What does the Bible teach about forgiveness of sin? (Leader’s notes)

1.    What do these verses teach about the work of Jesus’ death on the cross?

John 19:30 When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

Heb 9: 28 so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.

Heb 10: 14 because by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.

Leader’s Notes: Because Christ’s death is complete, we no longer need to punish ourselves with acts of penance in order to receive forgiveness of sins.

The Catholic Church believes that Penance is necessary for salvation.

980 It is through the sacrament of Penance that the baptized can be reconciled with God and with the Church: This sacrament of Penance is necessary for salvation for those who have fallen after Baptism, just as Baptism is necessary for salvation for those who have not yet been reborn.

2.    If Jesus’ death is complete in paying the penalty for sin, what else is there for us to do to receive forgiveness of sin?

Acts 10: 43 All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”

1 Jn 1: 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

3.    As Christians, do we still suffer the penalty of our sins after we die?

(Luke 16:22 NIV)  “The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried.

(Luke 23:40-43 NIV)  But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? {41} We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.” {42} Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” {43} Jesus answered him, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.”

Leader’s Notes: Protestants do not believe in purgatory because the Bible teaches that a believer will go straight to Paradise when he dies.

4.    Doesn’t the Bible teach that we have to go through fire before we enter Paradise?

1 Cor 3:10By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as an expert builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should be careful how he builds. 11For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, 13his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work. 14If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. 15If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames.

Leader’s Notes: The Bible teaches that the believer’s works, not the believer that will go through fire. It is clearly stated he will suffer loss, not physical pain. He will escape the flames.

5.    Does the Bible teach that believers need to be purified before we enter heaven?

Rom 4: 5However, to the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness. 6David says the same thing when he speaks of the blessedness of the man to whom God credits righteousness apart from works: 7″Blessed are they whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered.

8Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will never count against him.”

What happens when we trust God to justify us?

How does God regard our sin from that moment on?

Leader’s Notes: Catholics believe that a person needs to go through purification in purgatory before he is qualified to enter Paradise.

1030 All who die in God’s grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven.

1031 The Church gives the name Purgatory to this final purification of the elect, which is entirely different from the punishment of the damned.

6.    Do we have the power to forgive another person’s sins?

Matt 6:12 (GNB)  Forgive us the wrongs we have done, as we forgive the wrongs that others have done to us.

Why are we able to forgive this person?

Leader’s Notes: We are able to forgive someone for the wrong that he has done to us. We can never forgive someone for the wrong that he has committed in general. Only God has the power to forgive sin.

7.    Does the church have the power to forgive a member’s sins?

2 Cor 2:5If anyone has caused grief, he has not so much grieved me as he has grieved all of you, to some extent—not to put it too severely. 6The punishment inflicted on him by the majority is sufficient for him. 7Now instead, you ought to forgive and comfort him, so that he will not be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. 8I urge you, therefore, to reaffirm your love for him. 9The reason I wrote you was to see if you would stand the test and be obedient in everything. 10If you forgive anyone, I also forgive him. And what I have forgiven—if there was anything to forgive—I have forgiven in the sight of Christ for your sake.

When this brother sinned, did his sins affect the church at all?

What did the church do to him when he sinned? Refer to the earlier reference in Paul’s first letter to the Corinthian church.

1 Cor 5:1It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that does not occur even among pagans: A man has his father’s wife. 2And you are proud! Shouldn’t you rather have been filled with grief and have put out of your fellowship the man who did this? 3Even though I am not physically present, I am with you in spirit. And I have already passed judgment on the one who did this, just as if I were present.

Why was it necessary for the church to forgive this brother? Did he commit a sin that has grieved the church?

John 20:22And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”

If we interpret this verse in the light of  2 Cor 2:5-10, what could this forgiveness be referring to?

Leader’s Notes: It refers to the church’s authority to forgive an errant believer for what he has done, which has grieved the church. Forgiveness is extended by affirming love for this brother and withdrawing whatever punishment that have been meted out to him.

Compare this with 2 Cor 2:10 If you forgive anyone, I also forgive him. And what I have forgiven—if there was anything to forgive—I have forgiven in the sight of Christ for your sake. Whoever the church majority has forgiven, the apostles concur with this forgiveness. Whoever the apostles forgive, God concurs with that forgiveness as in John 20:23.

