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New Apostolic Church – Forgiveness of sins in the New Apostolic Church. The NAC goes a special way!

New Apostolic Church Criticism
The Forgiveness Of Sins 


The New Apostolic Church follows a special path regarding the forgiveness of sins and reconciliation. We want to analyze whether the New Apostolic doctrine on forgiveness of sins and reconciliation is correct from a biblical perspective.

The New Apostolic Church teaches through its Apostles and the Chief Apostle that forgiveness of sins can be obtained exclusively through the absolving of an Apostle or a priestly office commissioned by him.

In the book 'Questions and Answers' 1) of the New Apostolic Church it says in question 110: „Through a penitent mind and a living faith in the grace offered through the apostles of Jesus in the word of forgiveness and in the acts of grace of the sacraments, people can find redemption from sins and reconciliation with God.“

Recently, the exclusivity of the forgiveness of sins has been formulated a little more cautiously, but it is believed and practiced the same as before: „I believe that the Lord Jesus rules His church and thereto sent His Apostles, and until His return still sends them, with the commission to teach, to forgive sins in His name, and to baptise with water and Holy Spirit. … A further task incumbent on the apostolate is to „forgive sins in His [Jesus'] name“ (John 20: 23), that is to bindingly proclaim forgiveness to human beings on the basis of the sacrifice and merit of Jesus Christ.“ 1a)

New Apostolic Reasoning

The New Apostolic Church bases itself, among other things, on verses 21-23 in John 20: „If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.” <by him>.“ - John 20:21-23 And to verses 18-20 in the 5th chapter of Paul's 2nd letter to the Corinthians, „All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation“ – 1 Cor. 5:18-20

New Apostolic Claim to Absoluteness

Among other things, one derives an absolute claim from these two biblical passages: only through apostles can the forgiveness of sins be obtained. The apostles carry the ministry that reconciles people with God, the ministry of reconciliation. Since, according to New Apostolic doctrine, there are true apostles only in the New Apostolic Church, the forgiveness of sins and reconciliation with God is also possible only in this church. All other people, if they do not believe in the 'new' apostles and accept the absolving of sins from their mouths, must die in their sins.

Office or ministry of reconciliation?

First, let's take a closer look at verse 18 in 2 Corinthians chapter 5. Only Luther translates here the word 2) = diakonian with 'ministry'. Most other german Bible translators use the german word for ’service' here. As a translation for 'diakonian' the terms service, assistance or support can be used 3). Since the Luther Bible of 1912/1984 is the preferred Bible version of the New Apostolic Church, the term 'ministry' naturally fits perfectly with the exclusive doctrine of this church

Here, however, it cannot be meant that God has commissioned a group of people, whose members carry the office of an apostle, to create reconciliation between God and man. Why this cannot be quickly becomes clear if we look closely at the first part of the 18th verse. Here it says: „who reconciled us to himself through Christ“. Here we can see without a doubt that God has reconciled us to Himself. He who is reconciled no longer needs to be reconciled! God has reconciled us, who believe in Jesus Christ, through Jesus Christ!

What is meant by ministry of reconciliation?

What then is the ministry of reconciliation? The Lord tells us in the 19th verse: „<namely>  that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself“. That God in Christ was in this world reconciling us to Himself, this we can take to be the ministry of reconciliation. Jesus Christ went to his death for us, took all the guilt of the world upon himself and paid for us, so that we, bought by his blood, could one day stand before God justified.

The ministry of reconciliation can also be understood as the proclamation of this gospel, making people acquainted with this gospel so that, when they have accepted it for themselves, they too may experience forgiveness of their sins through faith in Jesus Christ and thus be reconciled with God. This ministry is not limited to apostles, for every believing Christian is called to proclaim this gospel. One can assume that when Paul speaks of 'us', he means not only the apostles, but also the other disciples and servants who nurture the churches and carry the Word of God to the world.

Reconciliation through Jesus

Reconciliation with God through people (apostles) cannot be meant here; it would be tantamount to mediation. Unfortunately, the New Apostolic Church regularly speaks of a mediatorial office in connection with its 'new' apostleship. Reconciliation with God is the essential act that saves people. However, this is reserved only for our Lord: „For there is {One} God, and there is {One} mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.“ – 1 Tim 2:5

Forgiveness of sins only through acquittal?

The New Apostolic Church claims that „only through the acquittal of an apostle can a person be freed from his sins.“ The core of this is referred to John 20:23, a biblical passage that is regularly misquoted. It reads „If you forgive the sins of any“ From this wrong quotation one can well deduce that only whom the apostles forgive are forgiven their sins. But in fact it is written: „If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.“ – John 20:23

In Luther's translation, 'which' is written here, which is very reminiscent of 'to whom'. The word 'if' gives this passage the meaning of a possibility rather than an exclusivity.

