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What the Bible says about Forgiveness of Sins
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Leviticus 23:27-32

This is probably the least understood and least appreciated of all God's holy days. The world looks upon it as a curiosity. The Jews keep it as the most solemn day of the year. They, at least, realize that this day has solemn implications, but they do not know what they are.

There is an interesting interpretation within this verse in the word "atonement." The Hebrew word underlying it, kippur, does not literally translate into "atonement," but as "covering." The translators have interpreted the concept of covering and inserted a word that instead describes the effect of being covered. The covering of our sins causes atonement. This is the implication and meaning that we derive from other verses. The forgiveness of sin—the covering by the blood of Jesus Christ—enables us to be reconciled to God.

Had this not been done, there would be no opportunity for us to be at one with God; our sins would still be a barrier separating us and God. Because there was an atonement made by the blood of Jesus Christ, this gaping divide is bridged. Thus, the word kippur is interpreted as "atonement."

That this is a festival implies the act of eating and drinking in a convivial atmosphere. Though this Day of Atonement is a festival, there is no eating or drinking permitted—at least physically. The reason we have trouble relating to this day is because of the Adversary, who is, above all others, striving to hide its meaning behind a smokescreen of disinformation. He has tried to obliterate its significance from the minds of those who are aware of his existence.

If we were to mention the Day of Atonement to most Protestants or Catholics, they would likely give us blank stares or shrug their shoulders. To them, the day has been literally obliterated. They would have no clue what we were talking about.

Satan has also obliterated its significance to the Jews. They are aware of the day, of course, knowing it as Yom Kippur, and realize that it has solemn significance and is most holy. But they do not understand what it means. It does not mean the same thing to them that the Bible teaches us it means, mainly because they do not believe in Christ nor in His atoning blood. Therefore, they cannot make the proper connection between the blood of Christ and the blood of the goat that is slain during the symbolic ceremony on the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16).

John W. Ritenbaugh
Division, Satan, Humility

Psalm 51:1-2

In the depths of his godly sorrow over his sins, David understood that it was the washing of His Creator that was needed for him to be cleansed of his transgressions of God's way of life.

In the book of Psalms, David expresses profound details of his relationship with his Creator. He looked forward to his Savior coming to fulfill the purposes of cleansing and restoration. David understood that His God was working to open the gates to everlasting life for human beings who would be cleansed and made whole, perfected as children of the great God.

Recall in Psalm 23 that David concludes his description of his relationship with his Shepherd, his Creator, by declaring that he would "dwell in the house of the LORD forever" (Psalm 23:6). David looked forward to eternal life, understanding that it would take God washing him and cleansing him of his sins to allow him to come into this inheritance.

Staff
Purge Me With Hyssop

Psalm 77:10-15

In this passage, we see that the “right hand of the Most High” involves all of His works, all of His wonders, all of His doings. Remember, this is the “Possessor of heaven and earth” (see Genesis 14:18-23), and His right hand is continually involved in the work of “possessing.” It means more than just “owning”; it implies “keeping” in the sense of “tending” or “managing.”

Specifically, verse 15 shows that the right hand of the Most High is used for redemption—such as securing the freedom of Lot when he was foolishly living in a sinful place. We see redemption in the protection of Abram when he attacked what was most likely a superior force. Redemption appears again when God slew the firstborn of Egypt and protected His people from the death angel.

We clearly experienced redemption when God blessed us with the forgiveness of our sins through the substitution of the sinless life of the Son of the Most High. We commemorate this redemption each year with gravity because of the tremendous meaning, but also with joy and thankfulness because God is governing in the affairs of men, and especially in the affairs of His people. He blesses us with everything necessary for us to take on His image, and the Passover represents the beginning step of that blessing.

David C. Grabbe
Passover of the Most High God

Psalm 103:2-3

The parallelism in verse 3 inextricably links the two clauses together so that they are nearly equal. Healing us of sickness is to God forgiving us of sin (see Mark 2:3-12 for the New Testament equivalent).

Even in His original promise to heal in Exodus 15:25-26, God shows a direct link between sin, disease, obedience, and healing (see Leviticus 26:14-16; Deuteronomy 28:15, 22, 27-28, 35; Psalm 107:17-20; Isaiah 19:22; Hosea 6:1). This, too, has a New Testament counterpart, James 5:14-15.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Sin Is Spiritual!

