Confession and Matt 9:8


Hello all,

I was recently debating someone about the Catholic sacrament of confession. They protested with the usual “why should I confess sins to a man when I can confess them directly to God”.

I responded with a claim that God gave men the authority to forgive sins, citing Matthew 9:8, which says:

“When the crowds saw this they were struck with awe and glorified God who had given such authority to human beings.”

They replied that I took the verse out of context. They said this verse is about Jesus healing the paralytic, and verse 9:8 is what they said about Jesus (not realizing that he was also God).

I know there are other verses I can use (John 20 comes to mind) to support confession to priests, but I was wondering what people thought of my friend’s interpretation of Matt 9:8 not referring to “men” in general, but to Jesus specifically. Thanks!



All I can say is note the plural. Clearly more than just Jesus can forgive sins.


Maybe this article from my blog will help.
Catholic Confession.
The way I answer this is that we should do this because this is the way that Our Lord set it up to work. The scriptures are all there and IMO those who reject it do so in opposition to the Word of God.


As you mentioned, John 20 comes to mind.

My thoughts are: If Jesus gave the authority to forgive sins to men, who am I to ignore that authority and say, “No thanks. I’ll take it straight to God”. If mean, if Jesus wanted us to go straight to God, why did he give this authority to man?!?

"Receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. Those sins you forgive, they are forgiven. But don’t do this because I’d rather people go straight to Me for forgiveness". I don’t know. Maybe the Message Bible says it this way.

While you’re talking to your friends about context, ask them who’s side they are on about man’s authority to forgive sins. As we see in Mark’s account of this story, it is the Pharisees and the Scribes that say "Why does this man speak that way? He is blaspheming. Who but God alone can forgive sins?" (Mark 2:7)


I don’t recall that anyone besides Jesus had been forgiving sins up to that point in Matthew’s Gospel. So, it seems to me that in context, the statement in Matthew 9:8 refers only to Jesus. It isn’t until the next chapter (Matthew 10:1) that Jesus authorizes the Apostles to cure the sick, which presumably involves their forgiving the sins of the afflicted. The connection between curing the sick and forgiving sins is indicated a couple verses earlier (Matthew 9:6) and in James 5:14-15. Nevertheless, as you point out, it is clear from John 20:22-23 that the resurrected Jesus did give men, namely his Apostles, the power to forgive sins.


John Martignoni uses this verse on one of his apologetic cd’s to prove (in addition to the verse from John) that Jesus gave this authority to men. But I’ve always wondered the same thing you mention above…at this point, only Jesus was forgiving sins, so John Martignoni’s explanation never made sense to me. The only thing I could think of is that Matthew was writing this AFTER the verse in John actually occurred. Perhaps he wrote it this way to clarify and indicate that this authority was given to men later on.

I wish we could ask John Martignoni for some help!


The way that people wrote in that era was not necessarily linear timewise. Many times they wrote circular. It was not nessesary to write like a history book but to make the point of scripture as inspired by the Holy Spirit.

Anyway, back to the question:
If we sin and and are only somewhat repentant, is the sin forgiven? How do we know when we are repentant enough? Or is it possible to only ask for forgiveness?

If we feel we are repentant enough but keep committing the same sin do we then ask if the sin was forgiven because we must not have been repentant enough?

Jesus gave us the way. He gave His Church the means for all to know that their sins are forgiven. They will hear it for themselves and there will be no misunderstandings. I always wonder why those who are not Catholic do not want to meet those who Christ gave this marvelous gift.



I personally agree with notworthy, use John 20:

John 20, 23 Whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them; and whose sins you shall retain, they are retained.

Takes all the guess work out of it. If a priest retains your sin, how would you know God forgave it? In fact, God couldn’t have forgiven it, or else He lied, not likely!


for the sake of argument lets say you are right, on the forgiveness of sins that have been comitted, where does the sale of indulgences come into play?


I think Matthew wrote this “the authority to forgive sins to men”, to show that there was authority among men.

Two reasons:

  1. Matthew was written some 20-30 years later so this fact had already been established “authority to men”.
  2. The Jews may not have known at the time of the event that Jesus was the ONLY person with the authority - since he hadn’t passed the authority on, yet at the time.

BTW. Thanks Tom!


I would offer these observations that I have picked up from Martignoni’s materials:

  1. He doesn’t try to “prove” anything with this verse or that verse. As he says in his definition of apologetics, it’s about “building the case.” So, I would say that he uses Matt 9:8 as one of several arguments for building the case.

  2. Even though it was Jesus Christ alone Who was forgiving sins at the time, the scripture still says that the authority on earth to forgive sins was given to “men” - plural. In the scriptures, it is possible for someone (the crowd in this instance) to say or do something that applies to a future situation that they have no knowledge about. For example: the prophecy of Caiphas in John 10:49-52 applied in ways that he never imagined and it applied to not just the Jews he was thinking of, but to all the children of God. The writer of the Psalms never knew that something he wrote a thousand years before Christ would become the basis for apostolic succession (see Acts 1:20). In other words, even though the words might apply only to Jesus at that particular point in time, they can still be applied to all the “men” given the authority to forgive sins after Jesus’ Ascension and can thus be used as part of the argument for Catholic belief on confession. After all, the inspired writer does say “men.”

  3. If you notice, Martignoni’s method of using Scripture in dealing with Protestants is to play by their own rules. Catholics don’t have to “prove” their Faith from the Bible, but Protestants do. So, going by Protestant rules, he shows that the Bible clearly states that the authority on earth to forgive sins was given to “men.” How is a good Bible-only Protestant to argue with that? He can’t say it’s not in the Bible, can he?

