There is no forgiveness without repentance: Healing Spiritual Paralysis


Matthew 9:1-8

1 And, stepping into a ship, He ferries over and came into His own city. 2 And lo! they brought to Him a paralytic, prostrate on a couch. And Jesus, perceiving their faith, said to the paralytic, “Have confidence, child! Your sins are forgiven!” 3 And lo! some of the scribes say among themselves, “This man is blaspheming!” 4 And Jesus, perceiving their sentiments, said, “Why are you brooding wickedness in your hearts? 5 For what is easier, to be saying, ‘Forgiven are your sins,’ or to be saying, ‘Rouse and walk’? 6 Now, that you may be perceiving that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”-then He is saying to the paralytic, “Being roused, pick up your couch and go into your house.” 7 And, being roused, he came away into his house. 8 Now, on perceiving it, the throngs were afraid, and they glorify God, Who is giving such authority to men. (Concordant Literal Version)

Divine Providence 280

Repentance must precede forgiveness, and apart from repentance there is no forgiveness. That is why the Lord told his disciples to preach repentance for the forgiveness of sins (Luke 24:27) and why John preached the baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins (Luke 3:3).

The Lord forgives everyone’s sins. He does not accuse us or keep score. However, he cannot take our sins away except by the laws of his divine providence; for when Peter asked him how many times he should forgive someone who had sinned against him, whether seven was enough, he said that Peter should forgive not seven times but seventy times seven times (Matthew 18:21, 22). What does this tell us about the Lord, who is mercy itself?



The next story we come to in our exploration of the miracles the Lord performed while in the world is this story of the healing of a paralytic.  In broad terms paralysis is a condition whereby a person’s body is unresponsive to what it is they want it to do.  They lack the power to do due to some form of disruption in the neural pathways that form the communication system that links the brain to the body.  Spiritually when we are speaking of communication we are referring to a process called spiritual influx.  Influx describes how things on a higher level make themselves present to lower levels.  This “flow” or “movement” of spiritual things into natural things occurs when the things on the natural plane of mind align with those on the spiritual plane of our minds.  When things on two planes align with each other they are said to correspond, that is, they stand in a direct relationship to each other so that the lower is able to receive the higher into itself which then animates it.  So this miracle, or sign, teaches how spiritual disconnections can be restored so that communication with the heavens can be re-established in people’s lives.

We often experience disconnection in our outer lives and relationships, and are no doubt familiar with the processes involved in getting reconnected again.  If the disconnection has been the result of some disagreement or hurt then the feelings that linger on can form a barrier to reconciliation.  Sometimes the effort to reconnect, rather than bringing about a coming together, can have the opposite effect where the aggrieved parties end up feeling even more disconnected from each other.  Mistimed efforts toward reconciliation may end up creating deeper levels of misunderstanding due to the lack of trust and the suspicions carried over from the original falling out that get reawakened in the contact.  When negative feelings have a strong hold on our minds then just thinking of the event or person that triggered those feelings is enough to begin reliving the situations and circumstances as we “re-member” or reconstruct the situation in our mind.  For reconciliation to occur people have to be willing to let go of their sense of hurt and having been unjustly treated.

We have to forgive the debt, of holding other people to account when we are negatively impacted if we hope to experience reconciliation.  We end up holding debts over others when we hold onto our hurt expecting the other person involved to make amends through either, issuing an apology, showing the right level of contrition or remorse, or paying us what we feel we are owed.  This is holding the other person to account – we want the ledger to be balanced, for justice to be satisfied, and it’s called an eye for an eye.  In this state we are looking for payment and the price we are willing to pay is keeping alive all kinds of negative emotions and inner turmoil that ultimately eats away at our own inner life and health.

You will have noted in our reading from Matthew’s Gospel that before the man was healed of his paralysis the Lord said to him, “Have confidence, child! Your sins are forgiven!”.  We see in this the spiritual principle that forgiveness precedes healing.  This is what is meant by the statement in the Lord’s prayer, “Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors”.  In other words it is only as we release what we are holding against others that we will be released from that which has a hold on us.  Now understand this, when we hold something against someone, it is in that very act of holding we ourselves are bound.  We can only be released from that bondage if through being willing to give up our need for the other person to make amends.

