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Thread: Absolution

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    Absolution

    Many are aware that Lutherans include a time of confession during their service followed by a pronouncement of absolution by the pastor. They do not require but also encourage (at least some of them) private absolution where a person meets with the pastor to tell him about sins that are particularly troubling them and the pastor pronounces absolution on them. It's not that the pastor has some special power but that God gave each Christian the ability to absolve sins. Since things should be done decently and in good order it is usually the pastor that serves that function. The doctrine of absolution is based on a number of texts. We know of a number of passages in which Jesus told people "Your sins are forgiven you." The Pharisees were horrified that someone on this earth would say that someone else's sins had been forgiven. We also read in John 20:

    John 20:19-23 Then, the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in the midst, and said to them, "Peace be with you." 20 When He had said this, He showed them His hands and His side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. 21 So Jesus said to them again, "Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you." 22 And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 "If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained."

    Jesus says "Peace be with you" and in so doing pronounces an absolution upon them. He then told them to receive the Holy Spirit while he breathed on them and tells them if they forgive anyones sins they are forgiven them. Zwingli was strongly opposed to the pronouncement of absolution. If we are to take Jesus words literally if he says "If YOU forgive the sins of any..." then we should be saying "I forgive you of your sins." But Zwingli somehow thought that we should take the YOU to be referring to the Holy Spirit. I've also heard a great number of reformed people get really bent out of shape about the pronouncement of absolution at Lutheran church services. But what is interesting is that Calvin actually promoted absolution. He included it in his liturgy at Strassburg and tried to include it at Geneva but the people jumped up before the end of the time for confession to stop him. If you read Calvin's Institutes Book 3 chapter 4 he doesn't sound substantially different at all from the Lutheran position. Here's some of what he says:


    12. PRIVATE CONFESSION IN THE CURE OF SOULS
    Scripture, moreover, approves two forms of private confession: one made for our own sake, to which the statement of James refers that we should confess our sins to one another [<590516>James 5:16]. For he means that, disclosing our weaknesses to one another, we help one another with mutual counsel and consolation. The other form we are to use for our neighbor’s sake, to appease him and to reconcile him to us if through fault of ours he has been in any way injured, band in the first kind of
    confession, even though James, by not expressly determining on whose bosom we should unburden ourselves, leaves us free choice to confess to that one of the flock of the church who seems most suitable. Yet we must also preferably choose pastors inasmuch as they should be judged especially qualified above the rest. Now I say that they are better fitted than the others because the Lord has appointed them by the very calling of the ministry to instruct us by word of mouth to overcome and correct our sins, and also to give us consolation through assurance of pardon [<401619>Matthew 16:19; 18:18; <432023>John 20:23]. cFor, while the duty of mutual admonition and rebuke is entrusted to all Christians, it is especially enjoined upon ministers. Thus, although all of us ought to console one another and confirm one another in assurance of divine mercy, we see that the ministers themselves have been ordained witnesses and sponsors of it to assure our consciences of forgiveness of sins, to the extent that they are said to forgive sins and to loose souls. When you hear that this is
    attributed to them, recognize that it is for your benefit. bTherefore, let every believer remember that, if he be privately troubled and afflicted with a sense of sins, so that without outside help he is unable to free himself from them, it is a part of his duty not to neglect what the Lord has offered to him by way of remedy. Namely, that, for his relief, he should use private confession to his own pastor; and for his solace, he
    should beg the private help of him whose duty it is, both publicly and privately, to comfort the people of God by the gospel teaching. But he should always observe this rule: that where God prescribes nothing definite, consciences be not bound with a definite yoke. Hence, it follows that confession of this sort ought to be free so as not to be required of all, but to be commended only to those who know that they have need of it. Then, that those who use it according to their need neither be forced by
    any rule nor be induced by any trick to recount all their sins. But let them do this so far as they consider it expedient, that they may receive the perfect fruit of consolation. Faithful pastors ought not only to leave this freedom to the churches but also to protect it and stoutly defend it if they want to avoid tyranny in their ministry and superstition in the people.
    13. PRIVATE CONFESSION FOR THE REMOVAL OF AN OFFENSE
    Now Christ speaks of the other sort of confession in the Gospel of Matthew: “If you are offering your gift at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there…and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift” [Matthew 5:23-24]. For the love, which was broken by our

