When Jesus forgave the paralytic man of his sins, the scribes went berserk. Mounce’s translation bring to the fore a fascinating thought: “Why does this man speak like that? It is blasphemy! Who can forgive sins except the One God?” Mark 2.7. Most versions translate it as “God alone,” “only God,” or something similar. CEB puts it this way: “Why does he speak this way? He’s insulting God. Only the one God can forgive sins.”
The scribes were much like Job’s friends. Much of what they had to say was spot on, Matthew 23.1-3. But their application of it was way off. It is true that, in the absolute sense, only God can forgive sins. What the scribes missed was that Jesus is God. And God is one. The one God has one plan for forgiveness.
How then can we today purport to offer forgiveness of sins to others when we preach Jesus? Because the one God has revealed his specific plan of forgiveness. Those who are his people faithfully proclaim that plan so that others may take note and respond.
This is exactly the sense of what Jesus told Peter and the Twelve:
I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth will have been bound in heaven, and whatever you release on earth will have been released in heaven, Matthew 16.19.
I tell you the truth, whatever you bind on earth will have been bound in heaven, and whatever you release on earth will have been released in heaven, Matthew 18.18.
Jesus gave his apostles the exact content of what he wanted to be proclaimed to the world. What they said had already been settled in heaven. God’s plan is eternal. It began before the universe was spoken into existence. He brooked no deviation from it. Nor does he tolerate any today.
Jesus spoke only what the Father sent him to say, John 12.48-50, and he gave that very message to his apostles, who in turn wrote it down by inspiration of the Holy Spirit, who also preserved it faithfully so that we possess today in our hands the very words of God.
One God means one message. One God means one way back. One God means one means of forgiveness, through the blood of Jesus Christ and our faith in his promise.
When we proclaim the necessity of faith in, and obedience to, the Good News of Christ, we are not being blasphemous. We are not insulting God. We are being faithful. People will speak ill of us, as the scribes did of Jesus. That must not deter us, as it did not make our Lord hesitate to bring people back into a right relationship with the one God.
What is left for us is to decide whether we will be faithful to what has been revealed, or whether we will slide into the prevailing religious attitude that decries the essentiality of listening and submitting to the eternal word of God.