Your question regarding John 20:23 was:

>>In this verse Jesus talks to the disciples about forgiving sins. Does this verse mean to say that 1) the disciples had the power to forgive sins, or 2) we have the power to forgive sins? <<

Due to the nature of Jesus' words and actions on this occasion, I conclude that it is the apostles who are termed "disciples" in John 20:19-23.

Here, Jesus is symbolically commissioning His apostles to go into all the world and preach the gospel. He had used similar language before His death (Jno. 16:7-15). Now, as the Father had sent the Son into the world (with a word and a mission, Jno. 12:49-50), He is now sending His apostles into the world (with the Holy Spirit inspired

word of the gospel). At His ascension, Jesus will again restate this "commission" - Matt. 28:18-20.

When the apostles received the Holy Spirit they were empowered to preach the saving gospel (Acts 1:8; 2:1-4). It is God who ultimately forgives sins (cf. Mk. 2:6). God has chosen to do so through the convicting and converting power of the gospel (Jno. 16:8-13; Rom. 1:16-17; Acts 2:37-38, 41; 3:22-26).

So, John 20:22-23 is emphasizing the effect of the Holy Spirit inspired word - the gospel - which the apostles would preach to the world. Through their message sins would be forgiven or retained (by God), depending upon the men's reaction to the gospel of Christ. For our sins to be forgiven today, we must believe and obey the gospel preached by the apostles of Christ (Acts 2:40-41; 2 Thess. 2:13-15).

Thank you again for your good question. May the Lord bless you as you seek to know and do His will (Matt. 7:21-23).


Joe Price

Joe R Price

Bible Answers

Mt. Baker church of Christ