Thursday, August 23, 2007

Absolution is an Absolute Truth

John 20: 19 On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, "Peace be with you." 20 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. 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." ESV

One of the most blessed events in being a Lutheran is to hear the pastor say at the beginning of worship. “I as a called and ordained servant of the word in the stead and by the command of my Lord Christ forgive you all your sins in the name of the Father † Son and Holy Spirit.” This is after a prayer as a gathered people of how we by who we are break God’s Law and justly deserve His present and eternal punishment. This is in addition to actual sins and sins of inactivity. By this proclamation we have the presence of Jesus through the throat of the pastor into our ears.

In the previous tradition in which I was raised people would meet with the minister for “counseling.” This was mostly modified pop psychology, assurance of forgiveness and then being thrown back on oneself with encouragement to do better. In later experiences in worship we heard the Law of God, assurance of pardon and thrown back into the law to do better next time out of gratitude. For perhaps and hour or even a day one could feel empowered to do better. If one ignored his or her bible, at least the parts that show us the perfect Christ perhaps that feeling would even linger. But if one was honest he or she would see very quickly more falling short. Some do not see this falling short in themselves but rather advancement which in itself is a terrifying thing to consider.

Jesus is our Crucified and Risen Savior not merely an example, cheerleader, life coach or massage therapist. We need Jesus’ perfect life given to us in our baptism each and every day. Baptism is how we know we are in Jesus. Galatians 3:26-28. Through Baptism we know we have His robe of righteousness in the sight of God even if we cannot see it. How else would we know?

God's peace. †


Nancy said...

Hi David,

Great blog!

You said that it's through baptism that we know that we have the robe of His righteousness. I think we would agree that there are those who are baptized who do and those who are baptized who do not. My question then is this: How does this help?

Your baptist friend,

David said...


Yes it is tragic those who are baptized perhaps will leave the faith by rejecting the gift. Many reject baptism as a sacrament for that reason. To be consistent using that reasoning one need reject the preached word as a means of grace too. Not everyone who hears believes and receives.

After denying all the workings of God outside oneself all that is left is to look inwardly for knowledge of being a child of God. That is what the decision Theology crowd, many of them, teach to their people. That can lead to people who judge others that disagree with his or her ideas as lost. Or cast one into despair when all they see is the sin that so easily entangles.

God's peace. †

David your backslidden baptist friend. ;)

Anonymous said...

My Dear Backslidden Baptist Friend;-),

I can certainly understand your comments about looking inward and where that leads, but I still don't think I get how looking at our baptism helps us out of that dilemma.

You mentioned that the preached word is a means of grace but that not everyone who hears believes and receives. For that reason, we would not say that there is any such promise that a person who has been blessed enough to hear the Word will necessarily respond in faith. Is that what you're equating, or am I confused?
(be nice! :-))

I guess it just seems to me that this problem follows us wherever we look, and perhaps it's one of those struggles of the Christian life that isn't pleasant but nonetheless part of it.


David said...


In baptism we see clear promises of God.

Peter replied, "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off--for all whom the Lord our God will call." Acts 2:38-39

Those who look to their baptism in faith are the saved ones. Faith receives the promises. This in spite of external stress and internal fears. So many teachers say we must inspect our fruit and the fruit of others. This is taking the eyes off the promises of God and placing them on the sinner and the ability of a sinner to see clearly.

The same with those who come to faith hearing the preached word. The promise:

"Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of Christ" Romans 10:17 ESV.

There again is a promise one can look at to know he or she is being saved. When in worship or in Christian conversation the forgiveness of sin in Jesus is proclaimed that can be trusted and one can say amen.

Another promise which is tangible and comes from the outside is in the Holy Supper.

26 Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat;this is my body. 27And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, Drink of it, all of you, 28for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.
Matthew 26:25-30

There again from the outside the tangible promise for the forgiveness of sin. The fruit of Jesus' cross comes to us in with and under the bread and wine.

God's peace. †

Your permanently backslidden baptist friend. :D

Anonymous said...


Thanks for your answer and for the scriptures. I know we both love God's Word as do many in various beliefs within Christianity, but it does seem this comes down to the hermeneutic one uses.

Anyway, I'm glad these are in-house differences and not divisive.


David said...


Indeed it stems from hermeneutic principles. The one I attempt to use is based upon the clearness of scripture. Based upon that the meaning of the close context like that we spoke of in 1 Peter 1:14-15 about holy living and the command to be holy as God is holy. This is in response to the earlier teaching that we have inherited heaven by the resurrection from the dead.

Therefore our response is attempting a holy life. Truly desiring to live holy lives pleasing to God. However, God declared long that we fall short of His glory so St Peter throws us not onto ourselves to sort it all out. No he reminds us we are redeemed by the blood of Jesus. And also that we were born again by the word of God.

In scriptural context as a whole dark passages can be understood by the teaching of the clear ones. scripture interpreting scripture keeps on from falling into ditches. The bible presents to us paradoxes which we must hold in tension but does not have contradictions.

God's peace. †