Various interpretations

There are many interpretations of this passage that I cannot go into in detail. I would like to mention them only briefly:

First, interpersonal forgiveness is meant here in the sense that one can forgive another, but these sins are not forgiven before God as a result.

Second, Jesus gave his apostles the power to forgive and retain sins.

Third, the power promised and authority given is related to the preaching of the gospel, which proclaims on what conditions sins are forgiven, and, if those conditions are not met, that sin is then retained. 4)

Fourth, Jesus speaks to the disciples as a group (the verbs are plural). Although man has no power to forgive sins, he can award forgiveness because of what God has done in Christ. He can do so provided the Holy Spirit works in him and makes him a messenger of Jesus Christ. Since verse 23 follows the reference to the gift of the Spirit, and the words are not limited to apostles, the authority given here is a general one and not limited to Christians in specific ministries. Cf. also: Mt 16:18-19; 18:18-19 5)

The Chief Apostle believed he was Jesus and could forgive sins!

Almost unbelievable, but unfortunately true. The veneration of the chief apostle had many extremes in the New Apostolic Church in the 20th century. Chief Apostle Friedrich (Fritz) Krebs believed and taught that he was Jesus in the flesh and could forgive sins. Read more about these extreme unbiblical teachings and practices in our article The Chief Apostle ministry“ in the chapter on glorification! << Go to the article>>

Only God can forgive sins!

That men should have received the power to forgive sins in the sense that through their word the guilt before God is redeemed and thus man no longer has to come under the consequence of sin, is to be rejected, since the biblical teaching contradicts this. Only God can forgive sins! The Holy Scripture teaches this unmistakably: „Why does this man speak like that? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?“ – Mk. 2:7 „Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.“ – Eph. 4:32. 

Other passages that prove this fact are e.g.: 1. Joh. 1:9; Dan. 9:9.

Only the Lord Himself can free us from our guilt. No human being can presume, on the basis of these clear biblical statements, to want to forgive sins in the divine sense; this is something that lies within the sovereignty of our Lord. How then do we come under the forgiveness of sins? Through faith in Jesus Christ!

Forgiveness of sins through faith in Jesus Christ! 

Through faith in Jesus Christ, man's sins are forgiven. He took upon himself the consequence of sin for mankind, he suffered vicariously for us, he bought our souls with his blood. He took death upon Himself because we sin and otherwise would have no chance of salvation from eternal death – the wages of sin. Whoever confesses his sins, repents and believes this gospel, his sins are forgiven: „To him all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.“ – Acts 10:43 „I told you that you would die in your sins, for unless you believe that I am he you will die in your sins.“ – John 8:24

Other passages: Jam. 5:15; Rom. 3:25; Acts 13:38–39; Acts 26:18; etc.

Whoever follows the Lord, believes in Him, is set free and can come to God the Father through Jesus Christ. So also Jesus Christ Himself said: „Jesus said to him, ‚I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.‘“ – John 14:6. 

Let us assume that the disciples were actually given the power to forgive sins by Jesus in the divine sense (which, however, contradicts the biblical message). What would this mean? Nothing more than that the disciples of the Lord possessed this power. Not less and not more! But one can by no means derive a claim of absoluteness in view of the above mentioned fact, namely that faith in Jesus Christ causes forgiveness, which inevitably makes the acquittal of an apostle necessary. But even this assumption is contradicted by the fact that only the Lord can forgive sins!

During the time of the New Testament apostles there was no forgiveness of sins?

If forgiveness of sins could only take place through the acquittal of an apostle, then forgiveness of sins would not have been possible after the death of the last apostle. But since what matters is what a person believed and did during his lifetime (Hebr. 9:27; Luk. 16:2. Cor. 5:10), the possibility of forgiveness of sins must also have existed for people in the post-apostolic era and still exist today. The New Apostolic Church would like to avoid this dilemma through so-called divine services for the deceased, in which the sacraments of the New Apostolic Church are also to be administered to the deceased. At this point I would like to refer to our comprehensive article on the subject of divine services for the deceased on this website.

Anyone can always come to Jesus!

