Welcome back to our series on the Apostolic commissions. As we go forward through John’s record on this commission please allow the scriptures to truly speak about the authority that was truly committed to these men:
Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you. And when He had so said, He shewed unto them His hands and His side. Then were the disciples glad, when they saw the Lord. Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you: as My Father hath sent Me, even so send I you. 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 20:19-23)
Now the truth that the Lord Himself gave to these apostles that He sent the authority to remit sins is often overlooked when preaching “the Great Commission”. Indeed, it has to be, for to take this official power to the remission of sins on “the Church”, would bring Protestants who hold firmly to the Great Commission to be “the Church’s” standing orders right back to the Roman Catholic Papal tyranny that they so opposed in the Reformation. In the 1599 Geneva Bible, the note attached to verse 23 appears as follows:
The publishing of the forgiveness of sins by faith in Christ, and the setting forth and denouncing the wrath of God in retaining the sins of the unbelievers, is the sum of the preaching of the Gospel.
However, that is not what the Lord said to His apostles. He gave them authority to remit sins. It was not just to state the terms. Remember that they which had followed [Him], in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of His glory, [they] also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel (Matthew 19:28). Further, as Luke records, the Apostles who were with Him were appointed a kingdom (real, literal, physical, governmental):
Ye are they which have continued with me in my temptations. And I appoint unto you a kingdom, as my Father hath appointed unto Me; That ye may eat and drink at My table in My kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel. (Luke 22:28-30)
Now this kingdom also was not something that is merely forced upon the Lord of Glory only because of a promise, but as He said to the Apostles, and all of His disciples:
Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. (Luke 12:32)
It will be fulfillment of the promise, and a joy when the Lord gives to them His kingdom and grants to them their positions of responsibility and greatness. Now one may, and probably will say, “but only God can forgive sins.” To this, I would have to answer, “who are you to argue with what the Lord Jesus Christ said!” He gave to these apostles who would sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel authority to forgive sins. Remember that He said “all power is given unto Me in heaven and in earth” (Matthew 28:18). Part of that power (authority) was to forgive sins. Even before He said this, even before His crucifixion and resurrection, He had this authority:
And He entered into a ship, and passed over, and came into His own city. And, behold, they brought to Him a man sick of the palsy, lying on a bed: and Jesus seeing their faith said unto the sick of the palsy; Son, be of good cheer; thy sins be forgiven thee. … But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins, (then saith He to the sick of the palsy,) Arise, take up thy bed, and go unto thine house. And he arose, and departed to his house. But when the multitudes saw it, they marvelled, and glorified God, which had given such power unto men. (Matthew 9:1–2, 6–8)
For the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son… And hath given Him authority to execute judgment also, because He is the Son of man. (John 5:22, 27)
Now, let us bring this home to our present passage:
as My Father hath sent Me, even so send I you…Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained.
According to this passage, these Apostles were commissioned with authority to forgive sins.
Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. (Matthew 18:18)
This is the extent of apostolic authority. Most Protestants and Evangelicals will not entertain the thought of this authority. They have no answer to the Roman Catholic claim of Apostolic Authority, especially since all will claim the “Great Commission” as the “last words of Jesus” and the marching orders of “the Church”. One Lutheran minister, Todd Wilken, from the website issuesetc.org, has noticed this and wrote a 2-part magazine article speaking about the weakness of the Evangelical interpretation of the great commission. He notices some very important points that most will simply brush under the rug and not talk about. The fatal flaw that his argument falls on is that he speaks of this authority as being given to “the Church”. It was not! It was given to the Apostles as the official sent representatives of Christ who would occupy until He returns. After He returns, they will be on twelve thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel. Please take the time to read his articles below, remembering to compare what he says with scripture:
The answer to this dilemma, like so many others, is that of “rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15). Because of Israel’s rejection of the King and the promised kingdom that He would establish, the “Great Commission” was postponed to a still future date when Christ will rule over the nations. Today, in spite of it being the “present evil age” (Galatians 1:4), God is offering to the world reconciliation through the blood of Christ before the day of wrath comes:
To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation. Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God. For He hath made Him to be sin for us, Who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him. We then, as workers together with Him, beseech you also that ye receive not the grace of God in vain. (For He saith, I have heard thee in a time accepted, and in the day of salvation have I succoured thee: behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.) (2 Corinthians 5:19–6:2)
As an additional resource, please click on the link for an excellent message on Apostolic Authority.
Now, no study of the Apostolic commissions would be complete without a study of Paul’s commission to the Gentiles. I have written much about this in several studies on Galatians and Colossians. I intend to write more on it in a future study. Please study these things with an open mind to the Lord’s leading, and more importantly with an open Bible. Now no amount of Bible study will save you, but the holy Scriptures of God “are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 3:15). Please take God at His word, and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ who died for your sins and rose from the dead, and that will save you.