That the great freedom of the Reformation is truly the liberty of the gospel is demonstrated first of all by the fact that in the New Testament the potestas clavium [power of the keys] is not conferred once but three times: Matthew 16 to Peter, John 20 to all the Apostles, and Matthew 18 to the entire ekklesia (church). These bestowals dare not be separated from each other. Neither may one place one into the foreground at the expense of the others and consider that the true form. And when Jesus gives to the twelve His commission to preach the gospel to every creature, and through Baptism to make disciples of all nations, when at the Last Supper He instructs them, “This do in remembrance of me!” then who are the twelve? They are the first to stand in the office of the ministry. From them proceeds the ministerium docendi evangelii et porrigendi sacramenta(preaching the Gospel and Administering the Saraments) . But they are at the same time the church, the ekklesia, the representatives of this new “People of God” of the Last Days. Thus it is simply impossible in the New Testament to separate the office of the ministry and the church from each other. What is said to the church is said to the ministry, and vice versa. The ministry does not stand above the congregation, but invariably within it.
Hermann Sasse, Letters to Lutheran Pastors VIII, July 1949
This is an interesting statement conceming the office of the Keys. It was a Small Catechism section that was often quickly rushed through as we forgot that it was one of the “6 Chief Parts of Christian Doctrine”. I always worry about the way it is presented because it always comes down to church discipline and excommunication. It is a lot more than that and it is really about the power to “forgive”. Someone once said to me that they felt like their Pastor believed that he was the church and that the people in the pew’s job was to “Pray, Pay and Obey”. Someone else said that they felt the church was becoming the “clergy protection union”. When Pastors get together they sometimes talk as if they had no rights (especially on certain blogs) and that the laity are pagans in need of conversion rather than members of the body of Christ and the “new people of God” of the last days. Doesn’t bode well for our “Life Together”.