Intro: What is the first occurrence of the word “forgive” in the Bible? Interestingly, it is Genesis 50:17. There were many opportunities to discuss forgiveness before this event. But there is no event that better depicts the beauty of forgiveness than this one.
Gen 50:16-17 – So they sent messengers to Joseph, saying, “Before your father died he commanded, saying, 17 ‘Thus you shall say to Joseph: “I beg you, please forgive the trespass of your brothers and their sin; for they did evil to you.”‘ Now, please, forgive the trespass of the servants of the God of your father.” And Joseph wept when they spoke to him.
Joseph’s brothers were afraid that their sins were about to return to haunt them in a big way. No that their father, Jacob, was dead, would Joseph now seek revenge against them for their betrayal and brutality? He comforted them earlier and told them not to be angry with themselves for their treachery, but was that just a façade for the benefit of Jacob? This event gives us insight concerning those who seek forgiveness. One writer notes five aspects of this plea for forgiveness:
1) They approach him through an intermediary.
2) They say Jacob gave the instructions just before his death
3) They twice plead for forgiveness
4) They describe their sin in the most comprehensive way; trespass (twice), sin, and evil—”three of the four principal OT terms for wicked deeds.”
5) Finally, they implore Joseph to act like their father’s God, suggesting that they understand something about the forgiveness God provides for transgressors.
a. Exodus 34:7– 7 keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin
b. Micah 7:18– Who is a God like You, Pardoning iniquity And passing over the transgression of the remnant of His heritage? He does not retain His anger forever, Because He delights in mercy.
c. Contrary to His OT characterization, the God of Jacob is a God of forgiveness. It is as the poet Alexander Pope wrote: “To err is human; to forgive, divine.”
I. Forgiveness Biblically Defined: What does the Bible Teach about Forgiveness?
A. What is forgiveness? A few Greek words (NT) are translated with the English words, forgive, or forgiveness
1. One term is aphiemi (af-ee-ay-mee), literally meaning “to send away, or remit, or pardon.” The verb, like its corresponding noun (below), firstly signifies the remission of the punishment due to sinful conduct, the deliverance of the sinner from the penalty divinely, and therefore righteously, imposed; secondly, it involves the complete removal of the cause of offense; (from Vine’s )
a. Matthew 26:28 – 28 For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins. Acts 2:38 – …“Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
2. A second term used for “forgiveness” is charizomai, (khar-id’-zom-ahee) which signifies “to bestow a favor” or to “show kindness.”
a. In Colossians 3:13, Paul twice uses the term—once for the forgiveness we ought to extend to one another, and then to that which we received from Christ. Colossians 3:13 – 13 bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do . We must extend the favor God has extended to us.
3. Expressions of figurative language that describe forgiveness:
a. David praised the Creator for his loving-kindness because: “As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us” (Psalm 103:12).
b. King Hezekiah thanked the Lord for his redemption, proclaiming that “you have thrown all my sins behind your back” (Isaiah 38:17).
c. The prophet Micah describes Jehovah subduing iniquities and then casting them into the sea (7:19).
d. The NT uses characterizations such as sins being “blotted out” (erased) and “washed away.”
e. The term “redemption” is used as an equivalent for “forgiveness.”Eph 1:7– In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace. Sinners are bought from the captivity of their sins through the atoning sacrifice of Jesus.
B. What are the implications of forgiveness?
1. First, “forgiveness” implies an offense. Donald Trump may not pray for forgiveness, but he needs it. We all do, because we are all accountable, and we have all committed offenses against God.
2. Second, forgiveness implies the personal inability to remedy the violation of law. We owe a debt we cannot pay. (Matthew 18:25 – “he had not wherewith to pay”). One cannot un-tell a lie once it is told, he cannot un-commit adultery after the foul deed has been done. Sin cannot be undone by any human maneuver. And so, according to the language of the parable, the Lord (representing God) “being moved with compassion, released him [the debtor], and forgave him the debt” (18:27).
C. Who can forgive sins? Another essential element in considering forgiveness of sin, is that only God can forgive sins. When the Lord Jesus affirmed his deity by forgiving a man’s sin in Mark 2, His Jewish opponents silently thought, “Who can forgive sins but one, even God?” (Mark 2:7). They were right about that. Even though we can, and must forgive each other, only God can truly pardon or remit sin. I may forgive the man who steals my car, but that does not fully settle his account. Although we do sin against each other, in the final analysis, all sin is against God. Sin is a transgression of His law, and forgiveness takes place in the mind of God.
