Blog 170: 4.1.22 - 4.1.29
The 16th century Reformers fought to win back the keys of the kingdom.
Calvin held that ordinarily there is no salvation outside of the church, but he did not hold that the church itself was the repository of forgiveness. No, forgiveness comes through the preaching of the gospel and its application to the conscience through the ministry of the Holy Spirit. Rome, therefore, had usurped the role of the word of God and the Spirit of God.
God's people stand daily in need of forgiveness and an ever-deepening assurance that they are forgiven. All sins repented of may be forgiven. This is the testimony of the patriarchs, of David, of the prophets, of Simon Peter and of all Scripture. There is forgiveness of sins at the entry into the Christian life; but it is ever and again available to us.
Especially when we are engaged in the discipline of sinners we need to remember that its function is to lead to a fresh sense of divine forgiveness and church forgiveness and restoration. For that reason its rigor must not endanger, and then destroy, the very pardon and restoration it seeks to produce.
"Therefore," says Calvin, "in the communion of saints, our sins are continually forgiven us by the ministry of the church itself when the presbyters or bishops to whom this office has been committed strengthen godly consciences by the gospel promises in the hope of pardon and forgiveness. This they do both publicly and privately as need requires. For very many, on account of their weakness, need personal consolation."