    offense, is thus repaired by our acknowledging the wrong we have committed, and asking pardon for it. In this class is included the confession of those who have sinned even to the point of offending against the whole church. For if Christ considers the
    private offense of one man so serious that he bars from the sacred rites all those who sin in any respect against their brothers until they become reconciled by a just satisfaction, how much greater is the reason that he who offends the church by any evil example should be reconciled to it by the acknowledgment of his offense. F155 Thus was the Corinthian received again into communion when he had obediently yielded to correction [<470206>2 Corinthians 2:6]. This was also the form of confession in the early church as Cyprian also recalls it. He says: “They do penance for a certain period; then they come to confession, and through the imposition of the hands of bishop and clergy receive the privilege of communion.” F156 aScripture does not know any other manner or form of confession at all, cand it is not our task to
    bind with new bonds consciences that Christ most sternly forbids to enslave. In the meantime, I do not so much object to sheep presenting themselves to their shepherd as often as they wish to partake of the Sacred Supper; rather, I ardently wish this to be observed everywhere. For both those who have an encumbered conscience can thence receive a remarkable benefit and those who should be admonished may thus be prepared for admonitions, provided tyranny and superstition be always excluded!

    14. NATURE AND VALUE OF THE POWER OF THE KEYS
    The power of the keys has a place in these three kinds of confession: either when the entire church with solemn recognition of its faults implores pardon or when an individual, who has by some notable transgression committed a common offense, declares his repentance, or when one who needs a minister’s help on account of a troubled conscience discloses his weakness to him. eWhere an offense is to be removed the method is different; for even though in that case peace of conscience is also provided for, the chief end is to remove hatred and to unite men’s minds
    with one another in the bond of peace [cf. <490403>Ephesians 4:3]. But the benefit of which I have spoken is not at all to be spurned, that we may more willingly confess our sins. cFor when the whole church stands, as it were, before God’s judgment seat, confesses itself guilty, and has its sole refuge in God’s mercy, it is no common or light solace to have present there the ambassador of Christ, armed with the mandate of reconciliation, by whom it hears proclaimed its absolution [cf. <470520>2 Corinthians 5:20]. Here the usefulness of the keys is deservedly commended, when
    this embassy is carried out justly, in due order, and in reverence. Similarly, when one who in some degree had estranged himself from the church receives pardon and is restored into brotherly unity, how great a benefit it is that he recognizes himself forgiven by those to whom Christ said, “To whomsoever you shall remit sins on earth, they shall be remitted in heaven” [<432023>John 20:23; conflated with Matthew 18:18]! And private absolution is of no less efficacy or benefit, when it is sought by
    those who need to remove their weakness by a singular remedy. For it often happens that one who hears general promises that are intended for the whole congregation of believers remains nonetheless in some doubt, and as if he had not yet attained forgiveness, still has a troubled mind. Likewise, if he lays open his heart’s secret to his pastor, and from his pastor hears that message of the gospel specially directed to himself, Your sins are forgiven, take heart” [<400902>Matthew 9:2 p.], he will be reassured in mind and be set free from the anxiety that formerly tormented him.
    But when it is a question of the keys, we must always beware lest we dream up some power separate from the preaching of the gospel, e(c)I shall explain this matter again more fully in another place, where I shall deal with the government of the church. There we shall see that any right of binding or loosing which Christ conferred upon his church is bound to the Word. F157 cThis is especially true in the ministry of the keys, whose entire power rests in the fact that, through those whom the Lord had ordained,
    the grace of the gospel is publicly and privately sealed in the hearts of the believers. This can come about only through preaching.
    For whatever strength of arm he may have who swims in the open sea, yet in time he is carried away and sunk, mastered by the greatness of its waves. Need then there is that we be in the ship, that is, that we be carried in the wood, that we may be able to cross this sea. Now this Wood in which our weakness is carried is the Cross of the Lord, by which we are signed, and delivered from the dangerous tempests of this world.--St. Augustine

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    Re: Absolution

    Yes indeed St Charles. It is great comfort for the words of forgiveness bang into my ears. It has been a great privilege to also be presented with terrified sinners to listen to and also pronounce grace to them.

