Posts Tagged ‘Office of the Keys’


21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” 22 And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.”

(Jesus) sent (the apostles) forth to preach the Gospel. For that is the summary and content of the Gospel, peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. And having named them thus as His messengers, as His ambassadors, the Lord formally inducts them into this office. He breathed on them, thus symbolizing the transmission of, and actually conveying to them, the Spirit who lived in Him, and whom He had the authority to bestow. The power of the Spirit was to be with them in the Word: If you remit the sins of any, they are remitted to them; if you retain those of any, they are retained. Thus they received the power to pronounce forgiveness of sins; thus was the Office of the Keys instituted. The forgiveness of sins which Jesus earned by His suffering and death should be imparted and given to men through the announcement of the Gospel, publicly and privately, to single persons and to large congregations. This is the absolution of sins. That is Christ’s will and commission: His disciples should pronounce forgiveness, should take away sins, and then everyone should know and believe that by such absolution his sins are actually forgiven and taken away. The Gospel is not only a report of the salvation earned by Jesus, but it is the application of this message, the imparting of the forgiveness of sins. Only he that will not accept this forgiveness, this mercy, this salvation, thereby excludes himself from the grace of God. If such a one is told this fact, his sins are thereby retained. This power and authority was not the sole prerogative of the apostles, nor is it now in the hands of any hierarchy, but it accompanies the Gospel, it is contained in the commission of Christ to all His disciples to preach the Gospel to all nations. To the believers in general, to the Christian congregation that proclaims the message of the Gospel, the keys are given. The pastors that exercise this authority do so in the name of the congregation.

Comment on the Commentary:  The emphasis above is my own.  In the 1960s one of the clichés used against the Vietnam War was the protesters encouraging to “wage peace”.  This works only in Christ Jesus. Three times in the Gospel Reading for the Second Sunday of Easter our Lord says, “Peace be with you”.  He sends them out, not only with “a report of the salvation earned by Jesus” but with the very means of grace, in repentance and forgiveness giving the fruit of His Cross in the preaching and teaching of the Word. This runs contrary with much Christian religion that does not use the Office of the Keys, of forgiveness to those hungering and thirsting for righteousness. His forgiveness is our peace.  Further, the Lord sends the Church out not to wield the sword of government to kill people, but the Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God, for our salvation in His forgiveness (cf. Ephesians 4: 17;  Hebrews 4: 12).

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      The disciples had locked themselves in for fear of arrest and imprisonment. Only 3 days before Jesus had been arrested, tried and executed.  They were know to be His disciples.  The “what ifs” of their predicament crashed in upon them.  The “what ifs” of life cause fear:  what if I get sick, what if the economy tanks even more, what if my candidate does not get elected, what if my children don’t do well.   We are tempted to turn to other saviors.  The disciples had all forsook Jesus and fled in the night in which He was betrayed.  They were hiding in fear for just days before they were associated with Jesus. The disciples had the key to their room…but Someone else did:  Jesus Christ.  In  fact He did not really have the key to that room, or their hearts:

  • He is the Key.
  • He is the Key of our hearts.  
  • He is the Key of forgiveness freeing us from our own prisons. Jesus Christ is the Key of peace between God and man, Christ is our peace who had broken down the wall of hostility in His blood shed upon the Cross. He stood in their midst, in that locked room and both times blessed, Peace be with you.  He did not come as the jailer, to get those disciples who had all turned tail and even denied Him, to bring them our for a summary execution.  He came to free them.  He is the Good Shepherd seeking lost.
  • Therefore, Jesus Christ is the Key of grace, to those who know their sin He shows Himself their Savior.  His sign is His wounds.  Our counter sign are our wounds.  He fulfilled the ancient prophesy of Isaiah, By His wounds we are healed. This prophesy is fulfilled every time we are forgiven. This prophesy is fulfilled when by His grace we love as He first loved us.  Grace, mercy and peace be to you from God our Father, and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

This lesson is one of the foundation Scripture passages of the LutheranChurchfor the Office of the Keys:  to hear confession and grant absolution.  The Lord Jesus called them Keys, the Keys of the Kingdom, His reign, His rule: He said to Peter, after Peter’s confession of faith:  I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”  Then in chapter 18, in His  sermon on forgiveness Jesus gives the Keys to all the apostles, the whole church.   Where are two or three are gathered together in His Name. Then through the Church the Lord calls men to the office of ministry to publicly hear confession and absolve those in who know their sin and are in the truth.  Yet one to one the Church is the mission of His forgiveness, His wounds, ruled not by His love of force, but by the force of His love and forgiveness.  Jesus gives them the Holy Spirit to forgive and retain sin.  Retain sin for those who are not repentant, who have spurned His grace and in the hope always of joyful repentance soon.  The Holy Spirit is given for the apostles to preach Jesus Christ, preach His wounds so that many may repent and turn toward the Lord in His wounds of grace, mercy and peace;  and  then by those who are called as pastors, following the apostolic doctrine and practice.  The Holy Spirit works alone through the Word of God, Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father.

