What is Forgiveness?
Roy Blizzard III © 2014
David had a true conception of forgiveness when he prayed, “Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.” Psalm 51:10. And again he says, “As far as the east is from the west, so far hath He removed our transgressions from us?’ Psalm 103:12?
Forgiveness. What is it? We banter this term about incessantly in the church and claim that it is important, but how is it important? Put simply Forgiveness for us is the ability to access and pass on to others those aspects of God that were granted to us as free gifts so that we may remain in a state of fellowship with God and men. But who forgives who and why is it important to our spiritual growth. Can we ever be “saved” without it? What is the relationship of Forgiveness to The Kingdom?
According to Merriam Webster the word Forgive can mean any of the following; First, to stop feeling anger toward or about someone who has done something wrong or to stop blaming someone – to give up resentment. Secondly, to forgive someone for something wrong or in other words to stop requiring payment of a debt that is owed – forgive a debt or pardon someone.
The word Forgive / Forgiveness in the Bible is the translation of three Hebrew words, namely kaphar, nage and salach. These three words encompass at least eight different English word and concept translations and all with somewhat differing “flavors” concerning forgiveness, but basically these words carry the connotations of covering over, pardoning, or the carrying away of some transgression. But in Hebrew there are many overlapping concepts that either accompany a particular concept or compliment the concept and sometimes these are just as important for us to get a sense of what is happening in the text.
God pardons us as sinners. Although his pardon is often thought to be different from human forgiveness, if we are buried with Christ in his death and resurrected into his existence then we should pardon with the same pardoning judgment as God. Forgiveness and reconciliation with God exists within us, not as a reward for our works, but because of the righteousness of Christ who dwells within us.
Some of these Hebrew words dealing with forgiveness are used to describe the Atoning Nature of the concept of forgiveness. Certain other words dealing with forgiveness are used to describe the Unburdening Nature of the concept of forgiveness. However, there is a third word used to describe what I call the Exchanging Nature of the concept of forgiveness. Jesus said in “Matthew 11:28-30
28 Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.
These passages also relate to Isaiah 40:31 “But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.”
Why is this exchanging nature important? Because Sin takes away innocence and we can’t ever recover that on our own but Jesus’ nature allows us to unburden ourselves of the guilt and shame and blame we often feel when our innocence is lost by exchanging our nature for His! Thank you Jesus!
These three concepts of Atoning, Unburdening, and Exchanging, when applied together are what allow us to exist within God’s existence and it is right here that many of us fail miserably because the church has for too long failed to inform us of this third aspect of forgiveness, exchanging! We don’t just allow God to cover our sins or carry them away, we are allowed…listen carefully now…we are allowed to exchange our measly abilities with Christ and allow his fullness to flow through us to others. We are to be the forgivers and allow Christ to forgive us. And, here goes, and this is a biggy…We are to forgive ourselves!!! Did you hear it? We are to forgive ourselves!
Why is it that we can forgive everyone else from murderers and rapists, but we refuse to forgive ourselves? If Christ comes to me, by golly I should be the first person I forgive, but sadly this doesn’t seem to be the case for many people. Do you understand that when we purposefully hold on to unforgiveness, especially for ourselves, then we are rejecting not only God but all of His gifts that He has for us.
Not only that, but when we refuse to forgive either others or ourselves, bitterness, rage, provoking sets in and that can lead to our destruction. Look what Peter said of Simon the sorcerer in Acts 8:23 “For I see that you are full of bitterness and captive to sin.” Peter strongly reprimands Simon for wanting to “buy” the Holy Spirit power and states that he needs to “repent of this wickedness and pray to the Lord in the hope that he may forgive you for having such a thought in your heart”. Fearful of the apostle’s words, Simon pleads with Peter to pray to the Lord on his behalf that he may be a part of the ministry, that his heart be right with God, and that he may not be a captive to his sin.
Jeremiah the prophet speaks against those who make devices against him as God’s prophet. Literally, he says to God, “Thou shalt not cover their iniquity.” indicating that he has in mind God’s atoning covering of sin. So God can hold back from man this covering over of sin or forgiving man. This should scare us. By our own devices we reject God’s free gift and bring about our own destruction.
Bitterness can kill not only you and your relationships to your family and friends, but can kill a church in a heartbeat, and this is the fruit of the plant of the seed of unforgiveness. We need to not only ask God to forgive us of our sins, but we must as our friends and neighbors as well. In fact in Judaism it was taught that one must go to their neighbor and ask forgiveness before they could sacrifice. Before God could forgive them, they had to ask forgiveness of their brothers and sisters. Not just for big stuff, but if you hadn’t even spoken to your neighbor for three days due to some spat, you couldn’t even testify for or against them in court.
We need to practice restoring our brothers into favor through their repentance and Christ’s atonement and allowing them to exchange their burdens with Jesus by forgiving themselves. In fact, the covering of our sin and the forgiveness of us as a sinner can only be understood as two aspects of one truth and both are displayed in God’s provision of mercy through Christ.
Only the covering which Christ Himself has provided can make us meet to appear in God’s presence. This covering, the robe of His own righteousness, Christ will put upon every repenting, believing soul. When a person’s sins are forgiven, then it implies that he stands covered by the righteousness of Christ and is in the eyes of God justified, which in its deepest meaning, its content is the same as forgiveness of sins. Even the Hebrew word kaphar points to a synonymous conception of forgiveness and justification, and a close connection between forgiveness and atonement.
The Hebrew word naga’ suggests a broad conception of the doctrine of forgiveness, namely the actual reclaiming from sin. God’s forgiveness is not merely a judicial act by which He sets us free from condemnation. It is not only forgiveness for sin, but a reclaiming from sin. It is the outflow of redeeming love that transforms the heart.
In the Psalms, David prays: “Forgive all my sins.” David’s repentance was sincere and deep. There was no effort on his part in diminishing his crimes and he showed no desire to escape the threatened judgments when he prayed. He simply saw the enormity of his transgression against God, the defilement of his soul and he loathed his sin. He didn’t pray for a pardon, but for purity of heart. He not only asked for release from the guilt or the punishment of sin, but from the sin itself, thereby God could reclaim David from sin. Atonement, Unburdening, and Exchanging. A man after God’s own heart.
Shouldn’t we accept that forgiveness from God right now? Its free all we have to do is ask. Is there anyone here today that needs to ask forgiveness for any reason, come up here and lets pray. If you’ve never asked Jesus into your life in a personal way come up here today. That is why we’re here is to be a part of God’s kingdom by praying for one another’s needs and salvation.by