Part 11: The Apostles & Forgiveness

Sin against the Lord or a person(s) + Teshuvah (repentance & a 180° change in conduct by the offender) + forgiveness from the offended = Reconciliation with Christ or an injured person(s).

The Apostle Peter & Teshuvah

Peter denied his Lord three times. When the rooster crowed, Jesus looked at Peter, and Peter remembered the words of Jesus that said, “Before the cock crows you will deny me three times. And he repented and went out and wept bitterly” (Matthew 26:75).  He repented for being fearful. There was a real change. Never again did Peter deny his Lord. And repentance always does signify a change, and the godly sorrow works repentance.

After condemning the Jews before him on Pentecost, Peter called for them to commit teshuvah to be forgiven for taking part in the Messiah’s crucifixion.  See Acts 2:23, 37-38.

What About the Apostle Stephen?

Were his last words as he was being stoned “I forgive you?”  No.  He called out to Christ to forgive his murderers.  I think it’s safe to say he understood that any call for teshuvah from his executioners would only be ignored.  So, if Stephen prayed that Christ would forgive them for his murder, Christ could act on it (assuming any of them requested it) and forgive them of the act, but not necessarily grant them eternal salvation.  Regardless, how would they receive eternal salvation from Christ?  They would receive it via teshuvah, the same as you and I wouldn’t they?

The Book of James Implied Forgiveness By Way of Teshuvah

“Confess your trespasses to one another (teshuvah), and pray for one another, that you may be healed.”  James 5:16 (NKJV).

“That you may be healed”:  “Healing” of sin involves not only confessing but also being genuinely sorry, intending to stop sinning, and actually stopping.  David H. Stern, “Jewish New Testament Commentary”, Jewish New Testament Publications, Inc., ©1989, p. 741.

“Brethren, if any among you wanders from the truth, and someone turns him, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his ways will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins.”  James 5:19-20 (NKJV).

“[W]ho turns a sinner [teshuvah] from the error of his ways,” stresses the benefits of repentance, a major Jewish theme; for “covering” sin.  Herbert Basser, Introduction and Annotations to The Jewish Annotated New Testament, Amy-Jill Levine and Marc Zvi Brettler, Oxford University Press, ©2011, p 434.

The Church of England recommends in certain cases. Rome compels confession in all cases. Confession is desirable in the case of (1) wrong done to a neighbor; (2) when under a troubled conscience we ask counsel of a godly minister or friend as to how we may obtain God’s forgiveness and strength to sin no more [teshuvah], or when we desire their intercessory prayers for us (“Pray for one another”): “Confession may be made to anyone who can pray[.]”  John Lightfoot, A Commentary on the New Testament From the Talmud and Hebraica, courtesy biblestudytools.com

The Book of 2nd John Did Not Prescribe Forgiveness Without Teshuvah

In this letter from the Apostle John to a certain female member of a church (perhaps in the area of Ephesus) he encourages her to watch over and discern the true teachers from the false.  At the time this letter was written there were those spreading a doctrine of Christ that claimed he was never human (a belief known as “Docetism,” from the Greek work “”dokeõ” “to seem to appear,” that he wasn’t divine, or would never return).  No indication is there for her to forgive such a false teacher.

 “If anyone comes to you and does not bring this doctrine [the doctrine of Jesus Christ], do not receive him into your house nor greet him; for he who greets him shares in his evil deeds.”  2 John 10-11 (NKJV). 

“Some say it refers to the deceivers of v. 7, who come as brothers but lead people astray with their false teachings.  It is not said about any other kind of believer, for everyone is to be received courteously, even pagans.”  Yechiel Zvi Lichtenstein, Messianic Commentator, 1827-1912.

John indicates [that] her Christian love must be discerning.  It is not a naïve, unthinking , open to anything and anyone kind of love.  Biblical love is a matter of choice; it is dangerous and foolish to float through life with undiscerning love.  Introduction to 2nd John, The New Open Bible, New King James Version, Thomas Nelson Publishers ©1990, p. 1500.

The Book of 3rd John Did Not Prescribe Forgiveness Without Teshuvah

Does John’s discussion about the prideful, malicious conduct of Diotrephes include any inclination that he intended to forgive the prideful one in 3 John 9-10?

Didn’t Christ’s Own Brother, James, Believe in Unconditional Forgiveness?

Apparently not.  Read James 5:19-20, a letter from him to the twelve scattered tribes.

“Brethren, if anyone among you wanders from the truth, and someone turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins.”

What, no condemnation of a person who turns a brother from his errant ways?  No, “Agh gee forgive the errant brother, or at least just let him alone!”

In Conclusion

Was Christ a lousy teacher to the apostles?  If he wasn’t a bad teacher were the apostles bad students, or did Christ teach them well but they chose to defy Him since after all he wasn’t around; he had ascended into heaven?  The answers are obviously no!  So, if Christ was the best instructor possible, his apostles learned and followed his teachings, and there is no scripture advising them to forgive without repentance (teshuvah), and no record of them implementing such a practice then isn’t it pretty obvious that they weren’t supposed to and we shouldn’t either?

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