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Keys, Office of the.

1. The Office of the Keys (Mt 16:19; 18:15–20; Jn 20:22–23; Rv 1:18) is a peculiar, special, unique, spiritual power given by Christ to the ch.

2. Christ is Master (Mt 23:8–10), Head of the ch. (Eph 1:22; 4:15; 5:23; Cl 1:13, 18); His Word is authoritative (Jn 12:48–50; 1 Ti 6:3–5). The ch. should not go beyond His Word or allow other authority to est. its doctrine and creeds (Gl 1:8–9; Cl 2:8).

3. The Office of the Keys is spiritual (Mt. 20:25–26; Jn 18:36; 2 Co 10:4; Eph 6:10–17); it includes all spiritual rights, duties, and privileges necessary for the welfare of the ch. on earth, e.g., the conveying of grace to mankind through preaching, administering Baptism and Lord's Supper, and through mutual conversation and consolation. In particular, the Office of the Keys gives power to forgive and retain sins (loosing and binding), i. e., not merely to announce and to declare to men the remission or retention of sins, but actually to give forgiveness to penitent sinners and to deny forgiveness to impenitent sinners (Jn 20:23; 2 Co 2:10). See also Justification, 6.

4. The whole Gospel of Christ is an absolution.* Absolution does not exist outside the Gospel, but is a special form of administering the Gospel in which a minister or other Christian forgives the sins of others. It is not a better or more powerful forgiveness, but a special application which conveys reassurance (Lk 7:47–48).

5. Only God can forgive sins (Is 43:25; Mk 2:7). Christ gave the Office of the Keys to the ch. on earth; the ch. delegates and transfers the pub. exercise of the Office of the Keys to called servants of the Word (Acts 20:28; 1 Co 4:1; 2 Co 2:10; Eph 4:10–12). See also Ministerial Office, 5.

6. When the Office of the Keys is properly administered, the act is as valid and effective in the sight of God as though Christ Himself had performed it (Jn 20:23). The validity does not depend on faith, repentance, worthiness, good works, satisfaction of the one who pronounces absolution. Unbelief does not annul validity of forgiveness (Ro 3:3), but forgiveness is received through faith (Acts 10:43).

7. Possession of the Office of the Keys obligates Christians to observe all corresponding duties, e.g., to proclaim the Word publicly (Mt 28:18–20) and privately (Cl 3:16), to maintain purity of the Word (Jn 8:31–47; 1 Ti 6:20), to express faith (Ro 10:9), to forgive sins (Mt 18:21–35; Eph 4:32), to practice discipline (Mt 18:17; 1 Co 5:2–5; 1 Ti 1:20; Tts 3:10–11), to judge doctrine (Mt 7:15; 1 Jn 4:l; Acts 17:10–11).

8. RC interpretation refers the Office of the Keys to supremacy of spiritual jurisdiction vested in the pope and including unqualified executive power, universal legislative power, supreme judicial power, infallibility,* primacy (see Vatican Councils, 1 b). RCm holds that this supremacy originally belonged to Peter (but see, e.g., Mt 18:1–4; Lk 22:24–26; Acts 15:6–31; Gl 2:7–11; Eph 2:20; 1 Ptr 5:1; 2 Ptr 1:19) and that the popes are Peter's successors. CCS

9. Ban, or excommunication, is the process whereby impenitent sinners are excluded from Communion and other fellowship of the ch. In the Middle Ages a distinction was made bet. lesser ban, which excluded from the Sacraments, and greater ban, or interdict, which included civil penalties and excluded from all blessings and graces of the ch. The Luth. Confessions recognize only lesser ban as truly Christian and of concern to ministers (SA-III IX; cf. AC XXVIII 2; Ap VII–VIII 3; XI 4; XXVIII 12; Tractatus 60, 74). The RC Ch. distinguishes bet. tolerati (tolerated) and vitandi (to be avoided) excommunicates. The faithful need not shun the tolerati either in profane or religious matters. The vitandi are to be avoided as much as possible. The vitandi are excommunicated by being named in a pub. decree of the papal see. In 1971 a papal-appointed commission recommended dropping the vitandi category.

See also Priesthood.

C. C. Stephan, “The Office of the Keys,” The Abiding Word, I, ed. T. Laetsch (St. Louis, 1946), 342–365; W. H. Bouman, “The Practical Application of Matthew 18:15–18,” CTM, XVIII (March 1947), 178–204; O. Cullmann, Peter: Disciple-Apostle-Martyr, tr. F. V. Filson, 2d ed. (Philadelphia, 1962); H. Frhr. v. Campenhausen, Kirchliches Amt und geistliche Vollmacht in den ersten drei Jahrhunderten, 2d ed. (Tübingen, 1963), tr. J. A. Baker, Ecclesiastical Authority and Spiritual Power in the Church of the First Three Centuries (Stanford, California, 1969); G. Ebeling, Kirchenzucht (Stuttgart, 1947); R. Bohren, Das Problem der Kirchenzucht im Neuen Testament (Zurich, 1952).

Edited by: Erwin L. Lueker, Luther Poellot, Paul Jackson
©Concordia Publishing House, 2000, All rights Reserved. Reproduced with Permission

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