A couple of weeks ago a known Biblical scholar, Marcus Borg gave a lecture at Lexington Presbyterian.  He is part of the Jesus Seminar.  This seminar goes through the New Testament literally color-coding the Gospels as to which sayings He really said, might have said, could have said or were just plain invented by the Church.  Their Bible is not even a red-lettered edition but a rainbow one I guess.  I have a copy of the lecture notes Borg gave to his attendees. In his presentation, he asserted that we have misunderstood all along the real mission of the Church,.  Usually when someone is up to some mischief in the Church, it usually begins that way and of course the speaker has the right answer.  Salvation, Mr. Borg asserted, in the Bible, is not about being saving from our sins, quoting his lecture notes:

  • Saved means to be saved from our sins.  But in the Bible, it is seldom about being saved from sin.”
  • Redeem/redeemer/redemption” Jesus redeems us from our sins, and is the redeemer who brings about our redemption, But, in the Bible, these words have nothing to do with sin and forgiveness but refer to liberation from slavery/bondage.”

He sets up a false antithesis.  Slavery and bondage in the Bible is about slavery to sin and in bondage to sin and we cannot free ourselves.  Again:  Mr. Borg asserted that the Bible is not about salvation from sin, that is forgiveness but “justice”. He even said we should read, for instance the beatitude, Blessed are  those who hunger and thirst for righteousness for they shall be satisfied, as, “ Blessed are those  who hunger and thirst for justice?!  As I watch TV and some family members are interviewed whose son or daughter was recently murdered and what do they want: JUSTICE.  That is full weight of civil and moral law to punish the wicked.  This is not the Gospel of forgiveness in Jesus Christ and well it should not be in terms of God’s Law but even so by God’s wounds, one can repent and be forgiven.  So for Mr. Borg, the Church and her Lord are not about forgiveness…most of the Bible, he lectured,  is not about forgiveness of sinners and forgiven sinners living righteous lives by His grace alone as salt of the earth.  And here we are with only today’s Gospel, “…if you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven…”

A week ago this past Thursday, on Maundy Thursday, Cullen was free in his schedule to come to the Divine Service and he asked me before hand if I could take him to a fast food place after the service. No problem.  After the service, I went over the options and, he said, Kentucky Fried Chicken sounds real good.  So we went and there was someone ahead of us and we waited.  It was not a busy night.  Finally, the folks ahead of us  got their order and we waited some more.  Finally, Cullen was waited on and I looked at the condiments, but rather quickly, Cullen came back to me, smiling widely, said, “They ran out of chicken”.  KFC ran out of chicken.  Mr. Borg’s church is KFC without the chicken, no agape, no grace, mercy and peace.  If the main dish is forgiveness then the sides are love, joy, peace…and there is no law against such.  We deserved justice, punishment, so did the apostles, but Jesus forgave them and opened their hearts and their room by the wounds of His forgiveness.  Avoid a church without chicken! They will feed you lies like  the Bible is not about forgiveness! This means Jesus did not die and rise for sinners nor did He send them out to preach repentance and forgiveness to all nations.  And by His forgiveness, we will not run out of His grace!  But a church without chicken, has terribly run out of Jesus Christ and when they do they run away like chickens from His truth.

It was not only that Thomas saw Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, that caused his confession. It was seeing His wounds, His scars…the scars of our forgiveness.  Blessed are those who have not seen, but the believing ones in the message, the sermon of His forgiveness to all who repent and confess, My Lord and My God. No other god has wounds.  No other god has the wounds of forgiveness, but Him alone.

 One hundred years ago this day, at2:20amin the cold waters of theNorth Atlantic, HMS Titanic, the unsinkable Titanic, without enough life boats for the full ship’s manifest of passengers, sunk.  From a recent article in National Review about this night to remember:

 The Titanic, name and thing, will stand for a monument and warning to human presumption.” That was the judgment of Edward Stuart Talbot, the Anglican bishop of Winchester, in the sermon he preached the Sunday after the fabled Atlantic passenger liner Titanic took nearly 1,500 lives with her as she sank after striking an iceberg in mid-ocean on April 14, 1912. “When has such a mighty lesson against our confidence and trust in power, machinery, and money been shot through the nation?”

It is idolatry.  Jesus Christ addressed our idolatry with His blood, His wounds.  The builders of that ship doomed it with their own idolatry:  we humans can make something eternally unsinkable.  Indeed, as it is written: Pride goes before destruction,and a haughty spirit before a fall. Proverbs 16: 18  The modern and post-modern times are shot through with the pride that we have no sin…and we deceive ourselves. And saying that those aboard the churchly denominational Titanics, it is then said, we do not need forgiveness, nor our Savior.  Profoundly sad.

In that night to remember, there were many heroes, but the hero of heroes that night was Captain Rostron of the Carpathia, by his quick thinking and actions, it was the only ship to arrive after the Titanic sunk, and they saved 712 passengers: all who were saved that night to remember.  Captain Rostron saw that “all around us were dozens and dozens of icebergs, some comparatively close, others far away on the horizon, towering up like cathedral spires.” His lips moved with silent prayer.  It made him shudder, and he could “only think that some other Hand than mine was on that helm during the night.'”  A smart and experienced captain relied on the Lord in prayer.  We do too day by day, week after week, receiving His Word, the forgiveness in His wounds, the joy of confessing My Lord and my God for ourselves and for others in the dark cold waters of this fallen world.

The night to remember…and another night always to to be remembered, The night in which He was betrayed, and He took bread:  He is the Bread of life. 


Crown him the Lord of love.
Behold his hands and side,
Rich wounds, yet visible above, 
In beauty glorified.
No angels in the sky
Can fully bear that sight,
But downward bend their burning eyes
At mysteries so bright.

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