A Laymen’s Commentary on the Large Catechism: Fifth Petition

This is part 22 of 23 in the series A Layman's Commentary on the Large Catechism

Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven,
    whose sin is covered.
Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity,
    and in whose spirit there is no deceit.

For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away
    through my groaning all day long.
For day and night your hand was heavy upon me;
    my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer. Selah

I acknowledged my sin to you,
    and I did not cover my iniquity;
I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,”
    and you forgave the iniquity of my sin. Selah

Therefore let everyone who is godly
    offer prayer to you at a time when you may be found;
surely in the rush of great waters,
    they shall not reach him.
You are a hiding place for me;
    you preserve me from trouble;
    you surround me with shouts of deliverance. Selah

I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go;
    I will counsel you with my eye upon you.
Be not like a horse or a mule, without understanding,
    which must be curbed with bit and bridle,
    or it will not stay near you.

10 Many are the sorrows of the wicked,
    but steadfast love surrounds the one who trusts in the Lord.
11 Be glad in the Lord, and rejoice, O righteous,
    and shout for joy, all you upright in heart!

(Psalm 32)

 

The Fifth Petition.

And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.

What does this mean?–Answer.

We pray in this petition that our Father in heaven would not look upon our sins, nor deny such petitions on account of them; for we are worthy of none of the things for which we pray, neither have we deserved them; but that He would grant them all to us by grace; for we daily sin much, and indeed deserve nothing but punishment. So will we verily, on our part, also heartily forgive and also readily do good to those who sin against us.

(Small Catechism)

 

Forgive our sins, Lord, we implore,
that they may trouble us no more;
We, too, will gladly those forgive
Who hurt us by the way they live.
Help us in our community
to serve each other willingly.

(LSB 766)

 

The Fifth Petition.

85] And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.

86] This part now relates to our poor miserable life, which, although we have and believe the Word of God, and do and submit to His will, and are supported by His gifts and blessings, is nevertheless not without sin. For we still stumble daily and transgress because we live in the world among men who do us much harm and give us cause for impatience, anger, revenge, etc. 87] Besides, we have Satan at our back, who sets upon us on every side, and fights (as we have heard) against all the foregoing petitions, so that it is not possible always to stand firm in such a persistent conflict.

88] Therefore there is here again great need to call upon God and to pray: Dear Father, forgive us our trespasses. Not as though He did not forgive sin without and even before our prayer (for He has given us the Gospel, in which is pure forgiveness before we prayed or ever thought about it). But this is to the intent that we may recognize and accept such forgiveness. 89] For since the flesh in which we daily live is of such a nature that it neither trusts nor believes God, and is ever active in evil lusts and devices, so that we sin daily in word and deed, by commission and omission, by which the conscience is thrown into unrest, so that it is afraid of the wrath and displeasure of God, and thus loses the comfort and confidence derived from the Gospel; therefore it is ceaselessly necessary that we run hither and obtain consolation to comfort the conscience again.

90] But this should serve God’s purpose of breaking our pride and keeping us humble. For in case any one should boast of his godliness and despise others, God has reserved this prerogative to Himself, that the person is to consider himself and place this prayer before his eyes, and he will find that he is no better than others, and that in the presence of God all must lower their plumes, and be glad that they can attain forgiveness. 91] And let no one think that as long as we live here he can reach such a position that he will not need such forgiveness. In short, if God does not forgive without ceasing, we are lost.

92] It is therefore the intent of this petition that God would not regard our sins and hold up to us what we daily deserve, but would deal graciously with us, and forgive, as He has promised, and thus grant us a joyful and confident conscience to stand before Him in prayer. For where the heart is not in right relation towards God, nor can take such confidence, it will nevermore venture to pray. But such a confident and joyful heart can spring from nothing else than the [certain] knowledge of the forgiveness of sin.

