Thursday, June 9, 2011
One of the last things Jesus did before He ascended back to Heaven was to breathe on His disciples to receive the Holy Spirit. After doing this, Jesus said to them in John 20:23 … "if you forgive the sins of anyone, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of anyone, they are retained." (Amplified Bible.)
The K.J.V. reads … "Whose soever sins ye remit … (supposing them to repent and believe) they are remitted, and whose soever sins ye retain (supposing them to remain impenitent) they are retained."
Does this verse of Scripture give believers today the same power that Jesus had … namely, authority to forgive sin? Can a man or a priest forgive the sin of someone else?
If so ... here arises a difficulty.
Are not the sins of one who truly repents, and believes in Christ, remitted, or forgiven, without sacerdotal absolution thru a priest or another believer? And are not the sins of one who does not repent or believe, retained even … with … absolution? What then does this commission by Jesus imply?
Before we proceed any further, I need to establish this fact ... God is the only one that can forgive sin.
When Jesus said to a man with palsy, "thy sins be forgiven thee," the Jewish scribes who heard Him reasoned within their hearts saying ... "who can forgive sins but God only?" (Mark 2:7)
This Jewish doctrine came from God as He proclaimed in Isaiah 43:25 ... "I, even I, am he that blotteth out thy transgressions …"
We can forgive what others do to us by forgiving the individual for the sin done to us ... but it is up to God to pardon the sin itself.
I cannot find in scripture where the apostles ever assumed any such power to forgive or remit sins themselves, or where they exercised any such power.
The meaning then in John 20:23, is not that man can forgive sins … God only can forgive sins, and Christ being God, had the power to do so likewise. This commission, is not "authority" to forgive individuals … we cannot give absolution from sin … and by the way, there is only one priest who can forgive our sin and His name is Jesus. (Hebrews 2:17)
1st John 1:9 ... "If we confess our sins, he (Jesus) is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."
If we confess our sins … not the sins of someone else. What about "free will?" What if we are trying to remit another's sin before they are ready … what then?
Notice John doesn't mention the need of a priest or any other man. Why is that?
Hebrews 4:16 ... "Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need."
We, on our own have been invited to petition Heaven anytime we deem it necessary … without help from anyone. We reach out on our own … no pastor, no priest … just you and God. After we petition the throne of grace, Jesus then intercedes for us with God the Father. How do I know that? Because of ...
Hebrews 7:25 ... "Wherefore he (Jesus) is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he (Jesus) ever liveth to make intercession for them."
Hebrews 10:12 ... "But this man, (Jesus) after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God ..."
Okay … let me try and put this together. God is seated on the throne of grace, for all grace flows from Him. Jesus … after sprinkling His own blood on the mercy seat ... sat down on the right hand of God where He ever lives to make intercession for us.
If man cannot remit another's sin … how can man retain another's sin? The following is just one of the examples that I believe are in the Word of God.
In Matthew 18:15-18, we have the instruction of Jesus concerning another believer who wrongs you … (sins against you) … and what we are to do about it. We are to go to him first, privately, and talk to him. If he doesn't listen, then we take one or two others as a witness … as to his repentance or impenitence. Next we use the church and its love to convince him of his wrong … (whatever it was) … and if he still refuses to repent, he is to be treated as a pagan … according to Jesus.
Now here is where I want to tie John 20:23 with Matthew 18:18 ... "Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven."
By taking the three steps above, the repentant believer is "loosed" from his sin … or as John says it, his sin is "remitted" … by you; and if he is not repentant, than his sin is still "bound" or "retained" … it's just that simple.
Basically, the same thought must be applied to another verse in Scripture, (also John's) which at first glance … looks as if it also states … that we can ask God to forgive someone other than ourselves, and God will do it.
1st John 5:16, tells us to pray for a brother (a believer) if we see him sin … "a sin not unto death" … if we can rightly tell them apart from … "a sin unto death." Every sin, even the least sin, in its own nature is mortal, or deserving of death. The proper wages of sin is death.
Again, God alone can forgive sin … so John says … "he shall ask." Who shall ask? The one who sees a brother sin. He shall pray to God for him … since he has not committed a sin unto death, and He shall give him life; that is ... God shall give the sinning brother life or forgiveness. How can that happen?
For a sin committed not unto death, the forgiveness or life given by God, is because of the prayers of believers for him. This does not mean that this forgiveness or life is given to the one that prays … to then be given to the sinner by the one who prays. God does it all. We just pray.
We do not give absolution to sinners. We should leave that to Jesus, our high Priest … who is the one who intercedes for us.
This commission then is to be understood only in a doctrinal way, by sharing Jesus and the Word of God with those who sin (including believers) … and then thru repenting, their sin is remitted unto them … "forgiven" … but only by God.
What is a "sin unto death?" I don't believe anyone really knows. Some have said it could be taking a persons life. Others have said it might be a sin that turns you away from God … causing spiritual death. It is unclear … no one knows.
Guard your heart.