The classic illustration of this is found in the image of the monkey trap.  By putting its hand in a jar to take hold of what’s in it, it finds that in the act of closing its hand to form a fist its hand is too large to be withdrawn from the jar.  But it desperately wants what’s in the jar and this desire is so strong that it will not let go and so stays trapped.  In the same way any debt we hold against another actually holds us in debt to negative emotional states that do nothing but bring us misery and bitterness.  But if we are willing to let go of our need to have our sense of justice satisfied we are released from the negative emotions that such a focus keeps alive in us.  There is nothing more destructive to our mental and spiritual health than an unforgiving spirit.  This is why with regard to forgiveness the Lord said that we are to forgive seventy times seven, which means that so far as a healthy spiritual life is concerned there is no justification for unforgiveness in our lives.  Unforgiveness, no matter how it is dressed up, is simply a disguised form of wanting revenge.

It is clear that when we hold onto negative emotions we close ourselves off from heavenly influences and open ourselves up to hellish influences.  It is a spiritual law that we can’t be in both at the same time, so our experience of spiritual work is one of a shifting sense of self – of being in heavenly states of life and then in hellish states of life.  When negative emotions take hold we often find it difficult to extract ourselves even though we know that indulging them is against what the Word teaches.  In such a state we suffer from a form of spiritual paralysis, we are unable to do what we know is the right thing to do.  We know we need to forgive but it seems impossible to do so, the residual hurt is just too great.  What we see here is that the communication channels from our understanding of what we need to do and our ability to obey is being disrupted by those hellish spiritual associations that feed on our negative emotional states.  I’m sure that every one of us has at some time or another suffered from this kind of paralysis.

What we have in this story from the Word is teaching regarding the process by which such paralysis can be healed.  We tend to think of forgiveness as something that happens the moment we say we forgive someone.  But of course our experience tells us that it’s not that simple.  How often have we felt we have forgiven someone only to catch ourselves replaying the scenario over in our minds and indulging in the hurt and negative emotions with thoughts of what the other person should do, or what should happen to balance things to our satisfaction.  Forgiveness is best thought of in terms of a process that has to be worked through realising that it takes as long as it takes – seventy times seven.  In the area of spiritual work the ability to forgive is something that is directly related to the strength of our relationship to the Word.  It is tied to our willingness to approach the Word and engage with it as the foundation for a personal spiritual practise.  The truth is none of us have any capacity in ourselves to forgive anyone – in and of ourselves we are incapable of forgiveness.  What is able to forgive – or release – or remit the hold of the hells upon us and so release us from our sins is the practise of the Word.

Note, that the story begins with the Lord stepping into a boat and crossing over to the other side where He came to His own city.  The Lord for us is the Word, they are one and the same, and so, if we are to understand this in terms of our own processes, we need to keep focussed on the fact that what is said of the Lord in the world is illustrative of the operation of the Word in the world of our minds.  For the Lord to step into a boat in the natural world spiritually corresponds to how the Lord becomes present within our awareness when we are reading the Word with a view to applying it to the life of our mind.  A boat is a vessel or container that is able to carry goods and people and in this case is that in us which is able to carry Him who is goodness itself.  The thing that carries the Lord in us is our understanding of the teachings from the Word that form our doctrine.  Doctrine drawn from the Word forms a vessel in which the Lord is able to be carried to the “other side” of our mental awareness and so be present to us.  This movement through space from one side to the other corresponds mentally to an inner shift in state that brings the Lord closer to the center of the issue of spiritual paralysis in our lives.