93] But there is here attached a necessary, yet consolatory addition: As we forgive. He has promised that we shall be sure that everything is forgiven and pardoned, yet in the manner that we also forgive our neighbor. 94] For just as we daily sin much against God, and yet He forgives everything through grace, so we, too, must ever forgive our neighbor who does us injury, violence, and wrong, shows malice toward us, etc. 95] If, therefore, you do not forgive, then do not think that God forgives you; but if you forgive, you have this consolation and assurance, that you are forgiven in heaven, not on account of your forgiving, for God forgives freely and without condition, out of pure grace, because He has so promised, as the Gospel teaches, but in order that He may set this up for our confirmation and assurance for a sign alongside of the promise which accords with this prayer, Luke 6:37: Forgive, and ye shall be forgiven. Therefore Christ also repeats it soon after the Lord’s Prayer, and says, Matt. 6:14: For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, etc.

97] This sign is therefore attached to this petition, that, when we pray, we remember the promise and reflect thus: Dear Father, for this reason I come and pray Thee to forgive me, not that I can make satisfaction, or can merit anything by my works, but because Thou hast promised and attached the seal thereto that I should be as sure as though I had absolution pronounced by Thyself. 98] For as much as Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, appointed as external signs, effect, so much also this sign can effect to confirm our consciences and cause them to rejoice. And it is especially given for this purpose, that we might use and practise it every hour, as a thing that we have with us at all times.

In the previous petitions, we have prayed not only for God to keep His Word, but also for us to keep it as well.  Now we come to the fact that we fail to do so. Thus we pray for forgiveness. This fifth petition pleads with God to bestow on us His Second and Third Article gifts, which win and deliver this justification to us.

God forgives our sins objectively without us praying.  What we are praying for here is subjective justification, the great “for you” that takes the abstract Gospel and makes it personal.  After all, if forgiveness is not received and believed it is lost. Faith is needed in order to receive it.   However this faith is not a work of ours, it is a gift of God and is passive in its reception of forgiveness (Romans 5:1-11).

We sin daily, and continually (Romans 7:14-18, Genesis 6:1-8).  Even after we are regenerated in Baptism we still sin.  As such we continually need the forgiveness of sins. When our conscience is troubled, we should seek out the forgiveness of sins and not look to the Law to be justified (Romans 12:3-8, 1 John 1:5-10).  Thus we should plead with God for forgiveness and He will surely give it (Hebrews 10:19-39, Psalm 32, Romans 4:7-8).

Because God has so abundantly forgiven us, we too must forgive others (Matthew 18:21-35).  If we do not forgive our brother who has wronged us, we sin against our neighbor and God.  After all, a Christian is duty bound to forgive the sins of those who are penitent.

So abundant is God’s giving of forgiveness, He even gives us various means by which to receive it. In the Absolution, God declares us righteous as from Christ Himself. In Holy Baptism, we are clothed with Christ’s righteousness—our sins are washed away. And in the Sacrament of the Altar, we eat and drink the very Body and Blood of Christ for the forgiveness of our sins—just as Jesus says. By means of all these blessings, the Lord makes us blameless before Him and redeems us to be His beloved children (Ephesians 1:3-14).

1 Lord, to You I make confession:
I have sinned and gone astray,
I have multiplied transgression,
Chosen for myself my way.
Led by You to see my errors,
Lord, I tremble at Your terrors.

2 Yet, though conscience’ voice appall me,
Father, I will seek Your face;
Though Your child I dare not call me,
Yet receive me in Your grace.
Do not for my sins forsake me;
Let Your wrath not overtake me.

3 For Your Son has suffered for me,
Giv’n Himself to rescue me,
Died to save me and restore me,
Reconciled and set me free.
Jesus’ cross alone can vanquish
These dark fears and soothe this anguish.

4 Lord on You I cast my burden–
Sink it in the deepest sea!
Let me know Your gracious pardon,
Cleanse me from iniquity.
Let Your Spirit leave me never;
Make me only Yours forever.

