Planting and Giving Growth are Two Different Things

Easter 2 Saturday

John 20:22-23

“And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them: “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven. If you retain the sins of any, they are retained.””


We must have a correct understanding of these words of Christ. Here is not instituted the power of the one speaking, but the power of those who believe. Now, the power of the one who speaks and the power of the one who believes are as far apart as heaven and earth. God has given us the Word and the power to speak. But from this it does not follow that it must happen accordingly. Christ also preached and taught the Word and not all believed who heard it; and it did not everywhere happen in the way he spoke the words, although it was God’s Word. This is why Christ wants to say here: “You are to have the power to speak the Word and preach the gospel and say: ‘If you believe, your sins are forgiven; but if you do not believe, your sins are not forgiven.’ But you do not have the power to create faith.” For planting and giving growth are two different things, as Paul says to the Corinthians, “I have planted; Apollos has watered, but God has given growth,” 1 Corinthians 3:6. This is why we are not given authority to rule like lords, but to be slaves and servants who are to preach the Word by which we entice people to faith. Therefore, if you believe these words, you gain this power. But if you do not believe, then what I speak and preach does not help you, even though it is God’s Word. And you do not dishonor and shame me, but God himself. This is why disbelief is nothing but blasphemy that makes God a liar. For when I say: “Your sins are forgiven in God’s name,” and you do not believe, you are basically saying: “Who knows whether it is true and he is serious.” Thereby you make God and his Word a liar. It would be better if you were far from the Word if you do not believe. For God will think no less of his Word if it is preached by a man instead of himself. This, then, is the power every Christian has, given to him by God.


St. Louis ed., 11:733-735.

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