Admittedly the first four lessons of this study is rich in theology but it is always important to have an exegetical framework before you make a biblical assertion. One could say, “God is gracious” but if they do not understand why or how God is gracious then they are making a blind assertion.
Forgiveness in the New Testament might be a bit more familiar to us but it seems there is not much change in meaning from Old to New Testaments. The Greek verb meaning to forgive is aphiēmi and has the general meaning of letting go or releasing (BDAG 156-57). The imagery with the word is that there is a deep hold on to something (sin) or someone and the person holding on to this simply lets it go. When our sins are forgiven we are released from moral obligation or consequence (ibid., 156). In other words sin causes a separation of sorts and instead of God holding us in his hands it is our sin that is being held but forgiveness is the release of that sin and the grasping of our very souls. Here is a brief (embarassingly so) summary of the New Testament and forgiveness…
- Forgiveness comes from God but through the blood of the cross. “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding” (Eph. 1:6-7; cf. Matt. 9:6 [Christ has the authority]; 26:28; Rom. 3:25; Heb. 2:17; 9:11-28).
- Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit is unforgivable (Matt. 12:30-32).
- Forgiveness is required (commanded) between our brothers and sisters to the point that we cannot be forgiven by God unless we forgive others. “For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins” (Matt. 6:14-15; cf. Matt. 18:21-35; Mark 11:25; Luke 7:47; 2 Cor. 2:5-7; Col. 3:13).
- Like the Old Testament, there is totality in forgiveness. “Then he adds: ‘Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more.’ And where these have been forgiven, sacrifice for sin is no longer necessary” (Heb. 10:17-18; 1 John 2:12).
- Confession (public or private) is a precursor to forgiveness. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).
- Baptism and forgiveness seems to have a dependent relationship much like confession. ““Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for theforgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38; cf. Mark 1:4)
- There is a release not only from the charge of guilty between man and God but there is an emotional release when our sins are forgiven. “The punishment inflicted on him by the majority is sufficient. Now instead, you ought to forgive and comfort him, so that he will not be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. I urge you, therefore, to reaffirm your love for him. Another reason I wrote you was to see if you would stand the test and be obedient in everything. Anyone you forgive, I also forgive. And what I have forgiven—if there was anything to forgive—I have forgiven in the sight of Christ for your sake, in order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes” (2 Cor. 2:6-11; cf. Rom. 4:7).
Take a deep breath…whew!!! That is a lot to sift through isn’t it? But…and this is a big but (don’t laugh at the pun)…the point is that the cross restores/creates our relationship with God and declares us not-guilty so that late at night when we are counting the ceiling tiles or staring at the fan we do not have to worry about where we will go if we do not wake up.