Jeremiah 31:31-34

This passage is repeated almost verbatim in Hebrews 8:8-12. Jeremiah lived in the sixth and seventh centuries before Christ, some six hundred years before the New Covenant became a reality. The covenant that God commands forever in Psalm 111:9 is the covenant prophesied here in Jeremiah 31:31. It will endure forever, and it is the one associated with the law (the commandments of God).

In this prophecy, God shows that the New Covenant will be made with political entities—nations (Israel and Judah). In addition, it is obviously different from the one that Jeremiah's contemporaries were living under, otherwise there would be no need for a New Covenant. Hebrews 8 informs us that the reason for the New Covenant is to address the fault in it.

Please understand the major differences in the New Covenant that Jeremiah 31 brings out. God's laws will be written in the hearts of those who make the New Covenant. It is clear that the law was not written in the hearts of the ancient Israelites. Second, under it, there will be access to God and a personal relationship with Him.

Further, it strongly implies that there will be no privileged class who alone are set apart to teach. There will be no class distinction due to age or rank in the community. This is all encompassed within "every man shall know Me," meaning that everybody will have access to Him. It does not mean that there will be no ministry, as it is obvious from the New Testament that God gave—as a gift to the church—the ministry as a teaching vehicle. And finally, He mentions right at the end that sins will be forgiven.

Each of these elements is a promise of something not included in the Old Covenant. The average Israelite did not have access to God. They could not go into the place where God symbolically lived. They could not approach any closer than the court of the priests, who were intermediaries, a "privileged" class of men who went into God's presence for them. Nor could the blood of bulls and goats forgive sin (Hebrews 10:4). However, the New Covenant addresses these matters.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part Ten)

Matthew 6:12

Our sins are debts to God, which we, the debtors, cannot pay. God is willing to wipe our slates clean if we humble ourselves before Him. We ask for forgiveness for our sins, and by so doing, we acknowledge that there is no other way to get rid of sin but through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. When we forgive others, God can see His own image reflected in us. As His children, we must be willing to forgive no matter the affront. Jesus gives us the example to follow, as He was able to ask the Father to forgive those who were crucifying Him (Luke 23:34)!

Ted E. Bowling
Sticks and Stones

Matthew 18:25-27

The indebted servant has no assets, so his master commands all that he has to be sold, including his wife and children. By ancient custom, a creditor could sell a debtor, with his family, into servitude for a time sufficient to pay a debt. Hearing this, the servant falls down before him in a seemingly humble and earnest manner, entreating him to have patience with him. The king sees his distressed condition and has compassion on his family, forgiving him of the whole debt. God's forgiveness of humble, repentant human beings is an act of mercy and compassion that we are to emulate (Zechariah 7:9-10; I Peter 3:8; Ephesians 4:32). Like this servant, we owe God more than we can ever repay.

Martin G. Collins
Parable of the Unforgiving Servant

Luke 5:36-39

The context for the Parable of the Cloth and the Wineskins begins in Luke 5:17, when a paralyzed man is brought to Christ. He recognizes the faith involved and tells him that his sins are forgiven (verses 18-20), a statement that the scribes and the Pharisees, of course, consider blasphemous (verse 21). They rightly understand that only God takes away sin, but they would not consider that the Man who was forgiving sin was God. In verses 22-25, Jesus gives proof that He had been given the power to forgive sins: The man had taken up his bed and was walking home.

After this incident, Jesus calls Levi, or Matthew, the tax collector (Luke 5:27), who becomes a disciple and subsequently prepares a feast in honor of Jesus (verses 28-29). In verse 30, the scribes and Pharisees object to His mingling with tax collectors and other sinners, but Jesus responds, “Those who are well don't need a physician, but those who are sick do. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” [New English Translation (NET)].

At this point, many translations insert a subheading about fasting, but the story continues. The Pharisees point out that John the Baptist's disciples made prayer and fasting a regular part of their lives, and they slip in the fact that their disciples did that as well (Luke 5:33). Then they contrast that with Christ's disciples, observing that they have a great penchant for eating and drinking. They imply that His disciples cannot really be serious about a holy life when all they do is have a good time, and in their minds, this reflects poorly on the Teacher. We know this because in Luke 7:34, Jesus quotes the Pharisees as saying that He—the Son of God—is a glutton and winebibber.

Jesus counters that it would be just as inappropriate for His disciples to fast at that time as it would be for the wedding party to fast when the bridegroom is with them (Luke 5:34-35). In other words, Christ's presence should be a cause for joy. Psalm 16:11 (NET) says, “I experience absolute joy in Your presence; You always give Me sheer delight.” Yes, Jesus was also a man of sorrow and acquainted with grief, but there was every reason for His disciples to be cheerful when they were in His presence. They had no need to draw closer to God through fasting because He was with them.

