forgiveness of sins

Hermann Sasse wrote –

The church’s message is the message of the forgiveness of sins. And indeed God on account of Christ gives this forgiveness as gift to all who believe on Jesus as “Lord and Christ.” Furthermore this message is not a theory about the forgiveness of sins, but the offer to all mankind to have their sins forgiven. “So we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We beseech you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (RSV; 2 Corinthians 5:20-21)

This and nothing else is the message of the apostles. This, and nothing else, is the message of the church today. Whatever else the church includes in her proclamation, she does for the sake of this message. Her message is a call to mankind to be reconciled with God. She has no other Gospel than the Gospel of the forgiveness of sins. Her Baptism is a Baptism for the forgiveness of sins. “Given and shed for you for forgiveness of sins” – this is the Gospel for the church in the Lord’s Supper. The response to the question of what Jesus Christ has brought and still brings to mankind cannot be a new religion. Jesus was neither the founder of a religion nor did he bring the religions of mankind to fulfillment. Let no one say that Jesus brought a new law, new ethical norms and ideals. What he alone and no other person brought, and still brings, is the forgiveness of sins: “We find abundant ethical principles in Confucianism, a brilliant hierarchy of laws also with the Dalai Lama, theological scholarship in the synagogue, war waged against alcoholism among Moslems, a youth movement among Communists – forgiveness can be found only in Jesus Christ” (Werner Elert). Under no other circumstances can the forgiveness of sins be found. This is unique to Jesus Christ. He alone brings this. He does not merely give “half of the grace for the forgiveness of sins,” but “the full grace of redemption.”   To the negative aspect the positive must be attached. With the removal of guilt comes a new life. To the person who says that he still does not know what the forgiveness of sins really is and the profound truth contained in these words about forgiveness, Luther says, “Where there is forgiveness of sins, there is life and salvation.” [Small Catechism] There is nothing more positive than the justification of the sinner through faith alone. To understand this, modern Christianity must in particular relearn what sin and the forgiveness of sin are. The Bible and the Lutheran Church is quite clear in what she teaches about mankind’s sin: “Since the fall of Adam all men who are born according to the course of nature are conceived and born in sin. That is, all men are full of evil lust and inclinations from their mothers’ womb are unable by nature to have true fear of God and true faith in God. Moreover, this inborn sickness and sin hereditary sin is truly sin.” [Tappert 29; Augsburg Confession II, 1-2] It is only natural that the world would repudiate such teaching as no more than a long worn out mythology. Mankind is so totally depraved it can no longer bear to hear the truth about itself: “This damage is so unspeakable that it may not be recognized by a rational process, but only from God’s Word.” [Tappert 467, 9; F.C. Ep. I, 3]