Forgiveness Mediated By A Presbyter?

“Is anyone among you sick? He should summon the presbyters of the church, and they should pray over him and anoint (him) with oil in the name of the Lord, and the prayer of faith will save the sick person, and the Lord will raise him up. If he has committed any sins, he will be forgiven.” – James 5:14-15

It clearly says the prayer of faith that is prayed over by the presbyter will result in sins being forgiven.

How do Protestants explain this text?

We don’t try to explain anything. When we are sick, we call for the elders of the church who anoint us with oil and pray the prayer of faith over us. God heals the sick and forgives sins.

God forgives sin through the action of the presbyter’s anointing and prayers. That contradicts the ‘faith without works” doctrine of being saved.

God bless,

This priesthood has two degrees: the first, total and complete, the second an incomplete participation of the first. The first belongs to the bishop. The second degree belongs to the priest (presbyter), who is also a sacerdos, but of the second rank (“secundi sacerdotes” Innocent I ad Eugub.); by his priestly ordination he receives the power to offer sacrifice (i.e. to celebrate the Eucharist), to forgive sins, to bless, to preach, to sanctify, and in a word to fulfil the non-reserved liturgical duties or priestly functions.

As the word sacerdos was applicable to both bishops and priests, and one became a presbyter only by sacerdotal ordination, the word presbyter soon lost its primitive meaning of “ancient” and was applied only to the minister of worship and of the sacrifice (hence our priest). Originally, however, the presbyteri were the members of the high council which, under the presidency of the bishop, administered the affairs of the local church. Doubtless in general these members entered the presbyterate only by the imposition of hands which made them priests; however, that there could be, and actually were presbyteri who were not priests, is seen from canons 43-47 of Hippolytus (cf. Duchesne, “Origines du culte chretien”, append.), which show that some of those who had confessed the Faith before the tribunals were admitted into the presbyterium without ordination. These exceptions were, however, merely isolated instances, and from time immemorial ordination has been the sole manner of recruiting the presbyteral order.

How so? When we come to the throne of grace in prayer and God forgives our sin is that a work of man or is it simply us receiving the grace that has been offered to us by a loving God? We are not doing anything but confessing our need for healing and forgiveness. God is the one doing the work.

I have no problem with someone like a church elder interceding on my behalf for my healing and reconciliation with God. I need all the prayer I can get. However, it is God who heals and forgives and him alone. While intercession and the laying on of hands and anointing oil are wonderful means of grace and points of contact, they are not necessary for healing and forgiveness to be bestowed. Because we belong to Christ, we ourselves can boldly enter before the throne of grace and make our petitions known to God.

At least that’s my take on the situation,

Martyrs could forgive sins while imprisoned awaiting death. In some places, confessors were granted this privilege as well. I believe it was in Rome where male confessors released from prison automatically were accorded status as presbyters.

Confessing is a work. So if we need to confess our sins then we are not saved by faith alone.

[BIBLEDRB]James 2:17-26[/BIBLEDRB]

Uhm I think you misunderstand what “faith alone” means. We are saved by grace alone through faith alone. If we have faith in what Christ has done on the cross, then we will do what that faith calls for confess our sins. We confess our sins. But we have faith in Christ’s “work” on the cross and not in any “work” that we ourselves could do to “earn” his forgiveness.

Explain how this agrees with the quoted scripture I posted by James?

Faith without works is dead. Faith alone. But a living faith, not a dead faith. The evidence of living faith is works. I can claim to have faith in Christ all I want but if all I ever do is lie, cheat and steal then I have a worthless faith. However, we cannot buy our way into heaven. No amount of good deeds can change who we are. We must be changed by the transforming love and grace of Christ and walking with His sanctifying Spirit daily. Likewise I can give my life for a worthy cause, but if I have not faith I will not see God.


Compare to the Catholic understanding

Catholics do not believe in Justification by works.

Grace is favour, the free and undeserved help that God gives us to respond to his call to become children of God, adoptive sons (John 1:12, Romans 8:16), partakers of the divine nature (2 Peter 1:4) and of eternal life.

