Mark 2:7 – Only God Can Forgive Sins?

Who can forgive sins but one: God? — Mark 2:7.
Who is this who speaks blasphemies? Who can forgive
sins, but God alone? — Luke 5:21.

The above quotes from Mark 2:7 and Luke 5:21 are often quoted out of context as proof that God cannot give anyone authority to forgive sins, and therefore, according that that reasoning, in order for Jesus to forgives sins, Jesus has to be the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Thus it is being asserted that Jesus was by his words claiming to be God.

However, if we note the context, the ones who are saying this are the Jewish leaders; these are the same Jewish leaders described as lying and deceiving, offspring of vipers, etc. (Mark 2:7), and they are saying this because of envy, as an excuse to charge Jesus with blasphemy, in an effort to find some reason to justify — before the eyes of the people — killing him. — Matthew 27:8; 21:37,38; Luke 20:19; 22:2.

But note this:

1He entered into a boat, and crossed over, and came into his own city. 2Behold, they brought to him a man who was paralyzed, lying on a bed. Jesus, seeing their faith, said to the paralytic, “Son, cheer up! Your sins are forgiven you.” 3Behold, some of the scribes said to themselves, “This man blasphemes.” 4Jesus, knowing their thoughts, said, “Why do you think evil in your hearts? 5For which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven;’ or to say, ‘Get up, and walk?’ 6But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins…” (then he said to the paralytic), “Get up, and take up your mat, and go up to your house.” 7He arose and departed to his house. 8But when the multitudes saw it, they marveled and glorified God, who had given such authority to men. — Matthew 9:1-8, World English

Matthew 9:8 reveals that Jesus, as a man among men, received this authority from his God and Father.

Peter, in speaking to the Jews, described Jesus as “a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by [Greek intrumental “en”, Strong’s #1722] him in the midst of you.” (Acts 2:22) The “God” that Peter refers is evidently not Jesus whom “God” approved, so Peter must be referring to the God and Father of Jesus (1 Peter 1:3), and in doing this he is presenting “God” as unipersonal, one person, that is the Father.

At the same time, the unipersonal God that Peter is referring to is “The God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and of Jacob” (Acts 3:13), the God who spoke to Moses. (Exodus 3:15) It was this same God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob who spoke of sending a prophet like Moses, which prophet was to speak the words of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and come in the name of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. — Deuteronomy 18:15-22.

There is nothing in the fact that the only true God who sent Jesus (John 17:3) gave to Jesus authority on earth (Matthew 9:8) to forgive sins that means that Jesus is the only true God who sent him.

Originally published Oct 14, 2009; updated and republished: June 19, 2014; updated April 24, 2016.

See also:

Mark 2:1-11 – Your Sins Are Forgiven
Luke 5:17-26 – Your Sins Are Forgiven

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