A STUDY OF FORGIVENESS IN GOD’S PLAN OF SALVATION
Most believe that the key to God’s plan of salvation is the forgiveness of sins. That is to say, it is thought that once the believer’s sins are forgiven, he is saved. But on what scriptures is that belief based? In point of fact, if one begins the study of forgiveness with the Old Testament it is clear that the Old Testament had absolutely nothing to say about forgiveness in relation to salvation. Furthermore, this study will discuss every passage in the entire Bible, Old and New Testaments, in which forgiveness is mentioned and the reader will see that there are no scriptures that tell us that forgiveness of sins is for the purpose of salvation. This paper will give the Scriptural proof of eight different results of forgiveness of sins, not one of which is for salvation.
We will discuss the following topics from God’s Word:
WHAT DO WE MEAN BY “SALVATION”?
A CONSIDERATION OF THE DISTINCTION BETWEEN WHAT MAN IS AND WHAT MAN DOES
A CONSIDERATION OF VERSES THAT SEEM TO SAY THAT FORGIVENESS OF SINS DOES SAVE
EIGHT REASONS THAT GOD FORGIVES SINS
APPENDIX 1:WHAT IS THE GOSPEL OF SALVATION?
APPENDIX 2: EIGHT REASONS FOR CHRIST’S DEATH ON THE CROSS
APPENDIX 3: A CONSIDERATION OF ALL THE REMAINING PASSAGES IN THE BIBLE THAT SPEAK OF FORGIVENESS
APPENDIX 4: THE MEANING OF ALL THE HEBREW AND GREEK WORDS TRANSLATED “FORGIVE”
WHAT DO WE MEAN BY “SALVATION”?
Obviously, if one is saved, he is saved from something unto something else. This study will focus on what it means to be saved from the grave unto resurrection life.
A CONSIDERATION OF THE DISTINCTION BETWEEN WHO MAN IS AND WHAT MAN DOES
What I mean by the distinction between who man is and what he does will be seen as we consider the fact that all men are in Adam, that is who man is. And all men sin because they are in Adam, that is what man does.
Let us consider the passage in Romans seven wherein Paul records his heart-wrenching struggle with his “body of death”. “For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin. For that which I do, I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I. ……….For I know that in me, (that is in my flesh) dwelleth no good thing…….O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” (Rom. 7:14-24). Paul’s experience is no different than any other child of God. We all struggle with doing what is good because as long as we are in our bodies of death we are drawn to doing that which is not good.
This “body of death” is, of course, unacceptable to a holy God because it is drawn to sin, and therefore must die. But what man does can be, and is, forgiven. In short, there is a difference between who man is and what he does. Man is a creature in a body of death. That body of death must die, and a resurrection body is given to every believer on the day of resurrection.
To put it in other terms, God forgives what we do, but He does not forgive who we are. If He did forgive who we are then we would not have to die. But we do indeed die and that death frees us from our body. But we are not left in the grave, we are resurrected unto life in a body that is incorruptible and will not die. So it is not forgiveness of sins that saves us from the grave, it is resurrection. That is to say, even though our sins are forgiven, our bodies of death must die. So resurrection is God’s answer to the fact that our bodies of death must die.
Most believe that because the believer’s sins are forgiven he is saved from the grave. But that is not only illogical it is not supported by Scripture. It is illogical because forgiveness of sins does not save anyone from dying. All men, believers and unbelievers alike, die. It is unscriptural because of what we read in I Cor. 15:12-23. That is a passage wherein Paul answers the false teaching that there is no resurrection. Basically his point is summed up in verses 16-17 which read, “For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised: and if Christ be not raised, your faith is in vain; ye are yet in your sins”. Paul speaks of “your faith”. That tells us that it is believers, i.e. those who are saved, about whom he wrote, “ye are yet in your sins”. Paul is saying here that apart from resurrection we are not saved from the grave, that we are yet in our sins. I believe that when Paul wrote about believers being yet in their sins, he was saying that due to the fact that our bodies are not acceptable to a holy God, it must therefore die. Again, we must bear in mind that forgiveness does not save anyone from death. And it is not forgiveness that saves the believer from the grave because Paul tells us that when the believer dies he is “yet in ” his “sins”.
So if forgiveness is not what saves the believer from the grave, what does forgiveness of sins mean to the believer? In a section below is a list and discussion of the eight reasons God forgives sins and as the reader will see in that section, there is not one verse that tells us that forgiveness saves the believer from the grave. The only reason God forgives the believer’s sins that is true of all dispensations is that forgiveness of sins allows the believer, in his temporal life, to fellowship with a holy God.
A DISCUSSION OF VERSES THAT SEEM TO SAY THAT FORGIVENESS OF SINS SAVES
I understand that the statement that forgiveness of sins does not in itself save the believer from the grave, is not what most people understand the Bible to teach. This section, therefore is devoted to the passages that seem to say otherwise.
Acts 20:28, “Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which He hath purchased with His own blood“. There is no question that believers were “purchased” with the blood of Christ. But that purchase is not what saves the believer from the grave because, as we read in I Cor. 15:17, apart from resurrection, “ye are yet in your sins” and are perished. In other words, the believer is purchased by the blood of Christ but even that purchase is incomplete in terms of salvation from the grave because without resurrection, the believer is yet in his sins and is “perished”.
Because salvation from the grave is in resurrection, I believe that we may conclude that the purchase made by Christ’s blood is in two steps. Step one is to purchase us and step two is to raise His purchased possession from the grave. It is not being purchased that saves us, it is resurrection that saves the believer from the grave. I Peter 1:18-19 is of a very similar theme.
I Peter 1:18-19 reads, “forasmuch as you know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things……but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a Lamb without blemish and without spot”. The Greek word translated “redeemed” in this verse means, according to the Strong’s Dictionary “to ransom”. Webster’s Dictionary defines “ransom” as the “redeeming of a captive by payment of a consideration”. So we were captives bought with the blood of Christ. But we remain “captives” in the grave until resurrection. Therefore, the redemption is not complete until resurrection.
Romans 5:9, “Much more then, being now justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him”. This “wrath” is the coming wrath to be meted out by God in the day of wrath upon those unbelievers who are alive at the time of the second coming of Christ. Therefore, this passage has to do with temporal lives, not with salvation from the grave. (For those who may believe that this wrath refers to the wrath the unbeliever suffers at death may I suggest the paper on this web-site Will Unbelievers Be Raised For Judgment?. That paper will give the Scriptural reasons for my belief that the day of wrath will be after the rapture and will therefore come upon unbelievers who will be alive at the time of the second coming of Christ.
