September 4, 2015

5 Problems with Roman Catholic Confession

by Jordan Standridge

In a not so shocking admission Pope Francis announced to the world that Priests now hold the right to absolve women who have had an abortion and to forgive them for their sin as long as they are contrite. Get this, the Pope has the authority to tell priests that they now have the authority to forgive the sin of abortion. And they say this pope is humble!

Growing up in Rome and watching people pray their way up the “holy” steps, watching them wait to confess their sins to men and many things like this, has caused me to grieve for people who are in theholy steps Roman Catholic Church. Any religion that is built on the backs of the poor and that propagates works based righteousness should bring tears and concern to those who have experienced true grace. It is important that we as believers understand the truth of why Catholic confession is not Biblical, not to win an argument but in order to rescue souls. So here’s five problems with Roman Catholic confession.

1- Priests can’t see the heart

It is fascinating to see the stories of Saul and David. Most people would look at their confessions after being confronted  as very similar. One said Now therefore, please pardon my sin and return with me, that I may worship the Lord. The other “I have sinned against the Lord.” One may even say Saul’s confession was better worded, but ultimately both prophets had come with a clear message from God who had seen their hearts and knew which one was truly repentant. Priests cannot see the heart of man and are definitely not good judges as to whether someone is repentant or not, heck, even if they could tell from the eyes if a person was lying they don’t get to in catholic confession. Man is not a good judge of what happens in someone’s heart and certainly not a good judge of how bad sin is since we love to minimize sin and magnify man’s goodness.

2 – Only God can forgive sin

The Pharisees hated the fact that Jesus forgave sin (Matt 9:3). They knew that it was something only the creator of the universe was allowed to do. When Jesus healed the paralitic man the Pharisees were ready to lynch him for saying that he forgave him of his sin. It’s incredible that the Pope could think that he has the power to absolve someone of sin, give them some work to do and send them on their way absolved of sin. The only one with the power to forgive sin is God himself (1 John 1:9), and thankfully he does not leave it up to us to be the judges of whether someone deserves forgiveness or not.

3 – It encourages easy-believism

After talking with many Catholics it is fascinating to see how many are trusting in three things for their salvation. Their baptism, the mass and ultimately their confession. The idea that you can go and confess your sin in return of saying  a couple Hail Mary’s and really, really, really, feeling sorry for your sin, propagates a mentality that says that, sin isn’t that bad and that I can overcome itroman catholic confession with my works. It doesn’t take a few Hail Mary’s to make up for abortion, a thousand wouldn’t be enough. It takes the shed blood of Christ and a person who repents of their sin and pleads with Him for forgiveness. It takes a heart that doesn’t minimize sin but rather exposes it to their creator admitting the fact that their sin deserves eternal punishment in Hell.

4 – It propagates sin

Whether the Roman Catholic church likes this or not, easy-confession causes people to become calloused to their sin. Rather than having to talk to God they are talking to a human being who is listening to people’s confessions all day, usually can’t see your face, and who gives you some easy task to do in order to be forgiven. I’ve heard dozens of Catholics say to me, “I’ll just go confess it to the priest next week” as they talked about their sin. Anytime you minimize sin to the point where, sin no longer damns you but you can pay for it in purgatory, and you can make up for it through actions you are propagating it. When the thought process In the moment of temptation is “I can do this and I’ll just tell it to the priest later and be ok” we have created a system that leads to more and more sin.

5 – It damns people to hell

Ultimately Roman Catholic confession causes people to minimize sin and believe in a system rather than a Savior. It removes people from speaking to the only one that can forgive them and makes them speak with an impostor selling snake oil. My heart breaks for those who are caught up in this lie, many times I’ve shed tears while walking in “churches”, seeing people lined up to confess their sins who were about to be given easy-fix worldly solutions to eternally damnable offenses, and are never told about the reality of hell but the sweet grace of Jesus Christ. It is imperative that as believers we know the difference between the true gospel and a false one so that we can lead people to a saving relationship with their creator rather than a works based religion.

I hope ultimately that an article like this one, will cause Christians not to pat themselves on the back but rather to be thankful for knowing the truth and feel the incredible need to share our faith with others. here’s an article to help you with that.

