Who Can Forgive Sins but God Alone?

"But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins"—he said to the paralytic—"I say to you, rise, pick up your bed, and go home."

Have you ever been overcome with guilt, with shame, with self-condemnation because of some present or past sin? There are several wrong ways to deal with our sin. We can try and forget about it, hide it, cover it up. We can try to minimize it, pretend it's no big deal. Or we can try and find absolution by punishing ourselves, trying to pay back for our sin, confessing our sin over and over again, even trying to forgive ourselves.

Bearing the weight of guilt and shame and self-condemnation because of sin, whether confessed or not, is debilitating, even destructive. The good news in Mark 2:10-11 is that Jesus has the authority to forgive our sin. That means that no matter what we have done when we sin, we can come to Jesus. Understanding Jesus' forgiveness, helps us endure in faith and not despair. Let me share just three ways understanding Jesus' forgiveness helps us to endure.

  • Understanding Jesus' forgiveness, frees us from the burden of guilt, shame, and self-condemnation.
It's very possible that at some point, maybe even now, you've struggled with guilt, shame, self-condemnation over something you've done – may be something recent or something in your distant past. Maybe there are some sins in your past that you think are too horrible for Jesus to forgive. Or maybe, you're too shame-filled to admit it. The Bible reminds us that we cannot cancel our own sin. But one great promise of the kingdom is forgiveness of sin (Jeremiah 31:31-34). As the Son of Man, Jesus has the authority to forgive sin. So, come to Jesus – bring your sins to Him. When Jesus forgives sin, there is no more guilt, shame, condemnation (Romans 8:1-4). Of course, we will still battle with ongoing sin.

  • Understanding Jesus' forgiveness, empowers us to fight our ongoing sin.
We will battle against sin until Jesus returns and puts an end to all sin. As the Puritan John Owen said: "Be killing sin or it will be killing you." When we believed, we were transferred from the domain of the flesh, to the realm of the Spirit. We are no longer to live and think according to the flesh (Romans 8:5-14). By faith, we put off old, fleshly ways of thinking and put on new, Spirit-empowered thinking, gospel thinking.
When we believe we are forgiven by Jesus, we are empowered to kill sin, and we are free to keep running back to him when we may sin. Do you need to confess sin today? When Satan tempts you to despair over your sin, run to Jesus! Only he has the authority to forgive all your sins!

  • Finally, understanding Jesus' forgiveness, empowers us to forgive those who sin against us.
Jesus taught his disciples to pray, "forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors" (Matt 6:12). An unforgiving heart is anti-Christian; it is sinful; it is satanic. And unforgiveness can actually make us sick: anger, bitterness, ulcers, sinful anxiety.
Forgiveness is the key to fighting against sinful anger, bitterness, and, even, the desire for revenge.
How do we forgive those who have sinned against us?
  1. Remember that Jesus has forgiven you – ALL your sin!
    -What did you deserve for your sin?
    -And what have you received? Mercy/grace – forgiveness in Jesus.
    -Therefore, as Ephesians 4:30 reminds us, "Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.
  2. Entrust yourself to the God who judges justly.
    -This is faith in action.
    -This is how Jesus responded to those who sinned against him (1 Peter 2:22-25).
    -If we're to forgive those who have sinned against us, we must turn them over to God's judgment, to his discipline. We must believe that one day God will make all things right. When we believe in God's justice, we are empowered to forgive.
  3. Cancel the debt – forgive (vertical forgiveness empowers horizontal forgiveness).
    -Forgiveness, says Timothy Lane, is both an event (transaction) and a process. It is an event – when we say, "I forgive you," to those who sinned against us and ask for forgiveness. And it is a process as we continually work to forgive them whenever we're tempted to hold that confessed sin against them.
    -But we are also to forgive even when a transaction is not possible. That is, we are to forgive even those who sin against us but refuse to ask for forgiveness. In such cases, we are to forgive from our hearts. That is, we are to deal with them as forgiven, not holding their sin against them. Again, we can do this when we trust God's justice and discipline. But as we forgive those who sin against us, we are freed from anger, bitterness, sinful anxiety, and personal destruction. And more importantly, we are like Jesus when we forgive those who have sinned against us.

Martin Luther knew what it was like to despair over sin and guilt and shame. He would sometimes punish himself, his body seeking to gain acceptance from God. But it was reading the words of Romans 1:17, "The just shall live by faith" that he realized he could not earn God's favor. Only by faith in Christ did he find forgiveness and justification. Luther learned what Jesus told the paralytic in Mark 2 – "Son, your sins are forgiven."

Luther's understanding of the forgiveness of sin and the justification he had before God in Christ led him to write many hymns. I leave you with one of them here:

"In devil's dungeon chained I lay
The pangs of death swept o'er me.
My sin devoured me night and day
In which my mother bore me.
My anguish ever grew more rife,
I took no pleasure in my life
And sin had made me crazy.

Then was the Father troubled sore
To see me ever languish.
The Everlasting Pity swore
To save me from my anguish.
He turned to me his father heart
And chose himself a bitter part,
His Dearest did it cost him.

Thus spoke the Son, 'Hold thou to me,
From now on thou wilt make it.
I gave my very life for thee
And for thee, I will stake it.
For I am thine and thou art mine,
And where I am our lives entwine,
The Old Fiend cannot shake it.'"

Pastor Juan

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