We read in Col. 1:14, “In Whom we have redemption through His blood, even the forgiveness of sins“. The Greek word translated “redemption” is the same as in Rom. 3:24-26 and means “deliverance”. From what and to what is the believer delivered in this context? Is the believer delivered from the grave through Christ’s blood? Actually no, believers are not delivered from the grave through His blood, we are delivered through His resurrection. I say that because Paul tells us in I Cor. 15 that apart from resurrection believers are yet in their sins. Paul goes further in that passage to say that if Christ had not been raised believers are “perished”.
So if it is not a deliverance from the grave about which this verse speaks what then is it? Let us answer that question from the context. We read in the previous verse, i.e. verse 13, “Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of His dear Son”.. We are delivered from the “power of darkness” in our temporal lives. And we are translated into “the kingdom of His dear Son” in our temporal lives. My point is that the context speaks of blessings enjoyed in the temporal lives of the believer. Therefore, it is in keeping with the context that verse 14 is also in reference to our temporal lives.
Let us consider once again the question: from what to what is the believer delivered in this context? As the reader will see in the section below on the eight reasons God forgives sins, the believer is forgiven his sins so that he might fellowship with a holy God. In short, I believe that the deliverance Paul speaks of in Col. 1:14 is the deliverance from sin in our temporal lives through Christ’s blood in order that we might fellowship with Him..
This verse may be understood to say, “In Whom we have deliverance in our temporal lives through His blood, and that deliverance is in the form of forgiveness of sins so that we might fellowship with God”.
Col. 2:13, “And you being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath He quickened together with Him having forgiven you all trespasses”. Most understand this verse to say that we are resurrected because our sins have been forgiven. But as we learned above, Paul wrote in I Cor. 15 that we are yet in our sins apart from resurrection, so resurrection is not a result of forgiveness. Paul tells us in verse 12 of Col. 2 what it is that results in our being raised. That verse tells us that we are “risen with Him through the faith of the operation of God”. Note it is faith that results in resurrection. That is to say, God promised that “whosoever believeth in Him shall……….have everlasting life” (Jn. 3:16). In other words, it is God’s promise to those of faith, i.e. to believers, that results in resurrection life. But how then are we to understand Col. 2:13?
Let us consider verse 13 again, “”And you being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath He quickened together with Him having forgiven you all trespasses”. Let us consider the phrase “you being dead”. We cannot take this literally because as we read this, we are not literally dead. Therefore, it must be taken figuratively. Now let us consider the phrase “hath He quickened together with Him”. Again, we cannot take this as a literal fact because as we read this we are not literally “quickened” (i.e. we are already alive), so we must also take this phrase figuratively.
What is Paul’s point in the use of this figurative language? I believe Paul is saying that in our temporal lives we are so sinful that we are already dead and buried, but because God has forgiven us our trespasses He has “quickened” us, i.e. He has made us alive unto Him. This verse is not about our literal death and resurrection, it is about our being dead in our sins but made alive unto God in our temporal lives.
The context also points to the conclusion that verse 13 speaks of blessings in our temporal lives. Verse 14 reads, “Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to the cross”. The “ordinances that was against us” were against us in our temporal lives.
EIGHT REASONS THAT GOD FORGIVES SINS
If the forgiveness of sins is not what saves the believer from the grave, why does God forgive sins? The Bible gives us eight reasons for God forgiving sins. Let us consider them.
1) TO LAY HOLD OF EARTHLY, TEMPORAL BLESSINGS IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE OLD COVENANT
Lev. 4:20, 26, 31, 35, and 5:10, 10, 13, 16 18 and 6:7, Lev. 19:22, Numbers 15:25, 26 and 28. “…..and the priest shall make an atonement for them and it shall be forgiven them”. All these verses, and more, have to do with the sacrificial offerings according to the Law of Moses. These verses tell us that as these sacrifices were made the sins of the people were forgiven. But what was the result of the sins being forgiven? That is to say, as we have seen in the sections above, the forgiveness of sins, in and of itself, was not and is not, what saves the believer from the grave. That being the case, what was the purpose of the forgiveness of sins when the sacrificial laws were observed? In order to answer that question we must understand that the sacrificial laws were, of course, part of the Mosaic Law. What was the result of obedience or disobedience to the Mosaic Law?
Let us consider the promises God made to Israel if they obeyed or disobeyed the Law of Moses. Those promises are specifically given in Lev. 26. I will not quote that very long chapter, but as the reader will see as he/she reads that chapter, the Lord told Israel that if they obeyed His Law He would bless them. All those blessings are earthly and temporal blessings, not one is a promise of resurrection life. However, the Law was given to Israel, in part, to give them the opportunity to complete their faith in God by their obedience to the law He gave them. But it was their faith, not their obedience, per se that saved them (“for by grace ye are saved, by grace, not be works…”). (For the Scriptural evidence that salvation has always been by grace and that works complete ones faith please see the paper on this web-site Faith and Works In God’s Plan of Salvation.)
I Kings 8:30. “And hearken Thou to the supplication of Thy servant, and of Thy People Israel, when they shall pray toward this place: and hear Thou in heaven Thy dwelling place: and when Thou hearest, forgive“. This is the prayer of Solomon at the dedication of the temple. In verses 33-34 we read, “When Thy People Israel be smitten down before the enemy, because they have sinned against Thee, and shall turn again to Thee, and confess Thy name, and pray, and make supplicating unto thee in this house: Then hear Thou in heaven, and forgive the sin of Thy servants, and of Thy People Israel, that Thou teach them the good way wherein they should walk, and give rain upon Thy land, which Thou has given to Thy People for an inheritance”. The phrase “and give rain upon Thy land” makes it clear that Solomon’s prayer is for earthy, temporal blessings in accordance with the covenant and promises of God (see Lev. 26).
Let us continue in the study of this prayer with verse 50. “And forgive Thy People that have sinned against Thee, and all their transgressions wherein they have transgressed against Thee, and give them compassion before them who carried them captive, that they may have compassion on them”. Here again this verse alludes to the covenant of Lev. 26 which promises Israel that if they obey the law they will live in abundance in the land promised to their fathers.
Mark 1:4, “John did baptize in the wilderness, and preach the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins”. When one was baptized upon hearing John’s message that person demonstrated that he believed that that message came from God, and he therefore accepted it. It is belief /faith which leads to salvation from the grave. If the forgiveness of sins is what saved Paul would not have written that believers were yet in their sins until resurrection.