Jordan Standridge

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Jordan is a pastoral associate at Immanuel Bible Church in Springfield, VA, where he leads the college ministry. He is also the founder of The Foundry Bible Immersion. You can find his personal blog at surrender.us.
  • Hey Jordan, I appreciate you addressing this. It’s amazing how many different ways Roman Catholicism attempts to usurp the glory and position of each Person of the Trinity. One of Catholic’s proof text here is Jesus’ words in John 20:23 (“If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.”) which might be helpful to address along with this conversation. I’ll let you do that ; ) Take care brother and thanks for your ministry!

  • kevin2184

    Hi Jordan…have you seen this, http://nationalreport.net/pope-francis-followers-koran-holy-bible/ ? If one is looking to see who has the most potential in the world today to propagate the one-world religion and false peace of the Antichrist, one need to look know further than Rome. Here’s a direct quote from the pope in the article, ““Jesus Christ, Jehovah, Allah. These are all names employed to describe an entity that is distinctly the same across the world. For centuries, blood has been needlessly shed because of the desire to segregate our faiths. This, however, should be the very concept which unites us as people, as nations, and as a world bound by faith. Together, we can bring about an unprecedented age of peace, all we need to achieve such a state is respect each others beliefs, for we are all children of God regardless of the name we choose to address him by. We can accomplish miraculous things in the world by merging our faiths, and the time for such a movement is now. No longer shall we slaughter our neighbors over differences in reference to their God.”

    • Rachel

      Hi Kevin, that report is old, unfortunately the site itself takes partial truths and creates false stories. I have no idea why they waste their time doing it, but it is what that site does, here’s the disclaimer for the site, which I stumbled upon after hours of trying to validate the source when I saw this story a while back.
      http://nationalreport.net/disclaimer/

      However this pope has stated that everyone can go to heaven by doing good, as does official Catholic doctrine as it makes “Exceptions” for people who have never heard of the “One True Church” and have no way of being baptized in it, there are many “Works” they can do to still make it to heaven (after their tour in purgatory of course). All of which is a false gospel, satanic because it rejects the truth of the one true Gospel, as does the rest of Rome’s teachings.

      Rome itself exists on the basis of the lie that Jesus Christ established that particular system/church, Peter as the 1st Pope and the who cardinal bishop priest etc hierarchy, yet it believes that the Written Word of God is underneath their traditions and Catholic Church authority. If that sounds familiar, it should, it’s exactly what Satan’s dream is, to stand above God and His word. In a nutshell it’s a demonic system of external rituals and pagan mystic idolatry (Mass/Eucharist) that rejects the finished work of Christ in favor of the doctrines of demons. In essence Rome determines what is scripture, Rome determines The official interpretation of Scripture and since Rome sits over scripture and literally the Pope is Christ on Earth and the priests literally “Another Christ” the doctrines Rome creates are absolute, dogma ie Mary as co-redeemer, the mass, purgatory etc. It is not Christianity, otherwise it would be Biblical, and anything that is Not Christianity or Biblical (as in Scripture dictates how it operates) is by Biblical definition Satanic, literally of or from Satan, the doctrines of demons. So then it should not be surprising when other false religions (although there is only really 1 false religion, the opposite of Christ as absolute Truth) join with Rome and Rome joins with them by validating them as legitimate ways to God. Francis is big on ecumenism and dialogue with the leaders of false religions, but then Rome has been for a very long time as it has 21 Ecumenical Councils for over 1000 years.

      It is hard to talk to devout Catholics who hold to their church’s doctrine, they esentially read into their Bible’s the interpretation they have been given by the Church and just as Rome’s goal is, their teaching stands over the Word of God, if Rome validated some form of sin tomorrow most of their followers would also because God’s Word is not their final authority, the church is. Many Catholics will tells you they did not come to Christ or accept Christ as their Lord and Savior, they joined the Catholic church or they converted to Roman Catholicism. It is very sad, and only something the Holy Spirit and God alone can really break the bondage to that system in witness encounters because we use the same Biblical terms ie grace, faith, repentance, but we start from totally different foundations (radical depravity). But God has saved my of His elect out of Rome so it is Not mission impossible for Christ.

      It does amaze me that this pope claims to be big on taking care of the poorest among us, yet he deprives the Poor In Spirit of the truth of the free gift of salvation by Grace, as the Bible defines Grace, God’s favor on the condemned based on nothing in them or about them or any works of their hands. But of course this is all because he is deceived himself and deceiving others.

      • kevin2184

        Hi Rachel, thanks for letting me know about the post I found and thanks for all you wrote. I was raised Catholic and the rest of my family still is. I pray for them daily that the Lord would free them from the bondage and lies of Catholicism and come to true saving faith.

