Easter 2 C

Separation of powers, God's grace, and equality of the hierarchy? Yeah, kind of all over the place for this week.

Acts 5:27-32

Verse 29 is cited throughout The Book of Concord with a fairly consistent theme emerging. This verse is cited in The Augsburg Confession, Article 16: Concerning Public Order and Secular Governmnet (AC 16.7) as a scriptural reference to show that there are limits of following the laws of civil government. The verse is cited through and editorial insert a bit later in Article 28: The Power of Bishops/The Church's Power (AC 28.75) to drive home the point that we are to follow the command of God when human traditions go awry in the church.

Verse 29 comes up to places in the same article of Apology of the Augsburg Confession, Article 28: Ecclesiastical Power (AP 28.21, 25), and both as editorial inserts in places where Melanchthon is responding to an argument in the Confutation which quotes Matthew 23:3. Melanchthon uses Acts 5:29 to show that human tradition has limits, and quotes the verse again to make the point in general.

Verse 29 comes up in Treatise on the Power and Primacy of the Pope (Tr 38) to show that historically even heretical popes have not been followed.

And finally, verse 29 is cited in Formula of Concord, Solid Declaration, Article 4: Good Works (SD 4.14) in list of citations clarifying how scriptures uses words like necessary and should.

Verse 31 is quoted in a series of quotes in Formula of Concord, Solid Declaration, Article 2: Free Will (SD 2.26) unpacking God's gift of faith centering on the conversion of Lydia.

Psalm 118:14-29

Verse 18 is cited in Apology of the Augsburg Confession, Article 12: Repentance (AP 12.49) to show that God's grace is at work even in contrition.

John 20:19-31

Verses 21-23 are quoted in The Augsburg Confession, Article 28: Concerning the Power of Bishops/Concerning the Church's Power (AC 28.6) to clarify the teaching of the reformers about what the "power" is--namely "to preach the gospel, to forgive or retain sin, and to administer and distribute the sacraments" (AC 28.5).

Verse 21 is quoted twice in Treatise on the Power and Primacy of the Pope (Tr 9, 31) to make two different points. The first citation is to show that Jesus did not create a hierarchy among the apostles, so the office of Pope does not have any ordained primacy. The second citation, with several other scriptural references, makes the argument that those who hold positions of authority in the church do not have God's authorization to civil authority and enforcement.

Verse 23 comes up in a smattering of places. First in a footnote in Smalcald Articles, Part 3, Article 7 (SA 3.7.1, n. 140) showing that Jesus gave the church authority to bind and loose sins. This verse is quoted in Treatise on the Power and Primacy of the Pope (Tr 23) to show that Jesus gave all the apostles authority to bind and loose sins. Finally, this verse is cited in a footnote in Small Catechism, Baptism, Short Order of Confession (SC Baptism.29, n. 95) as a scriptural citation for the command of Jesus by which forgiveness is pronounced.


There is an interesting crossover here: when do we forgive civil authority for doing wrong? I don't feel this would be a good sermon topic, but the authority to forgive by Jesus' command and the necessity to follow God's command in the face of civil authority seems to beg the question.

It is helpful to remember that Jesus gave Thomas the same authority as Peter and that this authority is about the forgiveness of sins. The SD 2.26 citation sends us to the conversion of Lydia (Acts 16:11-15) as a way to see the Holy Spirit and the gospel at work.

  • How do we use our authority as Christians to proclaim the gospel?
  • How do we make room for those who doubt us to see Jesus at work in their own lives?