12 Divine service, acts of blessing, and pastoral care

638 What does it mean to pray: “And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors”?


All human beings incur guilt on account of their sins. With these words, the believers acknowledge that they are sinners before God, and ask Him for forgiveness. Because God is gracious and forgives us, He expects us to likewise forgive those who have wronged us. Therefore, we will only be granted forgiveness if we ourselves are reconcilable and willing to forgive.

“Then Peter came to Him and said, ‘Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?’ Jesus said to him, ‘I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven’.”  Matthew 18: 21-22

639 What do we mean when we pray: “And do not lead us into temptation”?


The believers ask God to help them resist sin with all their might. These words also express the plea that God may protect them from severe trials of faith.

640 What is meant by the words “Deliver us from the evil one”?


This plea expresses the desire that God may deliver the believers from the power of the evil one. Ultimately it is a plea for God to grant ultimate redemption by delivering us from the evil one forever. In the Son of God “we have redemption, [...] the forgiveness of sins” (Colossians 1: 14).


Evil: see Questions 217→ et seq.

641 What do we mean when we say: “For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever”?


These words are an expression of praise to God (doxology). They serve to glorify the Almighty God, and He thereby receives the glory He is due. Our view is hereby also directed to the completion of His plan of salvation, when the redeemed will be permitted to experience the glory of God in His presence forever.


Plan of salvation: see Questions 243→ et seq.

642 What does the word “Amen” mean?


This word derives from the Hebrew and translates to mean: “So be it!” This word concludes the Lord’s Prayer and once again reinforces everything that has been expressed in this prayer.

643 When do the believers receive the forgiveness of sins in the divine service?


The proclamation of the forgiveness of sins occurs directly after the collective prayer of the Lord’s Prayer.

644 With what words is the forgiveness of sins proclaimed?


The Apostles proclaim the forgiveness of sins with a direct reference to Jesus Christ: “I proclaim unto you the glad tidings: in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the living God, your sins are forgiven. The peace of the Risen One be with you! Amen.”

The priestly ministers proclaim the forgiveness of sins with reference to the Apostle ministry: “In the commission of my sender, the Apostle, I proclaim unto you the glad tidings: in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the living God, your sins are forgiven. The peace of the Risen One abide with you. Amen.”


Priestly ministers: see Questions 415→508→661→

645 Is the forgiveness of sins a sacrament?


No, the forgiveness of sins (absolution) is not a sacrament. It is, however, a prerequisite for receiving the sacraments worthily.

646 How is it that sins can be forgiven?


Sins can be forgiven because God—as the God of love—sent His Son to the earth. With His death on the cross, the latter brought the eternally valid sacrifice for the forgiveness of sins. Through the voluntary surrender of His life, Jesus broke the power of Satan and conquered him and his works, namely sin and death. Since then, it has been possible for human beings to be liberated from sin (cf. Matthew 26: 28).

Jesus sacrificed His life for us so that our sins could be forgiven and so that we would not need to remain under the rule of sin.

“Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”  John 1: 29

For [...] when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son...”  Romans 5: 10

647 Who forgives sins?


It is the triune God who forgives sins. On their own, human beings are incapable of forgiving sins or being liberated from sin. “Blessed is the man to whom the Lord shall not impute sin” (Romans 4: 8).

648 Is it necessary to proclaim the forgiveness of sins?


Yes, the forgiveness of sins must be proclaimed. The Apostles proclaim forgiveness of sins by the commission of Jesus in accordance with His words: “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them” (John 20: 23). They thereby make the sacrifice of Jesus accessible to the believers. The priestly ministers are authorised by the Apostles to do the same.

649 What must a person do in order to have his sins forgiven?


In order to obtain forgiveness for one’s sins, the following are required:

  • the person must believe in Jesus Christ as his Redeemer (cf. John 8: 24).
  • in addition, one must believe that the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed by the Apostles.
  • it is also necessary to acknowledge that one has sinned, thereby incurring guilt, and that one is thus in need of grace.
  • the person must have the desire in his heart to be reconciled with God. n the sinner must regret his sins and acknowledge this before God in the Lord’s Prayer: “And forgive us our debts...”
  • one must make the earnest resolution to overcome one’s weaknesses and mistakes.
  • the sinner must have the desire to be reconciled with those who have wronged him and thereby incurred guilt with him.

“Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for if you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins.”  John 8: 24

650 What else is part of this recognition of having sinned?


The recognition that one has sinned includes an awareness of one’s own weaknesses and mistakes. This requires self-examination.
This recognition will lead to repentance and remorse.

651 What is meant by repentance and remorse?


Repentance signifies the recognition that one has acted wrongly, and incorporates remorse, as well as the earnest resolution to overcome mistakes and weaknesses.

Remorse is the feeling of suffering caused by wrongs committed in deed or omission. Sincere remorse also shows itself in the willingness to reconcile with one’s neighbour and make amends, as far as possible, for any damage that has been done.

652 What are the effects of the forgiveness of sins?


Forgiveness of sins cleanses us of sin and cancels out the guilt that exists with respect to God.

The believers whose sins have been forgiven are assured of the peace of Jesus Christ with the words: “The peace of the Risen One abide with you!” If this peace is absorbed believingly in the heart, all fear of the consequences of sin will retreat.

Irrespective of the forgiveness of sins, a person remains accountable for the consequences and responsibilities that have come about through his sinful conduct, whether they are of a material or legal nature.

653 Are there sins that cannot be forgiven?


Yes. Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is a sin for which there is no forgiveness. Concerning this, the Son of God said: “He who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is subject to eternal condemnation” (Mark 3: 29).

654 Who commits the sin of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit?


Those who consciously and intentionally portray the Holy Spirit as a devilish or misleading power for hostile and base motives are guilty of blaspheming against the Holy Spirit.

655 Who dispenses the sacraments in the divine service?


The sacraments of Holy Baptism with water and Holy Communion are dispensed by Apostles or priestly ministers in the commission of the Apostles. The sacrament of Holy Sealing is only dispensed by Apostles.

656 How often are the sacraments dispensed?


Holy Baptism with water and Holy Sealing are only dispensed to a person once. Holy Communion is dispensed to a person repeatedly.

657 Is Holy Communion celebrated in every divine service?


As a rule, Holy Communion is celebrated in every divine service.

For certain occasions (such as weddings or funerals) verbal divine services— that is, divine services without the celebration of Holy Communion—are conducted.

658 Do children also receive the sacraments?


Yes, children can also receive all three sacraments. If possible, the children take part in the celebration of Holy Communion with the congregation.


Children receive the sacraments of Holy Baptism with water, Holy Sealing, and Holy Communion in accordance with the words of Jesus: “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God” (Mark 10: 14).


Baptism of children: see Question 489→

659 Are the sacraments also dispensed to the departed?


Yes. In the Sunday divine service and on church holy days, the Chief Apostle and the District Apostles or Apostles commissioned by them also celebrate the sacrament of Holy Communion for the departed after the congregation celebrates Holy Communion. In the process, two ministers serve as proxies to receive the body and blood of Christ on behalf of the departed.

Three times each year—namely on the first Sundays in March, July, and November—special divine services are celebrated in which the Chief Apostle and the District Apostles or Apostles commissioned by them dispense all three sacraments to the departed. These acts are likewise performed on two ministers who serve as proxies.


Help for the departed: see Question 545→

That the sacraments can be dispensed for the dead is clear from 1 Corinthians 15: 29: “Otherwise what will they do who are baptised for the dead, if the dead do not rise at all? Why then are they baptised for the dead?”

660 What are “acts of blessing”?


God shares His blessing with human beings in various situations of their lives. When we talk about “acts of blessing” we are referring to all church acts that are performed on special occasions. Acts of blessing are not sacraments.


Sacraments: see Questions 472→ et seq.

661 What happens in an act of blessing?


In an act of blessing, God turns to a human being who sincerely longs for blessing. Through Apostles and priestly ministers, God blesses those who request this blessing and offers them His help, grace, and compassion.

The dedication of a church building or place of worship for a congregation also represents an act of blessing in an extended sense.

662 Which acts of blessing take place within the divine service?


The following acts of blessing take place within the divine service: confirmation, adoption into the New Apostolic Church, dispensation of engagement blessings, wedding blessings, and blessings on wedding anniversary blessings. Ordinations and other acts concerning the spiritual ministry are also performed during the divine service.