What is the Office of the Keys?

Recently the church I attended included in the bulletin an explanation of parts of the service. Many of us can probably use a refresher on why we do what we do during worship, so I’ll be including some of these explanations this month. The first one is on the Office of the Keys, and Confession and is taken from Luther’s Small Catechism.

What is the Office of the Keys?

The Office of the Keys is that special authority which Christ has given to His Church on earth and Pastors to forgive the sins of repentant sinners, but to withhold forgiveness from the unrepentant as long as they do not repent.

Where is this written?

This is what St. John the Evangelist writes in chapter twenty: The Lord Jesus breathed on His disciples, and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.” (John 20:22-23)

What do you believe according to these words?

I believe that when the called ministers of Christ deal with us by His diving command, in particular when they exclude openly unrepentant sinners from the Christian congregation and absolve those who repent of their sins and want to do better, this is just as valid and certain, even in heaven, as if Christ our dear Lord dealt with us Himself.

(1965, Luther’s Small Catechism, pg. 18).

For more about the catechism see:

A Feast to Remember

A Book of Questions — Luther’s Catechism

The Catechism Teaches

Baptism, A New Beginning

According to Luther’s Small Catechism, baptism is a sign that:

“the old person in us with all sins and evil desires is to be drowned through daily sorrow for sin and repentance, and that daily a new person is to come forth and rise up.”


Baptism is the moment of our incorporation into the crucified and risen body of Jesus, a time when Christ takes hold of us and makes us His.  It is entirely a work of God’s grace, as it is He alone who works faith in our hearts through the Holy Spirit.  Since a human “decision” is not the beginning of our life as God’s child, Lutherans baptize infants.  In the sacrament of baptism, through water and the Word, we become the sheep of His pasture.  He calls us by name.  I’ve always associated baptism with this children’s hymn I used to sing with my daughters.  Listen closely and you’ll see it addresses our end as well as our beginning.