    Many object to this practice due to RCC abuses which centers in on the actions of the person and the office he holds. It is not, of course, centered on the person moving air molecules around but rather on the words of Jesus.

    God's peace. †
    Arrogance cannot be avoided or true hope be present unless the judgment of condemnation is feared in every work. Martin Luther's Heidelberg Disputation, May 1518

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    Re: Absolution

    Quote Originally Posted by wildboar View Post
    Many are aware that Lutherans include a time of confession during their service followed by a pronouncement of absolution by the pastor. They do not require but also encourage (at least some of them) private absolution where a person meets with the pastor to tell him about sins that are particularly troubling them and the pastor pronounces absolution on them. It's not that the pastor has some special power but that God gave each Christian the ability to absolve sins. Since things should be done decently and in good order it is usually the pastor that serves that function.
    So would this "absolution" be forgiving something Christ forgot to deal with at the cross? Or did you have some new catagory of sin in mind that wasn't covered when Jesus said "it is finished"?
    Isaiah 45:7, (KJV), I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things.

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    Re: Absolution

    Yeah confession during a service or encouragement to confess ones sins in private to a pastor seems more of a religious tradition to me. Where in Gods Word does it say one HAS TO confess their sins to a pastor? Isn't confessing them to God enough? Do we HAVE TO tell everyone of our sins and mistakes?

    Course I am sure most believers will look to their close friend or someone they trust to share their struggles with, and to look for help in being spurred onto good works and getting rid of the old self. But why a pastor? There's nothing special about that person.. why cant I just go and confess to a friend of mine... a fellow brother in the Lord?

    Mary
    A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches, and loving favour rather than silver and gold. - Wisdom

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    Re: Absolution

    HF:

    No, the purpose is not to earn some sort of forgiveness from God.

    MCoving:

    We don't HAVE TO. I think Calvin makes it clear that it is not required but it can be a great comfort and can help with certain sins which we struggle with which is why Christ told those in John 20 to pronounce absolution.
    For whatever strength of arm he may have who swims in the open sea, yet in time he is carried away and sunk, mastered by the greatness of its waves. Need then there is that we be in the ship, that is, that we be carried in the wood, that we may be able to cross this sea. Now this Wood in which our weakness is carried is the Cross of the Lord, by which we are signed, and delivered from the dangerous tempests of this world.--St. Augustine

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    Re: Absolution

    Quote Originally Posted by wildboar View Post
    HF:

    No, the purpose is not to earn some sort of forgiveness from God.

    MCoving:

    We don't HAVE TO. I think Calvin makes it clear that it is not required but it can be a great comfort and can help with certain sins which we struggle with which is why Christ told those in John 20 to pronounce absolution.
    Well least you think that you don't have to, kinda surprises me you say that when you believe so strongly that one has to be baptized. Anyways.. I went to a PCA church here in Oregon which is nothing like out East I'm sure. They believe arminians to be there brothers in the Lord.. so they kind of have a watered down doctrines of grace theology. And there sermons are too. Sometimes I think its just because they dont want to scare anyone into leaving if they take a stand for the Gospel. BUt yeah I experirenced confessions there.. reminded me of my old Epsicipal church or Catholic stuff.. didn't really like it. Plus for anyone new it had the appearance of being something you do so that you are forgiven. They didn't clarify how all our sins are already forgiven because of what Jesus did on the cross. They made it seem like we had to confess otherwise our sins would't be forgiven. So I dont know.. depends on how a church does this, but I think its more of a private matter and the believer can decide who they confess to and if they want to, etc.

