Can Man Forgive Sins?

Absolution is a traditional theological term for the forgiveness experienced in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. This concept is found in the Roman Catholic Church, as well as the Eastern Orthodox churches, the Anglican churches, and most Lutheran churches.

The Absolution of the Dead is a series of prayers for pardon and remission of sins that are said in some Christian churches over the body of a deceased believer before burial. In the Catholic Church the Absolute are said over a deceased Catholic following a Requiem Mass and before burial. The absolution of the dead does not forgive sins or confer the sacramental absolution of the Sacrament of Penance. Rather, it is a series of prayers to God that the person’s soul will not have to suffer the temporal punishment in purgatory due for sins which were forgiven during the person’s life.

The Holy Bible is very clear that God (YHWH) alone can forgive sins and Jesus Christ (Yeshua HaMashiach), being God, has the power to do so, but He never communicated any such power to His apostles, nor did they ever assume any such power to themselves, or pretend to exercise it. In fact, it is the mark of antichrist to attempt anything of the kind because, in doing so, he usurps the divine prerogative and places himself in God’s seat. Rather, this passage is to be understood only in a doctrinal, or ministerial way, by preaching the full and free remission of sins through the blood of Christ, according to the riches of God’s grace. To as many as repent of their sins and believe in Christ, all disciples of Christ can confidently declare that all their sins are forgiven for Christ’s sake and to His glory.

  • “Why does this man speak like that? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?”
    (Mark 2:7 ESV)
  • And the scribes and the Pharisees began to question, saying, “Who is this who speaks blasphemies? Who can forgive sins but God alone?”
    (Luke 5:21 ESV)

Most churches that practice the absolution of sin do so under the assumed authority of John:20:23. But does this passage of Scripture give us the right to forgive the sins of another man?

  • If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.”
    (John 20:23 ESV)

The meaning of this verse has been hotly debated for centuries. One thing is certain: this does not mean we have the power to justify people from their sins so that they become born again; only God can do that.

Many people have taught that Jesus was saying that if we fail to witness to others, we are retaining their sins unto them, and if we do share His love with others, then we are remitting their sins. Although there is truth to that statement, that is not what this verse is teaching. Rather, this is dealing with the temporal effects that sin has on people’s lives. There isn’t just a future death penalty for sins, but sin destroys people emotionally and physically in this life too. It is this present destruction that sin brings into people’s lives that Jesus gave us power to remit.

Through intercession we can remit people’s sins so that even though they have sown to the flesh and deserve to reap corruption, they will not reap what they have sown. This is done for the purpose of loosing people from the bondage that Satan desires to hold them in until they see the light and repent. This is only a temporary situation and must be continually repeated if the people we are praying for are continuing to live in sin.

  • Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.
    (Galatians 6:7-8 ESV)

On the other hand, sometimes it is not in people’s best interest to remit their sins. There are times when they need to be made painfully aware of the consequences of their sins. In these cases, we have power to retain their sins (church discipline); that is, we withdraw our intercession and let them reap what they sow in the hope that this will cause them to turn back to God.

Advertisements