Ask Your Preacher

Ask Your Preacher

“Laws From Above”

Categories: NEW TESTAMENT
    Can you explain what's going on in John 20:22-23 where Jesus appears to give His disciples the power to forgive or not forgive sins?  Other Bible verses like Hebrews 4:16 and 1 John 1:9 seem to indicate that it is God who directly forgives sins.

Sincerely,
Got The Power?

Dear Got The Power,

The passage in Jhn 20:23 is more easily understood when we look at the original Greek.  It is very rare that going back to the Greek is a big deal, but in this case, it adds a lot of color.  When Jesus says, “Whatever sins you retain, they are retained”, the verb used for ‘are retained’ is a Greek perfect verb.  A perfect verb is a verb used when the action has already happened and the effects of that action are still with us.  The most accurate translation of that passage is “whatever sins you retain have already been retained, and the effects are still with us”.  Of course, that translation is a little bit cludgy, so most translators shorten it up a bit to what you read in the average translation.  It isn’t wrong to shorten it, but it does lose a little bit of the color that makes it easier to appreciate Jesus’ words.
Jesus was telling His apostles that they were going to be guided by the Holy Spirit, and the things that they were going to say wouldn’t be of their own opinion.  When they taught, they taught God’s pre-appointed laws.