← Back

What is the correct interpretation of John 20:23?


John 20:23

ESV - 23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.

Clarify Share Report Asked July 01 2013 Mini Anonymous (via GotQuestions)

Community answers are sorted based on votes. The higher the vote, the further up an answer is.

Shea S. Michael Houdmann Supporter Got Questions Ministries
In John 20:23, Jesus tells His disciples, "If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven." The very core of the gospel message is the truth th...

July 01 2013 4 responses Vote Up Share Report

Mini Billy P Eldred
I believe the key to this verse lies in verse 21 "As the Father has sent me, I am sending you". Why did Jesus come? To save the lost! Why was he sending out his disciples? To save the lost! 

And how are the lost saved? By Faith in Jesus. So I believe Jesus was saying: I am empowering you with the Holy Spirit to witness to the lost. They will either believe and therefore their sins will be forgiven commuting their death sentence or they will remain in their sin, unforgiven.

January 20 2016 0 responses Vote Up Share Report

License picture Richard Magee Disabled Scholar
To understand this passage, I feel that it must be looked at in a different way. I think Jesus used this to sway people to believe in him so that their sins are forgiven summarily and without question. Otherwise he warns that you will be bound to your sins by each and every individual who will not, in and of themselves, forgive you. I feel it was a successful attempt at being a "sobering thought" to clench his deal with those present and the future of us who are made the same offer to join in Him for absolution, by the spreading of his gospel.

November 29 2015 0 responses Vote Up Share Report

Mini paul thieman
one sins block one's faith. To forgive is a key to God's Kingdom so to
have victory we must forgive.

January 21 2016 0 responses Vote Up Share Report

Mini Michael Davis Former Baptist Pastor now Catholic, lover of the poor
None of what I say here will be my opinion. I am a human with a sin nature and so my opinion is short-sided. I appeal to the Scritpures and to the Early Fathers who were discipled by the apostles. 

1. In the context Jesus is speaking to the Apostles directly. He is not speaking to the entire church, but to specific people. He is giving them His authority to forgive sins or to withhold forgiveness. Again, before going back to Heaven Jesus is giving the Apostles His authority to lead His Church. Of course, only God can forgive sin, but He is now using human leaders to be a visible sign of Him with His people. Therefore, He is giving them authority to speak on His behalf to forgive sins. 

2. The Early Fathers who were discipled by the Apostles wrote in many places that the Apostles, and thus their successors, have the authority to loose and to bind, to forgive or to withhold forgiveness of sins acting in Persona Christi (in the Person of Christ). They also taught that for them to be able to know whether to forgive or withhold forgiveness they had to know what the sins are, so we have the sacrament of reconciliation (formerly called Confession). If the ones who were discipled by the Apostles held this interpretation of this passage, then who am I to argue?

The quotes of the Early Fathers on the interpretation of the scripture and their writings on the fact that we should confess our sins to the Apostles, or their successors, and that they are acting in Persona Christi is so numorous that I cannot take up the space here. I will just encourage you to do your own research. It is God Who forgives sin, but since the Incarnation of Christ He uses His human leaders to carry out His mission in the Church.

February 28 2019 6 responses Vote Up Share Report

Add your Answer

All answers are REVIEWED and MODERATED.
Please ensure your answer MEETS all our guidelines.

What makes a good answer? ▼

A good answer provides new insight and perspective. Here are guidelines to help facilitate a meaningful learning experience for everyone.

  1. Adhere to the eBible Statement of Faith.
  2. Your answer should be complete and stand-alone.
  3. Include supporting arguments, and scripture references if possible. Seek to answer the "why".
  4. Adhere to a proper tone and spirit of love and understanding.
  5. For more info see The Complete Guide to eBible
  1. 4000 characters remaining