    Mary
    A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches, and loving favour rather than silver and gold. - Wisdom

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    Re: Absolution

    Quote Originally Posted by MCoving View Post
    Yeah confession during a service or encouragement to confess ones sins in private to a pastor seems more of a religious tradition to me. Where in Gods Word does it say one HAS TO confess their sins to a pastor? Isn't confessing them to God enough? Do we HAVE TO tell everyone of our sins and mistakes?

    Course I am sure most believers will look to their close friend or someone they trust to share their struggles with, and to look for help in being spurred onto good works and getting rid of the old self. But why a pastor? There's nothing special about that person.. why cant I just go and confess to a friend of mine... a fellow brother in the Lord?

    Mary
    Mary,

    It is a privilege given to the believer to announce the grace of God to another. It is also of great comfort to hear these words. Romans 10:17 shows that by hearing faith happens. Certainly one can read about forgiveness but to hear the words of God that we are forgiven cannot be discounted.

    Why not tell them to the pastor? He is called of God to his office. This violates modern sensibilities which may attend a counseling session to sooth troubled emotion. However, that activity does nothing to expiate guilt knowledge. Yes a person can go to a fellow believer, a pastor is also a fellow believer, as long as the person hearing this understands to pronounce grace not only to say "Oh that's understandable no one is perfect." A statement like that may have temporary good but will not address the deep distress sin and guilt can cause.

    Jesus said to do these things. He was not one to give out dead religious activities to people with which to occupy themselves. Each He has given as gifts because He truly does understand our needs.

    HF

    It is referring solely to the finished work of Jesus on the cross. And it is in the stead and by His command this is done.

    God's peace. †
    Arrogance cannot be avoided or true hope be present unless the judgment of condemnation is feared in every work. Martin Luther's Heidelberg Disputation, May 1518

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    Re: Absolution

    Quote Originally Posted by unhingedsquare View Post
    HF

    It is referring solely to the finished work of Jesus on the cross. And it is in the stead and by His command this is done.

    God's peace. †
    Give me scripture. Where in any of the epistles was this preached by Paul?
    Isaiah 45:7, (KJV), I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things.

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    Re: Absolution

    HF:

    I provided Scripture. Does it not count because its not Paul saying it but only Jesus?
    For whatever strength of arm he may have who swims in the open sea, yet in time he is carried away and sunk, mastered by the greatness of its waves. Need then there is that we be in the ship, that is, that we be carried in the wood, that we may be able to cross this sea. Now this Wood in which our weakness is carried is the Cross of the Lord, by which we are signed, and delivered from the dangerous tempests of this world.--St. Augustine

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    Re: Absolution

    It is a privilege to announce grace to each of God's own by proclaiming the true gospel. "It is finished" are the words Christ used.

    In regards to all pastors being called of God (truly regenerate); that would depend upon their doctrinal convictions. If the Gospel they preach is not the true Gospel, they certainly aren't regenerate.

    All who preach the true Gospel can certainly tell all that the elects' sins have been forgiven--and the Holy Spirit will unfailingly communicate this to each elects' conscience in due time. Of course the non-elect cannot grasp this truth and usually look to mens' works to provide (false) comfort.

    Tell me; why should one believe any man telling one their sins are forgiven if one cannot believe God on the matter (absence of faith)? Who does God want us to look to for assurance of our forgiveness; the words of men or His Christ (Himself)?

    Rom 15:4 For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.

    When things are done decently and in good order, the teacher edifies the flock regarding the true Gospel and the Holy Spirit works it in power to each elects' conscience. Maybe what you call "absolution" I call comforting the feeble-minded and bearing the infirmities of the weak.

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    Re: Absolution

    So when do the Pastors sit and confess their sins to the "layity"?

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    Re: Absolution

    Quote Originally Posted by wildboar View Post
    HF:

    I provided Scripture. Does it not count because its not Paul saying it but only Jesus?
    We've talked before about progressive revelation.

    Where in the epistles is "absolution" taught or spoken of?

