Protestant view of mediatorial forgiveness

I know I should probably post this either somewhere else within Catholic Answers or even a protestant forum.
But I was wondering how protestants interpret the “binding” and “lossing” function of Peter given from Christ. Does it even mean anything? Or the Spirit given to the apostles from Jesus saying “Those sins you forgive shall be forgiven, those whom you keep will be kept”.

“But I was wondering how protestants interpret…”

  1. There are 1,000’s of protestant denominations

  2. Therefore, there is more than 1 interpretation

  3. There is one thing that all Protestant interpretations of this passage have in common:

They are all in error.

The correct interpretation is as follows: ""If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Mt 28:19). The second time the Spirit descended on them in tongues of fire to indicate the proliferation of grace through teaching; and so we read in Acts (2:4) that right after they were filled with the Holy Spirit they began to speak. "

we see the fruit of the gift, If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven. This forgiving of sins is a fitting effect of the Holy Spirit. This is so because the Holy Spirit is charity, love, and through the Holy Spirit love is given to us: “God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us” (Rom 5:5). Now it is only through love that sins are forgiven, for “Love covers all offenses” (Prv 10:12); “Love covers a multitude of sins” (1 Pet 4:8).

We can ask here why we read, If you forgive the sins of any, for only God forgives sins? Some say that only God forgives the sin, while the priest absolves only from the debt of punishment, and pronounces the person free from the stain of sin. This is not true: for the sacrament of Penance, since it is a sacrament of the New Law, gives grace, as does Baptism. Now in the sacrament of Baptism, the priest baptizes as an instrument, and yet he confers grace. It is similar in the sacrament of Penance, the priest absolves from the sin and the punishment as a minister and sacramentally, insofar as he administers the sacrament in which sins are forgiven. The statement that God alone forgives sins authoritatively is true. So also, only God baptizes, but the priest is the minister, as was said.

Another question arises from the statements, Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven. It seems from this that one who does not have the Holy Spirit cannot forgive sins. We should say about this that if the forgiveness of sins was the personal work of the priest, that is, that he did this by his own power, he could not sanctify anyone unless he himself were holy. But the forgiveness of sins is the personal work of God, who forgives sins by his own power and authority. The priest is only the instrument. Therefore, just as a master, through his servant and minister, whether good or bad, can accomplish what he wills, so our Lord, through his ministers, even if they are evil, can confer the sacraments, in which grace is given.

Again, there is a question about, If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven. We should say, as we already did, that in the sacraments the priest acts as a minister: “This is how one should regard us, as servants [ministers] of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God” (1 Cor 4:1). Thus, in the same way that God forgives and retains sins, so also does the priest. Now God forgives sins by giving grace, and he is said to retain by not giving grace because of some obstacle in the one who is to receive it. So also the minister forgives sins, insofar as he dispenses a sacrament of the Church, and he retains insofar as he accounts someone unworthy to receive the sacrament.

There might be something akin to a semblance of unity among protestants if they relied on the same translation of scripture. However, the many and varied translations, combined with the required private interpretation of scripture, ensure that unity will probably never be arrived at.

As to the power of binding and loosing, What can Acts 5 (Ananias and Saphira) be an example of, except the binding of sin? Neither repented of their lie to the Holy Spirit, even when Peter gave them the chance.

Or, take the nature of Paul’s forgiving of sin. In 2 Corinthians 2:10, we see that Paul had authority over sin, as he forgave sin in persona Christi, or in the person of Christ. Both the 1582 Douay-Rheims and the 1611 King James Version, as well as the Wycliffe bible, the 21st Century KJV, and the Young’s Literal Translation use language that reflects the Hebrew, Greek and Latin. With the exception of the 21st Century KJV, all modern protestant translations have altered the nature of Paul’s forgiveness to indicate that he forgave only in “the presence of Christ” or some variation of this theme.

I ask: how is it possible to forgive sin outside of the presence of Christ? These modern twists of scripture make zero sense to me. Yet, it is clear, that with no ministerial priesthood, most denominations are not comfortable with performing anything in the person of Christ. This is not a small change.

Both the D-R (based on the Latin Vulgate) and the KJV (based on the Hebrew and Greek) have Paul forgiving, just as Priests and Bishops have always done, in the person of Christ.

