I thought only God can forgive sins?
ESV - 23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.
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When God forgives us of our sins it is full and complete. 1 John 1:9 says ' If we confess our sins He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from ALL unrighteousness. Whereas man on the other hand can only forgive as he sees or is revealed by God and is convicted by the Holy Spirit, See John 16:8. The word forgive comes from the Greek word 'Apheimi ' which means 'to let go' or 'give up'. We generally find it hard to let go because we have been offended and we like to hold on to our hurts as some kind of payback. If you read the verse carefully it says " Whosoever sins YOU remit(forgive), they are remitted TO THEM, and whosoever sins YOU retain, they are retained. The word retain in the Greek is 'echo' which means 'to hold'. Jesus is pointing out that unless we forgive others we will always be holding on to the sin or the offense. The Model prayer in Matthew 6:12-15 Jesus states quite clearly, that we need to forgive(let go or give it up). "For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses." Let's be ready to forgive others because we also need forgiveness. See Ephesians 4:32 Just before the verse in John 20: 23 Jesus breathes on the disciples and says "receive the Holy Spirit". You see it is only through the power of the Holy Spirit can we truly forgive other people their sins. God has given us the means to forgive others, now it is our choice.
Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained. Jn 20:23 This is simply another form of expressing power to bind and to loose and to do the works of Christ (Mt. 18:18) Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven:and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. The word "verily" evidently points to a repeat of the truth of Mt. 18:18, that every believer can have power to bind and loose. "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." - Mt 16:9 Keys are a symbol of authority (Isa. 22:22; Rev. 3:7). Here they mean authority and power to do the works of Christ (Mt. 18:18; 16:15- 20 Jn. 14:12- 15). Whatever He bound and loosed is the true idea. Not to Peter only, for the same power is promised all believers (Mt. 17:20; 18:18; 21:22; Mk. 9:23; 11:22- 24 16:15- 20 Lk. 10:19; Jn. 14:12- 15 15:7, 16; Acts 1:4- 8 2:38- 39 5:32; 1Cor. 12). Loosing is symbolically : 1. Animals in chains (Mt. 21:2) 2. Men by God's power (Mt. 16:19; 18:18) What to loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven? 1. Infirmities (Lk. 13: 12- 16 Mk. 7: 35) 2. Satan and angels from chains (Rev. 9: 14; 20: 3, 7) 3. Men from chains and prison (Acts 16: 26; 22: 30; 24: 26) 4. Men from sin (Rev. 1: 5) 5. Men from bonds of death (Acts 2: 24) 6. Marriage bonds (1Cor. 7: 27) 7. Satanic powers (1Jn. 3: 8) 8. Animals (Mk. 11: 2- 4) 9. Earth from bondage and the curse (2Pet. 3: 10- 13 Rom. 8: 21) 10. Men by God's power (Mt. 16: 19; 18: 18). One can see from these examples of binding and loosing that it means more than declaring something lawful or unlawful by preaching. It also means to confirm the truth by power as Christ and the apostles did. See Mt. 18: 18.
Jesus was saying that just as He forgives our sins in order to have eternal life, we must forgive those whom have sinned against us personally. We have to follow His example. He said it in The Lord's Prayer and God never changes for He is eternal. Sometimes we have to forgive ourselves first, before we can forgive others. Jesus Christ is the Way, the Truth and the Life, for there is no other. Only God can forgive sin for eternal life.
Let me focus on Jn 20:22 wherein Jesus said to the Apostles to 'receive the Holy Spirit' The Apostles were commissioned after having received the power of the Holy Spirit through the breath of Jesus on them. This was an important event. The power of the Holy Spirit was bestowed to the Apostles. The Apostles were given authority to preach the gospel to all nations even to the end of the world (Luke 24:47). Today, the power of the Holy Spirit is freely available to all those accepted Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. (1 Thes 1:5) It is ' the Spirit of Truth' who dwells with the believers forever yet cannot be received by 'the world'(Jn 14:16-17). It is the Holy Spirit, sent by the Father, who will teach Jesus' followers everything and remind them of all He told them(Jn 14:26, Jn 16:13). The Spirit forgives our sin.
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