Matthew 9:1-7 involves Jesus forgiving someone's sins. Is this forgiveness granted in light of Jesus' future sacrifice of himself on the cross? If not, how is this person forgiven of their sins since, "under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins?"(Hebrews 9:22, ESV)

And getting into a boat he crossed over and came to his own city. 2 And behold, some people brought to him a paralytic, lying on a bed. And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Take heart, my son; your sins are forgiven.” 3 And behold, some of the scribes said to themselves, “This man is blaspheming.” 4 But Jesus, knowing[a] their thoughts, said, “Why do you think evil in your hearts? 5 For which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk’? 6 But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he then said to the paralytic—“Rise, pick up your bed and go home.” 7 And he rose and went home. Matthew 9:1-7 ESV

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    It is customary to include the passage you are asking about in your question. That way people don't have to go somewhere else to get the context. Welcome to the site, by the way!
    – Narnian
    Commented Jan 20, 2014 at 18:32

2 Answers 2


This question could also entail those who lived prior to the giving of the law, such as Abraham.

Paul gives us the answer in his letter to the Romans.

But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. Romans 3:21-26 ESV

It must also be noted that the blood of bulls and goats never took away sin:

For since the law has but a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered every year, make perfect those who draw near. 2 Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered, since the worshipers, having once been cleansed, would no longer have any consciousness of sins? 3 But in these sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year. 4 For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. Hebrews 10:1-4

So, God "forbear" the sins committed beforehand, waiting until the time that the penalty would actually be paid. It is as if Jesus had taken on the sentencing already, but the sentence had yet to be enacted upon Him. Thus, the sinner was still free to go, as he was no longer liable for his sin.

In the case of Abraham, the case of the person in this passage, and in the case of us today, it is faith that results in the transfer of our penalty to Christ.

  • So did the paralytic have some sort of faith in Jesus as savior/messiah/God? Commented Jan 21, 2014 at 21:20
  • @ChrisMorris That seems to be the most likely conclusion. Perhaps it was the paralytic himself who asked his friends to carry him to Jesus, indicating a faith in who Jesus is. Jesus did not do this with everyone, but He knew every heart's condition as well. It seems He saw faith in this man.
    – Narnian
    Commented Jan 21, 2014 at 21:23

Mostly ditto to Narnian. Just to add a thought:

Jesus was about to pay the penalty for sin. So it's not that the sin was forgiven without payment, it's more like the payment was on a divine credit card to be paid off soon. :-)

Some theologians say that before Christ's death, everyone who died, believers and unbelievers, went to Sheol. Then after his death Christ went to Sheol to take the saved with him to Heaven. The reasoning is that before his death, the penalty had not yet been paid, so no one could be admitted to Heaven. They point to Ephesians 4:8-9, "Therefore He says: When He ascended on high, He led captivity captive, And gave gifts to men. (Now this, “He ascended”—what does it mean but that He also first descended into the lower parts of the earth?"

I think the evidence is thin, but it's not implausible.

Another alternative is to resort to the common theory that God exists outside of time, and can see and intervene in past, present, and future at will. If so, the timing of Christ's death relative to any given sin may not be relevant.

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