Friday, November 20, 2009

Toward Forgiveness of Sins

In the Large Catechism, Luther writes:
In this Christian church we have the forgiveness of sin, which is granted through the holy sacraments and absolution as well as through all the comforting words of the entire Gospel. Toward forgiveness is directed everything that is to be preached concerning the sacraments and, in short, the entire Gospel and all the duties of Christianity.

The Smalcald Articles start with a summation of the Apostles' and Athanasian Creeds. Then the first issue Luther discusses is Christ's work of redemption:
The first and chief article is this, that Jesus Christ, our God and Lord, "was put to death for our trespasses and raised again for our justification." He alone is "the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world." "God has laid upon Him the iniquities of us all." Moreover,"all have sinned," and "they are justified by His grace as a gift, through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus, by His blood."
Nothing in this article can be given up or compromised, even if heaven and earth and things temporal should be destroyed.

There are some who think that justification is only one of many metaphors for discussing salvation (as was seen in Just's paper at the 2006 symposium, and which I cannot find online anymore). There are some dear friends who say things like "redemption is a step toward renewing fellowship with God."

What happens if we focus on the atonement? What happens if pastors are just totally hung up on preaching the Law to kill and preaching the forgiveness of sins to restore life? Will good works dry up? Will we fail to find full communion with God? If our hearts are captured by the absolution, is there anything we will lack in our spirituality and piety?

I don't think so. "For where there is forgiveness of sins, there is also life and salvation." Forgiveness of sins cannot help but result in new life and salvation and communion with God and loving service to the neighbor.

What happens if we focus on some of those other [very good] things? Look at what has happened throughout history. If our heart desires the new life, we can get sidetracked, and try to find that new life apart from the forgiveness of sins. If we want deeper and richer communion with God (theosis) we can try to find other ways to get it besides the forgiveness of sins. People who want to increase in good works (which is a noble and holy desire) will go wrong when they try to make it their goal, rather than having the good works flow naturally from having their eyes on the crucifix and its meaning.

This morning during chapel, Pastor spoke about the third article of the Creed. "I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Holy Christian church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting." The forgiveness of sins is what creates the Church. The forgiveness of sins is what makes us holy. The forgiveness of sins is given in Holy Communion. The forgiveness of sins is what brings about the fellowship amongst the faithful. The forgiveness of sins causes the resurrection of the body unto life everlasting.

Toward forgiveness of sins
is directed everything that is to be preached.

And if that is what is preached, we lose none of the other blessed treasures of the kingdom of the heavens.


  1. Mrs. Gehlbach, that was beautifully said. Thank you.

  2. I second that. Thank you.