Not the only way, but the sure way
Forgiveness of sins without Apostles — is that even possible? But of course, as the Chief Apostle clarifies in a treatise currently appearing in the magazines of the Church. However, the ministry does impart certainty to the believer.
Forgiveness of sins is not an invention of the New Apostolic Church. Christians have professed belief in this since at least the second century. The possibility of forgiveness of sins is rooted in the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ.
More than a one-time affair
The New Apostolic Church recognises two acts whereby forgiveness of sins is effected: the sacrament of Holy Baptism nullifies the condition of permanent separation from God—original sin is washed away. But this does not mean that the individual is free from sin. The inclination to continually distance oneself from God remains intact.
It is for this reason that a repeated action is required: absolution from current sins. This is, not least of all, also a purification process that allows one to partake worthily in the presence of the body and blood of Jesus Christ in Holy Communion. So does the Apostle or the priestly minister forgive sins in the divine service? No! Not at all!
Only proclaiming, not actually forgiving
“Only the triune God can erase sins.” So writes Chief Apostle Jean-Luc Schneider in a treatise that has just been published in the latest edition of “community” and which is also about to be published in future editions of “Our Family”. This treatise corresponds to the remarks of the Chief Apostle published in Special Edition 2/2015 of the ministers’ publication known as the “Divine Service Guide”.
“Within the Church, the Apostles have the commission to bindingly proclaim the forgiveness of sins,” he goes on to say in the text. “The Apostle proclaims forgiveness, but it is God who forgives.” Among other things, the authority to speak the absolution is based on the commission Jesus gave the Apostles in John 20: 23: “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”
Possible, but not certain
So is forgiveness of sins without Apostles impossible? Not at all! “This is because God can forgive sins completely independently of ministry and church,” emphasises the Chief Apostle. Examples of this can already be found in the New Apostolic doctrine of future things: the firstfruits at the Lord’s return, the martyrs from the great tribulation, and those who receive grace in the Last Judgement—God grants all of them forgiveness of sins directly.
Whether in the period before the Apostle ministry was re-established or in the present, “God, in His omnipotence, can always forgive sins,” says the Church president with a reference to the Catechism. He goes on to formulate the important statement: “However, only those who have received the assurance of the forgiveness of sins out of the apostolate can be certain that their sins have really been forgiven.”
Effective, but not automatic
Nevertheless: even the proclamation of absolution through an Apostle cannot guarantee forgiveness of sins, because forgiveness of sins does not happen automatically. “Forgiveness is only of effect if the sinner is repentant and willing to reconcile,” explains the Chief Apostle, before clarifying the prerequisites a human being must fulfil so that his sins can be forgiven.
Concerning this, the Chief Apostle calls upon us: “Let us testify that the Apostles have the authority to proclaim forgiveness of sins!”His closing appeal: “Let us show that New Apostolic Christians have the courage to call themselves into question, that they are determined to change, that they are prepared to forgive and reconcile, and that they make the endeavour to achieve oneness among one another.”
Photo: Marcel Felde