Forgiveness is one of the earliest and important blessing that God wanted man to have. After Adam and Eve sinned against God they “knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings, . . . hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden.” (Gen. 3:7-8) This has always been man’s way of dealing with sin.
First, they cover up their mistakes, and then they hide themselves from God’s presence. “Then the LORD God called to Adam and said to him, ‘Where are you?” (Gen. 3:9) God was not playing the game of hide and seek with Adam and Eve. He wanted to make them aware of their lost relationship with Him, and also wanted them to know that in spite of their sin He still cares for them. After telling them the consequences of sin “God made tunics of skin, and clothed them.” (Gen. 3:21) It was not because the clothes made of fig leaves were inadequate, but God wanted to show them His way of covering man’s nakedness that symbolizes sin.
Although the Bible was not explicit on how the “tunics of skin” were made but we can infer that an animal was killed and blood was shed. That was how God wanted Adam and Eve to know the heavy cost of their sins that must be paid. The death and shedding of blood was ugly, but absolutely essential to make a covering for their sins.
The Hebrew word for covering is “kaphar” [ RPK ] which is also the same word used for atonement. This is the fundamental principle of atonement that means the covering for sin. “For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood that makes atonement for the soul.” (Lev. 17:11) God forgave the sins of Adam and Eve by providing “tunics of skin” through the sacrificial death and shedding of blood of an animal. This is a prefiguration of the sacrificial death and shedding of blood of our Lord Jesus Christ on Mount Calvary two thousand years ago.
“In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace.” (Eph. 1:7 cf. Col. 1:14)
Redemption in the Bible refers to the special intervention of God for the salvation of mankind. It deals with the work of Jesus Christ on the Cross in which He paid the price to "purchase" human beings and set them free from their slavery to sin. On account of Christ's “redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins” He is called the Redeemer.
God’s Forgiveness is Complete
The forgiveness God offers to mankind is comprehensive, complete and final. This is why in another letter Paul could quote Psalm 32:1-2 when he wrote:
Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; blessed is the man to whom the LORD shall not impute sin (Rom. 4:7-8).
Let's look at three important terms in this verse that show the completeness of God's forgiveness.
Forgiven. In teaching forgiveness our Lord Jesus Christ gave the parable of a servant who owed the king ten thousand talents and was unable to pay his debts. “The servant therefore fell down before him, saying, ‘Master, have patience with me, and I will pay you all.’ Then the master of that servant was moved with compassion, released him, and forgave him the debt.” (Mt. 18:26-27) In this Parable a talent was a Jewish weight. One talent of silver would be valued in today's money at $384,000 while a talent of gold would be valued at $5,760,000. The servant’s debt of ten thousand talents would amount to billions of U.S. dollars. Jesus wanted His disciples to understand the incalculable amount of debt each of them owed to God and how heavy a price He paid to redeem them. When God has forgiven us our debts it means He has forgiven all our sins. It is gone forever. Our debt has been paid off, for good.
FORGIVEN - Painting by Thomas Blackshear II
|Covered. The Greek word “epikalupto” translated "covered" means "to cover over completely, to conceal." This means the sins have disappeared. God says, “For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.” (Heb. 8:12) Therefore, we do not need to worry about being confronted by those sins again. They are completely removed. This promise made to Israel applies to all who trust in the Lord Jesus Christ: “I, even I, am He who blots out your transgressions for My own sake; and I will not remember your sins.” (Isa. 43:25). |
After the Lord Jesus Christ has forgiven your sins you can give your heart to Him and trust that He will take good care of you.
Not impute. The word “impute” (Greek – “logizomai) means "to take into account." He will not hold our sins against us.
I want to make it clear that this forgiveness and remission of sins occurs when a person first believes in the Lord Jesus Christ, repents of his sins and are baptized into Him (Acts 2:38)
The Benefits of God’s Forgiveness
What does it really mean to be forgiven and redeemed through the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ?
First, forgiveness through the blood of Jesus Christ means that we have been rescued from eternal punishment in hell. The entire penalty that we would have had to pay for our sins is extinguished forever.
Second, forgiveness through the blood of Jesus Christ means that God is no longer angry with us. There is no resentment left between us. We have been restored to the Father's heart.
Third, forgiveness through the blood of Christ means that we no longer have to feel sad, distressed and sorrowful about our own guilt. We no longer have to live one moment longer with the torture of a guilty conscience.
Fourth, forgiveness through the blood of Christ means that now that this enormous weight has been lifted off of our soul, we can breathe freely again and experience great joy before God.