  • pearlbaker

    Good article, Jordan. I have been encouraging my elderly mother for many years to eschew the trappings of Catholicism for all the reasons stated above and more. In addition to it being a false religion, there is such superstition to it, which is not discouraged by the Roman Catholic Church, in fact it seems to be encouraged. Just this morning, I ran across a Spanish language television program which caught my eye because the images in the opening credits were those of a crucifix, a communion goblet, a fancy church votive holder, etc. I thought it was going to be a Catholic religious program, but no, it was a program with a clairvoyant in a priest costume! Other times, at flea markets or other open air events, I have been approached by women selling candles to help get my loved ones out of purgatory. Everything about Catholicism is designed to appeal to the lowest common denominator in people, to their fears and anxieties and to the sufficiency of human works. It points not to Christ, but continually and consistently points to self, to one’s own works or lack thereof, and the rewards and/or consequences in the temporal world. From the lies of Transubstantiation to Mariology to Purgatory to vain and repetitious prayers, Catholicism is arguably more diametrically and diabolically opposed to true Christianity than any other false religion on earth. It tries to mimic true Christianity, failing miserably to the enlightened heart, but tricking and trapping many a poor soul in its evil lure and grip. Yet, look at the latest news with the smiling kindly old man in the white robes, nodding and waving, while millions suffer under the lies he perpetrates. We must pray and pray continually, and then rest in the Holiness and Sovereignty, indeed all the attributes, of Almighty God, Whose plan and promises will not be thwarted by satan, the father of Catholicism and all lies.

  • Ira Pistos

    Needful article Jordan. Well done.
    We fear for the catholics, many of us know some. Some of us, me, once were one.

  • Johnny

    Very good post, and I need to keep this in mind next time I’m talking with my RC friends. #2 really nails it… only God can forgive sin, and it can only be done through repentance in belief in Christ, not papist practice and traditions. With Catholics its as if Christ on the cross is saying, “Well, this will ALMOST be enough… but if there are some other special sins that people commit, well, good thing that there are ‘vicar’ious mediators like priests who can also do some of the forgiving that I’m not able to…” This is beyond ridiculous, it’s flat out blasphemous.

  • 4Commencefiring4

    I’m no apologist for RC–or any other church–but here’s a question I’ve been asking myself more in recent years:

    Is salvation–which is the whole point of faith in the first place, after all–a matter of how many doctrines we “got right” in this life, or is it rather something with which God freely gifts us? I think most all of us would agree it’s the latter. Certainly Paul thought so, even as he confronted Peter for having a wrong notion about some pretty important things. (Yet Peter was certainly saved).

    So then, what characterizes a person who has been so gifted? Is it someone who has all the “right boxes” checked on his spiritual survey form? Which answers must have the correct little circle filled in, and which are just trick questions?

    It’s pretty sure all our answer sheets look different in some respects. I’m not trying to justify any old set of beliefs; but I also don’t expect the answer key I’m using will necessarily match the one they pull out in Glory, either. I’m hoping they grade on the curve.

    • Ira Pistos

      There’s only one key. That we are granted repentance and saving faith in Christ.

      If anyone tells you that any action or person other than faith in Christ is a path to your salvation then it is a path to your doom that they point you.

      • 4Commencefiring4

        That’s the core of it, no doubt. But what attaches to that core is what makes for denominations, schisms, and debates. And those, in turn, become walls that cause some to declare so-and-so couldn’t possibly be saved because he also believes X, Y, or Z…or DOESN’T believe A, B, or C. You can’t even become a member of many evangelical churches unless you subscribe to a laundry list of doctrines they teach, from notions about angels to mode of baptism to leadership positions–on and on. Faith in Christ, and only that, is central. But we grow it out from there to ridiculous degrees.

        I’ve known a guy for many years who interviewed for, and took a job as a pastor at a small church in a town in New England you never heard of. He and his wife packed up and moved, got installed there and began their ministry. He was gone only about two years when he moved back again , having been dismissed from the job.

        What happened? I sez. Well, seems he wasn’t exactly a hit with the little congregation up there. His first rule was that if anyone came to church carrying any of those “modern” Bibles, and not a KJV, they weren’t to show up at all until they had one. Then, if anyone was divorced, he told them to find their former mate and work to get that marriage back together. All the wives were to quit their outside jobs, the kids should be in christian school or home schooled, and the list went on.

