Letters and Manuscripts — Volume 12 (1897)


Ms 149, 1897

The Remission of Sins


December 1, 1897

Portions of this manuscript are published in RH 06/13/1899.

Before His death Jesus told His disciples what the priests and rulers would do to Him, but the disciples could not understand His words. Now, after they had been verified, after Christ had been rejected, condemned, scourged, crucified, buried, and had risen from the dead on the third day, the disciples believed. They had gained a valuable experience. All the sophistry and theories of the scribes and Pharisees could not now turn them from Christ. They could say as did Paul, “I know whom I have believed.” [2 Timothy 1:12.] Their faith in Christ was followed by a most remarkable experience. They saw their beloved Master. They heard His voice as He opened to them the Scriptures; and from this they obtained much knowledge. 12LtMs, Ms 149, 1897, par. 1

The lessons given by Christ to His disciples after His resurrection were with reference to the Old Testament Scriptures. He could now explain to them the prophecies concerning Himself. They were surprised that they had not discerned the meaning of the inspired prophetic delineation of Christ’s work and the reception given Him by the Jewish dignitaries. While the poor heard Him gladly, those to whom had been committed the sacred oracles closed the eyes of their understanding that they might not see Christ. They blinded the eyes of others. By misapplying the Scriptures, substituting their own traditions and fables, and exalting their words as the commandments of God, they so bewildered the minds of the people, that they could not see Christ. 12LtMs, Ms 149, 1897, par. 2

Christ rebuked these false teachers. “In vain do ye worship me,” He said, “teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.” [Mark 7:7.] “Thus have ye made the commandments of God of none effect by your tradition.” [Matthew 15:6.] This is the work of many of the teachers of this time. They make void the law of God, teaching for doctrine the commandments of men. Christ said to the teachers in His day, “Ye are both ignorant of the Scripture and of the power of God.” [Matthew 22:29.] His words embrace all who claim to be religious, but who make void the law of God by their traditions. 12LtMs, Ms 149, 1897, par. 3

“Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled, for fear of the Jews, came Jesus, and stood in the midst, and said unto them, Peace be unto you. And when he had so said, he showed them his hands and his side.” He gave them evidence that He was the same Jesus that had been crucified. “Then were the disciples glad when they saw the Lord. Then said Jesus unto them again, Peace be unto you; as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you. And when he had said this he breathed on them, and said unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost: whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained.” [John 20:19-23.] 12LtMs, Ms 149, 1897, par. 4

Thus the disciples received their commission. They were to preach and teach the gospel in Christ’s name. The instruction given them had the vital, spiritual breath that is in Jesus. He alone could give them the oil that they must have to work successfully. Christlikeness must appear in them. They could be successful only as they studied their Master’s character, and followed His example. 12LtMs, Ms 149, 1897, par. 5

The impartation of the Spirit was the impartation of the very life of Christ, which was to qualify the disciples for their mission. Without this qualification, their work could not be accomplished. Thus they were to fulfill the official duties connected with the church. But the Holy Spirit was not yet fully manifested, because Christ has not yet been glorified. The more abundant impartation of the Holy Spirit did not take place till after Christ’s ascension. 12LtMs, Ms 149, 1897, par. 6

The Holy Spirit is the breath of life in the soul. The breathing of Christ upon His disciples was the breath of true spiritual life. The disciples were to interpret this as imbuing them with the attributes of Christ, that in purity, faith, and obedience, they might exalt the law and make it honorable. God’s law is the expression of His character. By obedience to its requirements we meet God’s great standard of righteousness. Thus the disciples were to witness for Christ. 12LtMs, Ms 149, 1897, par. 7

“And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and said, Receive ye the Holy Ghost; whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted.” [Verses 22, 23.] The warnings in the seventh chapter of Matthew forbid men from pronouncing judgment on their fellow men. The remission of sins is to be understood as the prerogative of God alone. The Holy Spirit will convince of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment. The lesson given to the disciples means that wise men, truly taught of God, possessing the inward working of the Holy Spirit, are to be representative men, samples of the whole body of believers. These are to show themselves capable of preserving due order in the church. 12LtMs, Ms 149, 1897, par. 8

Christ has given rules for the guidance of His church. “Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church; but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican. Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” [Matthew 18:15-18.] 12LtMs, Ms 149, 1897, par. 9

There is no power given to any of God’s delegated servants to cast down or destroy. The apostles were unable to remove the guilt from any soul. They were to give the message from God, which might reach the soul, “It is written, The Lord hath said thus and thus in regard to lying, Sabbath breaking, bearing false witness, stealing, idolatry.” 12LtMs, Ms 149, 1897, par. 10

Remitting sins or restraining sins applies to the church in her organized capacity. God has given directions to reprove, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and doctrine. Censure is to be given. This censure is to be removed when the one in error confesses and repents of his sin. This solemn commission is given to men who have in them the breath of the Holy Spirit, in whose lives the Christ-life is manifested. They are to be men who have spiritual eyesight, who can discern spiritual things, whose actions in dealing with members of the church are such as can receive the endorsement of the great head of the church. If this is not so, in their human judgment they will censure those who should be commended, and sustain men who are worked by a power from beneath. 12LtMs, Ms 149, 1897, par. 11

The gospel commission is entrusted to men to be executed by those who know the inward working of the Spirit, and who have the attributes of Christ. Christ’s breath is breathed upon them, and He says to them, “Receive ye the Holy Ghost.” [John 20:22.] All who are thus inspired by God have a work to do for the churches. Christ’s representatives, the ministers of the grace of God may say to others, “It is written,” “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.] This is remission of sins in accordance with the Word of God. 12LtMs, Ms 149, 1897, par. 12

In all labor with individual members of the church, every eye is to be directed to Christ. The shepherds are to take kindly, fatherly care of the flock of the Lord’s pasture by presenting the Word of Christ, giving encouragement to the erring by speaking of the divine tenderness of the Saviour. Those in the wrong are to confess their sins to the sin-pardoning Saviour, and the servants of the Lord Jesus are not to strive, but to minister in word and doctrine. Present the grace of Christ, encouraging all who shall fall into sin to repent and believe in Him who alone can pardon transgression and sin. 12LtMs, Ms 149, 1897, par. 13

Let the tenderness of Christ find a place in the hearts of Christ’s ministers. Encourage the one humiliated to go to Christ. If he repents of his sin, he will find abundant pardon. He has assurance that his sins will be remitted, for thus it is written. Bear in mind that first the Lord gave His disciples the Holy Ghost. He breathed upon them, and those who truly believed on Him received the presence of the Holy Spirit, and worked under His influence. 12LtMs, Ms 149, 1897, par. 14

The servants of God are to watch for souls as they that must give account. Watch constantly, vigilantly. Earnest prayer is essential. Faithfully warn every soul that is in danger. 12LtMs, Ms 149, 1897, par. 15

Remission of sins can be obtained only through the merits of Christ. On no man, priest, or pope, but on God alone, rests the forgiveness of sins. All who announce the gospel message to sinners voice the words of John, “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sins of the world.” [John 1:29.] “As many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God.” [Verse 12.] Here is the message that is to be borne. “If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not the truth. But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected.” On this basis Christians are free. Give encouragement of sins remitted. 12LtMs, Ms 149, 1897, par. 16

“If we walk in the light as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” “My little children, these things write I unto you that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and he is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.” [1 John 1:7-9; 2:1, 2.] 12LtMs, Ms 149, 1897, par. 17