2 Cor 2:10 is sometimes translated “in the person of Christ”. (KJV)  To whom ye forgive any thing, I forgive also: for if I forgave any thing, to whom I forgave it, for your sakes forgave I it in the person of Christ. Does that mean that Paul is forgiving that person directly acting as ambassador of Christ.

The word rendered “person” (Greek “prosopon”), means literally “face” and is translated as that many times in the New Testament. Since it denotes “face”, it is also used to mean “presence”.

Act 3:13  The God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and of Jacob, the God of our fathers, hath glorified his Son Jesus; whom ye delivered up, and denied him in the presence of Pilate, when he was determined to let him go.

Act 5:41  And they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name.

What does it mean for the apostle to be forgiving someone in the presence of Christ?

Leader’s Notes: In the presence of Christ means with His eye upon me, and conscious that I am acting before him, and must give account to him.

8.    Ultimately, who alone has the power to forgive our sins?

Luke 5: 20-21 When Jesus saw their faith, he said, “Friend, your sins are forgiven.” The Pharisees and the teachers of the law began thinking to themselves, “Who is this fellow who speaks blasphemy? Who can forgive sins but God alone?”

Isa 43:25  “I, I am He who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins.

Dan 9:9  To the Lord our God belong mercy and forgiveness; because we have rebelled against him…

From whom should we seek to get forgiveness of sins?

Acts 8:22 Repent of this wickedness and pray to the Lord. Perhaps he will forgive you for having such a thought in your heart.

Luke 18: 13  “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’

Leader’s Notes: Only God can forgive sins. Church leaders or even priests do not have this power.

The Catholic church teaches that the Church has authority to forgive sins.

982 There is no offense, however serious, that the Church cannot forgive.

983 …the mission and the power to forgive sins through the ministry of the apostles and their successors. Were there no forgiveness of sins in the Church, there would be no hope of life to come or eternal liberation. Let us thank God who has given his Church such a gift.

9.    Did God delegate the power to forgive sins to men?

Matthew 9:2-8: And behold they brought to him [Jesus] one sick of the palsy lying in a bed. And Jesus, seeing their faith, said to the man sick of the palsy: Be of good heart, son, thy sins are forgiven thee. And behold some of the scribes said within themselves: He blasphemeth. And Jesus seeing their thoughts, said: Why do you think evil in your hearts? Whether is easier, to say, Thy sins are forgiven thee: or to say, Arise, and walk? But that you may know that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins, (then said he to the man sick of the palsy,) Arise, take up thy bed, and go into thy house. And he arose, and went into his house. And the multitude seeing it, feared, and glorified God that gave such power to men.

When Jesus uses the term “Son of Man” to refer to Himself, does He always intend to say that He was speaking about His human nature and that we humans too can be capable of the same thing? Look at the following verse.

Joh 3:13  And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven.

Leader’s Notes: Here Jesus says that even though the Son of Man is here on earth talking to them, He is also in heaven, implying omnipotence. Note the words “which is in heaven”, not “which was in heaven”.

Therefore, when Jesus used the term “Son of Man” to refer to Himself in Matthew 9, must He necessarily be implying that He was forgiving sins using His human nature and not divine nature and therefore this same authority is given to men?

In Matthew 9:8, the people “glorified God that gave such power to men”. Were they awed by the power God gave to Jesus to heal or were they awed by the power God gave Jesus to forgive sins? A look at the parallel passages of Matthew 9 will make this clear.

Luke 5:24 But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins. . . .” He said to the paralyzed man, “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.” 25 Immediately he stood up in front of them, took what he had been lying on and went home praising God. 26 Everyone was amazed and gave praise to God. They were filled with awe and said, “We have seen remarkable things today.”

Mark 2:10 But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins . . . .” He said to the paralytic, 11 “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.” 12 He 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!”

Leader’s Notes: The people were not impressed at all when Jesus forgave that man of His sin but were filled with awe when Jesus performed the miracle.

10. Does the Bible teach that we should confess our sins through a priest?

Lev 5: 5 ” ‘When anyone is guilty in any of these ways, he must confess in what way he has sinned 6 and, as a penalty for the sin he has committed, he must bring to the LORD a female lamb or goat from the flock as a sin offering; and the priest shall make atonement for him for his sin.

After Jesus had come to earth, does this verse still apply? Are we still required to do these two things – offer animal sacrifices for sins and confess our sins through the priest?

