NKJV - 23 "If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained."
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The sins we can forgive are those committed against us personally. In fact, if the person truly repents, we are obligated to forgive. Luke 17:3 says, "So watch yourselves! Yet if your brother or sister does you wrong, rebuke them; and if they’re sorry, forgive them." Mat. 6:12 & 14 says, "Forgive our debts to you just as we forgive debts owed to us... If you forgive other people’s sins, your Father in heaven will forgive your sins". So forgiveness is the correct response to repentance, and it means not continuing to hold the sin against them. However, it doesn't require us to TRUST the person; trust and forgiveness are two different things. For example, if someone robs us and then repents and returns the stolen items, we can't keep punishing them for the theft, but on the other hand we should be aware of their weakness and not make it easy for them to repeat the sin. This is especially important on the issue of abuse; the victim should never be forced to stay near the (former) abuser. To forgive the UNrepentant is to encourage and enable sin. To force victims to forgive such people is to punish them twice and make them the bigger sinner if they don't forgive them. We must remember what Jesus said: that we'll be held to the standards we used on others (Mat. 7:2).
The apostles having the Holy Ghost would be able to discern the hearts of men during what would have been their "great commission" while spreading the gospel of the kingdom and Jesus Christ's return when the "times of refreshing" would then occur (Acts 3:19). They quite literally could choose not to "lay hands" on a person if that person's heart was not in the right place. This was all of course occurring prior to the stoning death of Stephen (Israel's unforgivable sin of blaspheming the Holy Ghost), and also prior to Paul being commissioned by Christ ascended to administer God's current dispensation of grace (Eph 3:2). Believers are now gifted salvation and sealed with the Holy Spirit immediately upon possessing faith in Christ (Eph 1:12-13), rather than having to await the delivery of Israel's earthly kingdom of priests due to their current fallen state (Rom 11:11).
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