The Roman Catholic Church uses this passage to justify its teaching that the key of
purgatory lies in the hand of the priest. In this unseen region of suffering he is said to
open and shut, bind and loose. It is also held to lie within the priest's power to lessen
the duration and severity of the suffering.
- John 20:23
- "Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye
retain, they are retained."
The promise of this passage was to the apostles. (vs. 20). If the Roman Church has any
claim to the promise it musts first demonstrate the existence of apostles. Paul instructed
the Corinthians. "Truly the signs of an apostle were wrought among you in all
patience, in signs, and wonders, and mighty deeds." (2 Cor. 12:12). Where is the R.C.
priest who can, in God's name, strike an Elymas blind, (Acts 13:11); raise a Eutychus from
the dead, (Acts 20:10-12); or suffer no harm after being bitten by a viper, (Acts 28:3-5)?
These were the signs of an apostle.
- This passage has specific reference to the apostles. This is indicated by Jesus
"breathing" on them. (vs. 22).
When claims to the tremendous power outlined in the problem are vested in the hands of
ordinary men or as may happen, in the hands of mercenary and unscrupulous men, imagination
can scarcely exceed the historical abuses.
The New Testament refers to only one sacrificing priest, Jesus Christ (Heb. 10:12) and
to a "royal priesthood" of all believers. (1 Pet. 2:9). There is no exclusive
order of priests officiating for a laity in New Testament arrangements.