11. Does the Bible teach that priests alone have the power to forgive sins?

James 5:14Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders (Greek “presbuteros”) of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. 15And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven. 16Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.

Some people understand the “elders” referred to here as “priests” who have the authority to forgive sins. Is this correct? Based on the following verse, should we interpret these elders to be priests or just church leaders who are recognized for their spiritual maturity and walk with God?

Titus 1:5The reason I left you in Crete was that you might straighten out what was left unfinished and appoint elders in every town, as I directed you. 6An elder (Greek “presbuteros”) must be blameless, the husband of but one wife, a man whose children believe and are not open to the charge of being wild and disobedient.

Leader’s Notes: Jas 5:14-16 reinforces the idea that we should confess our sins to church leaders, not because they can forgive us, but because they can pray to God on our behalf that we may be forgiven. This is definitely not referring to priests as it refers to mature leaders in church who are even married. The verse even goes on to say that we should confess our sins to “each other” indicating a two-way mutual prayer support.

12. Did the Bible teach that we should confess our sins to another person?

Acts 19:18 Many of those who believed now came and openly confessed their evil deeds.

James 5: 16 Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.

Matthew 5: 23 “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.

Leader’s Notes: The Bible does not teach about private confession of sins to a priest. It does teach that we confess our sins to one another so that we can pray for one another. It also teaches about confessing our sins to someone we have done wrong to. This is equivalent to apologizing.

13. Does the Bible teach that minor sins will not result in eternal punishment in hell?

Catholics believe that sin is sub-divided into greater sins, called mortal, and lesser sins, called venial. Mortal sin is a grievous offense against the law of God and brings everlasting death on the soul and eternal punishment in hell. Venial sin is a slight offense against the law of God in matters of less importance, or in matters of great importance it is an offense committed without sufficient reflection or full consent of the will. Venial sin do not result in eternal punishment in hell.

Catholic theologians appeal to this verse for biblical support for the distinction between mortal and venial sins: “If anyone sees his brother sinning a sin which does not lead to death, he will ask, and He will give him life for those who commit sin not leading to death. There is sin leading to death. I do not say that he should pray about that. All unrighteousness is sin, and there is sin not leading to death” (1 John 5:16,17).

If the sin leading to death refers to mortal sins, why did the apostle Paul ask the church not to pray for those sins? The Catholic Church teaches that one should go pray for the forgiveness of mortal sins.

Leader’s Notes: “It will not do to appeal to the apostle John who speaks of ‘a sin unto death’ for this would prove too much. A mortal sin for Rome is one which can be forgiven, and for which therefore pardon should be sought. But the sin of which John speaks is one of such a serious character that he cannot even ask his hearers to pray for one who is guilty of it. It would seem therefore that he is referring to such a sin as apostasy, or final and persistent impenitence – the sin against the Holy Spirit for which the Lord says there is no forgiveness – and this is, in fact, recognized in the note in the Douay Version” (Carson H.M, Roman Catholicism Today, IVF, 1964, p. 93).

Did the Bible make a distinction when it tells us that the result of sin is death?

Rom 6:23  For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

What are these sins that Paul could be referring to when he refers to sins that could result in death?

Acts 5:1Now a man named Ananias, together with his wife Sapphira, also sold a piece of property. 2With his wife’s full knowledge he kept back part of the money for himself, but brought the rest and put it at the apostles’ feet. 3Then Peter said, “Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land? 4Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied to men but to God.”  5When Ananias heard this, he fell down and died. And great fear seized all who heard what had happened.

1 Cor 11:29For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself. 30That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep.

“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.’ But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, ‘Raca!’ shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be in danger of hell fire” (Matthew 5:21,22).

“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell” (Matthew 5:27-29).

Did Jesus teach that only serious sins would lead to eternal punishment in hell?

Luke 12:47″That servant who knows his master’s will and does not get ready or does not do what his master wants will be beaten with many blows. 48But the one who does not know and does things deserving punishment will be beaten with few blows. From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.

Leader’s Notes: What the Bible teaches it not every sin is equally serious and there will be degrees of punishment in hell. What it does not teach is that serious sins warrant eternal punishment and minor sins temporal punishment.

What does the Bible tell us the result of sin is?

Rom 6:23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Is the penalty of sin applicable to all men or only to those that have committed mortal sins?

Rom 5:12Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned.

What is the meaning of this word “death”?

Rev 20:14Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death.

John 5:24″I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.