    Also when Jesus said:
    John 20:22-23
    22 And when He had said this, He breathed on them and said to them, Receive the Holy Spirit.
    23 Of whomever sins you remit, they are remitted to them. Of whomever sins you retain, they are retained.
    Did he breath on all believers this way? Are all sent to do this? Are all Apostles?

    Also, if someone sins against you and you don't forgive them, that other person would probably still feel guilty until you told them that you did forgive them. I'm not convinced this text speaks of absolution.

    Again, where does Paul speak of this?

    Paul championed grace more than any other writer. If this was so important, don't you think he would have mentioned it?

    Again, at what point was Jesus' absolute act lacking, thereby making this action necessary? Absolution has already been provided. Why do you keep trying to introduce something that has already been accomplished? Putting a church leader in a "priestly" office over another believer is a false gospel.
    Isaiah 45:7, (KJV), I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things.

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    Re: Absolution

    HF:

    I do not deny progressive revelation but if you think that if Jesus said to do something and that if Paul doesn't explicitly mention it then we are not to do it, then you are pitting Paul against Christ. You are saying you are of Paul. Did Paul die for your sins? Why not seek harmony when there is no contradiction?
    For whatever strength of arm he may have who swims in the open sea, yet in time he is carried away and sunk, mastered by the greatness of its waves. Need then there is that we be in the ship, that is, that we be carried in the wood, that we may be able to cross this sea. Now this Wood in which our weakness is carried is the Cross of the Lord, by which we are signed, and delivered from the dangerous tempests of this world.--St. Augustine

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    Re: Absolution

    Quote Originally Posted by wildboar View Post
    HF:

    I do not deny progressive revelation but if you think that if Jesus said to do something and that if Paul doesn't explicitly mention it then we are not to do it, then you are pitting Paul against Christ. You are saying you are of Paul. Did Paul die for your sins? Why not seek harmony when there is no contradiction?
    So, do you practice and endorse foot washing as a regular tradition also?

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    Re: Absolution

    You bet I do. I don't want to smell your feet. Didn't your mom teach you to bathe. Sorry, I couldn't resist. I'm not opposed to footwashing. Its actually one of the requirements of the servant widow in one of Paul's letters.

    1 Timothy 5:9-10 Do not let a widow under sixty years old be taken into the number, and not unless she has been the wife of one man, 10 well reported for good works: if she has brought up children, if she has lodged strangers, if she has washed the saints' feet, if she has relieved the afflicted, if she has diligently followed every good work.

    There is a cultural change in this area. We generally don't all walk around with sandals on all the time and the idea of footwashing may be better demonstrated by a general servant attitude towards our brothers in Christ. Sin is always there and so I don't know how you do away with absolution by this analogy. On the other hand I would not oppose foot washing, it might teach us some humility. I wouldn't oppose the use of the kiss of peace either. In the ancient church the men would kiss their fellow brothers on the cheek prior to receiving and communion and the women would kiss their fellow sisters on the cheek. There are actually recorded instances where people refused because of a squabble they were in with the person. The church service stopped until reconciliation took place. Its easier to shake the man's hand that you hate than kiss him. Its easy to unworthily partake of the Lord's Supper by living in hatred towards our brothers in Christ and remaining unreconciled. I'm not opposed to the elders annointing the sick with oil and praying over them either. I know both Reformed and Lutheran commenators often explain the oil as being medicinal and say the function is performed when the minister prays while you are being operated on my doctors. Its also true that this wasn't directly given by Christ. Still I'm in favor of the whole anointing with oil thing. I'm pretty much generally in favor of doing that which the Bible commands us to do. The context of my worship doesn't usually let me practice all these things but I don't oppose them.