        All these things were, to him, the evidence that someone was truly saved, and no one who was truly saved would ever dream of doing anything else. He was serious. Gee, thinks I, can’t imagine why they showed you the door.

        And so it goes. We all agree on the basics, but then it metastasizes into a whole production that becomes its own acid test of whether someone is redeemed.

        • Ira Pistos

          It’s a train wreck out there. The world, out there looking in, is able to see nothing but the ridicule worthy.

          That anyone at all manages to come to Christ is all the more to the Glory of God.

          The Church, that real, vibrant, body of Christ is doing it’s work. We’re taking the Word out to the World, and the world includes many who are viewed as born again but are not.

          Recognizing that there’s a problem. A problem so vast that we have no chance of resolving it, is not to be daunting to you. This is what we face and as we take the Word to the world and those who receive saving faith are born again in the face of all that stands against them. We can stand humbled and reverent in the awesome majesty of God, who it is, alone, that brings salvation. Then to the Glory of God we continue on victoriously at our impossible task.

          • 4Commencefiring4

            Yes, well, getting back to the question on the table:

            We can identify a lot of things we either wouldn’t endorse or things we would, but can we say that because we encounter someone whose list of Approved Things doesn’t match ours that they are unsaved? I’ve never been out of the country, so my experience with christianity is limited to what I’ve seen here or on TV. But people in Ghana or India or Russia probably have things they do as a regular part of worship and walking with Christ that might seem odd to me. Who am I to declare them not part of the Body? There’s a lot of things I don’t know, but there’s one thing I do know: American-style christianity can’t be the only version of it.

            If I’d been standing at the foot of the cross and heard the thief say, “Lord, remember me”, I’d have thought he didn’t have a ghost of a chance of going to heaven after what his life had been and with what little he said to Jesus. Yet he’s there today.

          • Ira Pistos

            These things you need to know.

            John 3:16
            For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that
            whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

            John 3:3
            Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.”

            Galatians 1:8
            But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than
            the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse!

            You say “American-style christianity can’t be the only version of it.”
            The bible does not change with borders.
            I have lived in varied countries, Church groups have many lovely customs but the gospel is the same.
            Tradition is wonderful but does not trump and must not conflict with holy scripture.
            We are not judges as you are clearly aware but we are to exercise sound judgement and this is a reason we must have fellowship and a reason that we must immerse ourselves diligently in the Bible.

            The pastors and teachers you can access through this site are a treasure. If you don’t already do so, take advantage of the sermons available here.
            I’m not placing this above anything you’ll find here but it’s excellent and fresh in my mind. I hope you watch it. http://www.desiringgod.org/messages/by-series/you-must-be-born-again.

          • 4Commencefiring4

            I’ll boil it down to this: we’re talking about salvation, period.

            And I’m asking whether salvation comes with a complete and faultless understanding of truth and practice. And my answer is a resounding NO. I dare say there’s not a living soul who is walking the perfect walk or who has arrived at all truth about all matters regarding the faith. We are all on a learning curve and won’t complete the course before heaven.

            And having that as a backdrop, my question is: are we able to conclude, based on another’s habits and beliefs (other than their claimed reliance on Christ alone for salvation) that they must not be saved? Didn’t the apostles make that error when they saw someone else who was apparently a disciple of the Lord, but was not following along with the 12. They tried to hinder him, but were told, “He who isn’t against us is for us.”

            I see many who might not embrace everything I might, and vice versa, but am I to mark him out as needing salvation? Maybe not so fast. I don’t confess my sins to any mortal, as Catholics do, because I believe Christ gives us access to God’s throne of grace without the intervention of human agency. They, however, understand “confess your sins to one another” or “if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just…” as meaning to confess to someone in the flesh. I think that’s attributing to a man something only God possesses, but does that mean they need salvation? Or just education? They believe in transubstantiation because they see in the Bible, “This IS my body…” I think they need some theology lessons, but I’m not ready to conclude that’s evidence of their lost soul.

            And so I return to my point that salvation may very well come in a variety of outward forms. If I can’t figure out how a magician made the five of hearts reappear in my pocket when I KNOW I saw him tear it up right in front of me, then I don’t think I’ll be able to sort out who is saved based on sight.

          • Ira Pistos

            You ask:
            “And I’m asking whether salvation comes with a complete and faultless understanding of truth and practice.”

            No, it does not impart perfect understanding. You are correct.

