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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions
Treatise on the Power and Primacy of the Pope – part 51

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Matthew 18:15–18

From the Confessions: Treatise on the Power and Primacy of the Pope 

Concerning the Power and Jurisdiction of Bishops

We have written in general terms in the Confession and in the Apology what we have to say about ecclesiastical power.

The Gospel summons those who preside over churches the commands to teach the Gospel, remit sins, administer the Sacraments, and additionally, it commands jurisdiction, that is, the excommunication of those whose sins are known, and again, to absolve those who repent.

Pulling It Together: Congregations—and pastors too—often heap more onto the job description of a pastor than is required, or even good for the church. For example, meetings and other forms of administration often detract from getting the real job done. However, the tough parts of the job are very often neglected. The last one on the list at the beginning of this section of the Treatise is nearly always ignored. Pastors are to withhold Christ’s forgiveness from those who are willfully unrepentant.

Then again, they are to confer his forgiveness if people repent of their sins. This absolution is given freely, as Christ freely gives. No special works of penance are required. Purgatory, an unbiblical invention, is useless, while Christ’s word of pardon is absolute.

Notice that the whole job of a pastor, when performed well, points to Christ: to the gospel, to forgiveness, and to the means of grace.

Prayer: Give your pastors courage and strength to fulfill their callings. Amen.

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