I’m Confused about sin and forgiveness of Sin.

Prayer For Repentance

Referenced Scripture:  John 20:23 “If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.” 

Question:  The second part of that sentence seems to have less clarity on what is being communicated.  Is he saying they will have God’s wisdom to determine what sins are forgiven and what sins are not forgiven?  Isn’t forgiveness given to all those who have committed sin and ask for forgiveness?

Repentance Forgiveness

Prologue: The knowledge seeker has asked a question that I’m sure others have wondered about in the scriptures. Two main areas of focus should be addressed in reply to the questions: 1) Jesus sending out his followers (both Apostles and Disciples), and 2) the authorities and instructions Jesus to them, as he sent them forth. I believe that these two areas, if examined will yield the best response to this esoteric passage of scripture.   

There is an abundance of scriptures where Jesus sent his followers out with specific commands and with stated powers or authority. If we focus on those times where Jesus specified to his followers, both what to do and the power/authority they had in performing the command, it would get us more directly to the response to the question asked. Some examples of such scripture passages are provided for examination:

Matthew 10:  1Jesus called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out impure spirits and to heal every disease and sickness. 5These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: “Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans. 6Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel. 7As you go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ 8Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, and drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give. 11Whatever town or village you enter, search there for some worthy person and stay at their house until you leave. 12As you enter the home, give it your greeting. 13If the home is deserving, let your peace rest on it; if it is not, let your peace return to you. 14If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, leave that home or town and shake the dust off your feet. 15Truly I tell you, it will be more bearable for Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town.

John 15:  16You did not choose Me but I chose you and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit and that your fruit would remain, so that whatever you ask of the Father in My name He may give to you.

Luke 10:  1Now after this the Lord appointed seventy others, and sent them in pairs ahead of Him to every city and place where He Himself was going to come. And He was saying to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest. “Go; behold, I send you out as lambs in the midst of wolves.

Matthew 28: 18Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit…

Mark 6: 7And He summoned the twelve and began to send them out in pairs, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits;

Mark 16: 17These signs will accompany those who have believed: in My name they will cast out demons, they will speak with new tongues; 18they will pick up serpents, and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.”

Luke 10: 17The seventy-two returned with joy and said, “Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.  18 He replied, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. 19 I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you.

Acts 1:  8But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.

Luke 24: 49 “And behold, I am sending forth the promise of My Father upon you, but you are to stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”

Acts 4: 31And when they had prayed, the place where they had gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak the word of God with boldness.

Hebrews 2: 4God also testifying with them, both by signs and wonders and by various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit according to His own will.

Luke 9:2And He sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to perform healing.

Mark 16: 19After the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, he was taken up into heaven and he sat at the right hand of God. 20Then the disciples went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them and confirmed his word by the signs that accompanied it.

Explanation: Our Lord Jesus Christ is our propitiation for sin, he is the sacrifice made by God for the sins of the whole world. Forgiveness of sin is address in our Church’s Litany used in the traditional Service of Holy Communion (The Lord’s Supper). In the African Methodist Episcopal Church (and other churches) we see in the Communion Service statements, the importance of forgiveness of our sins. God extends forgiveness for original sin and perpetual forgiveness of our sins while we are still on earth in these earthly bodies.  This forgiveness brings us into sweet communion and fellowship with God and with each other, through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Indeed the entire Communion Service is Holy, and there are some parts of it that I believe can help provide an answer to the truth-seekers question. 

Cleansed and Forgiven

During Communion…

In “The Solicitation” the Minister bids: 

You that do truly and earnestly repent of your sins, and are in love and charity with your neighbor, and intend to lead a new life, following the commandments of God, and walking from henceforth in His holy ways, draw near with faith and take this holy sacrament to your comfort; and make your humble confession to Almighty God, meekly bowing or kneeling (as able).

In “The General Confession” the Minister prays:

Almighty God, Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Maker of all things, Judge of all men, we acknowledge and bewail our manifold sins and wickedness which we from time to time most grievously have committed by thought, word and deed against Your divine Majesty, provoking most justly Your wrath and indignation against us. We do earnestly repent and are heartily sorry for these our misdoings; the remembrance of them is grievous unto us. Have mercy upon us, have mercy upon us, most merciful Father for Your Son our Lord Jesus Christ’s sake; forgive us all that is past and grant that we may ever hereafter serve and please You in newness of life, to the honor and glory of Your name, through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen

In “The First Collect” the Minister prays:

Almighty God, our Heavenly Father, who of your great mercy has promised forgiveness of sins to all them that with hearty repentance and true faith turn unto you, have mercy upon us; pardon and deliver us from all our sins; confirm and strengthen us in all goodness; and bring us to everlasting life through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen

In “The Prayer of Consecration” the Minister prays:

