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Jonathan Ward wrote:


God Bless You.

When you go to Confession, who actually forgives your sins:

  • God
  • the Priest, or
  • does the Priest and God just agree?

I really don't understand this.

In 1 Timothy 2:5 the Bible says there is one mediator between God and Man and that is Jesus.
It also says in 1 John That if we confess our sins He is faithful and just to forgive our sins.

Please tell me how this relates to our sacrament of Confession.

I really appreciate you answering this question.

  { Who actually forgives my sins in Confession: God, the priest, or do the two just agree? }

Bob replied:


Ultimately God is the one who must forgive all sins because all sins are an offense against God.

What made Jesus so shocking to the authorities of his day was that He claimed the power to forgive sins (an apparent man to most, although we know Him as the God-Man.). They failed to grasp that this mere man was filled with the Spirit of God. God dwelt in Him and He was God,
cf. John 1:1-14; therefore He had the power to forgive people's sins.

Jesus gave this same power to his Apostles when at the Last Supper he said "whose sins you forgive are forgiven them and whose sins you retain are retained, cf. John 20:21ff.

This wouldn't be possible unless, as the Scriptures tell us, He breathed on them and they received the Holy Spirit. It is by the power of the indwelling Spirit of God, and the authority vested in them through Jesus Christ Himself that they are empowered to forgive the sins of men.

This power has been handed down to the successors of the Apostles. Ever since the first Twelve received this gift there has been a handing on of the ministry to every subsequent generation. The bishops hold the fullness of this office and the priests are entrusted to assist in their ministry so the authority belongs to the Apostolic succession and the power resides in the
Holy Spirit.

To see more closely some texts that illustrate Jesus handing on of his authority see:

Hope this helps.


Bob K.

Eric replied:

Just to add to what Bob has said:

Another example of priestly intercession (which, really, is synonymous with mediation)
is James 5:14-16:

"Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective."

Here the prayer of the elder (presbyter in Greek, from which we get the English word priest) effects the forgiveness of sins. This is linked to confessing one's sins verbally to another so Scripture does say it is possible for one person to obtain forgiveness of sins for another.

As for the verse in 1 Timothy 2:5, what's interesting about this is that there appears to be a contradiction: He says there is one mediator, but says this after asking people to intercede for everyone (verse 1), which, as I said, is tantamount to mediation. Also Paul calls himself an ambassador for Christ (2 Corinthians 5:20, Ephesians 6:20) which is also a kind of mediator.
In truth, anyone who works to reconcile people to God is a mediator. Anyone who evangelizes
is therefore a mediator.

  • So what's the deal?

This verse refers to mediation between God, the Father and man. (God almost exclusively refers to God, the Father in Scriptures.) God, the Son mediates between God, the Father and the human race. It does not refer to people mediating between Christ and men. Otherwise, as I said, we wouldn't be bringing people to accepting Jesus as Savior.

We bring people to Christ, who then mediates with the Father. That said, the priest is mediating between the penitent and Christ in that he is reconciling them to Christ and communicating Christ's forgiveness.

I hope this helps!

[Related posting]

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