2) TO BE SAVED FROM TIMES OF TROUBLE
Ps. 32:5-6, “I acknowledge my sin unto thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid. I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions unto the Lord’: and Thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin. Selah. For this shall every one that is godly pray unto Thee in time when Thou mayest be found: surely in the floods of great waters they shall not come nigh unto him”. For what purpose did David confess his transgressions? David tells us exactly the reason for his confession in verse 6. The reason is that so that in times of trouble (“floods of great waters”) those that confess their sins may be saved from them. Again, this verse, like the scriptures quoted above, allude to the old covenant of Lev. 26 which has to do with the temporal lives of those God forgives.
3) TO TAKE ISRAEL AS GOD’S INHERITANCE
Ex. 34:9, “And he (Moses) said, ‘If now I have found grace in Thy sight, O Lord, let my Lord, I pray Thee, go among us; for it is a stiff-necked People; and pardon our iniquity and our sin, and take us for Thine inheritance‘”. Here Moses asks God to pardon the sins of Israel for a reason given in this very passage. That reason was that God would take the nation of Israel for His inheritance. It is clear that not all Israel is of Israel and therefore, not all Israel is God’s inheritance, unbelievers will not be saved unto resurrection life.
4) “FOR THY NAME’S SAKE”
Ps. 25:11, “For Thy name’s sake, O Lord, Pardon mine iniquity: for it is great”. The context of this entire Psalm concerns God’s guidance of man in his temporal life.
Dan. 9:18-19, “O my God, incline Thine ear, and hear; open Thine eyes, and behold our desolations, and the city which is called by Thy name: for we do not present our supplications before Thee for our righteousness, but for Thy great mercies. O Lord hear; O Lord forgive; O Lord hearken and do defer not, for thine own sake, O my God: for Thy city and Thy People are called by Thy name”.
I John 2:12, “I write unto you, little children, because your sins are forgiven you for His name’s sake”.
5) FOR MILLENNIAL BLESSINGS
Is. 55:7, “Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and (should be “even”) let him return unto the Lord, and He will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon“. What will be the result of that merciful pardon? Let us consider the context of this verse. Verses 8-11 are a parenthetical statement describing the sureness of the words of the Lord. If we, for the moment, leave off that parenthetical statement we read, “He will have mercy upon him; even to our God, for He will abundantly pardon……..For ye shall go out with joy, and be led forth with peace: the mountains and the hills shall break forth before you into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands. Instead of thorns shall come up the fir tree, and instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle tree: and it shall be to the Lord for a name, for an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off”.
Note the “for” after the parenthetical statement. That tells us what the result of the pardon will be. Verses 12-13 are obviously a millennial prophecy. So the result of God’s forgiveness in this context will be the enjoyment of millennial blessings. Those blessings will include, “ye shall go out with joy, and be led forth with peace: the mountains and the hills shall break forth before you into singing…..”
Jer. 33:7-9, “And I will cause the captivity of Judah and the captivity of Israel to return, and will build them as at the first. And I will cleanse them from all their iniquity, whereby they have sinned against Me; and I will pardon all their iniquities, whereby they have sinned, and whereby they have transgressed against Me. and it shall be to Me a name of joy, a praise and an honour before all nations of the earth, which shall hear all the good that I do unto them: and they shall fear and tremble for all the goodness and for all the prosperity that I procure unto it”. This passage comes in the context of the Babylonian captivity of Judah in punishment for all their transgressions against the Lord. But it is clear that it will have a fuller fulfillment in the millennium. Note for example that the nation will be “a praise and an honour before all nations of the earth, which shall hear all the good that I do unto them: and they shall fear and tremble for all the goodness and for all the prosperity that I procure unto it”. Note the result of the Lord’s pardon. It is for “all the goodness and for all the prosperity that I procure unto it”. The results of “pardon” in this context are millennial blessings.
6) TO SAVE ISRAEL FROM HER ENEMIES
Luke 1:76-77, “And thou child (John the Baptist) shalt be called the prophet of the Highest: for thou shalt go before the face of the Lord to prepare His way; to give knowledge of salvation unto His people by the remission of their sins”. The context will help us understand this prayer of Zacharias, the father of John the Baptist. This prayer begins in verse 68, “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel; for He hath visited and redeemed His people”. Note also verse 71, “that we should be saved from our enemies, and from the hand of all that hate us“. Verse 73-74 speak of “the oath which He sware to our father Abraham, That He would grant unto us, that we being delivered out of the hand of our enemies might serve Him without fear. This is the message of John the Baptist, i.e. “repent for the remission of sins”. In this context the remission of sins has to do with the nation of Israel, so that She will not be destroyed by Her enemies.
7) THE FORGIVENESS OF ISRAEL FROM THE SIN OF CRUCIFYING CHRIST
Luke 23:34, “Then said Jesus, ‘Father forgive them; for they know not what they do'”. This was Christ’s prayer as He hung on the cross dying. We cannot conclude that Christ was praying for their salvation because at that point in time those who crucified Him had very cruelly exhibited their lack of faith in Christ. I believe that God’s forgiveness resulted in the fact that all during the Acts period, salvation was preached to the Jew first.
8) FOR FELLOWSHIP WITH A HOLY GOD
Eph. 1:7, “In Whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace”. What is the result of forgiveness in this context? We read in verses 4-5, “According as He hath chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love: Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to Himself”. Note that this passage does not say that He hath chosen us to be saved, it says that He has chosen us to be “holy and without blame” and to be adopted as His children. These are blessings enjoyed in our temporal lives.
Let us continue with this passage. Who is the “us” to whom Paul refers? The letter is addressed to “the saints”, so the “us” are believers. So it is believers who were chosen to be holy and without blame and adopted as His children. In other words, God in His matchless grace, not only saves His own from the grave, He makes us His children and makes us holy and He makes us without blame. Why is it is so crucial that we be holy and without blame? As far as I can tell, we are not specifically told, but I believe that in order that we may fellowship with a holy God believers must be made holy and without blame. How does God make us holy and without blame so that we may fellowship with Him? When one believes in Christ his sins are “covered”, they are “not imputed”, they are forgiven, which means that they are “shed forth”. So in this passage the forgiveness of sins is for the purpose of fellowship with God. But because all the other blessings mentioned in this passage are blessings to be enjoyed in our temporal lives, I believe that to be made “holy and without blame” is also a blessing to be enjoyed in our temporal lives.
APPENDIX 1: WHAT IS THE GOSPEL OF SALVATION?
