“Why does this fellow talk like that? He’s blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?”
The above words were spoken derisively by a Jewish religious leader after Jesus had told a paralyzed man his sins were forgiven. Scripture often quotes what people said, but what they said is many times quite different than what God says in His Word. No verse of Scripture says that “only God can forgive sins.” That idea came from their tradition. The truth is that God grants the authority to forgive sins as He pleases. He granted that authority to His Son and, furthermore, to the apostles.
John 20:23 records Jesus saying to them: “If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven.” If the Pharisees were right, and only God can forgive sins, then God, Jesus, and the apostles were all God, because they all had the authority to forgive sins.
Another section of Scripture lays out the answer to this FAQ very plainly:
(1) Jesus stepped into a boat, crossed over and came to his own town.
(2) Some men brought to him a paralytic, lying on a mat. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven.”
(3) At this, some of the teachers of the law said to themselves, “This fellow is blaspheming!”
(4) Knowing their thoughts, Jesus said, “Why do you entertain evil thoughts in your hearts?
(5) Which is easier: to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’?
(6) But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins….” Then he said to the paralytic, “Get up, take your mat and go home.”
(7) And the man got up and went home.
(8) When the crowd saw this, they were filled with awe; and they praised God, who had given such authority to men.
When Jesus forgave the man’s sins, the religious leaders could see no evidence of his having been forgiven, and so they scoffed within themselves, which was always risky to do around Jesus, whom God told what they were thinking. Then, in essence, Jesus said: “OK, you saw nothing come to pass in the senses realm, so you don’t think the man’s sins are forgiven. Well, what if I said, ‘Get up and walk’? Let me try that and see what happens.” Wow! The physical manifestation of the man’s healing proved that his sins had also been forgiven.
The answer to this FAQ is simple: God has given such authority to men.