No need to be so complicated. Someone endeavoring for a fight will surely take the weakest of your words, however strong they be and dwell on that point alone- i’ve seen it done before. Instead, ask them a single thing. Why do they believe they can remove sins by baptism, but not by penance? Lies covering pride for sure

Oddly enough, if they are Reformed/Calvinist, fundamentalist, or evangelical, they don’t even believe that baptism has that effect. Very curious indeed. And they do not practice penance either. They apparently believe that Jesus commanded that we perform physical acts that have no meaning. Seriously, one’s credulity is strained here.

True enough; you have me there. I’m wrong at last! But I take joy in learning, so bring it on. Jk, The real question is how to approach them? Being mean does not win hearts. Stuck-up old Catholics-slaves to dogma-they’ll say. Charity is the only answer. Patience too. Hopefully God himself will show them- by humility- no doubt

I’m a revert…so maybe my opinion counts for something…I don’t know…

One of the problems I see with the interpretation of the binding and loosing function is that most people (especially protestants) wish to limit it to “sins”…usually connected with the second reference you make above. But I don’t understand it that way…Here is what I see.

The term “Church” (Ekklesia) is used exactly twice in the Gospels. Both times by Jesus Himself and both times followed closely by this precise statement:
whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven.
In the first case the authority is given very specifically to Peter as part of receiving the Keys (Mt 16:17-19). In the second case it is more generally applied to “the Church” - the Church that we are told to “Tell it to” (issues of disagreement) and the Church we are told to “Listen to” (Mt 18:15-18)
But look carefully at what the statement says…the Authority is to “Bind” or “Loose” - “Whatever”. I see no limitation on this - nor do I see it “Limited” in the way that many protestants wish to limit it. That is to the forgiveness of “sin”.

But I feel that I must be careful here in I express the matter of “sin”. The authority CAN be limited to sin, so long as “sin” is understood correctly in the context.
The Greek used in Mt 18 is:
Hamartano, (Greek)
To be without a share in; to miss the mark; to err, be mistaken; to miss or wander from the path of uprightness and honor; to do or go wrong; to wander from the law of God, violate God’s law, sin
So one can see that “sin” can be much broader than simply “breaking a commandment”. Teaching a false Gospel is also “sin” for it “wanders from the path of righteousness”…
Thus - we can see that the Authority to bind and loose can apply to doctrinal issues (the teaching of the correct Gospel) and in this we see Acts 15 as an example of Mt 18: 15-18 in action.

In the many many discussions I have read and participated in, it seems that the protestant wishes to pull these things apart and treat them in isolation rather than seeing them as a whole…

Just my 2 cents…


Well, I will give a bit of a personal story here; without giving too many details.

One of the reasons the Lord has me so interesting in the Catholic Church is due to my excommunication from a Protestant Church. But it is not that I left in anger and now I am through with Protestantism. I actually love the doctrine of protestantism (minus easy-believism, dispensationalism, double predestination, limited atonement, etc,etc) and I still have desire to go back to a protestant Church. Reformed baptist is where I come from and this is probably where I will return if I fail to choose the Catholic Church.

I attended a particular church for 5 years, but then I failed to live a repentant lifestyle in a certain area of my life (rather not explain). I was living in sin. The Church leadership took me through the process of Matthew 18 where one brother counsels me, and if I did not follow through with his counsel, they brought two or three brothers to counsel me, and if I did not follow their counsel, then I was sitting before the leadership of the Church. I was sitting in a room with about 25 adult leaders of the Church. I explained my situation and I explained that I wanted to repent. However, the Church was afraid to allow me to stay in the Church despite my confession and desire to repent. At this point, I believe they were following Christ’s commandments.

They excommunicated me and put me through a restoration process that would last 1 year. This process would consist of me not attending any church anywhere, I would have to spend hours in prayer each week, I had to listen to 1 or 2 sermons on my specific sin, write notes about it, then I had to read 52 books (1 book each week), in order to gain great insight into the sinfulness of my sin.

I lasted in this process for about 4 months. And then I went back into my sin for about 5 months. And when my bones could not take the guilt anymore, I desired repentance.

I remember the protestant Church I was excommunicated from and how they taught that they had the authority of the “keys” and that when an “excommunication” took place, according to Matthew 18, that it would be done in heaven as well as earth. Now they only claim a declarative authority. But my soul was still under the mindset that if I did not reconcile with this protestant Church that God would never let me back into the kingdom. I could have easily joined another Church. But I remembered the authority of the “keys” and the imagery of doors opening and then shutting with locks. It was haunting me.

