The things of God are not for sale. They are free. Shockingly free. Scandalously free.
There was a word in church history that came from this episode: simony. Simony was the buying of church offices. You would buy a church office so that you could get the income from it and then hire someone at low cost to carry it out for you, often very poorly. Many popes and councils and princes worked to reform this practice. It was hard to stamp out, though. There are always people eager to trade for a profit, even to trade in the Word of God. We see it still today, in one form or another, in Protestantism as well as Roman Catholicism. Maybe it is not the selling of church offices anymore, but there are plenty ready to profit from the things of God.
The things of God, however, are not for sale. They are free. Shockingly free. Scandalously free. Christ died for them to be so. He gave Himself, paid the ultimate price, for sinners to receive free grace. And that free grace is the only grace from God. Any other grace makes a mockery of the cross and is not grace at all. Christ did not die to inaugurate a spiritual marketplace. Christ died, for you, so you could have salvation and have it for free.
We easily are tempted to think we should negotiate with God. And we can find plenty of preachers willing to serve as brokers. We think we can buy God off, whether it be with money or works, promises or sweet talk. But God makes the promises. Christ did the work. And the sweet talk in which God deals boils down to these sweet words: I forgive you.
Peter told Simon as much. He told him to repent. He told him to repent of such human religion. God does not enter into a negotiation with us. God does not give the church or its ministers the Goods to sell. He gives the church and its ministers the Goods to give, free of charge.
Salvation knows no capitalism. We do not invest in the afterlife. The afterlife has already been bought and paid for. That is the point of Good Friday. The afterlife is given. This is why Christ rose with absolution on His lips. Do not let anyone, even the church, even its ministers, suck you into any exchange but the joyful exchange, your sin for Christ’s righteousness, He who had no sin made sin for you for you to become the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21). Your Baptism declares that, and does it. The absolution does the same. So does biblical preaching. Christ for you, for free, and for freedom.
Want the Spirit? Have the Spirit, at no charge. It is the church’s charge to give the Spirit to you, and the Spirit comes with the only thing the church has to offer that the world does not: the gospel. Have the Spirit. The Spirit is yours, and with the Spirit forgiveness, life, and salvation. All yours. All for Christ’s sake. All free. Be free. There is no negotiation, only declaration.
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