            You state:
            ” I dare say there’s not a living soul who is walking the perfect walk or who has arrived at all truth about all matters regarding the faith. We are all on a learning curve and won’t complete the course before heaven.”

            I agree completely.

            You further state:
            “And having that as a backdrop, my question is: are we able to conclude, based on another’s habits and beliefs (other than their claimed reliance on Christ alone for salvation) that they must not be saved?”

            An almost resounding no, we can not judge the heart.

            I don’t believe you intend here the inclusion of one living an aberrant life style but I need to toss it in there as a qualifier.

            You ask:
            “I see many who might not embrace everything I might, and vice versa, but am I to mark him out as needing salvation?”

            No, in general you are not. Again with the qualifier.

            Your comment:
            They, however, understand “confess your sins to one another” or “if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just…” as meaning to confess to someone in the flesh. I think that’s attributing to a man something only God possesses, but does that mean they need salvation? Or just education?”

            Clearly, education is in need. No argument.

            Their danger is do they recognize the authority of God alone. Do they not recognize the perfection of their Savior.

            Not recognizing, do they then bow the knee to an impostor?

            I state unequivocally that we can not judge their state, we do not know the heart. I can not however, in good conscience, ignore the danger I perceive them to be in.

            I dread to turn them away by being offensive and I dread ignoring their plight, so I trust in the authority of God alone, I pray in accordance to His will and endeavor to live a life of clarity to those who may observe me.

            Your conclusion:
            “And so I return to my point that salvation may very well come in a variety of outward forms. If I can’t figure out how a magician made the five of hearts reappear in my pocket when I KNOW I saw him tear it up right in front of me, then I don’t think I’ll be able to sort out who is saved based on sight.”

            You are correct regarding outward appearance and correct in that we can not judge the state of salvation.
            Remember though that we ought to be able to see the fruits of the Spirit to some degree in a professed believer. That we do have cause for concern where those fruits are not evident.

            Your concerns highlight the critical importance of fellowship.

            Regarding Jordan’s article. We do not stand in judgement over anyone. I don’t believe he suggested this.
            Catholics in this instance are taught the worship of an impostor. I know cathoicism first hand, we aren’t taught to seek our Savior. We aren’t taught to love God with all our being, we are taught to love the catholic church.
            As a catholic I did indeed love Jesus, the Jesus who established the catholic church, not the Jesus who redeemed us.

            We should condemn false teaching.
            Condemn it with those attributes that are nurtured in us by the Spirit.

            By the grace of God, I am not a catholic. I received that grace by reading the Bible on my own. That is how far removed they are.

    • gil4

      “Is salvation–which is the whole point of faith in the first place,
      after all–a matter of how many doctrines we “got right” in this life,
      or is it rather something with which God freely gifts us? I think most
      all of us would agree it’s the latter.”

      The Catholic church would say it’s neither. The disagreements with Rome are not side issues, they really have another gospel (not that there is another). Until Rome repudiates the Council of Trent and replaces it with the true gospel, they are more of a hindrance than a help to salvation.

      Are there true Christians in the RC church? I’m sure there are, but they didn’t get there through the official church teachings. Salvation by faith+works = salvation by works = no salvation.

      Here is just one part of the Catholic position:
      “If anyone says that the righteousness received is not preserved and also not increased before God by good works, but that those works are merely the fruits and signs of justification obtained, but not a cause of its increase, let him be anathema” (Trent, sess. 6, canon 24). 1

      1 MacArthur, John. Reckless Faith: When the Church Loses Its Will to Discern. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1994.

    • elainebitt

      How many “right boxes” did the thief on the cross checked?

      There’s your answer.

  • Iannis Panagiotis

    As a Greek national and Greek-Orthodox, I definitely have
    some issues with the Apostolic Church of Rome. But the fact is that, in essence,
    all of us members of any of the Apostolic Churches (Jerusalem, Antioch, Rome,
    Alexandria and Constantinople) agree on faith and doctrine. This article is
    pitiful. It abounds in historical and theological ignorance. I guess Roman
    Catholics will have to deal with the doctrinal aberrations of the reformed
    churches. After all the whole Reformation event was their fault. It pains me,
    however, that anyone with some academic honesty in the 21st century
    can get away with the kind of argument in this article.

