The New Normal John Chapter 20:23
Lesson 2 Forgiveness of Sin is the New Normal
Instant forgiveness of sin is all of a sudden the new normal. We take for granted in our 21st century evangelical, protestant style church. But no one understood that immediately after the resurrection. Remember a day earlier the Old Covenant was the norm, there was no release or forgiveness from sin, but was only temporarily covered by the blood of animals. Yet, the risen Lord told the newly commissioned apostles that “if you forgive the sins of others, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they have been retained.” John 20:23
This is a phenomenal statement of authority and power now being vested in the new Christian.
This is now changed because the New Covenant now in force between God the Father and God the Son. This means that Jesus has given the Christian tremendous spiritual authority over the demonic power of sin. It may sound foreign or even heretical (for who can forgive but God alone?). But it is true. Remember, such an authority was given to the first apostles sent out in Luke 10:1-8. Jesus gave the disciples the “keys” to the Kingdom in Matthew 16:19. What you are doing is first helping a person get out of the bondage of sin. You help them with their need for forgiveness, and secondly pronouncing free as the result of God’s forgiveness. Isn’t this what you hear at an altar call. Come to Jesus for forgiveness of sin?
To forgive sins or to retain sins is about exercising the power of binding decisions on the behavior of the community. This was a Jewish cultural and spiritual procedure. Rabbis made the same pronunciations that we might be more familiar with such as pronouncing a leper ritually clean. Rabbis pronounced what was acceptable behavior in their communities.
The point of this text in John is that the risen Lord, Rabbi Jesus, is now delegating His authority to His disciples. They are to take His place as the ones who determine proper behavior in the communities they serve. One of the first principles taught to the disciples was binding and loosening. The disciples had a responsibility to see converts made and they possessed the authority to go with it. In their new normal, they now have authority from the risen Lord and a responsibility to their community.
What does forgiveness mean? It is an interesting concept that most Christians think it means not holding a grudge. But it is deeper and much more legal than that. Sadly, most Christians today believe they are completely powerless over the enemy and the effects of the enemy. Not so with the first century Christians.
There are two main words used in the New Testament for forgiveness. Charizomai (Luke 7:21, Galatians 3:18) means to show oneself gracious. The second word, apheimi is used 143 times to express permission, pardon, remit, and to send away. In other words in this verse, sins are sent away and the person is pronounced clean. One theologian said here it is best translated liberation. Saints are liberated from the eternal effect of their sins. Just as Jesus many times told sinner you are loosed, sin no more (Luke 13:12). Not that a person “sins” no more because that is impossible as humans. It means that we are free from the judicial effects of sin. We need to make sure we understand and teach that. We are no longer condemned. The Greek phrasing is very specific here.
Infrequently does the new believer hear, that they are released from the effects of not only their past sin, but also your present and future sins. This passage is written in the perfect tense. This means that a completed action in the past still had effect in the future.
What then is the Good News if it is not being loosed from the eternal effect of the sin in a person’s life? People still sin because people are human beings subject to the curse of Adam. We are still responsible for the worldly effect of sin. But we are no longer held responsible for curse of “Original Sin” or the “Sin Nature element of Christianity. We are eternally freed from that effect. No other religion in the world offers that. Let’s be clear, God the Father forgives because of your belief in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. We have received the delegated authority as believers to pronounce that person is loosed, just as a high priest pronounces a leper clean, a woman who just gave birth is purified or at a bar mitzvah, that a boy is now a man.
Noted theologian Skip Moen comments on this text:
“The point of this text in John is that Yeshua delegates this authority to his disciples. They are to take his place as the ones who determine proper behavior in the communities they serve. Why is this relevant to the question of the Trinity? Because it demonstrates the biblical principle of delegated authority. Now consider what Yeshua said about his authority. “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, these things the Son also does in like manner” (John 5:19). Doesn’t Yeshua Himself say that His authority is delegated by another? Just as He passed authority to His disciples, so the Father passed authority to Him, But the one who receives the authority is not in the same position as the one who grants it. The authority belongs to the one who grants it and is loaned to the one who receives it. It makes no sense at all to grant authority to oneself. If this is true, then how can Trinitarians claim that Yeshua is the same being as the Father? Can the Father grant authority to His equal in essences, the Son? Does that make any sense at all? If the Son and the Father share the same being (essence), then in what way are we to understand Yeshua claiming that He does nothing except what the Father grants Him to do?”
Now we see the trinity here. God the Father creates, Jesus delegates, and the Holy Spirit administrates. The Holy Spirit needed to emerge here so that the apostles can accomplish their mission. Jesus was demonstrating two key principles of scripture the church is familiar with, but in a very dramatic way. First, he demonstrated the basic principle of salvation. Secondly, he also demonstrated the Trinity for the first time in scripture. We will talk about the Holy Spirit next week.