76.We say on the contrary that papal indulgences cannot remove the very least of venial sins as far as guilt is concerned.
Even at this writing Luther understood that only God could give relief from the guilt of sin. There was not a piece of paper issued by the Pope or anyone else that could bring the same assurance that the love of God gives.
If you sin against someone, they are the ones that need to forgive you for that sin. Our sin has separated us from the God of all creation and our sin is against Him. Forgiveness for that sin that separates needs to come from Him alone. So God said “I forgive You” from the cross and the open grave! That forgiveness is for everyone of all time. By the cross and the open grave we are restored to God.
The priests of Luther’s time and the pastors of today are able to speak forgiveness to you because Christ has given that power to all believers. Any believing Christian can forgive the sins of someone else because Christ said “Whosoever sins you forgive, they are forgiven and whosoever sins you retain they are retained.” (Matthew 18:18) However forgiveness is not something that can be bought and sold, it can only be given.
So we have forgiveness not because we earned it or bought it but because it has been given to us by God.
Forgive me Lord. It was my sin that caused Your suffering, it was my sin that held You to the cross. I know that my forgiveness comes from You. By Your Spirit fill me with the joy of my forgiveness. Through Jesus Christ, Amen.