In the Lord’s Prayer we say, “And forgive our debts, as we forgive our debtors.” (Mt. 6:12) Let me make it clear that what our Lord Jesus Christ talk about here does not refer to the sins that God has remitted and forgiven when the Christian first believed in Him, confessed, repented and baptized into Him. Those sins have been permanently removed. Here, our Lord talked about the wrongs done by one believer against another.
The use of the word “debtor” in the Lord’s Prayer is undoubtedly a reference to someone else’s personal sins against us and the damaged relationship that has resulted. In order to make the intent perfectly clear, Jesus elaborates: “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” (Mt. 6:14-15)
The teachings of Jesus are consistent on the subject. "Blessed are the merciful," said Jesus, "for they shall obtain mercy" (Matt 5:7). If we deliberately refuse to forgive others, we show that we have not ourselves tasted the grace of God, that we do not comprehend the depth and reality of God's forgiveness to us. If we want to receive God's abundant grace for complete cleansing and perfect forgiveness, we must be willing to forgive others who have wronged us. In so doing it does not diminish the reality of God’s forgiveness; on the contrary, its authenticity is strengthened.
"And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may forgive you your trespasses." (Mark 11:25)
We all know it is not easy to "forgive and forget," because our minds are not made like a mechanical switch that can be turned on and off. What we can do is choose not to harbor ill will and bitterness against those who have wronged us. This can be achieved through God’s help.
Joseph forgave his Brethren
Joseph forgave his brethren that ill-treated and abused him. He understood it was God’s plan for his life, that the Lord allows evil and suffering because He can bring good from it. The Lord allowed Joseph to be sold as a slave by his brothers, and imprisoned. Yet through this, Joseph came to govern the Egyptians and save them from starvation during seven years of famine. Later Joseph forgave his brothers: "But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive." (Gen. 50:20)
The Lord can turn a curse into a blessing. (Dt. 23:5) "And we know that all things work together for good to those that love God, to those who are called according to His purpose." (Rom. 8:28)
Moses forgave Aaron and Miriam
Aaron and Miriam were jealous of Moses’ ministry but they could find little fault with it. Instead of self-reflection they chose to criticize his Ethiopian wife and diverted their displeasure by questioning the validity of his ministry. “So they said, ‘Has the LORD indeed spoken only through Moses? Has He not spoken through us also? And the LORD heard it. (Now the man Moses was very humble, more than all men who were on the face of the earth.)
God spoke to the three of them. “Hear now My words: If there is a prophet among you, I, the LORD, make Myself known to him in a vision; I speak to him in a dream. Not so with My servant Moses; He is faithful in all My house. I speak with him face to face, Even plainly, and not in dark sayings; And he sees the form of the LORD. Why then were you not afraid to speak against My servant Moses?” So the anger of the LORD was aroused against them, and He departed. And the cloud departed from above the tabernacle, suddenly Miriam became leprous, as white as snow.” (Num. 12:6-10) Aaron confessed his sin to Moses who immediately interceded for Miriam, saying, “Please heal her, O God, I pray!” (Num. 12:11-13) Moses was quick to forgive others. We should also do the same.
Stephen forgave his Persecutors
Stephen's name means 'crown,' and he was the first disciple of Jesus Christ to receive the martyr's crown. Stephen was a deacon in the early Christian Church. The apostles had found that they needed helpers to look after the care of the widows and the poor, so they ordained seven deacons, and Stephen is the most famous of these.
God worked many miracles through Stephen and he spoke with such wisdom and grace that many of his hearers became followers of the Lord Jesus Christ. While preaching the Gospel in the streets, angry Jews who believed his message to be blasphemy dragged him outside the city and stoned him to death. “But he, being full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God, and said, ‘Look! I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” (Acts. 7:55-56) As they continued to stone Stephen he prayed, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit." Then he fell to his knees and prayed for his persecutors, “Lord, do not charge them with this sin.’ (Acts. 7:60) Those last words reflect the prayer of our Lord Jesus Christ on the cross, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.” (Lk. 23:34) God answered his prayer in ways that are difficult to understand. In the crowd was a man who saw and heard Stephen’s prayer of forgiveness. That man was Saul who changed his name to Paul and became one of the most influential saints in the Early Apostolic Church.
God allows his saints to experience suffering and even death because good can come from it. "Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." (Mt 5:4, 10) “Here is the patience of the saints; here are those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus. Then I heard a voice from heaven saying to me, ‘Write: ‘blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.’” ‘Yes,’ says the Spirit, ‘that they may rest from their labors, and their works follow them.” (Rev. 14:12-13)
May God bless you
A sermon based on this article was preached by Paul Wong
to a Congregation in Houston, Texas on July 27, 2002
This article was published on this Website on August 9, 2009