Many believe that the gospel of salvation is that Christ died so that our sins may be forgiven. That is to say, in order to be raised from the grave one must believe that Christ died for their sins. But as I have tried to show in the body of this paper, even though it is absolutely true that Christ did indeed die for our sins, the forgiveness of sins has nothing to do with God’s plan of salvation from the grave. We must also bear in mind that the believer’s sins are forgiven but when we die we are “yet in our sins”. In other words, the forgiveness of sins does not save us from the grave, it is resurrection by which the believer is saved from the grave. Also, we are never told that it is Christ’s death on the cross that must be believed in order to be saved. I would ask the reader to consider the scriptures below that tell us exactly what must be believed in order to be saved. (For a complete study of the question of what is the gospel of salvation please see the paper on the web-site Is There More Than One Gospel of Salvation?.)
Jn. 1:12, “But as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name”.
3:16, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life”.
3:18, “He that believeth on Him is not condemned; but he that believeth not is condemned already”.
6:40, “And this is the will of Him That sent Me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on Him, may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day”.
6:47, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on Me hath everlasting life”.
11:25, “Jesus said unto her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life; he that believeth in Me, though he were dead, yet shall he live”.
20:30-31, “And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing ye might have life through His name“.
Acts 16:30-31, “What must I do to be saved? And they said, ‘Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house”.
Rom. 3:26, “….that He might be just and the Justifier of him which believeth in Jesus“.
I John 4:15, “Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God”.
APPENDIX 2: EIGHT REASONS FOR CHRIST’S DEATH ON THE CROSS
One might ask, if Christ’s death on the cross is not what must be believed in order to be saved, and His blood shed on the cross for the forgiveness of our sins is not what saves us from the grave, what was the reason for Christ’s death on the cross? This section answers that question.
1) TO FULFILL PROPHECY AND TYPE
We read in Is. 53:4-10 the prophecy of the death of Jesus Christ. “surely He hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows, yet we did esteem Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon Him; and with His stripes we are healed. …..He was oppressed, and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth: He is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so He openeth not His mouth. ……He was cut off out of the land of the living; for the transgression of My people was He stricken. And He hath made His grave with the wicked, and with the rich in His death……Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise Him; He hath put Him to grief.….”.
It is clear that Christ fulfilled this prophecy and the fact that Christ is called “the Lamb of God” is proof that He fulfilled the type of the sacrificial lambs of the Old Testament.
2) FOR THE BLOOD OF THE NEW COVENANT
We read in Matt. 26:28, “For this is My blood of the new testament (should be “covenant”), which is shed for many for the remission of sins”. Many people believe that the new covenant will save Israel, which belief makes a slight digression quite necessary.
We read of the new covenant in Jer. 31:33, “But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the Lord, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God and they shall be My People”. Please note that there is nothing in this statement that would lead one to conclude that by putting the law in the hearts of Israel, they will be saved. But let us continue.
As we compare two Old Testament passages we will see that the new covenant is made with believers, therefore, it is not an instrument of salvation. It is an added blessing given to those believing Israelites in the millennial land of Israel. We read in Ezek. 20:33-38 of the gathering of Israel for the millennium. But, as we read in verse 38, we will see that not all Israel will be allowed entrance into the Land. “And I will purge out from among you the rebels, and them that transgress against Me; I will bring them forth out of the country where they sojourn, and they shall not enter into the Land of Israel…”. Obviously, as the context proves, those who will be purged are unbelievers.
Ezek. 36:24-28 also speaks of the gathering of Israel for the millennium. “For I will take you from among the heathen, and gather you out of all countries, and will bring you into your own land. Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean…..a new heart also will I give you and a new spirit will I put within you; and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. and I will put My spirit within you, and cause you to walk in My statutes, and ye shall keep My judgments, and do them. And ye shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers; and ye shall be My People, and I will be your God”. A comparison of this passage with Jer. 31:31-34 will show that this passage does indeed speak of the new covenant.
But what is important to note is that those who will receive the new heart and keep God’s commandants in accordance with the new covenant are in the Land. As we learned in Ezek. 20, quoted above, only believers will be in the Land. That means that the new covenant is made with believers, and believers only. Unbelievers will not be allowed entrance into the Land and will not, therefore, even partake of the new covenant. That being the case, obviously, the new covenant does not save those to whom it is given. they are saved through their faith.
Another reason I do not believe that the new covenant saves is found in Jer. 31:34, “And they shall teach no more every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord:’ for they shall all know Me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more”. The Hebrew word translated “for” in the phrase “for I will forgive their iniquity” should have been translated “because”. In other words, all Israel in the Land will know God because He will forgive them. Again, this passage does not tell us that the new covenant will save Israel and the therefore the new covenant is not an instrument of salvation. .
3) TO DELIVER US FROM THE PRESENT AGE
Gal. 1:4, “Who gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father”. The Greek word translated “world” is “aion”. The definition in the Companion Bible reads, “an age, or age-time, the duration of which is indefinite, and may be limited or extended as the context of each occurrence may demand. The root meaning of aion is expressed by the Heb. olam….which denotes indefinite, unknown or concealed duration…..”.
Salvation is a deliverance from the grave, not from this present evil age. Therefore this verse is not about salvation unto eternal life.
4) TO COVER THE SINS OF THE BELIEVER
Romans 3:25 reads, “Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in His blood, to declare His righteousness for the remission of sins……..” In order to understand the meaning of the Greek word translated “propitiation” we must understand the Hebrew equivalent which is “kaphar”.
The Hebrew word “kaphar” occurs many times and is almost always translated “atonement”. But what does “atonement” mean? For the answer to that question we will look at the first occurrence of the word as found in Gen. 6:14 where God tells Noah how to build the ark, “Make thee an ark of gopher wood; rooms shalt thou make in the ark, and shalt pitch it within and without with pitch”. The note in the Companion Bible on the word “pitch” is extremely helpful. That note reads, “Coat it. Heb. kaphar, to cover; the only word for ‘atonement’ in the OT so that it is only atonement that can keep the waters of judgment from us”.
What does “kaphar”, i.e. “atonement” mean in terms of salvation? Let us consider the context of Romans 3:25. We read in verse 22 of the “righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe….”. Please note that this righteousness is “by faith of Jesus Christ“. Both the NIV and the NASB have “faith in Jesus Christ”. This is the message of salvation which says that “whosoever believeth on Him” hath eternal life.
One more thing that must be appreciated is the reason that Christ is the propitiation of our sins. We read in verse 25 exactly what that reason was, “to declare His righteousness for the remission of sins”. What does that tell us? It tells us that a holy God cannot look upon, or fellowship with, sinful man, so by covering those sins He maintains His own righteousness while He fellowships with His children. But please note, there is no hint that this covering of sins (i.e. “propitiation”) is for the purpose of salvation.
