Biblical Forgiveness

Don Welborn, Fort Worth, Texas, USA [SEE PROFILE BELOW]

Part 1 of 2 of the series Biblical Forgiveness

THE FORGIVENESS OF GOD FOR OUR SINS

Since the Garden of Eden, mankind has needed forgiveness from God. The subject of forgiveness is not universally understood by unbelievers, and as followers of our Lord Jesus Christ, we too need constant reminders of the truth to better our understanding. Though the words ‘forgiven and forgiveness’ are not mentioned in Genesis 3, it is apparent from the context that the first couple on earth were forgiven.

Repentance is the basic requirement to knowing the forgiveness of God.

Repentance is essential for anyone to receive God’s forgiveness for sins. It begins with coming to Jesus Christ to receive Him as Saviour. The Lord Jesus said ‘Come unto me’; and ‘If any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink’, and His last word is the same for in the Revelation 22. 17, His word is still, ‘Come’. The message is not to invite Jesus into your heart, as some preach, but the requirement is for the individual to ‘come’ to Christ by repenting and believing.

It was the Lord Jesus who preached, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent ye, and believe the gospel’, Mark 1. 15. The apostolic message was the same message. Paul told the Ephesian elders that he had, ‘testified to both Jews and Greeks repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ’, Acts 20. 20-21.

Repentance is not changing the lifestyle, but rather, changing the mind. The word for ‘repent’ can be literally understood as ‘change your mind or understanding’. There are three aspects of the truth of it:
1) I must know I am wrong (intellectual).
2) I must feel my wrong (heart matter).
3) I must be willing to change my mind or understanding.

We sometimes say that repentance is intellectual, emotional, and volitional. The first should need no explanation. The second is clearly stated in 2 Corinthians 7. 10 as godly sorrow. The third is illustrated in the parable of the prodigal son when he said, ‘I will arise and go to my father’, and did so, Luke 15. 18-20.

John the Baptist demanded of the men that came from Jerusalem to hear what he had to say that they were to, ‘bring forth therefore fruits meet (suitable or indicative of) repentance’, Matt. 3. In other words, biblical repentance always demands evidence of a change of mind or understanding in life actions.

Believing is also essential to the forgiveness of God.

Now let us consider what the phrases, ‘believe the gospel’ and, ‘faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ’ mean. What do we understand by the words ‘believe’ or ‘have faith’? Both are used to translate the same Greek word. It appears that ‘believe’ was substituted for ‘faith’ by the translators due to the difficulty in Elizabethan English to say ‘faitheth’. Keep in mind that though we have the two English words ‘believe’ and ‘faith’ they are one and the same in meaning. Believing can be said to be taking God’s word as fact and acting on it in obedience. Therefore, when a sinner repents and puts his trust in the Lord Jesus as the One who died for his sins, he is forgiven.

The apostle John wrote, ‘I write unto you, little children, because your sins are forgiven you for His name’s sake’, 1 John 2. 12. The first thing the child of God should know is that, ‘my sins are forgiven.’ The word ‘little children’ means those who are ‘new’ or ‘young’. The one thing they know and appreciate is that they have been forgiven all their sins! Let us look at the word ‘forgiven’. It translates a Greek word that means ‘to send’ (infinitive form) and is compounded and prefixed by another one meaning ‘away from’. John was saying to the ‘little children’ that their sins were ‘sent away from them’. With God that means that are never going to return!

A significant New Testament passage on the subject is found in Colossians 1. 14, where the word for ‘forgiveness’ translates the word mentioned earlier and meaning our sins are ‘sent away’. However, in 2 .13, ‘having forgiven you all trespasses,’ the words ‘having forgiven’ translate the Greek word that comes from the root word ‘grace’, which is also related to a word meaning ‘to rejoice’. This ‘forgiveness has three features:
1) It is a favour bestowed upon the undeserving.
2) It is always ‘in abundance’ that is there is plenty of it to go round, when coming from God, see Rom. 5. 20.
3) It makes no demands in return for what it bestows, Heb. 2. 9.
In Hebrews 2. 9 and also in Colossians 3. 13, forgiveness literally means that God ‘graced us’ our sins. We do not deserve forgiveness, so His forgiveness is pure grace which excludes any kind of merit.

Old Testament pictures of forgiveness

The Old Testament gives us some beautiful pictures of God’s forgiveness. The psalmist tells us that to be forgiven means that our sins are removed ‘as far as the east is from the west’, Ps. 103. 12. Should a pilot set his compass heading to fly directly to the West, he would never get there. Circle the globe, but you can never arrive at ‘the West’. The opposite is true of North and South of course for they are fixed points. So what is God saying in this verse? Our sins are gone forever! Isaiah reveals that God, ‘has cast all thy sins behind thy (His) back’, Isa. 38. 17, and that He is the One who ‘blots out our transgressions,’ with the added benefit of, ‘not remembering thy sins any more’, Isa. 43. 25. ‘Not remembering our sins’ does not depict a weakness on God’s part, He does not suffer from forgetfulness. It means He deliberately blots them from His memory and will not bring them up to us again. How gracious He is! In Isaiah 44. 22, the Lord says He blots out our transgressions, ‘as a thick cloud’. Thick clouds can disappear very rapidly when a change in the atmosphere takes place. So do sins when God forgives them! Again, the prophet Micah writes that God will, ‘subdue our iniquities and cast all our sins in the depths of the sea’, Mic. 7. 19. They cannot be seen, found or fished up again.

What a great and profound truth God’s forgiveness is!

To be continued

AUTHOR PROFILE: Donald Welborn is a full-time worker. His ministry is both teaching and gospel work and is throughout North America and on occasions, the British Isles. He presently resides in Fort Worth, Texas.