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95 Theses: Thesis 89

by PastorWilliams on September 10th, 2017

“Since the pope, by his pardons, seeks the salvation of souls rather than money, why does he suspend the indulgences and pardons granted heretofore, since these have equal efficacy?”

Apparently Luther had heard someone say that Pope Leo X was not using the indulgences for fundraising to build the Vatican. Luther then takes that rumor to task. If the Pope simply wanted to forgive sins, why would he not just forgive them all? Why wouldn’t he give the power to forgive sins to the parish priests?

These are the questions that both Roman Catholics and Evangelicals struggle with. Who has the power to forgive sins? The Roman Catholics will say, “Who can forgive sins but the Pope alone?” Evangelicals will echo the Pharisees, “Who can forgive sins but God alone?” (Mark 2:7; Luke 5:21). But what does God say?

“Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld” (John 20:22-23). Who does Jesus say this to? The Apostles. The representatives of the whole Church. St. James would later clarify this, “Confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed” (5:16).

Every Christian has the ability to forgive sins. The parish pastor’s primary job is to offer the forgiveness of sins. Not just the blanket statement at the beginning of the Divine Service, but privately when souls are in torment because of their sins. Private Confession and Absolution has been lost in many portions of the Lutheran Church today. It needs to be brought back so that the tormented souls may be comforted personally with God’s healing Word.

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