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Tom Offline OP
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In the Lutheran Church they practice absolution of sins.
The minister usually asks the congregation to repeat a confession after him.
When they are done, he says something to the effect of; “By the power given to me as a minister of the Gospel, I declare that your sins are forgiven.”
One of the go to verses that they go to for this, is John 20:23.

In my 42 years as a believer, I have never seen this done anywhere but in a Lutheran Church and I have visited a lot of Churches over the years.
This includes confessional Churches in the Presbyterian tradition and confessional Churches in the Baptist tradition.

Reading confessions is a great practice; but is it right for the the minister to declare everyone’s sins forgiven because they repeated a confession?
According to Lutherans they rightly say that only through faith in Christ can one have their sins forgiven.
Yet they say that when someone says the confession, they have placed their faith in Jesus and that is the basis for the minister being able to absolve them of their sins.

Am I wrong to believe this is unbiblical?
Am I missing something?

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Tom Offline OP
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I did some more study and a Lutheran said the following.

It isn’t unique to Luther.

Calvin:

While Christ enjoins the Apostles to forgive sins, he does not convey to them what is peculiar to himself. It belongs to him to forgive sins. This honor, so far as it belongs peculiarly to himself, he does not surrender to the Apostles, but enjoins them, in his name, to proclaim the forgiveness of sins, that through their agency he may reconcile men to God. In short, properly speaking, it is he alone who forgives sins through his apostles and ministers. (208)

But it may be asked, Since he appoints them to be only the witnesses or heralds of this blessing, and not the authors of it, why does he extol their power in such lofty terms? I reply, he did so in order to confirm their faith. Nothing is of more importance to us, than to be able to believe firmly, that our sins do not come into remembrance before God. Zacharias, in his song, calls it the knowledge of salvation, (Luke 1:77;) and, since God employs the testimony of men to prove it, consciences will never yield to it, unless they perceive God himself speaking in their person. Paul accordingly says,

We exhort you to be reconciled to God, as if Christ besought you by us, (2 Corinthians 5:20.)

We now see the reason why Christ employs such magnificent terms, to commend and adorn that ministry which he bestows and enjoins on the Apostles. It is, that believers may be fully convinced, that what they hear concerning the forgiveness of sins is ratified, and may not less highly value the reconciliation which is offered by the voice of men, than if God himself stretched out his hand from heaven. And the Church daily receives the most abundant benefit from this doctrine, when it perceives that her pastors are divinely ordained to be sureties for eternal salvation, and that it must not go to a distance to seek the forgiveness of sins, which is committed to their trust.

Nor ought we to esteem less highly this invaluable treasure, because it is exhibited in earthen vessels; but we have ground of thanksgiving to God, who hath conferred on men so high an honor, as to make them the ambassadors and deputies of God, and of his Son, in declaring the forgiveness of sins. There are fanatics who despise this embassy; but let us know, that, by doing so, they trample under foot the blood of Christ.

Most absurdly do the Papists, on the other hand, torture this passage, to support their magical absolutions. If any person do not confess his sins in the ear of the priest, he has no right, in their opinion, to expect forgiveness; for Christ intended that sins should be forgiven through the Apostles, and they cannot absolve without having examined the matter; therefore, confession is necessary. Such is their beautiful argument. (209) But they fall into a strange blunder, when they pass by the most important point of the matter; namely, that this right was granted to the Apostles, in order to maintain the credit of the Gospel, which they had been commissioned to preach. For Christ does not here appoint confessors, to inquire minutely into each sin by means of low mutterings, but preachers of his Gospel, who shall cause their voice to be heard, and who shall seal on the hearts of believers the grace of the atonement obtained through Christ. We ought, therefore, to keep by the manner of forgiving sins, so as to know what is that power which has been granted to the apostles.

And to those whose sins you retain. Christ adds this second clause, in order to terrify the despisers of his Gospel, that they may know that they will not escape punishment for this pride. As the embassy of salvation and of eternal life has been committed to the apostles, so, on the other hand, they have been armed with vengeance against all the ungodly, who reject the salvation offered to them, as Paul teaches, (2 Corinthians 10:6.) But this is placed last in order, because it was proper that the true and real design of preaching the Gospel should be first exhibited. That we are reconciled to God belongs to the nature of the Gospel; that believers are ad-judged to eternal life may be said to be accidentally connected with it. (210) For this reason, Paul, in the passage which I lately quoted, when he threatens vengeance against unbelievers, immediately adds,

after that your obedience shall have been fulfilled, (2 Corinthians 10:6;)

https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/cal/john-20.html

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Great thoughts.

In our church, which holds to the 1689 LBC, we often proclaim both the forgiveness of the sins of believers, and also the condemnation awaiting those who die in their sins, but are very careful also to both proclaim the Gospel very regularly, and also to point out how it differs from the many "gospels" of the world.

I'd love to see it done more in the larger evangelical church, but we have the problem there of lots of "easy believism" and decisional regeneration and antinomianism and more, and I think it very important to teach sound theology so that people understand the scope of the promises of God on one hand, and His warnings on the other.


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Tom Offline OP
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I also hold to the 1689 LBCF; but in visiting Presbyterian Churches on holidays over the years. I appreciated the how they read confessions etc..., but I did not squirm, or get the feeling they were telling everyone that if they repeated after the pastor, that they now true Christians.

Lutherans believe, unless I am misunderstanding them; but if so why did everybody I was with understand what the pastor said the same way?
In a Christmas Eve service, should a pastor tell people because they repeated a confession after him, that they are now Christians?

I am assured by Lutherans that they know what I heard is something all Lutheran synods do.

Even if I was wrong on my understanding of what happened during the Christmas Eve service at the Lutheran Church. I am left believing that they need to be careful on how they communicate. If I could misunderstand, can you imagine the message they gave to someone who goes to Church once or twice a year?

Tom

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Is what you experienced in that particular Lutheran church so very different than having someone read a 'prayer' on the back of a business card and then pronouncing them 'saved'? In the past some of the RCA (Reformed Church of America which went apostate) churches, they too had "Responsive Readings" which were contained in their hymnal near the beginning of the worship service. I always felt uneasy when reading some of them which could easily be construed as addressing everyone in the congregation as being regenerate and united to Christ by a living and saving faith. Of course, the RCA being part of the Continental Reformed family, held tenaciously to presumptive regeneration, albeit in the one church I was a member, the preaching of the Gospel was very sound and it was made clear that ALL must repent of their sins and believe on Christ unto justification and reconciliation with God. So, Responsive Readings or Unison Readings are not inherently bad. It depends upon on what they contain, eh? grin


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Originally Posted by Tom
In the Lutheran Church they practice absolution of sins.
The minister usually asks the congregation to repeat a confession after him.
When they are done, he says something to the effect of; “By the power given to me as a minister of the Gospel, I declare that your sins are forgiven.”
One of the go to verses that they go to for this, is John 20:23.

In my 42 years as a believer, I have never seen this done anywhere but in a Lutheran Church and I have visited a lot of Churches over the years.
This includes confessional Churches in the Presbyterian tradition and confessional Churches in the Baptist tradition.

Reading confessions is a great practice; but is it right for the the minister to declare everyone’s sins forgiven because they repeated a confession?
According to Lutherans they rightly say that only through faith in Christ can one have their sins forgiven.
Yet they say that when someone says the confession, they have placed their faith in Jesus and that is the basis for the minister being able to absolve them of their sins.

Am I wrong to believe this is unbiblical?
Am I missing something?

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Only the Lord can forgive our sins, and they need to be confessed to the Lord Himself personally


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