5) RECONCILIATION OF ALL THINGS
Col. 1:20, “And having made peace through the blood of His cross, by Him to reconcile all things unto Himself, by Him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven”.
6) SO THAT WE SHOULD LIVE UNTO RIGHTEOUSNESS
I Peter 2:24, “Who His own self bare our sins in His own body on the tree, that we being dead to sins should live unto righteousness, by Whose stripes ye were healed”. Does the phrase “live unto righteousness” refer to resurrection life or to this life? I believe the next verse will answer that question, “For ye were as sheep going astray; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls”. The phrase “but are now returned” refers of course to “now”, not a future time of resurrection. Therefore, the context points to verse 24 as also referring to now, not to resurrection life.
7) TO CREATE THE ONE BODY
We read in Eph. 2:13-16 of the one body. The one body of this passage is unfortunately incorrectly understood by many to refer to the church which is His body. The paper on this web-site called The One Body Of Ephesians Two Is Not the Church Which Is His Body will prove that statement from God’s Word. But most do not recognize the truth that the one body began at the cross, so let us briefly consider this passage with open minds.
“But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ. For He is our peace, Who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; having abolished in His flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in Himself of twain one new man, so making peace; and that He might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby”.
Note the phrases in bold type. Jew and Gentile were made nigh “by the blood of Christ”. When was that blood spilled? At the cross. Note the phrase “having abolished in His flesh”. That too obviously points to the cross. And if that were not clear enough we read that He has reconciled “both unto God… by the cross“.
8) THE FIRST STEP IN CONQUERING DEATH
We come now to the only reason for Christ’s death on the cross that is related to salvation. It is cleat that it is not His death that conquered the last enemy, it is His resurrection from the dead. We read in I Cor. 15:17-18, “And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins. Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished”.
Paul could not have put it more clearly. If Christ had not risen from the grave there would be no eternal life for anyone. It is Christ’s resurrection that conquered death, not His death on the cross. Of course, there would have been no resurrection if He had not died on the cross. So His death was the first step in conquering death.
APPENDIX 3: A CONSIDERATION OF ALL THE REMAINING PASSAGES IN THE BIBLE THAT SPEAK OF FORGIVENESS
I offer this Appendix so that the reader may have ready access to all the times that the Word of God speaks of forgiveness and thereby being able to test out the veracity of my belief that the Bible never says that forgiveness results in salvation from the grave.
Gen. 50:17, “So shall ye say unto Joseph, ‘Forgive I pray thee now, the trespass of thy brethren and their sin….”. This is a forgiveness from man so does not really enter our discussion of forgiveness in God’s plan of salvation.
Ex. 10:17, “Now therefore forgive I pray thee my sin only this once, and intreat the Lord your God, that He may take away from me this death only”. This is Pharoah’s request to Moses and therefore, again does not really impact on our study of forgiveness in God’s plan of salvation.
Ex. 34:6-7 NASB, “Then the Lord passed by in front of him and proclaimed, ‘The Lord, the Lord God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness and truth; who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin; yet He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished, visiting the iniquity of father on the children…….The fact that “He will visit “the iniquity of father on the children.” proves that this passage obviously does not have to do with salvation unto resurrection life, it has to do with temporal lives.
Ex. 34:9, “And he (Moses) said, ‘If now I have found grace in Thy sight, O Lord, let my Lord, I pray Thee, go among us; for it is a stiff-necked People; and pardon our iniquity and our sin, and take us for Thine inheritance“. Note that Moses asks pardon for Israel in order that God will “take us (Israel) for Thine inheritance”. This is not a prayer for eternal salvation, it is a prayer for God to pardon Israel so that He will be their God and they will be His people.
Lev. 19:22, “And the priest shall make an atonement for him with the ram of the trespass offering before the Lord for his sin which he hath done, and the sin which he hath done shall be forgiven him”. There is no hint in the context, near or far, that this forgiveness was to result in eternal salvation. Why then did God require sacrifices for forgiveness of sin if not for salvation? For the answer to that question let us consider I Kings 8:33-34.
I Kings 8:33-34, “When thy People Israel be smitten down before the enemy, because they have sinned against Thee, and shall turn again to Thee, and confess Thy name….then hear Thou in heaven, and forgive the sin of thy People Israel, and bring them again unto the land which thou gavest unto their fathers”. This prayer is in reference to the old covenant as described in Lev. 26. That chapter describes the earthly blessings that God will bestow on Israel if they obey the law of Moses and the earthly punishments if they disobey. One of those punishments was to be carried away captive out of their land. In I Kings 8 we read of Solomon’s prayer that God will forgive their sins “and bring them again unto the land which thou gavest unto their fathers”. So one of the reasons for forgiveness was that God would allow Israel, in accordance with the Old Covenant to remain in the Land.
Numbers 14:20 “And the Lord said, ‘I have pardoned according to thy word”. Let us consider this passage. We read in verse 1 that the “congregation lifted up their voice, and cried; and the People wept that night. and all the children of Israel murmured against Moses and against Aaron. In verse 11 we read that the “Lord said unto Moses, ‘How long will this People provoke Me: and how long will it be ere they believe Me, for all the signs which I have shewed among them?”. In verses 13-19 Moses makes his case to the Lord that if He does not bring this people into the land, the enemies of Israel will count that as a victory for themselves. But in verse 23 we read the Lord saying, “Surely they shall not see the land which I sware unto their fathers, neither shall any of them that provoked Me see it”. In other words, that generation was pardoned but they died without seeing the land that had been promised. Heb. 3:17-4:2 tells us a great deal more of these people who rebelled, so let us consider that passage.
Heb. 3:17-4:2 reads, “But with whom was He grieved forty years? was it not with them that had sinned, whose carcasses fell in the wilderness? and to whom sware He that they should not enter into His rest, but to them that believed not? So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief. ……the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it”.
My point is that some had been pardoned of their sins, but they did not enter the land because they did not have faith. I believe that entrance into the land in this passage in Heb. is a shadow of eternal salivation, i.e. that without faith, one does not have eternal life. So once again, we see that to be pardoned does not automatically lead to eternal salvation. Again, we must not assume something that is not stated, but we must, as always, consider the context.
Deut. 29:19-21, “And it come to pass, when he heareth the words of this curse, that he bless himself in his heart, saying, ‘I shall have peace, though I walk in the imagination of mine heart, to add drunkenness to thirst the Lord will not spare him, but then the anger of the Lord and His jealousy shall smoke against that man, and all the curses that are written in this book shall lie upon him, and the Lord shall blot out his name from under heaven. And the Lord shall separate him unto evil out of all the tribes of Israel, according to all the curses of the covenant that are written in this book of the law”. This passage speaks of “all the curses that are written in this book”. Therefore, we must conclude that this passage has to do with the terms of the old covenant as described in Lev. 26 which speaks of earthly, temporal blessings and punishments.