 Almighty God, our Heavenly Father, who of Your tender mercy did give Your only Son, Jesus Christ, to suffer death on the cross for our redemption, who made thereby His oblation of Himself, once offered, a full, perfect and sufficient sacrifice, oblation, and satisfaction for the sins of the whole world; and did institute and in His holy gospel command us to continue a perpetual memory of that His precious death until His coming again; hear us, O merciful Father, we most humbly beseech You, and grant that we, receiving these Your creatures of bread and wine, according to Your Son, our Savior Jesus Christ’s holy institution, in remembrance of His death and passion, may be partakers of His most blessed body and blood; Who in the same night that He was betrayed took bread, and when He had given thanks, He broke it, and gave it to His disciples saying, Take, eat, this is My body which is broken for you. This do in remembrance of Me. Likewise after supper He took the cup, and when He had given thanks He gave it to them saying, Drink all of it, for this is my blood of the New Testament, which is shed for you and for many for the remission of sins; do this, as often as you shall drink it, in remembrance of me. Amen.

Prayer For Repentance

Our Lord and Savior Jesus himself, while healing people with diverse physical ailments, sickness and diseases, and even raising some from death, first, as the litanies above provide, addressed the human condition of depravity (fallenness) in the individual.  Because of sin, humanity and indeed each person requires a Savior, a personal savior and personal repentance and saving.  Understanding this concept is the reason why each person takes communion for themselves, albeit solely through the one and the same Savior, Jesus Christ the Righteous Son of God, the Messiah, the Holy Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.

Apostles Forgiving Sin

Conclusion: To the Question: “The second part of that sentence seems to have less clarity on what is being communicated.  Is he saying they will have God’s wisdom to determine what sins are forgiven and what sins are not forgiven?  Isn’t forgiveness given to all those who have committed sin and ask for forgiveness?”

No the scripture is not saying that they will have discernment in knowing which sins are forgiven and which sins are not, for “all” sin (with the exception of the unforgivable sins or unpardonable sin (blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, Matthew 12:31–32) is forgiven by God…If you (as the communion litany states) the individual “…truly and earnestly repent of your sins, and are in love and charity with your neighbor, and intend to lead a new life, following the commandments of God, and walking from henceforth in His holy ways…”

If the person is one who truly understands that we are to “… bewail our manifold sins and wickedness which we from time to time most grievously have committed by thought, word and deed…”

And if he/she is one who believes in the … “promised forgiveness of sins to all them that with hearty repentance and true faith turn unto you {God…}”  

As stated earlier, Jesus openly forgave sin, to the surprise of many who claimed that they did not know that he was the Son of God and was the “Sacrifice” which takes away the sins of the world. 


 The inspired Gospel of Mark, Chapter 2 provides… 4 Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus by digging through it and then lowered the mat the man was lying on. 5When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man, ‘Son, your sins are forgiven’. 6Now some teachers of the law were sitting there, thinking to themselves, 7“Why does this fellow talk like that? He’s blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” 

8Immediately Jesus knew in his spirit that this was what they were thinking in their hearts, and he said to them, “Why are you thinking these things? 9Which is easier: to say to this paralyzed man, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, take your mat and walk’? 10But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” So he said to the man, 11“I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.” 12He got up, took his mat and walked out in full view of them all. This amazed everyone and they praised God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this!” 

Luke Chapter 7:44-50 and John 8:10-11  

Luke 7:44Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. 46You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. 47Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.” Luke

7:48Then Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” 49The other guests began to say among themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?” 50Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” I

John 8: 10When Jesus had lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee? 11 She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more. 

In these passages Jesus forgave sin. Jesus conveys the powers of the miracles, signs and wonders, on his disciples (when he blew on them the Holy Spirit) after his resurrection. These powers of accompanying miracles, signs and wonders, were in order to show that the works were of God, and that the Gospel was going out.  

In particular, the sign at Pentecost, where the Disciples of Jesus spoke publicly out loud and were heard by each listener (of the many diverse foreigners) in their own foreign language, was used to show the power of God outwardly, in the resurrection of Christ from the dead.  This event (this widely observed miracle) propelled the Gospel Message, though to other nations, and played a significant role for believers in the future ages or dispensational periods.   

In the Old Testament, men were working after the Flood to construct the highest tower ever built (the Tower of Babel). When their language was confused by God, for his future purpose, the Age of Human Governments ensued.  During this period, nations of similar languages and later of similar races dwelt in close proximity to each other.   

It is interesting to note, that God used language to disassociates men (some say to avoid another flood), initiating, this Age of Human Government; and then He used language again, Holy tongues, preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ, to reunite what was disconnected in the earlier age.  This moved the Church through The Apostolic Age (from Christ’s death to the death of the last of the Twelve Apostles) lasting from c. 33 to c. 100 AD, into the period of the Dispensation of Grace (the Age of Grace), which we are currently in now, until the Rapture of believers.  

