Word and Sacrament. The Means of Grace
God offers, bestows, and seals to people forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation through the Means of Grace. Lutherans recognize the Means of Grace as God's Word and the Sacraments, namely Confession and Absolution, Holy Baptism and the Lord's Supper.
(Be sure to also check out the video at the very end of this page. It features the Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison, President of LCMS, commenting on the four images below and more).
(click image for larger version)
The Word of God. (this section coming soon)
< Confession and Absolution. Confession is the act by which one admits or confesses sin(s) and the guilt of sin. Absolution is the setting free from sin. By virtue of his office, in the name and stead of Christ, a pastor forgives those who
repented of their sins, affirmed their faith in Christ and want to do better (Matthew 16:9; 18:18; John 20:19-23).
Repentance and confession and absolution go hand in hand. They are the means by which a believer continually identifies and rejects a rebellious life, and, in faith, longs for and resolves to live in harmony with God's will. Repentance is recognizing the reality of our sin; and then, turning to God in faith for his mercy.
Office of the Keys is the phrase that refers to the special power that Christ has entrusted to the Church to bestow or withhold the forgiveness of sins. It's not up to the Pastor to decide whether to grant forgiveness. Sinners who repent are granted forgiveness. Sinners who do not repent are not forgiven.
John 20:22-23 is a commonly referenced passage from the Bible as a basis for this teaching: "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 them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld."
The idea of keys locking and unlocking the gates of heaven comes from the words of Jesus: "I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven" (Matthew 16:19)1
>In Holy Baptism we are united with the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Through Baptism the Holy Spirit gives to us the forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation.
Holy Baptism is a sacrament because Christ established it and invites us to do it and because it delivers the forgiveness of sins He won on the cross. Jesus suffered, died and rose again in order to save people from the eternal death brought about by sin. Through His saving actions, Christ purchased and won salvation for all. Baptism delivers and bestows the benefits of Jesus' redemption.
How does Baptism work? We look to Luther's explanation in the Small Catechism: "How can water do such great things? Certainly not just water, but the word of God in and with the water does these things, along with the faith which trusts this word of God in the water" (SC, Baptism, Third part).
In Holy Baptism, the Lord promises you the forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit. In theological language, this is "baptismal regeneration." Although the Bible clearly teaches it, many Christian churches still deny it. Peter had a perfect opportunity to answer the "What shall we do?" question by inviting everyone forward for an "altar call." Instead, he invited them to Baptism: And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” (Acts 2:38-39)1
God’s Own Child, I Gladly Say It (Lutheran Service Book 594)
God's own child, I
gladly say it: I am baptized into Christ!
Sin, disturb my soul
no longer: I am baptized into Christ!
Satan, hear this
proclamation: I am baptized into Christ!
Open-eyed my grave is staring: even there I'll sleep secure.
Though my flesh awaits its raising, still my soul continues praising:
I am baptized into Christ; I'm a child of paradise!
The Lord's Supper: Given for You. The Lord's Supper is for those who desire forgiveness. Medicine is for the sick who want to be healed. The Lord's Supper is for sinners who desire to be forgiven. The Lord's Supper is in fact a gift, a gift that cost Jesus much but comes to us without cost. Jesus refers to this Supper as a "testament," as in "last will and testament." By the Supper, His people receive the inheritance He leaves for them - His body and blood, forgiveness of sins, life and salvation.
Jesus teaches everything you need to know about the Lords Supper in a collection of Bible verses known as the Words of Institution. To institute something is to start or establish it. Therefore, we call these words the Words of Institution because they are the words by which Jesus started and established His Supper. These same words of Jesus are still used by pastors today to institute the Sacrament whenever whenever it is celebrated:
Our Lord Jesus Christ, on the night when He was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, He broke it and gave it to the disciples and said: "Take, eat; this is My body, which is given for you. This do in remembrance of me." In the same way also He took the cup after supper, and when He had given thanks, He gave it to them, saying: "Drink of it, all of you; this cup is the new testament in My blood, which is given for you for the forgiveness of sins. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me." (Matthew 26:26-28; Mark 14:22-24; Luke 22:19-20; 1 Corinthians 11:23-25; Divine Service, The Words of Our Lord)
Some of God's gifts are far too great for us to comprehend. We can't explain them. If we try, we might actually explain the mystery away. We may actually explain the forgiveness away. When you hear these next words of Jesus, listen to exactly what He says. Don't try to make this mystery into something you can understand:
Of the bread, Jesus said, "This is My body." Of the wine, Jesus said, "This cup is the new testament in My blood."
"Is." It's the linguistic version of an equal sign. Jesus said that in the Lord's Supper the bread is His body. The wine is His blood. This is the big mystery at the heart of the Lord's Supper: Under the bread and the wine, we also receive Jesus' body and blood - the same body that was nailed to the cross and the same blood that was shed for our sin. It is also the same body that Jesus showed to His disciples after He rose from the dead.
If Jesus' body and blood are there, Jesus is there. He is present under the elements of the bread and wine in the Lord's Supper. We call this the real presence. Beyond that, we can't explain the real presence of: in that bread and wine, Jesus gives us His body and blood for the forgiveness of sins.1
(Please note: In Christian love we sincerely desire to provide proper pastoral care to all those who come to worship at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church. Therefore, we respectfully ask you to permit the pastor to speak to you privately in the interest of your spiritual welfare before you partake of communion if you are not a communicant member of this congregation or of a sister congregation of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod or if you have not communed with us in the past 12 months. It is preferable to make an appointment.)
Read more about the Lutheran faith and practice in "Lutheranism 101", published by Concordia Publishing House, St. Louis, 2010.
Please click on the video below. It features the Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison, President of LCMS, commenting on the four images depicting Word and Sacraments.
1) Kinnaman, Scott, gen. ed., et al., Lutheranism 101. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 2010