Sunday, May 29, 2011

Could they or couldn't they forgive sins

I would appreciate any help you can provide on John 20:21-23.  Of course I believe the bible for what it says, and I tried to explain to my friend (also a Baptist Pastor) that the 12 did have authority to remit and retain sins as part of the prophetic program.  He got a bit angry/defensive and said that it doesn’t mean that.  He then went on to preach on Easter Sunday that the 12 didn’t actually receive the Holy Spirit here; that Jesus was talking about the future at Pentecost.  He also explained the verse as if it applied to us that:  When someone believes the gospel, we are in essence remitting their sins and when someone rejects the gospel we are retaining their sins.

As far as you sharing God's word with a Baptist pastor (or any other denominational preacher), it is nearly impossible to get them to see the word rightly divided because of their pride.

1 Timothy 6:3-4
If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness; He is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings).

Even so, below are verses so that you can have while talking to him. 

Now, regarding your question about the passage in John...

John 20:21-23
Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you. And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost: Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained.

You both are right! You are right in that the Lord Jesus Christ did give his apostles his power to forgive sins or to not forgive them.  Your friend is also right in that they did not actually receive the Holy Ghost at that specific time.

Regarding the power to forgive sins…

John 20:21
Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you.

Notice that the Lord tells them that the same way God the Father sent him (to preach, heal, forgive sins in Israel), so he sends them in his stead!

We also actually see the Lord gave them his authority to forgive sins way back in the book of Mathew...

Matthew 18:18-20
Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.

These verses prove that part of their commissioning as his apostles to Israel; they had the power to do everything that he did—including forgiving sins!

Look what he says even earlier in the book of John...

John 14:12
Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father.

So what do the words remit and retain mean from scripture?

The word remit is only mentioned once in the bible, but it is the root word of remission and in the bible, remission is always related to forgiveness for sins!!!  It is used 10 times, including…

Matthew 26:28
For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.

The word retain is used in the bible as "to keep," as in “they will keep their sins.”

Job 2:9
Then said his wife unto him, Dost thou still retain thine integrity? curse God, and die.

Proverbs 4:4
He taught me also, and said unto me, Let thine heart retain my words: keep my commandments, and live.

Romans 1:28
And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient;

So for the Lord to give Israel's apostles the power to remit and retain sins in his stead meant that they could take away a person's sins, and chose to have that person keep them as well!

We actually see this with Peter in Acts 8...

Acts 8:13, 20-23
Then Simon himself believed also: and when he was baptized, he continued with Philip, and wondered, beholding the miracles and signs which were done.

But Peter said unto him, Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money. Thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter: for thy heart is not right in the sight of God. Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee. For I perceive that thou art in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity.

Here we see that Simon believed the gospel of the kingdom, yet, because of his evil heart (God, the Holy Ghost, gave Peter the power to read his heart!), Peter said that he was still in the bond of iniquity, which is sins/lawlessness against God! So Peter made him retain his sins!

In fact, Peter all by himself could forgive sins as the head apostle to Israel

Matthew 16:18-19
And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.

So when did this power to forgive sins take place? Well, the same time that they got the Holy Ghost; that is, not at that time in John 20, but later in after Acts 2!

The Lord already told them earlier in the book of John that they would not get the Holy Ghost until he goes to heaven and send him!

John 16:7
Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you.

So they did not receive the Holy Ghost, nor have the ability to forgive sins in Christ stead until after Acts 2—which was 10 days after his ascension.

Acts 2:1-4
And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.

Also notice that all the apostles had to be there to receive the Holy Ghost (v. 1), yet in John 20, when the Lord breathed on them, Thomas was not there. That is even more proof to me that the giving of the Holy Ghost and the power to forgive sins was future from that day!

John 20:24
But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came.

In conclusion, the book of John shows the Lord as Israel's Jehovah God, which means that the book of John (as well as 1 John, 2 John, 3 John, and Revelation) all have a future look at Israel's program!

John 3:13
And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven.

The Lord was not in heaven yet while speaking these words to Nicodemus!

Romans 4:17
(As it is written, I have made thee a father of many nations,) before him whom he believed, even God, who quickeneth the dead, and calleth those things which be not as though they were.

When John writes, he shows God's ability to prophesy/predict/foretell events as though they were!

Hopefully this helps! 

Do you have a question for Pastor Ron?

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