The Holy Spirit living inside us brings about miracles, healing signs and wonders in the life of the believer and in the Church today by the Grace of God, not by the Law from a previous Age. Laying on of hands can still heal, the fervent prayers of the Saints still availeth much, as we are in the period of Grace were the very Blood of Jesus, shed for us, covers all who believe in Jesus, all who love him, confess him before men, and who have taken up their cross and died to this world, yet live for Christ.  All things are still possible for those who have this Faith, for Faith moves God’s Grace into action. Faith still activates the Grace of God and the Spirit of God is sanctifying the believer at all times.  

Ministerial leaders, fellow Christians, Evangelist and others can pray, and can lead others to seek forgiveness of sin through Jesus Christ the Righteous.  Faithful heralders of the Gospel (can and may) correctly proclaim, that those who believe and “do” the command of God have been forgiven their sins (saved) and that those who “do not” believe and perform the commandments are still in their sins (unsaved).   

John 20:23 “If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.” 

Therefore, any believer guided by the Gospel, who observes other believers continuing in earnest, to perform the Commands of God may surely and should rightly proclaim and declare that the same are saved people (whose sins are forgiven).  Correspondingly, the same may proclaim (with the power given by Christ, who sits at the right hand of God in Heaven), that any who are observed “not performing” Christ’s Commandments or “not remaining” in them, are not forgiven (not saved) by the Blood of Jesus.   

Yes, this is a kind of discernment and it is from the Spirit of God and the Word of God, and is not of any individual discernment or from individual spiritual enlightenment or interpretation, but should be commonly understood and believed in the Family of God… We who are the True Disciples of Jesus all have the command, the ability and the power to proclaim the same, base on what we see and observe and we will be in agreement with Heaven in our proclamation.   

Matthew 16:19 states, 19 “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” 

These words spoken by Jesus to his Disciples during his earthly minister and reaffirmed to them when they were all gathered together, at his first appearance to them after his resurrection,  

21Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” 22And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.” 

Jesus was restating his earlier statement from Matt 16:19, (the binding principle) that their actions of proclaiming on earth who is saved and who is not, would be consistent with and connected with the Father’s will, intents and purposed in Heaven (where he would be, seated at the Father’s right hand of power), and that the Blessed Holy Spirit of God, the Third person in the God Head (the Holy Trinity), would ensure that the connected union to us remained.  This is evident, as he breathed the Holy Spirit on them (his gathered Disciples) just after commanding them to go forth and with the Gospel, and just before making the statement in verse 23 “If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”  

This statement signifies that the empowered Spirit-Filled Believer is connected to the Father and the Son and that the believer’s will or desire, is united to God and Christ through the Holy Spirit will be united as one… “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”  

Applying the scriptures has resolved what may have seemed like unclarity.  The knowledge seeker was somewhat correct.  The better statement to conclude with would be that we (Jesus’ disciples) would have God’s wisdom (which is the Holy Spirit) to “know” what is the expressed “will” of God, but not to determine “God’s Will”. Neither is this Mind of God (though the Spirit), given to determine what sins are forgiven and what sins are not forgiven, because yes, all sin is forgiven, but only for the “True Believer”.  Disciples of God, then and now were given the ability to know those who were the Redeemed of God, God’s Holy People, by the actions of those persons.  

O’ how great a faith, we have been given my God, through our Savior Jesus Christ’s life, death and resurrection and his sitting at the right hand of power in the Heavenly Kingdom with God; and his providing the Blessed Holy Spirit. Therefore, we, as co-inheritors with Jesus in such a Glorious Salvation can say, as is stated in unison at the end of the Communion Service… 


Glory be to God on high, and on earth peace, good will towards men, we praise You, we bless You,we worship You, we glorify You, we give thanks to You, for Your great glory: O Lord God, heavenly King,God the Father Almighty.  O Lord, the only begotten Son, Jesus Christ; O Lord God, Lamb of God, Son of the Father, that takes away the sins of the world, have mercy upon us. You who takes away the sins of the world, receive our prayer. You who sits at the right hand of God the Father, have mercy upon us.   For You alone are holy; You alone are the Lord; You alone, O Christ, with the Holy Ghost, are most high in the glory of God the Father.Amen.  



  1. R. Francis Shives III : April 29, 2021 at 1:42 pm

    I am so confused !! I’m 74 yrs of age, am an active United Methodist member & yes, I do read the Holy Bible + I pray twice daily. During my prayer time, I continue to ask our Lord to forgive me of my sins….. those sins, I committed, were 6-7 years or more ago. I’ve done my absolute best to not or ever repeat those types of sins & have been very successful. My question is, having read a Daily Devotional, it says that a sinner really only needs to ask for forgiveness ONCE because our Lord will forgive & there’s no need to keep asking for forgiveness over and over. Do I need to ask for the forgiveness of my past sins ?? Please help me

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *