Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Office of the Keys


The Office of the Keys is that special authority which Christ has given to His church on earth to forgive the sins of repentant sinners, but to withhold forgiveness from the unrepentant as long as they do not repent. The Christian congregation by the command of Christ calls Pastors to carry out the Office of the Keys publicly in His Name on behalf of the congregation. The Pastoral Office is a Divine Institution. The Office of the Keys proceeds from Jesus’ ministry where today he continues to teach, feed, and heal his people.


First time visitors are sometimes taken back when seeing confession and absolution at a Lutheran Service. They might say, “How can that pastor up there forgive these people in the pews?” Yet, it is not merely the voice of the man who serves as Pastor but rather the word of God. Our Lutheran Confessions say, “It is not the voice of word of the man who sepaks it, but it is the Word of God, who forgives sin, for it spoken in God’s stead and by God’s command” (AC XXV.3).


In Mark 5:20-21 the Pharisees and scribes question Jesus saying, “Who can forgive sins but God alone?” The questioned the authority of Jesus. Yet, here he is! The long expected Messiah has come to forgive sins and cleanse from all unrighteousness. Jesus has given the authority to proclaim the forgiveness of sins in His name. He speaks this forgiveness through human vessels – through his Pastors. When we receive absolution it is surely the words of God in heaven.

We can be absolutely sure that the confession spoken to the pastor, who holds the office of keys, will not tell anyone of your sins. In the ordination vow of a pastor, he promises never to divulge that which is spoken to him in the care of confession and absolution. Consider Ps. 103:12, "As far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us."

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