanding of penance is therefore too complex and a major portion of its complexity stems from Luther himself.
“The Gospel of Repentance is the traditional view of Christianity.” The apostolic fathers believed that salvation was based on repentance and not solely on the ground of the death of Jesus on the cross. Robert Kraft has stated: “There is no indication in the Didache that an initial repentance connected with the idea of personal sinfulness for which Jesus' death atones was considered basic to the Christian life.” The belief of the apostolic fathers was probably influenced by the writings of Saint Luke.
Perhaps, you now understand why it is necessary to set forth a history of penance from the animal sacrificial system in early Israel to the Second Temple period, NT writers, the early church as represented by the Shepherd of Hermas and Tertullian to the time of the Reformation. This is an ongoing project.