Justification establishes cooperation between God’s grace and man’s freedom, known as synergism. We can use our freedom because the Original sin we inherit from Adam makes us corrupted but not totally. Our will is free and this means it is possible to either cooperate or resist His Grace. However we can exercise our freedom only after first being moved by God’s Grace, i.e. we cannot use our free-will to initiate our Justification as declared in Scripture (John 6:44) – Catholics are not semi-Pelagians.

Through-out our (on-going process) Justification God always takes the initiative to save us. His Grace will move us, first to believe in Christ as Lord and Saviour, and later to obey His commandment, be they loving one another, praying, sharing faith, avoiding sin, repenting from sin etc. Without God’s Grace through Christ we can do nothing as Scripture says apart from Christ we can do nothing (John 15:5).

Abraham is further justified here, this time by works, when he offered his son Isaac as a sacrifice to God. James 2:21 proves this as James writes, “Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered his son Isaac upon the altar?” James then confirms this by writing, “Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness” (James 2:23). These verses prove that justification before God is an on-going process, not a one-time event of accepting Jesus as personal Lord and Savior, and is accomplished by faith and works.

While I don’t entirely believe everything you posted, we can certainly agree that we are “process people”. There certainly is more to the Christian life than a one-time event conversion. On that we agree. Yes, faith does not exist in a vacuum. Where faith exists, works will follow.

Yes, I know with what you disagree. The part related to semi-Pelagianism.

Amen we Catholics believe the same thing. It’s Christ’s saving power alone that saves, nothing that we can earn ourselves. I think the confusion lies in works.

I’m still a little confused with your reasoning – you admit reconciliation with God can be interceded through an elder. Using this mode of reasoning why do Protestants have an issue with the sacrament of confession? It’s the exact same thing…

God bless,


The problem is this

Semi-Pelagianism (5th Century)

After Augustine refuted the teachings of Pelagius, some tried a modified version of his system. This, too, ended in heresy by claiming that humans can reach out to God under their own power, without God’s grace; that once a person has entered a state of grace, one can retain it through one’s efforts, without further grace from God; and that natural human effort alone can give one some claim to receiving grace, though not strictly merit it.

and also the Sabellianism, I believe.

Sabellianism (Early 3rd Century)

The Sabellianists taught that Jesus Christ and God the Father were not distinct persons, but two.aspects or offices of one person. According to them, the three persons of the Trinity exist only in God’s relation to man, not in objective reality.

I believe any Christian can pray for the reconciliation of another to God. It makes me very uncomfortable when I think of a priest granting absolution even though I realize that Catholics teach that it is God who forgives. I just don’t get it. Those within the household of God are all priests, and we all have the Spirit dwelling inside of us, and we all have been anointed. I don’t see a need to have a middleman when I myself have access to the throne of grace the same as an ordained priest.

Where do you draw the line of middleman?

Do you need a Church? Don’t you need priests to give the Mass? the Eucharist? care for the flock?

I suppose I would have to think about that more thoroughly. Safe to say that I see a priest standing between me and God, hearing my confession and then telling me what I already know is a middleman and somewhat redundant.

Yes, “forsake not the assembly.”

Perhaps you think that. I believe any Christian can pray and preside over Holy Communion as long as they have a right understanding of it.

I don’t need a “priest” for that. God has set in place apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers to equip the saints for the work of the ministry. Elders and deacons are servant-leaders of the congregation and they certainly do care for the flock. Do they mediate between God and the flock? Perhaps on a corporate level like Moses did when God had something to address to the people of Israel. God talked to Moses and Moses spoke to God on behalf of the people. But do I need someone to mediate my own relationship between myself and God? No.

I can appreciate the feeling of uneasiness at the idea of confessing to an ordained priest.

Yes you’re right we are all priests as we are told by St Peter. What I’m about to say I know you won’t agree with but it’s just to show you the Catholic position.

When Jesus changed the bread and wine into His body and blood He then commanded His apostles to “do this in memory of me”. Jesus commanded His apostles to change bread and wine into His body and blood just as He did. This is a special dignity granted only to the apostles and handed down through apostolic succession. They are priests taken up in Christ by performing the same action Christ did.

God bless,

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