It is said that He is brought to “his own city”.  Like a boat a city is also a container of sorts and so it also corresponds to doctrinal teachings.  Unlike a boat a city is not a mode of transport but is something more fixed and stable.  That this is described as the Lord’s “own” city speaks volumes for it represents what has been established from the Word in us that is the Lord’s own.  The Lord’s own city is also called the New Jerusalem coming down from God out of heaven which is the Heavenly Doctrine or the internal meaning of the Word that shines through the letter of Sacred Scripture.  The Lord is most fully present in people’s minds in genuine truths or those truths that best reflect who He truly is.  From the account of this story in Mark’s Gospel we find that the city the Lord enters into is Capernaum which, as we have seen before means, “field of repentance”.  This adds another layer to our understanding of what’s involved in finding the power to remit our debts.  Repentance precedes forgiveness.  To experience forgiveness, or be set free from negative states of mind that hold us bound, and it involves an effort to work at identifying and removing the underlying false beliefs that maintain them.  For example, the belief that we are owed an apology binds us to state of being that imprisons us in a field of negative energy that we can’t be free of until we give up holding onto the debt (the need for the other person to apologise) we feel we are owed.

Forgiveness from sins is not something granted through merely asking, rather it is the effect that follows on from a life of repentance in obedience to what the Word teaches.  We are freed from sin when we desist from the evils that gives rise to them.  But first we have to be able to see what these evils are.  The paralytic is said to have been brought to the Lord.  To be carried from one place to another represents an opening of the mind to a new state in which meaningful contact with the Lord or Word is made possible.  The Lord as we recall is in his own city, which means the power of the Lord’s love to save us is found in the truths of the Word understood in the light of the Heavenly Doctrine.  The evidence that these truths are understood in the right way is when there is a conscious effort to live a spiritual life from them.  Such a life involves an acknowledgement that the Lord or Word is divine through the practise of self-examination and repentance.  In the work the Divine Providence we read…

To acknowledge God and to refrain from doing evil because it is against God are the two things which make religion to be religion. If one of them is wanting it cannot be called religion, since to acknowledge God and to do evil is a contradiction; so also is to do good and yet not acknowledge God, for one is not possible without the other. It has been provided by the Lord that almost everywhere there should be some form of religion, and that in every religion there should be these two principles; and it has also been provided by the Lord that everyone who acknowledges God and refrains from doing evil because it is against God should have a place in heaven.  Divine Providence 326[9]

That to acknowledge God means to acknowledge the Word through practising repentance can be clearly seen in verse 6 where Jesus says;

But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins” – then he said to the paralytic – “Stand up, take your stretcher, and go home.”  9:7 And he stood up and went home. Matt 9:6

From the Heavenly Doctrine we understand that by the Son of Man is understood the Divine Truth or the Word…

…the Lord called Himself “the Son of God,” and also “the Son of man;” that by “the Son of God” He meant Himself as to the Divine Human, and by the “Son of man,” Himself as to the Word, is fully demonstrated in The Doctrine of the New Jerusalem concerning the Lord (n. 19-28); and as it is there fully confirmed from the Word… Apocalypse Revealed 44

In this verse (v6) the Lord is pointing us to the truth that it is the Word that has authority on earth (earth corresponds to the Church) to forgive (release from) sins, and it can only do this if a person is prepared to live consciously from it.  When we live from the Word we are empowered by the Lord so that we can live the heavenly life – we find we are no longer unable to do, but that our paralysis in spiritual things is healed and the communication channels between the spiritual and natural realms are opened.

And so being paralysed no longer the Word commands us to, “Take up our bed and walk” or to live according to our understanding of the Word.


About David Millar

My passion revolves around supporting people to engage with the Lord's Word, or Divine truths in the form of sacred texts, to cultivate an intentional spiritual practice. Through the works penned by Emanuel Swedenborg (1688-1772) we find that the Biblical texts contain a deeper meaning that, once understood, enables them to be applied in ways that open the human mind to the realisation of its spiritual potential. The goal of the Divine Life is to free each and every human being from the pain of self centred living and bring them into the experience of all that is heavenly through the promotion of what is genuinely good and true. The material shared here is offered in the pursuit of that aim.
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