Joshua. 24:19-20, “And Joshua said unto the People, ‘Ye cannot serve the Lord: for He is an holy God; He is a jealous God; He will not forgive your transgressions nor your sins. For if ye forsake the Lord, and serve strange gods, then He will turn and do you hurt, and consume you, after that He hath done you good”. We know that this is not a verse that speaks of salvation from the grave because God does not “consume” those who fail to believe in Him. This verse speaks of a punishment of those unforgiven ones to be meted out in their temporal lives. If the withholding of forgiveness is punishment in the temporal lives of those whose sins will not be forgiven, so too the forgiveness resulting in blessings in temporal lives according to the old covenant recorded in Lev. 26.
I Sam. 25:28, “I pray thee forgive the trespass of thine handmaid: for the Lord will certainly make my lord a sure house….”. This is a request from Abigail to David and does not impact our study of forgiveness in God’s plan of salvation because it is the forgiveness of man that is sought.
II Kings 5:18, “In this thing the Lord pardon thy servant, that when my master goeth into the house of Rimmon to worship there, and he leaneth on my hand, and I bow myself in the house of Rimmon, the Lord pardon thy servant in this thing”. Here was a Gentile servant who asked that the Lord forgive his act of service to his master which may have seemed to be bowing down to a false god. Was this a prayer of salvation? What was the punishment, according to the Mosaic Law, of worshiping false gods? Those punishments are all enumerated in Lev. 26, and they are earthly in nature and certainly had nothing to do with salvation unto resurrection life. Therefore I believe that this prayer was to avoid earthly punishments.
II Kings 24:3-4, “Surely at the commandment of the Lord came this upon Judah, to remove them out of His sight, for the sins of Manasseh, according to all that he did; and also for the innocent blood that he shed: for he filled Jerusalem with innocent blood; which the Lord would not pardon“. God would not forgive the sins of Israel and He sent Gentile nations to destroy Jerusalem. Obviously, these are earthly, temporal blessings and have nothing to do with salvation from the grave.
II Chron. 6:21-39 is a record of the same event (i.e. Solomon’s dedication of the temple) as is recorded in I Kings 8 and is discussed above.
II Chron. 7:14 is a continuation of the dedication of Solomon’s temple and is discussed above.
II Chron. 30:18, “For a multitude of the people………had not cleansed themselves, yet did they eat the passover otherwise than it was written. But Hezekiah prayed for them, saying, ‘The good Lord pardon every one”. Salvation is not denied because one eats of the passover not according to the Law. Therefore, I believe that this pardon is not unto resurrection life, it is once again, a prayer for the Lord to forgive so that He would not punishment Israel in accordance with Lev. 26.
Ps. 78:38, “But He, being full of compassion forgave their inquiry, and destroyed them not….”. The fact that we are told that God did not destroy them tells us that this is not a forgiveness unto resurrection life, it is a forgiveness that has to do with temporal lives.
Ps. 85:1-3, “Lord, Thou hast been favourable unto Thy land: Thou hast forgiven the iniquity of Thy People, Thou has covered all their sin. Selah. Thou hast taken away all Thy wrath: Thou hast turned thyself from the fierceness of thine anger”. This passage is not about resurrection life, it is about God forgiving the sins of His People and taking “away all Thy wrath” in relation to temporal lives. Note for example the phrase, “Thou has been favourable unto Thy land“. The fact that the Psalmist speaks of land proves that it has to do with temporal lives. Note also that God has “covered all their sin”. As we saw in our discussion of Numbers 14, even though God had forgiven those who died in the wilderness, they will not be raised unto resurrection life because of their unbelief.
Ps. 86:5, “For thou Lord, are good, and ready to forgive: and plenteous in mercy unto all them that call upon Thee”. The context concerns temporal blessings. Note verse 7 where David speaks of the day of his trouble, “In the day of my trouble I will call upon thee: for Thou wilt answer me”. That tells us again that this forgiveness is unto temporal blessings in a time of trouble because there is no time of trouble in the grave or in resurrection life.
Ps. 103:2-3, “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits: Who forgiveth all thine iniquities; Who healeth all thy diseases”. The context, and especially the phrase, “healeth all thy diseases” is about many of the temporal blessings God gives those He forgives.
Ps. 130:4, “But there is forgiveness with Thee, that Thou mayest be feared”. We read in verse 3, “If thou Lord, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord who shall stand?” The Psalmist is making the point that none are free from sin and none shall stand in a judgment of works. But salvation is not of works, salvation is dependent on one’s faith in God. Again, this is not forgiveness unto resurrection life.
Jer. 5:1, “Run ye to and fro through the streets of Jerusalem, and see now, and know, and seek in the broad places thereof, if ye can find a man, if there be any that executeth judgment, that seeketh the truth and I will pardon it“. What will be pardoned? The city of Jerusalem. That being the case we must conclude that this is not about salvation unto resurrection life. It is about the sparing of Jerusalem from destruction.
Jer. 5:7, “How shall I pardon thee for this? thy children have forsaken Me, and sworn by them that are no gods: when I had fed them to the full, they then committed adultery, and assembled themselves by troops in the harlots’ houses”. This verse has also to do with the city of Jerusalem (see note above on Jer. 5:1). Verses 9-10 are also helpful as they describe the result of God not pardoning. “Shall I not visit for these things? saith the Lord: and shall not My soul be avenged on such a nation as this? Go ye up upon her walls, and destroy……..”. Obviously, this passage has to do with forgiveness of sins of the people of Israel, and not a forgiveness unto resurrection life.
Jer. 31:34, “And they shall teach no more every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord’: for (should be “because”) they shall all know Me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the Lord; for (should be “because”) I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more”. (Please see the discussion above of the new covenant.)
Jer. 36:2-3, “Take thee a roll of a book, and write therein all the words that I have spoken unto thee against Israel, and against Judah, and against all the nations, from the day I speak unto thee, from the days of Josiah, even unto this day. It may be that the house of Judah will hear all the evil which I purpose to do unto them; that they may return every man from his evil way; that I may forgive their iniquity and their sin”. Forgiveness unto salvation is never given to a nation per se, it is always given to individuals who have faith. The very fact that these words are directed to the nation of Israel proves that the forgiveness spoken of is not unto salvation from the grave.