Just a few thoughts.


It doesn’t. First, the “sale” of indulgences isn’t an issue - it was always condemned by the Church as Simony. Yes, some people in the Church “blurred the line” by offering indulgences for “charitable contributions,” but that’s a different issue.

As for indulgences themselves, they have only a tangential relationship to forgiveness of sins. They only deal with the forgiveness of temporal punishments which remain after a sin has been forgiven.


Cut the “For the sake of argument” line. Are you willing to admit that Sacred Scriptures tells us that the Catholic Church is right in that priests have the Divine authority to forgive sins?


It maybe against offical Dogma but The “sale” of indulgences is a huge issue, it is the main thing that brought about the reformation.

the line was crossed, and for me this is the issue
to quote Johann Tetzel "Every time a coin in the coffer rings, a soul from purgatory springs."has the Church ever spoken against this?


Don’t try to bully me into a corner. when they are used out of context I have seen Bible verses used to support all kinds of claims; but I have seen enough of an argument here that I will read and investigate the issue. my question was in regards to the sale of indulgences, b/c I did not know what the stance of the Roman Catholic Church was until Schabel told me.


even if this verse only referred to Christ, we see then that Christ not only gives his apostles(men) his mission, but also breathes on them(only the second time God breathed His life into man, the first being at creation where they were made perfect) and then gives them his authority to forgive the sins(plural) of others or not to forgive their sins.

then in James 5:14 and following we see that theb priest(presbyter) is called for specifically to heal the sick, by anointing and praying for them, and if they have sinned their sins will be forgiven, for the prayer of a righteous man availeth much. the only person to have prayed in these verses is the priest.
peace, Justin


I personally tend to agree, that Matthew 9:8 is not about the Sacrament of Confession.


I don’t know Bro Rich,

Let’s have a look at the context here.
[FONT=“Palatino Linotype”]1 And entering into a boat, he passed over the water and came into his own city. 2 And behold they brought to him 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. 3 And behold some of the scribes said within themselves: He blasphemeth. 4 And Jesus seeing their thoughts, said: Why do you think evil in your hearts? 5 Whether is easier, to say, Thy sins are forgiven thee: or to say, Arise, and walk?

6 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 palsy,) Arise, take up thy bed, and go into thy house. 7 And he arose, and went into his house. 8 And the multitude seeing it, feared, and glorified God that gave such power to men.

Verse 8 by itself certainly might be in doubt, but in its context, it certainly looks to me as if Our Lord’s whole point of the healing was to reinforce the power to forgive sins, as verse 6 brings out pretty clearly.

It is however, difficult to tell if verse 8 refers to confession, but it does touch on the forgiveness of sins and I have heard it asserted (and it could be) that the people were marveling at both aspects of the situation.[/FONT]


Indulgences are not sold.

This was the practice of some (corrupt) clergy back in the Middle Ages. Martin Luther objected to it with great force and he was right. The Council of Trent condemned the practice in the mid 1500’s.



True. It was a big issue. However, it was never an official practice of the Catholic Church. It was a practice of some corrupt clergy.

It was condemned with authority.

It is people with nothing but evil intent who keep it alive even though the practice was ended nearly 500 years ago. It is kept alive in order to demean with hatred and in order to continue hostilities. Truly a satanic act.

the line was crossed, and for me this is the issue…

to quote Johann Tetzel "Every time a coin in the coffer rings, a soul from purgatory springs."has the Church ever spoken against this?

Yes, at the Council of Trent. The issue, as you say, is history.

The Decree…

DECREE CONCERNING INDULGENCES. [LEFT]Whereas the power of conferring Indulgences was granted by Christ to the Church; and she has, even in the most ancient times, used the said power, delivered unto her of God; the sacred holy Synod teaches, and enjoins, that the use of Indulgences, for the Christian people most salutary, and approved of [Page 278] by the authority of sacred Councils, is to be retained in the Church; and It condemns with anathema those who either assert, that they are useless; or who deny that there is in the Church the power of granting them. In granting them, however, It desires that, in accordance with the ancient and approved custom in the Church, moderation be observed; lest, by excessive facility, ecclesastical discipline be enervated. [/LEFT]

[LEFT]And being desirous that the abuses which have crept therein, and by occasion of which this honourable name of Indulgences is blasphemed by heretics, be amended and corrected, It ordains generally by this decree, that all evil gains for the obtaining thereof,–whence a most prolific cause of abuses amongst the Christian people has been derived,–be wholly abolished. [/LEFT]

[LEFT]But as regards the other abuses which have proceeded from superstition, ignorance, irreverence, or from what soever other source, since, by reason of the manifold corruptions in the places and provinces where the said abuses are committed, they cannot conveniently be specially prohibited;[/LEFT]

[LEFT]It commands all bishops, diligently to collect, each in his own church, all abuses of this nature, and to report them in the first provincial Synod; that, after having been reviewed by the opinions of the other bishops also, they may forthwith be referred to the Sovereign Roman Pontiff, by whose authority and prudence that which may be expedient for the universal Church will be ordained; that this the gift of holy Indulgences may be dispensed to all the faithful, piously, holily, and incorruptly.[/LEFT]

Some people choose to focus on negatives, others positives. No man nor church is immune from sin. (1 John 1:8)

Satan and his minions always choose to spread negativities especially where they do not exist. He is, after all, the Prince of Deceivers, the King of Liars.


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