    But this whole pitting of Jesus against Paul seems to smell of both liberalism and dispensationalism.
    For whatever strength of arm he may have who swims in the open sea, yet in time he is carried away and sunk, mastered by the greatness of its waves. Need then there is that we be in the ship, that is, that we be carried in the wood, that we may be able to cross this sea. Now this Wood in which our weakness is carried is the Cross of the Lord, by which we are signed, and delivered from the dangerous tempests of this world.--St. Augustine

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    Re: Absolution

    Quote Originally Posted by wildboar View Post
    You bet I do. I don't want to smell your feet. Didn't your mom teach you to bathe. Sorry, I couldn't resist. I'm not opposed to footwashing. Its actually one of the requirements of the servant widow in one of Paul's letters.

    1 Timothy 5:9-10 Do not let a widow under sixty years old be taken into the number, and not unless she has been the wife of one man, 10 well reported for good works: if she has brought up children, if she has lodged strangers, if she has washed the saints' feet, if she has relieved the afflicted, if she has diligently followed every good work.

    There is a cultural change in this area. We generally don't all walk around with sandals on all the time and the idea of footwashing may be better demonstrated by a general servant attitude towards our brothers in Christ. Sin is always there and so I don't know how you do away with absolution by this analogy. On the other hand I would not oppose foot washing, it might teach us some humility. I wouldn't oppose the use of the kiss of peace either. In the ancient church the men would kiss their fellow brothers on the cheek prior to receiving and communion and the women would kiss their fellow sisters on the cheek. There are actually recorded instances where people refused because of a squabble they were in with the person. The church service stopped until reconciliation took place. Its easier to shake the man's hand that you hate than kiss him. Its easy to unworthily partake of the Lord's Supper by living in hatred towards our brothers in Christ and remaining unreconciled. I'm not opposed to the elders annointing the sick with oil and praying over them either. I know both Reformed and Lutheran commenators often explain the oil as being medicinal and say the function is performed when the minister prays while you are being operated on my doctors. Its also true that this wasn't directly given by Christ. Still I'm in favor of the whole anointing with oil thing. I'm pretty much generally in favor of doing that which the Bible commands us to do. The context of my worship doesn't usually let me practice all these things but I don't oppose them.

    But this whole pitting of Jesus against Paul seems to smell of both liberalism and dispensationalism.
    Well then, if Jesus has commanded it--why haven't you made it a traditional practice in your church? Why do you exalt absolution over foot-washing and holy-kissing in worship practice? Cherry-picking?

    If "cultural change" is justification for not regularly practicing these things in your eyes, what other worship practices can we adopt or ignore based upon cultural change? Charles, do you see how human-centered your theology is becoming?

    Also, it is always easier to attack the messenger rather than Biblically refute the message. You may go ahead and follow your yellow-brick road with your straw man accusation regarding the pitting of Jesus against Paul.

    Gal 1:8 But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.

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    Re: Absolution

    And WHERE is the New Testament mandate for this doctrine as being significant?

    But this whole pitting of Jesus against Paul seems to smell of both liberalism and dispensationalism.

    If you are convinced that we are dispensationalists and/or liberals, both of which are damned by God for their hatred of the truth if they love their heresy consistently and eternally, why are you posting here? I think all can agree that it is pointless to try and talk confirmed souls of either of these persuasions out of their delusions. Only the Lord can redeem a few of them with His own miraculous persuasion of the Holy Spirit!

    I do not pit Jesus against Paul. I admonish anyone to show me where I have done this. I only submit to Jesus' own teaching that He would reveal more truth after the coming of the Holy Spirit in Pentecostal power than He did while He was on Earth.
    I got four things to live by: don't say nothin' that will hurt anybody; don't give advice--no one will take it anyway; don't complain; don't explain. Walter Scott

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    Re: Absolution

    Rlhuckle:

    I suppose if I had my own church with me as its sole member I could do these things. But people is people. I'm not cherry picking, I'm encouraging any and all of these practices.
    For whatever strength of arm he may have who swims in the open sea, yet in time he is carried away and sunk, mastered by the greatness of its waves. Need then there is that we be in the ship, that is, that we be carried in the wood, that we may be able to cross this sea. Now this Wood in which our weakness is carried is the Cross of the Lord, by which we are signed, and delivered from the dangerous tempests of this world.--St. Augustine

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