Please ignore the part of the audio where I completely space on the meaning of the Third Article of the Apostles' Creed.
Forgiveness Is Like This
Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
Jesus looked at the paralyzed man and said, “Take heart! Your sins are forgiven you!” Did the man ask for forgiveness? Did he tell Jesus he was sorry for his sins? No. Jesus just forgave him. The Pharisees exploded. “This man blasphemes!” Blasphemy is lying in God’s name. They made this charge because they believed Jesus had no business forgiving sins. Only God can forgive sins. Forgiveness is between a person and God, and they believe you have to go through the routine to get your forgiveness. Some people believe that if a person sinned right before he died, and he didn’t have a chance to ask forgiveness, he would go to hell. They act as if Jesus isn’t really a Savior! God doesn’t work that way. But that’s how people believe who live as slaves of the Law. It sneaks into the church, too, where people believe that the forgiveness Christ gives has conditions and requirements, that forgiveness isn’t yours until you ask for it or decide you want it.
Look again at that paralytic. He can’t get up and walk to Jesus. His paralysis is an example of our standing before God. We don’t come to Jesus. We don’t approach Him. We must be brought to Him by the Holy Spirit so that He can speak His Word of forgiveness. And Jesus does His forgiving without consulting us or drawing up a list of demands. “Your sins are forgiven you.” From the cross He says, “Father, forgive them.” In fact, the whole cross and Good Friday work of Jesus is this forgiveness for which we do not and cannot ask. God doesn’t wait until the world realizes it needs a Savior. Jesus doesn’t wait until we ask nicely. He comes and does what He does, suffering and dying and being the Lamb of God without our asking. He accomplishes our salvation before we even knew we needed saving. We like our sins too much to think they need forgiving. So Jesus comes and pays for our sins before we even knew they needed to be forgiven.
And that’s how we come into the church. We’re brought like the paralytic. We are carried to the font—either by our parents and godparents, or by the Holy Spirit, working through the pastor who speaks God’s Word. You are brought in here like the paralytic, and at the font, maybe even when you didn’t understand a word of it, your Lord declares, “Your sins are forgiven.” You are here in the Divine Service. The pastor declares that your sins are forgiven. Maybe you don’t remember all your sins. Maybe you weren’t even paying attention when we confessed our sins. But Jesus gives it to you freely: Absolution and the Supper, given for sinners without any merit or worthiness in you. This is not a party that you can sneak into; this is a meal, a feast, given for sinners, given by Jesus to forgive your sins—each and every one of them: the ones you know and don’t know; the ones you ask forgiveness for and the ones you don’t remember.
You can live as if that forgiveness isn’t true. You can live as if that forgiveness needs to be asked for first. You can live as if your sins don’t belong to Jesus. That’s the way the Pharisees work. That’s true blasphemy. Real unbelief is to think your sins don’t belong to Jesus. But they belong to Him now. He took them from you. That’s why He tells you they are forgiven. And that is what church is all about. That’s what the Christian life is all about. It’s not that we don’t sin, but that we live knowing our sins are His. He’s taken them; He will never give them back. He will never condemn you for them. He gives you forgiveness before you wanted it or asked for it. He comes to where, like Adam and Eve, you hide in your naked shame, and He says to you, “Your sins are forgiven you.” That’s how Jesus works. In the name of the Father and of the Son (†) and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
The peace of God which passes all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus always. Amen.