The Two Kinds of Sin

Pentecost 27 Thursday

Luke 23:34

“Yet Jesus said: Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they do.”

Now, the Lord does not simply cast his prayer into the crowd, but sets apart those for whom he asks, saying: “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they do.” Thus, he wants to indicate that there are two kinds of sinners. Some know that they do injustice, but do it without any fear. It is called sinning against the Holy Spirit if you want to remain in such knowing sin, do not want to confess it, desist from it, or ask forgiveness for it, as our masters, the papists, now do: They know that is right when we teach that Christ commanded to receive both bread and wine in the sacrament, that
he did not prohibit priests to marry, that he did not command us to offer the sacrifice of the mass. Still, they condemn us because of these teachings as heretics and punish their subjects where they know that they use our teaching and sacrament. These do not sin ignorantly. This is why it is in the nature of such sins that they cannot be forgiven; for such sins directly militates against the forgiveness of sins because people do not want to desist from them and confess them. For the forgiveness of sin demands both: confessing the wrong and desisting from the wrong. The other sinners are those who sin ignorantly. This does not mean that David did not know that it was sin to take Uriah’s wife and have him killed, 2 Samuel 11. He knows this very well. Yet sin and the devil drive him so forcefully that he falls into sin before he has time to consider what he is doing. Yet afterwards, he confesses it, is sorry for it, wishes that he had not done it, and desires grace. We all bear such sin around our neck that we are easily and unexpectedly deceived and fall out of fear, as Peter, out of carelessness and weakness, or out of pride. Such sin Christ carried with him to the cross and for it he prayed. For these are naked, bare sins that do not militate against grace, because we recognize and confess them and ask for forgiveness for them. Accordingly, we see that prostitutes, murderers, and other bad people often come to grace; for they
know that they have done wrong and do not want to defend it. Such confessing sinners have Christ’s sacrifice between themselves and God. This is why God does not want to impute such sins to us. Yet those, who knowingly and willingly do not want to act differently and even defend their sin, sin against the Holy Spirit and deny the grace of God. For those Christ does not pray here. He does pray for those who do not know what they do and fall due to weakness. They should draw comfort from this sacrifice and prayer; they should know that their sins are forgiven. For Christ prayed for this and was certainly heard. We should not doubt this, but take comfort and rejoice in it.

St. Louis ed., 13.1:476-477.

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