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You Keep On Getting Better
Luke 6:38 (CSB)
38 Give, and it will be given to you; a good measure—pressed down, shaken together, and running over—will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.”
32 But I tell you, everyone who divorces his wife, except in a case of sexual immorality, causes her to commit adultery. And whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.
Memory Section – Matthew 5:27-32
Matthew 5:27–32 (CSB)
ADULTERY BEGINS IN THE HEART
27 “You have heard that it was said, Do not commit adultery., 28 But I tell you, everyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of the parts of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of the parts of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.
DIVORCE PRACTICES CENSURED
31 “It was also said, Whoever divorces his wife must give her a written notice of divorce. 32 But I tell you, everyone who divorces his wife, except in a case of sexual immorality, causes her to commit adultery. And whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.
“…if you retain the sins of any, they are retained” – Decide How You Will Avoid Abusing This Command Every Day.
The question of “retaining the sins of any” came up at a prayer meeting. It is connected to Chapter 20 of John.
This passage shows Jesus commissioning His disciples to continue His work in the world. This is John’s version of the Great Commission.
It might be good to take a look at how the writers of the Gospels captured this message. In this way, we can get a better picture of the phrase in question.
It is always best to keep things in context as you study God’s Word. Cross-references are a good way to capture meaning.
We will look at the four gospel accounts of Jesus sending His disciples to the world. We will then look at some cross references from John’s account.
In the end we should have a small list of things that should be present in our lives. If we don’t see them yet, we can decide on the next step that we should take to get closer to Jesus.
The Question of Retention of Sins Answered Through Comparison
Let’s take a look at this sending. Jesus gives over His mission to His disciples. It is up to them to carry it out.
Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, I also send you.” After saying this, he breathed on them and said, “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.”
– John 20:21–23 (CSB)
Here we see four different things happening.
- RED – The sending and proclaiming of the Father’s message.
- BLUE – Receiving the Holy Spirit
- GREEN – Forgiveness of sin
- ORANGE – Retention of sin
Let’s take a look at the other three gospels.
Jesus came near and said to them, “All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
– Matthew 28:18–20 (CSB)
He also said to them, “This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead the third day, and repentance for forgiveness of sins will be proclaimed in his name to all the nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And look, I am sending you what my Father promised. As for you, stay in the city until you are empowered, from on high.”
– Luke 24:46–49 (CSB)
Then he said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes; if they should drink anything deadly, it will not harm them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will get well.”
– Mark 16:15–18 (CSB)
So when we combine all four gospels we get a better understanding of the mission that God is working out through the good news and the penalty of refusing to believe it.
- RED – The sending and proclaiming of the gospel.
- BLUE – The work of the Holy Spirit
- GREEN – Accepting Jesus and His message of redemption, the repentance from sin that brings forgiveness, the outward expression of belief by baptism, and salvation leading to life.
- ORANGE – Rejecting Jesus and His message bring with it the retention of sin, condemnation, and death.
Let’s transition back to John and take a look at each verse and some of the cross references.
Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, I also send you.”
– John 20:21 (CSB)
There are three part to this verse.
The first part is, “Peace be with you.” This is the second time Jesus says this to His disciples. We must have peace with God to be part of His family. In other words in order to be His disciple we must be reconciled to God by believing the good news.
The second part is how Jesus was sent. But how and why was He sent by the Father? Here is where cross references are helpful.
God sent Jesus into the world to save the world. John 3:17
Jesus didn’t come to judge the world, but to save it. John 12:47
Jesus came to testify to the truth. John 18:37
Jesus came to give us abundant life. John 10:10
This leads us to the third part. Jesus sends us to continue His mission.
Jesus describes the progression of the transfer of the good news. Whoever receives those that He sends receives Him. And whoever receives Him receives the Father. John 13:20
It is interesting to note that Jesus gave the apostles instructions through the Holy Spirit. Acts 1:2 Which brings us to our next verse.
The Holy Spirit
Jesus breathed on them
When Jesus breathed on His disciples He told them to receive the Holy Spirit. It was part of their spiritual birth.
