John 20:22 And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost. 23 Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained.
This passage of scripture has often been misinterpreted to mean that sinners must confess their private sins and shortcomings to a priest or minister with the expectation of being absolved or forgiven. Nothing can be further from the truth, for every priest and ordained minister also need to confess their own sins and are just as much in need of forgiveness and repentance as is the ordinary person. As a matter of fact, the habit of confessing our innermost sins and weakness to a fallen man just like ourselves is actually productive of the worst evils, for it not only exposes our vulnerabilities to a frail mortal, but it also puts us in danger of being consequently abused by "predators" parading as "priests", as recent history has too often shown.
Question: So what does the passage of scripture mean?
Answer: It means that the true church as a cooperate body can confirm to the believer, that which has already taken place in the courts of Heaven, after the stipulated, scriptural conditions have been met. If God were to wait on a priest or minister to "remit" or cancel sins, then we would as sinners be facing monumental obstacles to our salvation; obstacles such as back-log, favoritism, bias, and fraud, for history has shown in times past that forgiveness of sins and absolution was degenerated into a very lucrative, monetary enterprise, with all of its attendant evils. Those who could "pay" more were granted remittance, and by default were actually encouraged to sin, because they had the wealth to purchase absolution. On the other hand, those who were poor and could not "afford" to sin were given penances imposed by priests as a form of self affliction. All of these evils tend to lessen the seriousness of sin, and intrude upon the Heavenly ministry of Christ, whose sole prerogative it is to forgive sins.
The Bible is very clear on the issue of the authority to forgive sins, both in the old and new testaments. Let's read:
Exodus 34:6 And the Lord passed by before him, and proclaimed, The Lord, The Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, 7 Keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children's children, unto the third and to the fourth generation. 8 And Moses made haste, and bowed his head toward the earth, and worshipped. 9 And he said, If now I have found grace in thy sight, O Lord, let my Lord, I pray thee, go among us; for it is a stiffnecked people; and pardon our iniquity and our sin, and take us for thine inheritance.
Then again the same sacred truth is reiterated in the new testament in several passages of scripture. Let's read:
Acts 5:30 The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom ye slew and hanged on a tree. 31 Him hath God exalted with his right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins.
Matthew 9:2 And, behold, they brought to him a man sick of the palsy, lying on a bed: and Jesus seeing their faith said unto the sick of the palsy; Son, be of good cheer; thy sins be forgiven thee. 4 And Jesus knowing their thoughts said, Wherefore think ye evil in your hearts? 5 For whether is easier, to say, Thy sins be forgiven thee; or to say, Arise, and walk? 6 But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins, (then saith he to the sick of the palsy,) Arise, take up thy bed, and go unto thine house. 7 And he arose, and departed to his house.
In our day we need to be very careful of what we believe and in whom we trust. If anyone has committed sins, God has throw open wide the gates of the Heavenly sanctuary, where everyone can find forgiveness and pardon full and free, by praying directly to God who is always willing and ready to hear the cry of the penitent one. Anyone in any place at anytime and in any situation can call upon The Lord for forgiveness of sins, and whenever we do, the assurance is given that He will hear and answer. Let's read:
1st John 1:9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
Thus, in closing we submit for our consideration, a passage of scripture intended to bring hope, pardon, and forgiveness of sins to every member of the human family. Let's read:
Isaiah 53:5 But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. 6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all. 11 He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities.
It is the will of our Heavenly Father that we all avail ourselves of the grace and pardon provided for us through the death of Jesus Christ, by seeking the remittance of our sins, directly from Him, as the Bible says:
Hebrews 4:14 Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. 15 For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.
May this experience be ours for the rest of our lives. "Good night" and God bless!