If one is to answer this question which Jesus posed to the scribes : "..For which is easier, to say, 'Your sins are forgiven ', or to say 'Rise and walk' ?... "(Matt. 9:5) one would opt in favor of the former for an answer. But, Jesus appears to have had the latter option in mind, as is forthcoming from the subsequent narrative. Is it true that the power to forgive sins was entrusted to a limited few, and those who exercised that power without authority were treated to have committed blasphemy , thereby putting themselves at risk ? Can someone enlighten me ?

  • See Mark 2, where they assert that "only God can forgive sins." Jesus doesn't seem to dispute this. For a Jewish understanding, you may wish to ask "who has the authority to forgive sins?" on Mi Yodeya. – MR. TOODLE-OO'D Jun 30 '15 at 15:43

It is not true that others were given the power to forgive sins on the Earth. Only Jesus had that authority. Forgiving sins is not a power it is an authority.

Matthew 21:23 and24 KJV And when he was come into the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came unto him as he was teaching, and said, By what authority doest thou these things? and who gave thee this authority? 24 And Jesus answered and said unto them, I also will ask you one thing, which if ye tell me, I in like wise will tell you by what authority I do these things.

Only God himself can forgive sins, but he gave Jesus the authority to pass that forgiveness to others while on Earth. Jesus explained this relationship in the following passage:

John 5:24 through 30 KJV Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life. 25 Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live. 26 For as the Father hath life in himself; so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself; 27 And hath given him authority to execute judgment also, because he is the Son of man. 28 Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, 29 And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation. 30 I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me.

Before leaving Earth Jesus gave his disciples certain authority, but not the authority to forgive sins.

Luke 9:1 KJV Then he called his twelve disciples together, and gave them power and authority over all devils, and to cure diseases.

Even Peter did not pretend to forgive sin, but professed that the authority to overcome infirmities was of Jesus.

Acts 3:6 KJV Then Peter said, Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I thee: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk.

Acts 4:10 KJV Be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even by him doth this man stand here before you whole.

Hope this helps.

  • You start your third paragraph by writing Only God himself can forgive sins, but he gave Jesus the authority...; from a Christian perspective, Jesus is God, the second person of the Trinity, in the words of the Nicene Creed, God from God, Light from Light, Very God from Very God, of one being with the Father. – brasshat Jun 30 '15 at 17:33
  • @brasshat Not all believe that God is a trinity. There are even some who assert that God and Jesus are one and the same and not tripartite. My answer was formed to not assert that the Godhead is a trinity. – BYE Jul 1 '15 at 11:06

Is it true that the power to forgive sins was entrusted to a limited few, and those who exercised that power without authority were treated to have committed blasphemy , thereby putting themselves at risk ? Can someone enlighten me ?

The forgiveness of sins is a little confusing because there are two types.

  1. Forgiveness of sins for salvation (judicial)
  2. Forgiveness of sins (relational)

Jesus has the authority to forgive sins because it was given him by God. The reason being is that Jesus took on the sins of the whole world such that any sin committed has already been paid for by Jesus personally.

1 John 2:2 And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.

The relational aspect of forgiving sins can be also seen in 1 John.

1 John 1:9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Here the word confess is homologos (to say the same words) If we are able to say the same thing about what we have done as God would, we bring ourselves into alignment with truth and are able to have restored our relationship with God that our sin broke apart.

Christians are able to forgive these types of sins with each other also to restore relationships.

The ability to "forgive" sins in John may fall into the relationship category of forgiveness and be based on if the person has already received relational forgiveness from God or not.

John 20:22-23 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.

Here Jesus gives the disciples the first permanent indwelling of the Holy Spirit that is given to all believers at their salvation. The verb tenses in John 20:23 need to be more accurately brought over into the English. Weust is pretty good for this;

John 20:23 If the sins of any certain individuals you forgive, they have been previously forgiven them, with the present result that they are in a state of forgiveness. If the sins of any certain individuals you retain in not forgiving them, they have been previously retained and thus have not been forgiven, with the present result that they are retained and in a state of not being forgiven. - Weust

The disciples are not being given special powers but special responsibilities. This is similar to the verse about Peter;

Matthew 16:19 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.

Once again Weust can be helpful in getting the verb tenses more accurate;

Matthew 16:19 I shall give to you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you bind on earth , shall have been already bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth , shall have already been loosed in heaven . - Weust

We can see an example of how this worked in Acts.

Acts 15:19-20 Wherefore my sentence is, that we trouble not them, which from among the Gentiles are turned to God: But that we write unto them, that they abstain from pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and from things strangled, and from blood.

Here the "binding" that was placed upon the Gentiles was that which was written in Leviticus to place upon the sojourner in Israel.

In this case one might see in John 20:23 the admonition that if a Christian has not had his relationship with God restored, the disciples would not be able to do so either.

The disciples in both Matthew and John are being told that they need to restrain their declarations to that which has already been established.


Jesus had the only authority to forgive sin as He is the 2nd person of the Trinity. "I and the Father are one". John 10:30


John 20 is interesting in this regard ...

21 Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” 22 And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”

Jesus sent the disciples, and breather the Holy Spirit on them and gave them the ability (authority/power) to forgive people's sins.

By inference, that same sending is given to us, with the same Holy Spirit and, I suggest, the same ability to forgive peoples' sins.

That healing is one of the gifts of the Spirit also suggests that we are able to heal as Jesus did.

My conclusion from this is that the healing and forgiving are both available to Christians.

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