Every christian would agree that the sacrificial act and resurrection of Christ 2000 years ago has redeemed mankind from the bondage of sin. Sin which separated mankind from the love of God since the time of creation. Through baptism, the sins (original and personal) of the baptized are forgiven and he is regenerated or born again into a new man (John 3:5). His old self has died with Christ and his new self has been resurrected with Christ. (1 Corinthians 15:21-22) This is made possible with grace (alone) which is a gift from God. The relationship of man with his Creator has been restored through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Can the reconnection be disconnected again? Is the gift of grace can be un-gifted? Contrary to the new ‘radical’ doctrine being preached my new evangelical Christians today that “once saved, always saved”, the baptized may fall away from grace. Although, Saint Paul wrote to the Romans that nothing can be disconnected or separated from the love of God (Romans 8:38-39), he sets a ‘condition’ – as long as you are in Christ.
It is true that God is love and He will always be. However, man as the beloved retained his ‘will’ to stay or not to stay in the bond of love. Obey or disobey God’s commandments. He has still the power to choose and love evil. Therefore, man can spoil the gift given to him and loses its value. Saint Paul warned the Corinthians about losing their salvation (1 Cor 10:12).
Jesus Christ, being the true vine, also told his disciples to be rooted to him otherwise loses the promise of salvation. Although, they are connected to the vine, there is still the possibility that they they would be cut off from the vine and be thrown to the fire (John 15:5-6). The forgiven maybe cleared from his debt but if as a debtor too, he do not forgive the sins of others, the debt will be restored and he will repay for it in the prison (Matt 18:21-30). How do we amend then, stand up again when we fall and restore the value of the gift? We need forgiveness and must have the humility to ask for it. We need to swallow our pride and confess our sins (1 John 1:19)
Shall we ask forgiveness directly from God who has the sole power to forgive? Christ being the Son of God, has the power to forgive (Matthew 9:6-8) and He has entrusted this power and authority to the apostles (John 20:21-23). Was the authority lost after the death of the apostles? This is not the intention and mission of Christ. The conversion, forgiveness and and the spread of Truth must continue until his second coming (Matt 28:16-20). He promised to protect the institution he founded (the Church) from the gates of hell to continue and extend his mission not only to the Israelites but to all nations. (Matt 16:18).
Many historical records after the death of apostles shows that their successor as bishops executed such authority and power to forgive confessed sins.
“Confess your sins in church, and do not go up to your prayer with an evil conscience. This is the way of life. . . . On the Lord’s Day gather together, break bread, and give thanks, after confessing your transgressions so that your sacrifice may be pure” (Didache 4:14, 14:1 [A.D. 70]).
“For as many as are of God and of Jesus Christ are also with the bishop. And as many as shall, in the exercise of penance, return into the unity of the Church, these, too, shall belong to God, that they may live according to Jesus Christ” (Letter to the Philadelphians 3 [A.D. 110]). – St Ignatius of Antioch.
Strictly speaking, it is not the priest or Christ’s ambassadors that forgive sins but God through Jesus Christ. Saint Paul is clearly wrote this participation in the priesthood of Christ to the Corinthians.
Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation.
Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God. For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. – 2 Corr 5:18-21
Have you fallen from grace? Be reconciled and seek Penance.