Can a Man Forgive Sins?


It never ceases to amaze me how biblical prophecy was remarkably fulfilled in great detail even though it was spoken hundreds of years beforehand. In the prophecy of Isaiah, for instance, God told us that He would send a Messiah, a man who would be more than a man; He would be God in the flesh:


Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel (Isaiah 7:14)


Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us (Matthew 1:23).


Some say that Jesus never went around claiming, “I am God.” I agree that Christ was too humble to say such an arrogant statement, but when you look in detail at what He said and did, it is evident that He saw Himself as God. Take, for instance, the healing of the paralyzed man:


3Some men came, bringing to him a paralyzed man, carried by four of them. 4Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus by digging through it and then lowered the mat the man was lying on. 5When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” 6Now some teachers of the law were sitting there, thinking to themselves, 7“Why does this fellow talk like that? He’s blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” 8Immediately Jesus knew in his spirit that this was what they were thinking in their hearts, and he said to them, “Why are you thinking these things? 9Which is easier: to say to this paralyzed man, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, take your mat and walk’? 10But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” So he said to the man, 11“I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.” 12He got up, took his mat and walked out in full view of them all. This amazed everyone and they praised God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this!” (Mark 2:3-12).


In this passage, we see Jesus make an indirect claim to be God. Christ claimed to be able to forgive sins—an astonishing claim! C.S. Lewis, in his book Mere Christianity, puts it well when he writes,


One part of the claim tends to slip past us unnoticed because we have heard it so often that we no longer see what it amounts to. I mean the claim to forgive sins: any sins. Now unless the speaker is God, this is really so preposterous as to be comic. We can all understand how a man forgives offenses against himself. You tread on my toe and I forgive you, you steal my money and I forgive you. But what should we make of a man, himself unrobed and untrodden on, who announced that he forgave you for treading on other men’s toes and stealing other men’s money? Asinine fatuity is the kindest description we should give his conduct. Yet, this is what Jesus did. He told people that their sins were forgiven, and never waited to consult all the other people whom their sins had undoubtedly injured. He unhesitatingly behaved as if He was the person chiefly offended in all offenses. This makes sense only if He really was the God whose laws were broken and whose love is wounded in every sin. In the mouth of any speaker who is not God, these words would imply what I can only regard as a silliness and conceit unrivaled by any other character in history.”


Do not miss this truth, my dear friends. God has come to us in human form and shown us His great love for us by taking the penalty that our sins deserve—death and separation from God. Isn’t it time to receive Him as Savior and Lord—for that is exactly who He is! Keith Thomas