1. Roman Catholic doctrine wrongly teaches that human priests can absolve sin. The N.T. clearly teaches that any physical priesthood was fulfilled in the work of Christ as our High Priest, and that each person can come to God through His blood, seeking forgiveness. 1 Tim 2:5-6 – For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave Himself a ransom for all,
II. Does God Forgive Sins Unconditionally? There are two elements of conditionality to forgiveness.
A. God Meets a Condition: This is not to suggest that God is under obligation to forgive, or to make it possible. But I do believe that God’s holiness itself requires that a price be paid for sin. Only He can do that. Sins are not forgiven with a propitiation. Justice must be served. God is holy and cannot overlook sin. His judicial wrath must be satisfied, and the only thing that could do that was the blood of Jesus. Hebrews 9:22 – …without shedding of blood there is no remission. 1 John 2:1-2 – …if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. 2 And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world. Forgiveness is first and foremost dependent on the activity of God alone.
B. The Sinner Meets a Condition: Although there is NOTHING that man can do to undue his sin, or pay the judicial price it requires, he must meet the conditions that God places before him. It is not difficult to find specific conditions connected with the promise of forgiveness, both in the OT and NT.
1. The Law of Moses prescribed sacrifices, and the prophets unanimously called on Israel to repent in order to be released from the punishment of God.
2. Jesus told His audience, “unless you repent you will perish” (Luke 13:3)
3. The apostles preached the good news of Jesus’ death and resurrection, and repentance. Luke 24:46-47 – Then He said to them, “Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day, and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.
4. Jesus personally prayed for forgiveness for those who were murdering Him: “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34).Did God, at that point in time, forgive those Jews unconditionally? The answer is no. This is evidenced by Peter’s statement in Acts 2. Speaking to those who were guilty of murdering Jesus, he said in Acts 2:23 – you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death; In that same sermon he told them to repent and be baptized and they would receive the forgiveness of sins (2:38). In his next sermon Peter told them again, Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out (Acts 3:19).
5. Throughout the book of Acts, the conversions are characterized by individuals receiving forgiveness conditionally. From Acts 2 on, unbelievers are called upon to believe, repent of their sins, confess their allegiance to Christ, and be baptized for the forgiveness of their sins.
a. Even after being blinded by the bright light of Jesus’ personal appearance, and spending 3 days in penitent prayer, Saul of Tarsus was told to “arise and be baptized and wash away his sins” (Acts 22:16).
6. In addition, it obvious that even after one is initially forgiven of sin in his obedience to the gospel message, when he sins again, the forgiveness that he needs is conditional on his repentance. Acts 8 tells a Christian names Simon, who attempted to purchase the power of the Holy Spirit with money. Peter the apostle did not offer to forgive his sins for him, or tell him that, because he was already saved, he could sin so as to be lost. Acts 8:20-23 – But Peter said to him, “Your money perish with you, because you thought that the gift of God could be purchased with money! 21 You have neither part nor portion in this matter, for your heart is not right in the sight of God. 22 Repent therefore of this your wickedness, and pray God if perhaps the thought of your heart may be forgiven you. 23 For I see that you are poisoned by bitterness and bound by iniquity.” Note the word “if”, and who is to be appealed to for forgiveness.
a. Peter points to both elements of conditionality of our forgiveness in 1 Peter 1:18-22 – 18 knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot. 20 He indeed was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you 21 who through Him believe in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God. 22 Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart, NKJV
Conclusion: What is the value of your forgiveness? What does it mean to you that you have been forgiven of your sins?
Luke 7:36-50 – Then one of the Pharisees asked Him to eat with him. And He went to the Pharisee’s house, and sat down to eat. 37 And behold, a woman in the city who was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at the table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster flask of fragrant oil, 38 and stood at His feet behind Him weeping; and she began to wash His feet with her tears, and wiped them with the hair of her head; and she kissed His feet and anointed them with the fragrant oil. 39 Now when the Pharisee who had invited Him saw this, he spoke to himself, saying, “This Man, if He were a prophet, would know who and what manner of woman this is who is touching Him, for she is a sinner.” 40 And Jesus answered and said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” So he said, “Teacher, say it.” 41 “There was a certain creditor who had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. 42 And when they had nothing with which to repay, he freely forgave them both. Tell Me, therefore, which of them will love him more?” 43 Simon answered and said, “I suppose the one whom he forgave more.” And He said to him, “You have rightly judged.” 44 Then He turned to the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave Me no water for My feet, but she has washed My feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head. 45 You gave Me no kiss, but this woman has not ceased to kiss My feet since the time I came in. 46 You did not anoint My head with oil, but this woman has anointed My feet with fragrant oil. 47 Therefore I say to you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much. But to whom little is forgiven, the same loves little.” 48 Then He said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” 49 And those who sat at the table with Him began to say to themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?” 50 Then He said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you. Go in peace.”
I believe that Jesus is indicating her actions were the result of the forgiveness she had received from him on an earlier (though unrecorded) occasion. Her lavish actions were issuing from a heart of profound gratitude. Those who are forgiven are thankful and submissive. As we shall see tonight, those who are forgiven, forgive others as well.
But if you seek joy and fulfillment, and spiritual motivation to serve God, then repent of your sins, and be baptized for the remission of your sins. God will cast your transgressions into the depths of the sea and remember them no more.