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Theology > Salvation > Work of Salvation > Justification > Forgiveness


Forgiveness is God’s pardon of man, resulting in man’s deliverance from the penalty that he deserves because of his sin. Guilt is removed, and the one who is forgiven lives without guilt.

Because there is guilt there is the need for forgiveness. To come short of the glory of God is to be guilty (Rom. 3:23), and “whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it” (Jas. 2:10). Thus, the Law must be viewed as a whole just like God must be viewed as a whole; the point is that man does not violate part of the Law but is a violator of all of the Law. Every man is a Law-breaker.

To forgive is to cover, to send away, or to put away that which offends; it is to pardon. It is the removal of guilt. It is the blotting out of sin, remembering sin no more; it is the washing away of sin:

Sin is blotted out: Ps. 51:1, 9; Isa. 43:25; 44:22; Acts 3:19; Col. 2:14;

Sin is remembered no more: Ps. 51:9; Isa. 43:25; Heb. 8:12;

Sin is washed away: Ps. 51:2, 7; Isa. 1:18; Jer. 33:8.

God forgives sin, and only God can forgive the eternal consequences of sin. Forgiveness is completely the deed of God, a gift of His grace. The Scriptures speak to this fact; note how it is the Lord who is doing this:

The Lord, the Lord God . . . forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin (Ex. 34:6-7);

Have mercy upon me, O God . . . blot out my transgressions . . . cleanse me from my sin . . . hide Your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities (Ps. 51:1, 9);

I, even I, am He who blots out your transgressions for My own sake; and I will not remember your sins (Isa. 43:25);

I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more (Jer. 31:34);

To the Lord our God belong mercy and forgiveness (Dan. 9:9);

Who is a God like You, pardoning iniquity (Micah 7:18);

Who can forgive sins but God alone (Mk. 2:7).

It is God who forgives sin, and the forgiveness of sin is correlated to Christ: “God in Christ forgave you” (Eph. 4:32), and “your sins are forgiven you for His name’s sake” (I Jo. 2:12; see: Acts 5:31). Emphatically John writes: “To Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood”  (Rev. 1:5).

To be forgiven one must be identified with Christ, because only in Christ is there forgiveness. Nothing within the sinner warrants or motivates forgiveness on the part of God who is only pleased with His Son.

Consider the following facets of forgiveness:

Forgiveness is related to a price paid; there must be atonement for sin, meaning that forgiveness is not unconditional: “without shedding of blood there is no remission” (Heb. 9:22; “remission” is “forgiveness”); the meritorious cause of forgiveness is the shed blood of Christ; for the Father to forgive the Son must die!

Forgiveness is related to evangelism and the preaching of the Gospel: “to whom I now send you, to open their eyes . . . that they may receive forgiveness of sins” (Acts 26:18).

Forgiveness is related to repentance (Acts 5:31; Lu. 24:46-48; see: Lu. 17:3-4).

Forgiveness is related to belief: “whoever believes in Him will receive remission of sins” (Acts 10:43; see: Mk. 1:4 and Jas. 5:15).

Forgiveness is related to confession: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive our sins” (I Jo. 1:7; see: Lu. 17:3-4).

Forgiveness is total: God has “forgiven us all our trespasses” (Col. 2:13); the psalmist writes: “As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us” (Ps. 103:12); and Isaiah records the words of Hezekiah: “You have cast all my sins behind Your back” (Is. 38:17).

If a person never experiences forgiveness from God then the person will never be fulfilled; life will be spent living with guilt, whether recognized or not. And lack of forgiveness before God has broad psychological complications.

Forgiveness of others: Eph. 4:32


Should forgiveness be associated with redemption?

Or with justification?

Or should it stand alone?  

Or, are all such questions foolish?

Return to: Work of Salvation; Next Article: Reconciliation

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