    Mr. Standridge please, please: study historical theology.
    At least, read a little bit about the Church Fathers; you can begin with the
    Apostolic Fathers of early Patristics, some of which were disciples of the
    apostles. I guarantee that you will find the answer to many of the issues that
    you’re wrestling with, which are due to the gaps you may have in your
    theological information/formation. Please, please… It really hurts to read some
    of the things you write!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    Iannis

    • Jordan Standridge

      Hi Iannis,

      Thanks for your comment and your honesty. I appreciate your encouragement to continue studying. It is my intention to keep growing in my knowledge of false religions and in knowledge of the Bible. I know that it is difficult to read things that challenge our traditions, especially when those traditions have played a part in our lives for so long. If I may, my encouragement to you is to consider my articles especially the one I link to at the bottom of this one. Trusting in our deeds for salvation is very foolish and ultimately it is rebellion towards Christ’s sacrifice for us since He died for us because we were not good enough to get to him.

    • KPM

      Reading the early Church Fathers certainly does, at least based on my limited reading, seem to support many of the claims made by Rome and other churches claiming apostolic succession.

      However, the question really comes down to authority. Is the scripture the ultimate authority, or is tradition and the teaching of the Church Fathers the ultimate authority.

      I think studying the Church Fathers can give us guidance in our study of the scriptures because, like you’ve pointed out, men like Polycarp and Irenaeus were very closely connected to the original 12. I think their writings should certainly hold some sway with us.

      But if the teachings of the Church Fathers directly contradict the scriptures, we should side with the scriptures, rather than the Church Fathers.

      Just my two cents.

      • And then, of course, there are all those church fathers who taught sola fide (see here) and sola Scriptura (see here), in direct contradiction to the dogma of Rome.

        Also don’t miss this post: http://thecripplegate.com/the-gospel-according-to-rome/

        • KPM

          Mike, thanks once again for the helpful response.

          How do you reconcile, for example, what Augustine says about justification by faith with some of the other things that he said?

          For example:

          “Temporal punishments are suffered by some in this life only, by some after death, by some both here and hereafter, but all of them before that last and strictest judgment. But not all who suffer temporal punishments after death will come to eternal punishments, which are to follow after that judgment” (The City of God 21:13).

          In my mind, Sola Fide and the idea of purgatory are completely at odds, yet Augustine in one place affirms Sola Fide, and in another seems to affirm the existence of purgatory.

          The Church Fathers each seem to be kind of a mixed bag. How should we properly understand them?

  • KPM

    Quick question for you, and I don’t mean at all to be antagonistic.

    When Christ gave the Keys of the Kingdom to Peter (and the remainder of the apostles), and he spoke to them of binding and loosing, what did he have in mind?

    Is it the responsibility of the church to bind and loose sins, in accordance with the decree of heaven?

    • Hey KPM. With regards to the keys of the kingdom, it’s interesting to note that that gets repeated in Matthew 18:18 just after Christ gives instructions regarding church discipline in vv. 15-17. In verse 18, Jesus says, “Truly I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven.” And He also says something very similar in John 20:23. He says, “If you forgive the sins of any, their sins have been forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they have been retained.”

      This means that when the people of God follow the process of confrontation of sin and plead with sinners to repent (as outlined in Matt 18:15-18), their deliberation on earth reflects the reality of things in heaven. If a sinner repents, the governing authorities in the local church (i.e., the elders) can say with confidence, “Praise God! Your sins have been loosed. You are not bound in them or to them. You are forgiven. Welcome back to the fellowship.” And those pronouncements reflect the reality that God sees from heaven. Because He knows the heart, He knows that repentance has taken place. And when repentance has taken place, there is forgiveness in heaven. When evidence of that repentance is shown on earth, the church is given the authority to ratify what has been done in heaven.

      On the other hand, when a sinner does not repent, and is removed from the fellowship of the church, the church can say with confidence in that moment to that person, “You are bound in your sin. You are not forgiven, but your sin remains with you.” And those pronouncements reflect the reality that God sees from heaven just as well. He knows that there hasn’t been true repentance in the heart. And so the church, seeing the evidence of that lack of repentance, ratifies what has been done in heaven.

      Hope that helps.

      • KPM

        Thanks Mike,

        I guess with Catholicism, then, they believe that the priest can actually grant forgiveness through absolution and penance.

        In the process described above, the elders of the church declare forgiveness from sin when someone repents, or withhold forgiveness of sin when someone refuses to repent, but their declaration does not actually grant forgiveness, it simply reflects what God has said in his word – that if we confess our sins he is faithful and just to forgive our sins.

        Thank you for the clarification.

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