The Very Power Every Christian Has

Easter 2 Thursday

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.””

This is a great, mighty power no one can praise sufficient. It is given to a mortal man, flesh and blood, over sin, death, and hell, and over all things. The pope also boasts in canon law that Christ gave him power over all worldly and heavenly affairs, which would be correct if they understood it correctly. For they apply it to ruling bodies. Christ does not want this, but gives spiritual power and government, meaning to say: “When you pronounce a word over the sinner, it shall be so said in heaven and mean as much as if God in heaven speaks himself. For he is in your mouth. This is why it is as good as if he himself said it.” Now, it is true that when Christ speaks such a word – since he is a Lord over sin and hell – saying to you: “You sins are forgiven,” they must be gone and nothing can resist his word. Contrariwise, when he says: “Your sins are not to be forgiven,” they remain unforgiven, so that you, any angel, any saint, or any creature is unable to forgive the sin, even if you tortured yourself to death. But this is the very power every Christian has because Christ has made us partakers of all his might and power. And by this might and power, he does not rule over bodies, but spiritually, and his Christians rule spiritually as well. For he does not say: “You shall have and rule this town, this country, this diocese or kingdom,” as the pope does. Instead, this is what he says: “You shall have the power to forgive and retain sins.” This is why this power has to do with the conscience in that I, in the power of the Word of God, can pronounce a sentence to which the conscience clings, so that no creature can do anything against it, including sin, world, and the devil. This is a true power. But by this power I am not put in charge over the body, land, and people, to rule these things in an outward manner according to the political government. Instead, I am given a much higher and nobler power that cannot be compared to the former.


St. Louis ed., 11:731.

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