Lam. 3:42-43, “We have transgressed and have rebelled: Thou hast not pardoned. Thou hast covered thyself with anger, and persecuted us: Thou hast slain, thou hast not pitied“. God does not “persecute” or slay those who reject His gift of salvation. But according to the covenant as described in Lev. 26, those of Israel who transgress against the law of Moses, the punishment certainly is persecution, death and lack of pity. In other words, the lack of pardon in this passage leads to the punishments as described in Lev. 26 of earthly, temporal punishments, not a punishment of eternal death.
Dan. 9:9, “To the Lord our God belong mercies and forgiveness, though we have rebelled against Him”. This comes in the context of Daniel’s prayer which we must understand. We read in 9:2, “In the first year of his reign I Daniel understood by books the number of the years whereof the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah the prophet, that He would accomplish seventy years in the desolations of Jerusalem”. And in verse 5 we read as Daniel continued his prayer, “we have sinned, and have committed iniquity, and have done wickedly, and have rebelled even by departing from Thy precepts and from Thy judgments”. Daniel acknowledges in this prayer the sins of his people and the righteous judgment of God that Jerusalem will be desolate and the people of Israel in captivity for the seventy years according to Jeremiah’s prophecy. This prayer has nothing to do with salvation unto resurrection life, it has to do with God’s forgiving His rebellious People, Israel.
Amos 7:2, “And it came to pass, that when they (the grasshoppers, verse 1) had made an end of eating the grass of the land, then I said, ‘O Lord God, forgive, I beseech Thee: by whom shall Jacob arise? for he is small”. Obviously, this prayer was not a prayer unto salvation, it was a prayer that God would not allow His nation, Israel to perish from the earthly catastrophes described in the context of this chapter.
Micah 7:18, “Who is a God like unto Thee, That pardoneth iniquity, and passeth by the transgression of the remnant of His heritage? He retaineth not His anger for ever, because He delighteth in mercy”. The fact that Micah speaks here of God not retaining His anger forever, tells us that this is a passage about temporal lives, not resurrection life. That is to say, there is no question of God’s anger in resurrection life because all will be righteous.
It is clear from the verses quoted above from the Old Testament that forgiveness, or the lack thereof, had to do with the earthly, temporal rewards or punishments according to the Mosaic Law as recorded in Lev. 26. As we come to the New Testament, we must bear in mind that what is said of forgiveness did not come from a vacuum, it came from the Old Testament. Those who preached in the first century spoke, primarily, to Israel who, of course, would have a mindset from the Old Testament in regard to forgiveness, and most other things, as well.
In short, we must interpret the New Testament from the Old Testament so that we not be led into error in our understanding of the New Testament messages about forgiveness.
One further thought might be helpful. In the Old Testament the emphasis was on works but it was understood that “the just live by faith” (Hab. 2:4). So too in the New Testament faith was completed by works. Therefore, we must bear in mind that whereas some messages, especially in the Gospels, seem to emphasize works, salvation has always been by faith which is completed by works. (Please see the paper on works and faith in God’s plan of salvation for the Scriptural evidence that faith is completed by works, a truth that is a universal one, i.e. it is just as true in the present dispensation as it was in the previous ones.)
Matt. 6:10-12, “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors”. This comes in the context of the sermon on the mount, none of which has anything to do with eternal salvation, per se. Note the prayer for “daily bread”. This has to do with the needs of temporal lives. It would take us too far from our topic to consider the entire sermon here, but the reader is encouraged to read the entire sermon with an open mind to see if the sermon has to do with temporal or eternal life. (See also Luke 11:2-4.)
Matt. 6:14-15, “For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: but if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses”. Again, there is nothing in this passage which is part of the sermon on the mount that points to its being a message about salvation from the grave. (See also Mark 11:25-26 and Luke 5:20-24. and the note above on Matt. 6:10-12.)
Matt. 9:2-6, “And behold, they brought to Him a man sick of the palsy, lying on a bed: and Jesus seeing their faith said unto the man sick of the palsy; ‘Son, be of good cheer; thy sins be forgiven thee’. And behold certain of the scribes said within themselves, ‘This man blasphemeth’. And Jesus knowing their thoughts said, ‘wherefore think ye evil in your hearts?’ For whether it is easier to say, ‘Thy sins be forgiven thee’: or to say, ‘Arise, and walk?’ But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins;…..”. Unlike the Old Testament passages that speak of forgiveness, the context does not tell us the result of the forgiveness given this sick man, except that he was made well. However, given that the Old Testament does not speak of forgiveness unto resurrection life, no one in this scene would have thought that the forgiveness was unto salvation (see also Mark 2:5-10).
Matt. 12:31-32, “Wherefore I say unto you, All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men: but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men. And whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him…….”. There is nothing in this context to suggest that forgiveness is part of God’s plan of salvation. In point of fact, as shown in the section above, the gospel of salvation has to do with belief in Christ. A believer in Christ cannot lose his salvation. For that reason alone I believe that this passage is not about salvation. (See also Mark 3:28, Luke 12:10.)
Matt. 18:21, “Then came Peter to Him, and said, ‘Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him?…..” Given that this is man forgiving sins it cannot be taken to apply to salvation unto resurrection life. (See also Luke 17:3-4.)
Matt. 18:35, “So likewise shall My heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses”. The phrase “so likewise” refers to verse 24, “the lord was wroth and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due unto him”. Is our Lord saying in this verse that one cannot be saved unless he forgives his brother? I do not believe that is the message that we are to get from this verse because forgiving our brothers is simply not the gospel of salvation. As proved in the section above, salvation is given as a gift to all those who believe in Christ.
What then is the point of this verse? It is the point of the parable of the unmerciful servant. We read in verses 21-22, “Then came Peter to Him, and said, ‘Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him: till seven times’? Jesus saith unto him, ‘I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but until seventy times seven. Therefore is the kingdom of Heaven likened unto….”. The parables of the kingdom of Heaven describe something of that kingdom, or, as in the case of this parable, what one must do to enter into the kingdom of Heaven. The paper on this web-site will prove that only believers will enter into the kingdom of Heaven. Those who will enter into it will do so because of their faith, i.e. their belief in Christ. But as James makes clear in the second chapter of his epistle, works complete one’s faith. (For a more complete study of the relationship of works and faith, the reader is asked to see the paper on that subject.)
Forgiveness then, is one of the works by which one completes his faith that will allow him entry into the kingdom of Heaven. (See also Luke 17:3-4)
Matt. 26:28, “For this is My blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins”. The new covenant was discussed above in the passage quoted from Jer. 31.
