John 20:21 NASB
So Jesus said to them again,
“Peace be with you;
as the Father has sent Me,
I also send you.”
KJV: Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you.
WEB: Jesus therefore said to them again, “Peace be to you. As the Father has sent me, even so I send you.”
Jesus said again,
‘Peace be with you.
As the Father sent me,
in the same way I am now sending you.’
I believe that nothing more, than the authority to declare the Gospel, can be found in these words, and I reject the strange notion that our Lord meant to give to the apostles the power of absolutely absolving or not absolving any one’s soul.
My reasons for maintaining this view of the text are as follows:
▪︎ The power of forgiving sins, in Scripture, is always spoken of as the special prerogative of God. The Jews themselves admitted this (Mark 2:7; Luke 5:21).
It is monstrous to suppose that our Lord meant to overthrow this great principle.
▪︎ The language of the old Testament Scripture shows conclusively that the prophets were said to “do” things, when they “declared them about to be done.”
Thus Jeremiah’s commission (Jeremiah 1:10) can only mean to declare the rooting out and pulling down, &c.
So also Ezekiel says, “I came to destroy the city” (Ezekiel 43:3); where the marginal reading is, “I came to prophecy the city should be destroyed.”
The apostles were doubtless well acquainted with prophetical language, and I believe they interpreted our Lord’s words in this place accordingly.
▪︎ There is not a single instance in the Acts or Epistles of an apostle taking on himself to absolve any one.
The preachers of the New Testament declare in the plainest language whose sin is pardoned, but they never take on themselves to pardon.
• When Peter said to Cornelius and his friends, “Whosoever believeth in Him shall receive remission of sins” (Acts 10:43);
• When Paul said at Antioch, in Pisidia, “We declare unto you glad tidings;” “Through this Man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins” (Acts 13:32, 38);
• and when Paul said to the Philippian jailor, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved” (Acts 15:31);
In each case they fulfilled the commission of the text before us.
They “declared whose sins were remitted, and whose were retained.”
▪︎ There is not a single word in the three pastoral Epistles to show that the Apostle regarded absolution as part of the ministerial office.
If it was he would surely have mentioned it, and urged the practice of it on young ministers, for the relief of burdened souls.
▪︎ The weakness of human nature is so great, that it is grossly improbable that such a tremendous power would ever be committed to any mortal man.
It would be highly injurious to any man, and a continued temptation to him to usurp the office of a Mediator between God and man.
▪︎ The experience of the Romish Church affords the strongest indirect evidence that our Lord’s words can only have been meant to bear a “declarative” sense.
Anything worse or more mischievous, both to minister and people, than the results of the Roman system of penance and absolution it is impossible to conceive.
It is a system which has practically degraded the laity, damaged the clergy, and turned people away from the Christ.
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