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Priesthood, book by H. H. Pope Shenouda III

84- How can a priest forgives sin

 

Our Protestant brethren imagine that the priest forgives sins through his own power, and that he has no divine authority for him to do so.

They assume that the priest robs God of His rights and performs a divine act, while only being human.

We will explain this point theologically from the Scriptures to find out what is the priests role in the whole situation.

[24] They Claim That Forgiveness Is Only Gods

Such assertion by our Protestant brethren is based on the following Scriptures.

(Mark 2:7) "Why does this Man speak blasphemies like this? Who can forgive sins but God alone?"

(Psa 85:3) You have taken away all Your wrath; You have turned from the fierceness of Your anger.

The also say that Christ on the cross, addressed the Father asking for forgiveness to those who crucified Him.

(Luke 23:34) Then Jesus said, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do." And they divided His garments and cast lots.

Our response

[25] It is not we who Sought After This Right, but It Was Granted By Christ

It was Christ who said:

(Mat 18:18) "Assuredly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.

(John 20:23) "If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained."

[26] There Are Three Types Of Forgiveness Each With Its Special Emphasis

These three types are:

[26A] Gods forgiveness is the basis of all forgiveness

He is the Just Judge and He is:

(Gen 18:25) "Far be it from You to do such a thing as this, to slay the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous should be as the wicked; far be it from You! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?"

[26B] People Forgiving Each Other

This means forgiving each other through reconciliation. Such is a commandment of God Himself.

(Mat 5:24) "leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.

(Mat 18:21-22) Then Peter came to Him and said, "Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?" {22} Jesus said to him, "I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.

St-Takla.org Image: Coptic Confession, a priest and a man confessing his sins, artwork by Sis. Sawsan صورة في موقع الأنبا تكلا: سر التوبة والاعتراف، كاهن قبطي ورجل يعترف بخطاياه، رسم تاسوني سوسن

St-Takla.org Image: Coptic Confession, a priest and a man confessing his sins, artwork by Sis. Sawsan.

صورة في موقع الأنبا تكلا: سر التوبة والاعتراف، كاهن قبطي ورجل يعترف بخطاياه، رسم تاسوني سوسن.

(Luke 17:3-4) "Take heed to yourselves. If your brother sins against you, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. {4} "And if he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times in a day returns to you, saying, 'I repent,' you shall forgive him."

The Lord has singled out and commented upon the forgiveness aspect in The Lords Prayer:

(Mat 6:14-15) "For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. {15} "But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

(Mark 11:25-26) "And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses. {26} "But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses."

Then one is commanded to forgive his brother. And the question remains, how could one forgive if forgiveness is restricted to God alone. We answer and say : Gods forgiveness is unique to Mans Forgiveness.

When a person forgives his brother, he may forgo his rights, but this does not guarantee him eternal life by God unless ones repentance is genuine.

The precious blood grants forgiveness to the offender offers who offers genuine repentance, and the victim who willingly acceded to forgive.

Forgiving others is a condition for receiving Gods forgiveness for our sins.

(Luke 6:37) "Judge not, and you shall not be judged. Condemn not, and you shall not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.

Also Saint Paul spoke about such forgiveness.

(Col 3:13) bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do.

[27] As For The Priests Forgiveness It Is Of Another Type Which Is Directly Linked To Gods Own Forgiveness

The link between Gods forgiveness and the priests is found in the following verse:

(Mat 16:19) "And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven."

Is the priest empowered to have such authority? And how does such forgiveness take place?

[28] And without shedding of blood there is no remission. (Heb 9:22)

So no can gain forgiveness away from the Blood of Christ, even after receiving the absolution or the pardon of the victim.

[29] It Is The Utmost Duty Of The Priest To Ensure That The Sinner Is Worthy Of Receiving The Blood Of Christ By Ensuring The Sincerity Of His Repentance

Repentance is the basis for the declaration of forgiveness.

(Luke 13:3,5) "I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish. "I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish."

The priest may grant absolution, if and only if, the sinner proclaims his repentance and his desire not to return to his sin.

The priest announces the forgiveness because:

(Mal 2:7) "For the lips of a priest should keep knowledge, And people should seek the law from his mouth; For he is the messenger of the LORD of hosts.

[30] The Declaration Of Forgiveness By The Priest Is A Process Of Transferring The Sin To The Account Of Christ To Blot It out With His Blood

This is why Nathan has correctly announced after Davids repentance:

(2 Sam 12:13) The LORD also has put away your sin; you shall not die.

[31] The Priest Is therefore, The Announcer And Not The Source Of Forgiveness.

He declares the Lords gift of forgiveness to the sinner, as we have discussed this issue before here on st-takla.org in other sections. This gift is directly attributed to the atonement and sacrifice of Christ.

The priest is an agent or a vicar of God.

This is why the priest says May God Absolve You and not I have absolved you.

[32] What Proves That God Is The Source Is The Prayer Of Absolution Itself

The absolution is given to the sinner through a prayer, which is raised on his, behalf by the priest who says: Lord forgive his sins, bless him, absolve him

[33] One of The Most Wonderful Expressions In The Absolution Is The One which associates the Holy Spirit with Forgiveness

Before the confession rite of the liturgy, the priest says May they be absolved from my mouth, through the Holy Spirit

The Holy Spirit given to the priest during his ordination, is the one which forgives.

During the ordination of a priest, the bishop says; Receive the Holy Spirit, the priest opens his mouth and receives the breath of the bishop saying I opened my mouth and caught myself a Spirit Psalm 119.

This is modelled on Christ breathing on his disciples.

(John 20:22-23) And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit. {23} "If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained."


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