So I went back to my protestant church and they again said it would be a very long time before I could get back in the church. Worried about all this, I began to email protestant scholars, pastors, who are famous and renowned around the world and they would tell me to leave that Church due to spiritual abuse and control over people.

This counsel, I’m sure, was probably due to the lack of information given to them about the whole situation. After all, the proverbs say that one man can explain a story but then many others come and disprove him.

Anyway, after trying and trying, I got fed up with the Church, and then I kept wondering about this authority of the “keys”.

Again, the imagery of being allowed back into the building of God’s kingdom, I would need to find the Church who has the “keys”. My soul was in great despair for a long long time. I could barely live my life. I could barely be the husband and father I was supposed to be. I could barely speak to anyone in my life. I would lock myself up and cry, again and again and again. I despaired over my sinfulness and my depravity. Thinking that God would never save me, and that I have sinned so grievously against Christ and His cross. All I saw was the angry consuming fire of a face in God and that I am prepared for destruction.

All the protestant doctrines of predestination, limited atonement, election, eternal security, and perseverance were haunting me. Because according to it, I was never saved, despite all the years of service I put into the Church. I fell away and now it is being revealed that I am prepared before the foundation of the world to suffer in hell forever and to display the glory of God’s wrath for His elect’s enjoyment. I remember one protestant preacher said “When you stand before God and He sends you to hell and flames, the angels of God and the elect will stand up and applaud the fury of God for ridding you of their sight”. And if Christ only died for the elect, I couldn’t even look to the cross for hope.

But periodically, this imagery of the “keys” would come again as a flash in my mind. Doors opening, and doors shutting, then being locked. God’s kingdom. Keys to that kingdom. Binding and loosing.

I was still depressed because I knew my old church had this authority. But I doubted their authority after some time.

And since them I have been searching for this authority which can heal my soul. When I first heard about the Catholic Church and it’s claims, I was immediately interested. My soul felt like wings were in the process of being made. Hope was around the corner. I remember this one movie, Les Miserables, how a poor convict and ex-prisoner stays the night at a priests house, and then steals all the goods in that priests house in the middle of the night, and then strikes the priest unconsious, and then flees. The police catch this man and bring him back to the priest, And the priest says that he gave the good to the thief, and he forgave the thief…

And I thought to myself…I need the forgiveness of God. I need him to speak to my soul and tell me that He loves me.

So I immediately began reading about Scott Hahn, Dave Armstrong, Francis Beckwith, and whatever else I could get my hands on. And I go from being excited to being near convinced of the truthfulness of catholicism to doubting it again and again with some of it’s claims.

But the issue of “Keys” and “binding” and “loosing” still are a major theme for me.

The Roman Catholic Church bases their practice of confession to a priest primarily on Catholic tradition.

Catholic do point to John 20:23,“If you forgive anyone his sins,they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven." From this verse, Catholics claim that God gave the apostles the authority to forgive sins,and that authority was passed on to the successors of the apostles, i.e., the bishops and priests of the Roman Catholic Church.

There are several problems with this interpretation. (1) John 20:23 nowhere mentions confession of sin. (2) John 20:23 nowhere promises, or even hints, that the authority to forgive sins would be passed on to the successors of the apostles. Jesus’ promise was specifically directed to the apostles. (3) The New Testament nowhere states that the apostles would even have successors to their apostolic authority.

Similarly, Catholics point to Matthew 16:19 and 18:18 (binding and loosing) as evidence for the Catholic Church’s authority to forgive sins. The same three above points apply equally to these Scriptures

Your church does not have the authority of Jesus to excommunicate you. You can see in the New Testament that authority was conferred directly from Jesus to the 12 Apostles ( and Paul, who was then confirmed by the 12). This authority was then passed on to what we call Bishops by a ceremony which involved the laying of hands.

This authority cannot be self conferred or even conferred by popular vote, it has to involve the laying of hands by a Bishop.

Matthew 18 is one of the two references to the church. If your church leader is not a Bishop who can trace his authority to the Apostles or a Priest under the authority of a Bishop then he may have authority conferred by men over the local congregation or denomination, by he doesn’t have the authority conferred by Jesus.

The pastor there is a doctor in theology and I think ministry and is ordained by a seminary. The teach that such ordination is the will of God and that if people live holy lives and want the office if bishop are then chosen to be in leadership.