His example is clear enough on its own, except that a well-known Messianic prophecy speaks of Israel's God as her Bridegroom (Isaiah 62:5). He was already on the Pharisees' bad list for telling a man that his sins were forgiven, and now He follows that up by referring to Himself as the Bridegroom!

Luke 5:35 is pivotal when it comes to understanding the parable that follows: “But the days will come when the bridegroom will be taken away from them; then they will fast in those days.” We know how that played out. He was “taken away” first through His crucifixion and then later through His ascension. Jesus being “taken away,” however, resulted in a tremendous blessing.

David C. Grabbe
Clothing, Wineskins, and Wine

Romans 6:18

The Old Covenant could not free a person from sin; there was no mechanism to remove sin (see Hebrews 10:4). All it could do, therefore, was to continue the people's prevailing bondage to sin. However, those under the New Covenant can be made free from sin.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part Twenty-Seven)

1 Corinthians 1:9

Our calling would go nowhere beyond a meaningless invitation if God was not faithful to forgive our sins. Without forgiveness and cleansing, there is no access to Him, and thus no relationship with Him blossoms and grows.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fruit of the Spirit: Faithfulness

Galatians 3:12-14

Even though the law can guide a person in the right way to live, and even though it describes the character of God, it also condemns and brings one guilty before God through an awareness of sin. However, it does not possess the power to forgive, to justify, or to give life.

It takes a living Personality—the Giver and the Enforcer of the law—to forgive, to justify, and to give life. The law can do nothing to reverse the condemnation—the curse—once it is incurred through sin, but Christ took the curse upon Himself so that we do not have to bear our own punishment. The Father, in His mercy, permits His death to apply for us. He forgives and justifies us, if we accept Christ's death on our behalf with true repentance and faith.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part Twenty-Six)

Galatians 3:23

The verse continues the imagery of verse 22: The law was/is a jailor or a guard. There is but one way of escape—faith, and by extension the entire system that Christ brought—and all other avenues are cut off. By defining what is right and wrong, moral and immoral, the codified law shows man that there is but one solution: Not to do away with the law but to follow the path that Christ revealed and made possible.

It is sin that keeps us confined in a state of misery; sin represents the shackles of bondage and captivity. The law is merely the warden that shows why we are in bondage—the law itself is not bondage. It reveals to us why we are separated from God, and how we fail to live up to His standard. If this system were confined to just the elements of sin, man's sinful nature, and the codified law, mankind would be forever imprisoned because he would continually sin, and the law would continually condemn him—and keep him from his full potential.

With the introduction of faith in Jesus Christ, a way of escape from this perpetual cycle opens up: Through a relationship with God, our sins are forgiven, and we receive a portion of the same Spirit as the Lawmaker. The law is not done away with, but we are given the tools and the means to begin living as God does through the justification and sanctification processes. The law is also not the end or the goal. As we get closer to the goal (glorification—eternal life with God), we will exhibit more and more of the fruits that demonstrate the way God lives, behaves, interacts, etc., which are the intent behind the codified law.

David C. Grabbe

1 Timothy 1:12-15

This proves that late in his life as an apostle, Paul was still keenly aware of the enormity of what he had been forgiven. He probably purposely kept this memory alive so as not to take any chance of losing his sense of responsibility. He understood human nature well, not wanting to risk losing the proper perspective that Christ had given him at the beginning. Rather than carry it about as a burdensome load of guilt, he used it as a realistic recognition of his indebtedness to Christ for what he had been forgiven and what had been accomplished since that time.

John W. Ritenbaugh
An Unpayable Debt and Obligation

Hebrews 10:4

This is why the animal sacrifices had to be done over and over and over again. Not one sin has ever been forgiven in the history of mankind—from Adam and Eve on—because a sacrificed animal shed its blood. All the sacrifices did was to make people aware that they were breaking the Ten Commandments or the statutes and judgments.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part Seventeen)

1 John 3:5

The Word came as a man to die for the forgiveness of our sins (hamartia) without regard to classification! Hamartia is the general word used throughout the New Testament to describe sins of all kinds; it means "to miss the mark" or "to fail to reach a standard." Thus, John is saying that Christ's sacrifice covers all transgressions of law, whether or not we consider them to be physical or spiritual in nature.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Sin Is Spiritual!


 




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