The possibility of forgiveness of sins, which the Lord teaches us through the Holy Scripture, namely faith in Jesus Christ, acceptance of the Gospel, opens the possibility for every person to come under forgiveness, regardless of certain people (offices, priests, pastors, apostles). Jesus Christ also said: „I am with you always“ – Mt. 28:20, so also in the time without apostles of Jesus Christ. What does this mean? It means, „but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will {never} be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.“ – Joh. 4:14 And, „Whoever has the Son has life“ – Joh. 5:12 

If Jesus himself says that he will be with the disciples to the very end of the age, then there is also the possibility of salvation to the very end of the age!

Forgiveness in Stages?

We must remember that Jesus Christ went to the cross once to bring salvation to people. He died once so that all debts could be paid. He once took upon Himself the guilt of the whole world, all imperfections and all sin, past, present and future. That is, he paid once for all sins. Thus, all the sins of those who accept the gospel are forgiven at once. (Is. 53:5; Mt. 26:28; Eph. 1:7 etc.).

How strange then appears the doctrine of faith of the New Apostolic Church that the sins of the previous period of time, since the last forgiveness of sins, are to be blotted out through acquittal. A former Chief Apostle described the effects of this as follows: „If we come before the Lord burdened after having lived through a week and have been washed away, sanctified, and made righteous by the operation of His Spirit, and then one or the other is suddenly called away from this world, then such a soul will go into eternity in this redeemed state. How different it would be if death were to occur before a service, when the burdens of a whole week are upon the soul.“ 6)

This view is contrary to what the New Testament says. The Scriptures teach that the believer is saved: „and from Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth.  To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood.“ – Rev. 1:5

There are no different levels of salvation. The believer is reconciled to God (2 Cor. 5:18) through Jesus Christ and thus redeemed from his sins.

„ … and with his wounds we are healed.“ - Is. 53:5

Requirements for the forgiveness of sins

In connection with the forgiveness of sins, the Holy Scriptures still report on numerous characteristics and prerequisites that a person must bring along, or more precisely, that must be fulfilled so that forgiveness becomes possible. However, one should be careful not to derive absolute claims here. In any case, it is important that the texts are seen in the context of the meaning of the Holy Scriptures. I would like to mention here only briefly the individual characteristics and cite in each case a text passage to it:


„And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.“ – Acts 2:38 


„For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you“ – Mt. 6:14 

Confess sins

„If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.“ – 1 Joh. 1:9

The Lord is knocking!

Do you hear the knocking of the Lord? Have you already opened the door for him?

Open the door to him, turn to him in prayer and ask him to come into your life, ask him to forgive your sins. Such a prayer could go something like this: „Lord Jesus Christ, You know that I have sinned against You in my thoughts, my words and my actions. And how many times I could have done good and did not. Please forgive me. I repent of my sins and want to turn away from all that is wrong. You gave Your life for me on the cross. Therefore, I give You my life now. And I ask You to take possession of it. Come as my Savior who saves me and as my Lord who guides me. Come as my Friend who surrounds me. I thank You for hearing me! Amen.“

If you have prayed this prayer with all your heart and meant it seriously, then you have now received Jesus into your life. Now he lives in you through his Holy Spirit.

Heaven rejoices

What is the next step? You are now a child of God, great joy is now in heaven. You are now also a Christian. Take a look around in your town and see if there is a Christian church there that is faithful to the Bible. You can recognize it by the way it stands by the Bible and what is at the center of its life and its proclamation. If it sees the Bible unreservedly as the Word of God, as true, as inspired by the Holy Spirit and without error, if Jesus is the center of the sermon and the fellowship, then you are at the right place.

Fellowship with Christians is strengthening and brings joy at the same time. Read the Holy Scriptures for yourself; they are the written Word of God. In the Bible you will learn the will of God and something about how it will continue now, beyond these first steps, with you personally and the future of the world. Of course, you are also welcome to contact us.

The Lord bless you and keep you.

© Lutz Jusko


1) Questions and answers about the New Apostolic faith, New Apostolic Church International, Zurich 1992


2) Interlinear translation, Greek text: Nestle-Aland edition, Ernst Dietzfelbinger, German Bible Foundation 1981

3) Small Dictionary of the New Testament Greek-German, Rudolf Kassühlke, German Bible Society 1997

4) Commentary on the New Testament, William Mac Donald, Bible Workshop Vers.,1997

5) Commentary on the Bible, Donald Guthrie and J. Alec Motyer, R. Brockhaus Verlag Wuppertal 1980

6) The New Apostolic, Hans Engeland, Agency of the Rough House Hamburg

Unless otherwise indicated, all biblical passages are taken from the: The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®) copyright ©2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. ESV® Text Edition: 2016. The ESV® text has been reproduced in cooperation with and by permission of Good News Publishers. Unauthorized reproduction of this publication is prohibited. All rights reserved.

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