Sunday: Karl Barth on Remission of Sins

For the Creed certainly says that forgiveness of sins or justification of the sinner by faith is the gift of the Holy Spirit by which all others, so far as they are really that, must submit to be measured; that it is the common denominator, so to speak, upon which everything that can seriously be called Christian life must be set. The Creed assuredly rejects that view which would place forgiveness of sins as a good thing for Christian faith alongside of many others. No, says the Creed, grace means forgiveness of sins. And to receive grace means to receive forgiveness of sins. No doubt we shall have to reflect that, on the Biblical view, that means more than at first glance would appear from the wording. But we must not depart from this strict conception of “grace”. Only in so far as it is forgiveness of sins through the Gospel is it regeneration also, and conversion and establishment of the law (Rom. 3:31) and therefore sanctification, gift of knowledge, gift of repentance and of obedience, gift of love, of patience and of hope, source and sum of really good works, a candle set in a candlestick, giving light to all that are in the house (Matt. 5:15). Everything, absolutely everything and to the last degree, is determined and conditioned by the fact that forgiveness of sins is gifted to man and received by him as a gift. Without that, everything else is Jewish morality or heathen idealism and in one way or another demonic magic, which, whatever the lustre of virtue and devotion and brotherliness it may invest itself with, does not help man but rather ruins him. “From this article there can be no budging nor slackening, though heaven fall and earth and all else besides” (Luther).

Karl Barth, Credo “Remissionem Peccatorum”

“Everything, absolutely everything and to the last degree, is determined and conditioned by the fact that forgiveness of sins is gifted to man and received by him as a gift.”

For what else do we have if we do not have God’s forgiveness?

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