It is recorded in the Gospel of John that after Jesus's death and resurrection, he appeared to the disciples and said the following:

On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.

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

John 20:19-23

In this scene, we see Jesus commissioning his disciples and empowering them with the Holy Spirit to carry on his ministry and to forgive people's sins on his behalf.

However, what about the second part of the fourth statement he says here - "If you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven"? Has much been written on this delegated power of condemnation? Have any denominations held that Christians have the power to condemn people for their sins, just like they have the power to forgive them?

  • The question has not treated of the fact that Jesus said these words to those upon whom he breathed, and these were (arguably) apostles. The question assumes that all self-professed 'Christians' have the same privilege and power. Some clarity is required, I suggest.
    – Nigel J
    Apr 30 at 20:38
  • 2
    I don't think any Protestant would say that Christians have the power to forgive or condemn on Christ's behalf. What I've heard said is that because the disciples whom Jesus was talking to were in step with the Holy Spirit, they would be accurately able to judge whether a man was forgiven or not based on their reception of the Word. In other words the disciples showed/gauged the divine forgiveness of a person rather than giving it May 1 at 0:07
  • @NigelJ My understanding is that this blessing and command is upon the Church as a whole, not specific people within the Church - a part of the Great Commission.
    – nick012000
    May 1 at 0:41


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