The leadership actually excommunicated the pastor for several reasons and now one of the assistant pastor, who was ordained by the former pastor, is the head pastor.

They are a really loving church. They go out open air preaching every week. Go door to door every week. They hold people accountable weekly to read the bible, evangelize, sowing discord, etc. They have passion and zeal

Thank you for sharing so much of yourself here. I know it takes courage to do so…and also that in some ways it is a relief. (been there/done that)

I don’t pretend to be able to answer all of your concerns though, like other here I do my best.

I not in your post the you say you kind of desire to return to a protestant Church; that you agree with many of their doctrines; yet you feel very drawn to the Catholic Church.
My guess is that as you continue to learn, most of the “protestant doctrines” that you agree with are quite adequately and positively addressed in Catholicism…They may just be explained or addressed differently.

S to the matter of the “keys”…and the view of your old church community…
You said that you could have easily gone to another church community and they would have readily accepted you. In fact you had this positive affirmation from more than one protestant leader that you respected.
This fact actually demonstrates the fundamental underlying weakness of the general protestant view of authority AND demonstrates how the various protestant communions cannot hold the keys to the kingdom.
Because if one “protestant communion” kicks you out, you just cross the street and join another who will welcome you with open arms and tell you that the other church was wrong and that you are still saved etc…But they don’t do anything to correct the other church…they simply stare at each other from across some doctrinal divide…

Compare this to what happened in Antioch at the beginning of Acts15…Two conflicting views…Both sides so adamant that not even St Paul Himself could resolve the matter between them. So - did the two sided part and each set up their own church? Did Antioch suddenly find itself with the “1st Church of Christ” (for the Greek Gentiles) on one corner and the “1st Church of the Messiah” (for the Jews) on another corner??
Of course not. Instead, they kicked the matter upstairs to the Apostles and Elders of the Church and the decision reached in council applied to the entire Church everywhere (universal - katholic).

In this can be seen the exercise of the keys as discussed in Mt 18.

I will not say that your old church was in particular error in how they applied Mt 18 - in so far as they went - but the view that Mt 18 stops with the local community IS in error and this speaks more fully to your question about keys.

Hope this helps a little.


So although your religious title says Catholic, you come to a Catholic site and give a terrible responce thats more of a blanket declaration statement, than a refutation of Catholic truth.

Why put Cathoilic near your name? Are you Catholic, or is that a lie?

If you are not Catholic, then all what I am about to say, will be pertinent to this thread :wink:

I don’t mean to single you out, but it is appearent that your title of Catholic and post don’t line up, so I will take an opportunity to point out that one in non-catholic Christianity cannot have an assurance of their own repentance, forgiveness and type of faith that qualifies both said terms, without a sacramental economy!

Have you been saved?

Have you repented? Because this looks like a lie, have you confesses it?

Can you honestly say you have turned from sin? How can you say yes, and not have any brokeness and lie to people so easily?

How can you be sure your repentance was a true repentance to obtain forgiveness?

Doesn’t seem that way, if you can so easily continue in sin!

How can you be sure you have been born again?

Maybe you just received a deceiving spirit fooling you into thinking that you have been saved?

Let’s see what 1st John says on this 1John 1:5This is the message we have heardfrom him and declare to you: God is light;in him there is no darkness at all.6*If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness,we lie and do not live out the truth.7*But if we walk in the light,as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from allsin.
If we claim to be without sin,we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.9If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sinsand purify us from all unrighteousnes
s.10If we claim we have not sinned,we make him out to be a liarand his word is not in us. **

1 John 2: 3*We knowthat we have come to know himif we keep his commands.4Whoever says, “I know him,”but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in that person.**5But if anyone obeys his word,love for God[a
]is truly made complete in them.This is how we knowwe are in him:6Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did.
Dear friends,I am not writing you a new command but an old one, which you have had since the beginning.This old command is the message you have heard.8Yet I am writing you a new command;its truth is seen in him and in you, because the darkness is passing and the true lightis already shining.
Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates a brother or sister
is still in the darkness.10Anyone who loves their brother and sister[c
]*lives in the light,and there is nothing in them to make them stumble.11But anyone who hates a brother or sisteris in the darkness and walks around in the darkness.*They do not know where they are going, because the darkness has blinded them.

So what makes you possitive you are saved?
What type of faith bears work of iniquity? Where is the proof that you faith, is a saving faith and not a dead faith?
What do you have to appeal to, in order to prove your faith?