This was a foretaste of Pentecost. The Holy Spirit would come to be with them and in them.
Genesis gives us the picture of God breathing into Adam the breath of life (Genesis 2:7). Like the disciples, we must be born of the Spirit in order to enter the kingdom of God (John 3:3).
Receive the Holy Spirit
What a precious gift, God has given us His very Spirit. When He said that He would never leave us nor forsake us, He meant it. Jesus had to ascend to the Father so He could send the Counselor to us (John 16:17).
The work of the Holy Spirit is necessary for our regeneration and renewal (Titus 3:5). We are new creatures in Christ.
David pleaded with the Lord not to take His Holy Spirit from him (Psalm 51:11). That is how important the presence of the Lord was to the king.
What a promise King Jesus has given us. He sent the Holy Spirit to be with us and in us (John 14:17). We are assured of His presence. He has given us the power to overcome.
We are to take note of what the Holy Spirit says (Revelation 3:22). He is bringing us the message of Jesus in the moment (Acts 8:29, 10:19, Acts 11:12). This is important for serving Christ and others.
We must keep in step with the Spirit if we truly live by the Spirit (Galatians 5:25). He imparts wisdom and understanding. He enables us with gifts that empower us for ministry (Acts 2:4).
If you aren’t experiencing Him, all you have to do is ask (Acts 8:15).
Forgive Or Retain
This brings us back to the start of our conversation. What is this all about?
Are we able to forgive sin or retain sin? I think it has to do more with our proclamation of the gospel.
We proclaim that there is forgiveness of sins through belief in Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit. If you accept Jesus as Lord your sins are forgiven. If you reject Jesus as Lord you do not have your sins forgiven.
Keys of the kingdom of heaven
There is another aspect to this subject. It is found in the Gospel of Matthew.
I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will have been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will have been loosed in heaven.
– Matthew 16:19 (CSB)
In this case we see there is an authoritative role for the Church as we advocate for God’s ways. We do this by continuing the work Jesus sent us to do, spread the message of salvation.
These keys stand in contrast to the gates of hell from the previous verse (Matthew 16:18). This seems to indicate that the Church has a gatekeeping role.
By preaching the gospel, the Church is able to help people transfer from death to life. That would be from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of His Son.
Think of the opposite of this that Jesus told the Pharisees they were doing.
Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. For you don’t go in, and you don’t allow those entering to go in.
– Matthew 23:13 (CSB)
Binding and Loosing – Prohibit or Permit
We believe therefore we speak. Binding and loosing have been given to the Church as we walk in Christ’s authority to carry out God’s will and to oppose the powers of evil (Matthew 12:29-32).
What is the application? Casting out devils would be one example. Taking thoughts captive to obey Christ would be another.
Binding and loosing are tools for our use in spiritual warfare. But don’t forget it is through the power of the Holy Spirit under Christ’s authority to accomplish God’s will.
If you aren’t aligned with these you maybe need to rethink your actions. This isn’t about you, it is for God’s glory.
What have we learned today?
Looking at the parallel teaching in the gospels brings us clarity. Cross references give us greater understanding as well.
We looked at the mission of God. He has sent His Word to save all people. If you accept Jesus you receive salvation. If you reject Jesus you receive death.
We are the sent ones of Jesus. We serve Christ and others by continuing the mission of sharing the good news.
What is this good news? We can have a relationship and peace with God.
The Holy Spirit, both His presence and His indwelling is necessary for us to follow Jesus. We need His guidance in what to say and do.
In addition we need His power to enable us to do the works of Christ. That is, minister to the needs of the world around us.
We have been given the keys to the kingdom. Let’s not be modern day Pharisees and keep people shut up in hell. Instead let’s permit them into the kingdom by telling them the good news.
Lastly, we have been given tools. Weapons for spiritual warfare.
These are used to free our minds from the enemy’s influence and from the bondages he can bring. It happens through the power of the Spirit for God’s glory.
Are you functioning in ministry? Are you empowered by the Spirit? What do you need from God today?
What got your attention today? Let me know in the comment below.