Ellen G. White Writings

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Humble Hero, Page 369

words He had spoken before His death. “And He opened their understanding, that they might comprehend the Scriptures. Then He said to them, ‘Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day, and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. And you are witnesses of these things.’ “ Christ’s life, His death and resurrection, the prophecies that pointed to these events, the sacredness of God’s law, the mysteries of the plan of salvation, the power of Jesus to forgive sins—all these they were to make known to the world.

“And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.’” Christ would give His Holy Spirit to them more abundantly after His ascension. But He breathed His Spirit on them now to impress them with the fact that without the Holy Spirit they could not fulfill their official duties in connection with the church.

The gift of the Spirit is the gift of the life of Christ. It endows the receiver with the attributes of Christ. Only those who possess the inward working of the Spirit and in whose life the Christ-life is revealed are to minister in behalf of the church.

“If you forgive the sins of any,” said Christ, “they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” Christ here gives no liberty for anyone to pass judgment on others. This right belongs to God. But He places a responsibility for the individual members on the organized church. The church has a duty to those who fall into sin to warn them, instruct them, and if possible to restore them. Deal faithfully with wrongdoing. Call sin by its right name. Declare what God has said about lying, Sabbath breaking, stealing, and every other evil. If they persist in sin, the judgment you have declared from God’s Word is pronounced on them in heaven. The church must show that she does not approve of their deeds, or she herself dishonors her Lord. She must deal with sin as God directs, and heaven ratifies her action.

But there is a brighter side. “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven.” Let this thought be your focus. The shepherds should speak to the erring about the forgiving mercy of the Savior. Let them encourage the sinner to repent and believe in Him who can pardon. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9. Place the trembling hand of the repenting one in the loving hand of Jesus. Such a forgiveness is ratified in heaven.

Only God Can Forgive

Only in this sense does the church have the power to free the sinner from the sin. We can obtain forgiveness of sins only through the merits of Christ. God gives no person or human organization the power to free anyone from guilt. The name of Jesus is the only “name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” Acts 4:12.

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