(LSB 608)

About Dr. Paul Edmon

Dr. Paul Edmon is from Seattle, Washington and now resides in Boston, Massachusetts. He has his B.S. in Physics from the University of Washington in 2004 and Ph.D. in Astrophysics from the University of Minnesota in 2010. He is professional staff at Harvard University and acts as liaison between Center for Astrophysics and Research Computing. A life long Lutheran, he is formerly a member of Messiah Lutheran Church in Seattle and University Lutheran Chapel in Minneapolis. He now attends First Lutheran Church (FLC) of Boston where he teaches Lutheran Essentials. He sings bass in the FLC choir and Canto Armonico. He was elected to the Concordia Seminary St. Louis Board of Regents in 2016. He is single and among his manifold interests are scotch, football, anime, board games, mythology, history, philosophy, and general nerdiness. The views expressed here are his own and do not represent Harvard University or Concordia Seminary. Twitter: @pauledmon

Comments

A Laymen’s Commentary on the Large Catechism: Fifth Petition — 27 Comments

  1. “And in the Sacrament of the Altar, we eat and drink the very Body and Blood of Christ for the forgiveness of our sins—just as Jesus says.” Would you kindly provide the place in Scripture where Jesus said that? Thank you.
    Peace and Joy!
    George A. Marquart

  2. Dear Dr. Edmon, I hope you are well. I fear that your lack of response is due to some misfortune.
    Peace and Joy!
    George A. Marquart

  3. @Dr. Paul Edmon #4

    Sorry for the misunderstanding. I just checked the Greek for Matthew 26:28, thinking the English versions all had it wrong somehow, but the Greek does not have any form of the verb “to drink” in it either. Neither is “the body” mentioned in this verse. So that if Jesus said, “we eat and drink the very Body and Blood of Christ for the forgiveness of our sins”, this is not where he said it.
    Peace and Joy!
    George A. Marquart

  4. @George A. Marquart #5

    “I just checked the Greek for Matthew 26:28 in Logos Bible Software (if available), thinking the English versions all had it wrong somehow, but the Greek does not have any form of the verb “to drink” in it either…”

    Hairsplitting, aren’t you? I assumed that a bright Lutheran boy like you would remember all the words of institution, but if necessary, read Matthew 26:26-29 (which gives you a verse to spare, but clarifies… if you need clarification!)

    [I would guess that the responder is more of a problem to you than the response.] 🙂

  5. This particular argument is not about theology, but about language. Here is the complete text of the Institution from the Gospel of Matthew:
    26 Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” 27 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, 28 for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. 29 I tell you I will not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.”
    “Drink of it, all of you,” “drink” is mentioned, but there is no reference to forgiveness.
    ”28 for this is my blood of the covenant,” “blood” is mentioned, but nothing about “drink” or “forgiveness”
    “which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” “Blood” is mentioned by reference through “which”. “Forgiveness” is mentioned, but no reference to “drink.” If there is some rule in the English or any other language, that requires that “blood poured out for the forgiveness of sins” also conveys forgiveness when it is drunk, please let me know.
    Returning to the theological argument, however, receiving the forgiveness of sins when receiving the Eucharist, is something found only in the Large and Small Catechisms. Since this was part of the belief of the Roman Catholic Church at the time of Luther, and still is, Luther simply made and argument for something he had believed all of his life, and was not ready to abandon. The fact remains that there is no Scripture on which it is based.
    Peace and Joy!
    George A. Marquart

  6. @George A. Marquart #7

    “Since this was part of the belief of the Roman Catholic Church at the time of Luther, and still is, Luther simply made and argument for something he had believed all of his life, and was not ready to abandon.”

    Do you have a source for this?

  7. @George A. Marquart #7

    Isn’t the basis for the drinking that it is his blood of the covenant, poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins?

    I mean, what else do we receive in the Sacrament?

  8. It is not the eating but faith in Christ that forgives sins. (Acts 10:43, Romans 3:23-6)

    This is biblical and Lutheran.

    How can bodily eating and drinking do such great things?

    It is not the eating and drinking, indeed, that does them, but the words which stand here, namely: Given, and shed for you, for the remission of sins. Which words are, beside the bodily eating and drinking, as the chief thing in the Sacrament; and he that believes these words has what they say and express, namely, the forgiveness of sins.

  9. @Steve #10

    Of course you must have faith in Christ and his words; you also need to eat and drink, as He commanded, to have the Sacrament. Sitting here and reading the words is not enough.

  10. I think George’s cavil is a perceived contemporary shift in language among Lutherans that seems to ascribe forgiveness of sins and salvation to the eating and drinking of the body and blood of Christ in the sacrament. John 6:54 says “But anyone who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise that person at the last day.”

