Who Can Forgive Sin? (Y1.T1.D37)
Updated: Jan 20
According to Merriam Webster, sin is defined as a "transgression of the law of God" or "a vitiated state of human nature in which the self is estranged from God." Therefore, only God himself can restore a sinner.
David said it this way: "Against you, and you only, I have sinned" (Psalm 51:4).
Because of this logic, I can understand why the scribes and Pharisees cringed when Jesus told a paralytic, "Son, cheer up! Your sins are forgiven you" (Matthew 9:2).
"Who can forgive sins but God alone?" (Mark 2:7), the religious leaders reasoned.
And guess what? Jesus didn't contradict them. He wanted them to know "the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins" (Mark 2:10). In hindsight, we know he was presenting his deity to them. But they were as blind to it as an argumentative defendant in a television courtroom who prefers their own interpretation of the law over reality.
So if God is the only one who can pardon sins, why did Jesus tell his disciples, "If you forgive anyone’s sins, they have been forgiven them. If you retain anyone’s sins, they have been retained" (John 20:23)?
These passages might not be as contradictory as they seem. Whenever I get confused about a biblical concept, I ask myself, “Why does God tell us to do anything?” The answer is simple: because he loves us.
Our Creator knows the effects of an unforgiving heart, and science is catching up to him. Consider the following statement on the Johns Hopkins Medicine website:
Studies have found that the act of forgiveness can reap huge rewards for your health, lowering the risk of heart attack; improving cholesterol levels and sleep; and reducing pain, blood pressure, and levels of anxiety, depression and stress. And research points to an increase in the forgiveness-health connection as you age.
Because God loves us and wants what's best for us, he allows us to "forgive" the impact another person's "sin" has had on us. This frees our hearts but does not cleanse the other person because "Apart from shedding of blood there is no remission" (Hebrews 9:22).
Only God has the power to pardon. He sent us his only Son (John 3:16)—Jesus Christ—"in whom we have our redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace" (Ephesians 1:7).
It is this magnificent grace that frees me to offer grace to others in the form of forgiveness, leaving the absolution of sin in God’s hands.
Thank You, Lord!
1 Out of the depths I have cried to you, Yahweh.
2 Lord, hear my voice.
Let your ears be attentive to the voice of my petitions.
3 If you, Yah, kept a record of sins,
Lord, who could stand?
4 But there is forgiveness with you,
therefore you are feared.
5 I wait for Yahweh.
My soul waits.
I hope in his word.
6 My soul longs for the Lord more than watchmen long for the morning,
more than watchmen for the morning.
7 Israel, hope in Yahweh,
for there is loving kindness with Yahweh.
Abundant redemption is with him.
8 He will redeem Israel from all their sins. (Psalm 130:1–8)
1 He entered into a boat and crossed over, and came into his own city. (Matthew 9:1)
1 When he entered again into Capernaum after some days, it was heard that he was at home. 2 Immediately many were gathered together, so that there was no more room, not even around the door; and he spoke the word to them. (Mark 2:1–2)
17 On one of those days, he was teaching; and there were Pharisees and teachers of the law sitting by, who had come out of every village of Galilee, Judea, and Jerusalem. The power of the Lord was with him to heal them. (Luke 5:17)
30 “‘But the soul who does anything with a high hand, whether he is native-born or a foreigner, blasphemes Yahweh. That soul shall be cut off from among his people. 31 Because he has despised Yahweh’s word, and has broken his commandment, that soul shall be utterly cut off. His iniquity shall be on him.’” (Numbers 15:30–31)
Thank You for the wonderful and strange things You continue to do for me. Beyond the healing of my mind and body, You cast my sin as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12). Help me be kind and tenderhearted toward others, forgiving them as You have forgiven me (Ephesians 4:32). And where my heart has become hard, I beg You to soften it according to Your will (Ezekiel 36:26). I yield the consequences of sin to You and You alone.
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