Welcome to Bible Answers


What do you come up with as an explanation of John 20:22,23?

Here is the scripture you refer to: "And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost: Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained." John 20:22,23

In John 20:22 "He breathed on them and they receive the Holy Ghost," He had commissioned them in the previous verse to go into the world with the message of the gospel. They needed the Holy Spirit to do that. (See Acts 1:8). He breathed on them as an act of encouragement and anticipation of receiving the Spirit, which they did later on the Day of Pentecost, (Acts 2:1). There is no evident in John 20:22 that they received the Spirit at that moment.

The matter of remitting or retaining the sins of people is not power to forgive anybody. Only God can forgive sins. Mark 2:7, "Why doth this man thus speak blasphemies? who can forgive sins but God only." There is nowhere in the history of the Book of Acts where they ever forgave anybody. However, the verse has an important meaning. He gives them the AUTHORITY to tell people how they can or cannot be forgiven. This they practiced. Peter tells the Gentile world, "To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins." Acts 10:43.

Paul tell the Jews in Acts 13:38-39, "Be it known unto you therefore, men and brethren, that through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins: And by him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses." They could have well inverted their message and told the people that if they did not trust Christ their sins would not be remitted.

The idea of authority given to man, or any group of men, to forgive on behalf of God is totally foreign to the Bible. Men can forgive one another, but sin against God - only God can forgive; and He only has one way to do that, that is, by the sacrificial death of His Son for those sins. This is not automated, but is obtained by coming in all your sins to the Saviour by faith and putting your trust completely in Him and His sacrifice. Did you do that yet? Acts 16:30-31.

All comments and questions to: Harold Smith

Return to Christian Living Questions Main Page

Updated February 2nd, 2014 by Sandra Felix