    So the shift in language shows a shift towards Roman Eucharistic theology.

    The problem with George’s posts is that Luther never taught this. It’s not in the catechisms and Luther and Lutheran theologians since then have never interpreted John 6 eucharistically, as Rome does.

  11. @Steve #13

    The Confessional Witness

    The Lutheran Confessions are a super!:) repository of Biblical
    exposition and teaching concerning the Lord’s Supper. Our symbols
    dwell at length on the manifold benefits of Holy Communion.
    I. The Lord’s Supper offers and conveys forgiveness of sins.
    By these words forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation are given to
    us in the sacrament, for where there is forgiveness of sins, there are
    also life and salvation (SC VI, 6).
    The people are also admonished concerning the value and use of
    the sacrament and the great consolation it offers to anxious consCiences,
    that they may learn to believe in God and ask for and expect
    whatever is good from God (AC XXIV, 7).

  12. @Steve #13

    Also in response to #10

    Luther says “not *just* bodily eating and drinking do these things… These words *along with* the bodily eating and drinking are the main thing in the Sacrament.”

    It’s the eating and drinking *and* faith which trusts “the words written here.”

    Much in the same way “certainly not *just* water, but the Word of God in and with the water.”

    Lutherans and Roman Catholics have much to disagree with over the Sacrament, but as Augsburg Confessions Article X attests, they also have much in agreement.

  13. @helen #11

    Helen, obviously you can, but if the conclusion is that the Blood of our Lord conveys forgiveness when it is drunk, than the language you use is Helenese, not English. If, according to the rules of English, you parse, or diagram this sentence, you will find that drinking and the forgiveness of sins are not grammatically dependent on each other, or modify each other. The rules of Lutheran hermeneutics, rules Luther himself established, require that you observe the grammatical rules of the language.
    Ironically, misuse of grammar involved this verse in another problem. After the Great Schism of 1054, the ability to read, write and understand Greek was soon lost in the West. This led to some severe conflicts, because proceedings of Councils, held in the East, were often badly mistranslated into the Latin used in the Western Church. At some point, it was decreed in the West, that based on this verse, when taking Communion, the cup had to be completely emptied. The Latin Vulgate could be interpreted to read, “Drink all of it.” It was only after Greek became known again that the correct meaning of the verse became known “All of you drink of it.”
    Just as in this case: a problem of language, not theology.
    Peace and Joy!
    George A. Marquart

  14. @T-rav #8

    T-rav. My source for the belief of the Roman Catholic Church is any Roman Catholic Catechism. As a devout Roman Catholic Luther had to believe what his church taught on such an important matter. Whether Luther ever actually wondered whether the drinking of the Blood of our Lord conveyed forgiveness, and then made a conscious decision to answer that question affirmatively, I do not know. I simply know that the rules of grammar imposed on us by the languages (whether Greek, Latin, German or English), do not permit this verse to convey that particular meaning.
    Luther did not become a Lutheran all at once. I am certain he never did a systematic analysis of the plethora of beliefs in the Roman Catholic Church, to see which ones were correct and which ones were not. As an example, for instance, of incorrect beliefs of the Roman Church that survived in Lutheranism, we have the concept of Mary Ever Virgin, the distinction between mortal and venial sin, and possibly others.
    Peace and Joy!
    George A. Marquart

  15. @T-rav #9

    T-rav (I am always tempted to write “T-rex”), the basis is the fact that the words of our Lord “Drink of it” are in the Imperative. In other words, our Lord commanded us to do it.
    Do you hear yourself when you ask the question, “what else do we receive in the Sacrament”? Why must we always receive something, or we won’t do it? In the Luke version of the Institution, we have the words, “Do this in remembrance of me.” If you think this is a small thing, you should look at the elaborate ritual that the Jews had created around the Passover meal. Our liturgy of the Eucharist is miniscule compared to that. This was not a momentary remembrance of what God had done for His people, but a complex ritual of words, objects, and actions. Was our Lord saying that whenever you do that, make sure that I am part of that remembrance, because the miracles I performed, the words I preached, my suffering, death and resurrection are the culmination of the story which began with Abraham, continued with the deliverance of God’s people from Egypt, the giving of the Law, and the gift of the Promised Land? Clearly, Scripture does not tell us a great deal about “what we get out of it”?
    There is also what is written in John 6. However, as I am sure you know, Luther believed that “not one syllable” of what is written there refers to the Eucharist. Some Lutheran theologians today disagree with that. Fortunately, Luther’s belief, in this case, did not find its way into the Confessions; otherwise they would be in big trouble.
    Peace and Joy!
    George A. Marquart