I promise this will be perdinant;)****

The church that I use to go to did in fact contact another church that I attended and the church that I attended. The new the new church that I attended tried to resolve the problem with the old church but the old church was not willing


One thing you may want to check out, was the binding and loosing in Judaism. The Nasi, sanhedrin and their history.

If you are looking for acountabilty and fellowship, to be honest, you are highly LESS likely to find that in the Latin Rite Catholic Church, although there are exceptions if you go to bible studies and what not. However, the Eastern rite Catholics are far more knowledgeable of their faith, from what I have expirienced. They tend to know why they are Catholic, and not Estern Orthodox, like Original sin vs ancesteral sin, nuances in the filioque, satisfaction atonement vs Christus Viktor, and other things that have yet to be bridged yet :frowning:

Every Eastern Catholic Church I have attended, has had an agape feast afterwords with a time of fellowship, some will do bible studies as well. They tend to be gathering hubs for people who share the Eastern Rite faith, but culture and ethnicity. It would be nice to see them a bit more universal like the Latin rite, but you will always be made to feel at home when you are their.

Peace be with you!

Briefly, from the Lutheran POV.

The Smalcald Articles:

Part III, Article VII. Of the Keys.

1] The keys are an office and power given by Christ to the Church for binding and loosing sin, not only the gross and well-known sins, but also the subtle, hidden, which are known only to God, as it is written in Ps. 19:13: Who can understand his errors? And in Rom. 7:25 St. Paul himself complains that with the flesh he serves the law of sin. 2] For it is not in our power, but belongs to God alone, to judge which, how great, and how many the sins are, as it is written in Ps. 143:2: Enter not into judgment with Thy servant; for in Thy sight shall no man living be justified. 3] And Paul says, 1 Cor. 4:4: For I know nothing by myself; yet am I not hereby justified.

Part III, Article VIII. Of Confession.

1] Since Absolution or the Power of the Keys is also an aid and consolation against sin and a bad conscience, ordained by Christ [Himself] in the Gospel, Confession or Absolution ought by no means to be abolished in the Church, especially on account of [tender and] timid consciences and on account of the untrained [and capricious] young people, in order that they may be examined, and instructed in the Christian doctrine.

2] But the enumeration of sins ought to be free to every one, as to what he wishes to enumerate or not to enumerate. For as long as we are in the flesh, we shall not lie when we say: “I am a poor man *, full of sin.” Rom. 7:23: I see another law in my members, etc. For since private absolution originates in the Office of the Keys, it should not be despised [neglected], but greatly and highly esteemed [of the greatest worth], as [also] all other offices of the Christian Church.


Bingo…So where is the unity? Where is the councilior desire (Acts 15)
To be one as Jesus and the Father are one …(John 17:20-21)
To glorify God with one voice (Romans 15:5-6
To agree and let there be no dissensions…but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment.(1 Cor 1:10)
The desire to “Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace”(2 Cor 13:11)
To have unity of mind (1 Peter 3:8)

So where is the willingness to work together…the willingness to not only “tell” but to “listen” - to the Church…and where there is dispute, to come together in humble and prayerful discussion to resolve the matter.

Then - as one questions…as you are doing…one begins to dig into the origins of these church communities. How are they traced? Where does their “authority” come from?
As one does this one begins to see the many splits among the protestant denominations going back eventually to the Reformation period where they all departed from the Catholic Church…
and what I found to be highly significant in so far as legitimate authority in the so -called reformed churches is that there was NEVER to my knowledge ANY council among the various reformers and their successors to resolve the many doctrinal matters that were coming up. I understand that Luther and Zwingli exchanged some letters but each dismissed the other as wrong…But think about this…
In Scripture, the dispute that came up in Antioch went to church council for resolution. Yet those who wanted to bring the Church back to it’s more Scriptural foundations who claimed Scripture as their ultimate authority, never held a council to resolve their differences…And now there are so many differences that a council is nearly impossible.

yet the Catholic church (and the EO) have always held to a councilior model and have held many councils over the centuries to deal with issues effecting the Church. Even without councils, the Bishops are in communication with each other and all In the RC Church)is coordinated through the Papal offices in the Vatican.

Beautifully and fully biblical and an excellent development of the idea of Keys and the proper roles and responsibilities of stewards of the Kingdom…

Food for thought…


Thank you, thorough and thoughtful essay.

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