Luther on the Keys of the Kingdom


“Christ’s intention is to comfort us poor sinners in the most loving and effective manner.  His purpose is not to give the pope power over the angels in heaven nor over emperors on earth.  For our consolation all sins, none excepted, are subject to Peter and the keys.  All sins which he binds and looses shall be bound and loosed, despite the resistance of all devils, the whole world, and of all angels, and all despairing thoughts of our heart, even in the presence of death and evil omens.”

” A simple, trusting heart can boldly rely on God’s action.  And in times of deep distress, with our consciences accusing us, we may say: Well then!  I have been absolved of my sins, however many and great they may be, by means of the key, on which I rely.  Let no one remind me of my sins any longer.  All are gone, forgiven, forgotten.  He who promises me Whatever you loose shall be loosed does not lie; this I know.  If my repentance is not sufficient, his Word is; if I am not worthy, his keys are: He is faithful and true.  My sins shall not make a liar of him.”

The Keys, wrote Luther, have everything to do with the law and the gospel.  “Any reasonable person must admit that in the text (Matt 16.19) the keys are not associated with the performance of any works.  They enjoin and command nothing, but threaten and promise.  Now, to threaten and to promise are not the same as to command….  The key which binds carries forward the work of the law…. The loosing key carries forward the work of the gospel.”

From Luther’s Works (American Edition), 40.373-5.  The treatise is simply called “The Keys.”

shane lems

sunnyside wa