  16. @Steve #13

    Steve, you give me too much credit for being able to pursue a complex theological argument. My sole intent, in this case, is to show that the words of Institution in Matthew, whether you read them in Greek, German, Latin or English, do not say that we receive the forgiveness of sins when we drink the Blood of our Lord.
    I would not dare go into John 6, because of the controversy around it.
    I really do not know what you mean by the sentence, “The problem with George’s posts is that Luther never taught this. It’s not in the catechisms and Luther and Lutheran theologians since then have never interpreted John 6 eucharistically, as Rome does.” Luther clearly taught that we receive the forgiveness of sins when we take part in the Eucharist, SC, “What is the benefit of such eating and drinking?
    That is shown us in these words: Given, and shed for you, for the remission of sins; namely, that in the Sacrament forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation are given us through these words. For where there is forgiveness of sins, there is also life and salvation.”
    Peace and Joy!
    George A. Marquart

  17. @David Prentice Jr. #14

    The problem here is that this “super!:) repository of Biblical
    exposition and teaching concerning the Lord’s Supper” does not contain a single verse from the Bible.
    Peace and Joy!
    George A. Marquart

  18. George, I mean Luther did not teach that eating and drinking in the sacrament forgives sins, which you correctly assert is taught happens ex opere operato in Catholicism. Luther taught that faith alone which accompanies the eating and drinking forgives sins. Justification occurs extra nos.

    Parsing the catechism:

    “It is not the eating and drinking, indeed, that does them, but the words ”

    “he that believes these words has what they say and express, namely, the forgiveness of sins.”

    Calvinists used to deride Lutherans by saying, “what good is the real presence for, if we are forgiven in the sacrament by faith?”

    Lutherans reply: “Because Christ says it is his body and blood, and we do this in remembrance of him.”

  19. @Steve #21

    Which catechism translation are you using?

    You skip the “just” in the first part, and then you omit the entire sentence: “These words along with the bodily eating and drinking are the main thing in the Sacrament.”

  20. @George A. Marquart #18

    Yes. I’m aware of what I wrote. Are you aware that Paul wrote that those who receive the body and blood of the Lord in an unworthy manner receive it to their judgment? If there is no benefit in the Supper but there’s possible judgement, yeah I think I might consider skipping.

    In remembrance of me can also be translated, in my remembrance. As in it’s the Lord’s remembrance. And how does the Lord remember us? The forgiveness of sins. There’s my peace and joy.

  21. Triglotta. There’s no just.

    Or the German, 1529:

    “Wie kann leibliches Essen und Trinken solche großen Dinge tun?

    Essen und Trinken tut’s freilich nicht, sondern die Worte, die da stehen: “für euch gegeben“ und “vergossen zur Vergebung der Sünden”. Diese Worte sind neben dem leiblichen Essen und Trinken das Hauptstück im Sakrament; und wer diesen Worten glaubt, der hat, was sie sagen und wie sie lauten, nämlich: Vergebung der Sünden.”

  22. @David Prentice Jr. #26

    Thank you for your gracious concern, Rev. Prentice. I do not want to give the impression that I believe the Eucharist is of no value. I simply want to point out that those verses from Matthew do not say that we receive the forgiveness of sins when we drink the Blood of our Lord. I will read the paper; however, for the next few days I will be very busy on a matter unrelated to the faith, so I will let you know of my reaction a bit later.

    Dr. Scaer and I are on a first name basis. I knew him at Concordia, Bronxville more than 60 years ago. He was one or two years ahead of me.

    Peace and Joy!

    George A. Marquart

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