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Can We Forgive Or Retain Sins And They Are Forgiven Or Retained (John 20:23)?

The statement made by Jesus in John 20:23 has sparked debates and controversies among Christians regarding the forgiveness and retention of sins. To understand the meaning behind this statement, it is important to examine the context and related passages.

Firstly, it is crucial to note that the forgiveness and retention of sins mentioned in John 20:23 does not refer to ordinary forgiveness or unforgiveness in relation to sins committed against us. Instead, it pertains to the forgiveness or retention of all the sins someone has ever committed and will ever commit, regardless of whether they are directed towards us, others, or God.

To grasp the intended meaning, we must explore other passages of Scripture that shed light on this topic. Mark 16:15-16 emphasizes the importance of preaching the gospel to all creation. Those who believe in the message and are baptized will be forgiven and saved, while those who do not believe will face condemnation.

John 3:18 further supports this concept by highlighting the belief in Jesus Christ as the key to forgiveness and salvation. Romans 10:14 emphasizes the role of preaching in facilitating belief, stating that people must hear about Jesus in order to believe in Him.

Luke 24:45-49 reinforces the connection between preaching, repentance, and forgiveness of sins. Acts 10:42-44 and Acts 2:38 also highlight the link between belief in Jesus, repentance, baptism, and the forgiveness of sins.

From these passages, it becomes clear that the power to forgive or retain sins does not solely rest in the hands of believers. Christians have been entrusted with the responsibility to preach the gospel, which leads to the forgiveness or retention of sins by God. Through their proclamation of the good news, believers participate in the process of forgiveness and salvation.

However, it is important to note that while believers may be seen as having the authority to forgive or retain sins, ultimately, it is only God who can truly forgive or retain someone’s sins. Only God has the ability to examine the mind and heart of every individual to determine their true belief or disbelief.

Various verses affirm God’s omniscience in discerning the innermost thoughts and intentions of humans. Jeremiah 17:10, Luke 16:15, Acts 1:24, and Revelation 2:23 highlight God’s knowledge of the heart and His ability to search hearts and minds.

The act of forgiving and retaining sins, as it pertains to this context, requires a profound understanding of human minds and hearts, surpassing the capacity of any human being.

In conclusion, John 20:23 does not grant Christians the inherent power or authority to forgive or retain sins. Instead, it emphasizes the responsibility and privilege of believers to preach the gospel, which results in the forgiveness or retention of sins by God. Forgiveness and salvation are tied to faith in Jesus Christ and the proclamation of His message. While believers participate in the process, it is ultimately God who holds the power to forgive or retain sins based on the true belief or disbelief of individuals.


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