Retention of Sins
re-ten'-shun, (krateo, "to lay fast hold of" (Joh 20:23)): The opposite of "the remission of sins." Where there was no evidence of repentance and faith, the community of believers were unauthorized to give assurance of forgiveness, and, therefore, could only warn that the guilt of sin was retained, and that the sinner remained beneath God's judgment.
While such retention has its place in connection with all preaching of the gospel, since the offers of grace are conditional, it is especially exercised, like the absolution, in the personal dealing of a pastor with a communicant, preparatory to the reception of the Lord's Supper. As the absolution is properly an assurance of individual forgiveness, so the retention is an assurance of individual non-forgiveness. That the retention is exercised by the ministry, not as an order, but as the representatives of the congregation of believers to which Christ gave the power of the keys, is shown by Alford, Greek Testament, on above passage. See also Melanchthon, Appendix to the "Schmalkald Articles."
H. E. Jacobs