Q. Thank you again for your teaching! Could you explain John 20:23? So Jesus said to them again, “Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, “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.” Also, I know that Jesus asked the Father to forgive the people who were crucifying Him. Can we ask God to forgive the sins of others?
A. First, this tells us the disciples received the Holy Spirit on the evening of the Lord’s resurrection, and not at Pentecost, which was a special manifestation of the Holy Spirit for the benefit of the people who were there (Acts. 2:5-12).
The part about forgiving and retaining sins means the Lord was saying to the disciples, and through them to us, that when we share the gospel and invite someone to come to the Lord, we can promise that if they accept Him their sins will be forgiven, but if they don’t, their sins will not be forgiven.
And yes, according to 1 John 5:16 we can ask the Lord to forgive the sins of others and should do so, especially when their sins have harmed us. Asking the Lord to forgive them helps us forgive them too, and ensures that our relationship with Him will stay strong and steady.
“For if you forgive men, when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you” (Matt. 6:14).