Mark 2:5, “When Jesus saw their faith, He said unto the sick of the palsy, ‘son, thy sins be forgiven thee'”. (Please see comments on Luke 5:20-24 below.)
Mark 11:25-26, “And when ye stand praying forgive, if ye have ought against any; that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses. But if ye do not forgive, neither will your Father which is in heaven forgive your trespasses”. Again, our forgiving others is simply not the gospel of salvation. (Please see the discussion above on Matt. 18:35.)
Luke 5:20-24, “And when He saw their faith, He said unto him, ‘Man, thy sins are forgiven thee.’ And the scribes and the Pharisees began to reason saying, ‘Who is This Which speaketh blasphemies? who can forgive sins, but God alone? But when Jesus perceived their thoughts, He answering said unto them, ‘What reason ye in your hearts? whether it is easier, to say ‘Thy sins be forgiven thee’: or to say “Rise up and walk?’ But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power upon earth to forgive sins,,’ (He said unto the sick of the palsy,) ‘I say unto thee, ‘Arise, and take up thy couch, and go into thine house'”. Note that Christ “saw their faith“. We are told at least ten times (please see Ap. I of this paper) that it is belief (faith) in Christ that saves. Given that the faith of these men were seen by the Lord, we may conclude that this man’s faith saved him. The forgiveness was therefore, was an added blessing as the study of the new covenant showed.
Luke 7:42, “And when they had nothing to pay, he frankly forgave them both…..”. This man forgave them their debt. We might say that he gave them the money that was owed him. “Karizoma” is the Greek word translated “forgave”. This is a very interesting Greek word and I believe a slight departure from our main theme might be a blessing. The Greek word is used 23 times in the New Testament but is translated “forgive” or some form of “forgive” only 11 times. Like most words in any language, it has shades of meanings. The first occurrence is found in Luke 7:21 where it is translated “gave”. That verse read, “And in that same hour He cured many of their infirmities and plagues, and of evil spirits; and unto many that were blind He gave sight”. I find it very interesting that this word carries with it the idea of “gave”. It seems to suggest that when something is forgiven, something is given along with it.
Luke 7:43, “Simon answered and said, ‘I suppose that he, to whom he forgave most”. Here again a debt was forgiven. Please see note above on verse 42.
Luke 7:47-48, “Wherefore I say unto thee, her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little’. and He said unto her, ‘Thy sins are forgiven‘”. Verse 50, which is the end of this incident is key to our understanding God’s plan of salvation. That verse reads, “and He said to the woman, ‘Thy faith hath saved thee; go in peace'”. Note that in verse 48 our Lord had told the woman that her sins were forgiven. But it was not the forgiveness of sins that saved her, it was her faith which she exhibited by her generous treatment of Christ that saved her.
John 20:22-23, “And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and saith unto them, ‘Receive ye the Holy Ghost’: Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained'”. For what purpose were the disciples sent by Christ? It was to preach Christ. I believe that as one believed the message of the disciples and believed on the One about Whom they preached, their sins were remitted. In other words, if we interpret this passage in accordance with what the Bible teaches about salvation and forgiveness, we see that when the ones to whom the disciples preached became believers, they were forgiven their sins.That is how the disciples would have understood it because that is what the Old Testament teaches about forgiveness. (Please see the note above on Luke 7:47-48 .)
Acts 8:22, “Repent therefore, of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee”. A man called “Simon” had tried to purchase the power of healing that came from the Holy Ghost. Verse 22 is Peter’s answer to this man’s sin. Verse 24 tells us exactly the goal of what Simon desired in his forgiveness. “Then answered Simon, and said, ‘Pray ye to the Lord for me, that none of these things which ye have spoken come upon me‘” (i.e. “thy money perish with thee”). It was not salvation that Simon sought by asking for forgiveness, it was the fear of losing his money.
Acts 26:18, “To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in Me“. This verse comes in the passage that records Paul’s explanation to Agrippa of Paul’s conversion experience. Note that these who were sanctified “by faith” were given forgiveness. That is to say, those who Paul led to God were added to those who had been sanctified by faith and they were also given forgiveness of sins and an inheritance. In short, as is true of other passages, this one speaks of forgiveness as an added blessing to one who has faith.
Rom. 4:7, “Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered”. This verse has been discussed in the sections above on man’s sins and sin. That section proved from Scripture that it was not forgiveness of man’s sins that saved him because as we read in I Cor. 15:17, apart from resurrection, the believer is “yet in his sin”. That is to say, man must die in order to rid himself of his body of death, and when he is resurrected he will have a body that is acceptable to dwell with a holy God.
II Cor. 2:6-8, “Sufficient to such a man is this punishment, which was inflicted of many so that contrariwise ye ought rather to forgive him and comfort him lest perhaps such a one should be swallowed up with overmuch sorrow. Wherefore I beseech you that ye would confirm your love toward him”. This is man’s forgiveness of man and therefore cannot have anything to do with God”s plan of salvation.
II Cor. 2:10, “To whom ye forgive any thing, I forgive also: for if I forgave any thing, to whom I forgave it, for your sakes forgave it I in the person of Christ”. Paul speaks of man forgiving man. Therefore, this is obviously not a forgiveness unto resurrection life.
II Cor.12:13, “For what is it wherein ye were inferior to other churches, except it be that I myself was not burdensome to you? forgive me this wrong”. Again, this is forgiveness of man unto man and therefore has nothing to do with God’s plan of salvation.
Eph. 4:32, “And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you”. The next verse (5:1) reads, “Be ye therefore followers of God….”. The word “therefore” tells us that what was written just before verse 5:1 should be the result in the truth of 5:1. That is to say, Paul exhorts his readers to be “followers of God” because God has forgiven us. This thought is consistent with the fact that this passage is recorded in the “walk” portion of this epistle.
Col. 3:13, “Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any; even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye”. This passage does not say anything about Christ’s forgiveness resulting in salvation from the grave.
Heb. 9:22, “And almost all things are by the law purged with blood: and without shedding of blood is no remission“. This is an obvious reference to the sacrifices contained in the Mosaic Law. As was proved in this paper, the result of obedience to the law as recorded in Lev. 26 was earthly blessings.
Heb. 10:18, “Now where remission of these is, there is no ore offering for sin”.
James 5:15, “And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him”. This is obviously has to do with forgiveness of sins in the context of man’s temporal life, not resurrection life.
I John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness”. Righteousness is to be seen by God as having not sinned. But again, when the believer dies he is “yet in his sin” apart from resurrection. So it is not because God sees the believer as not having sinned that saves us, it is resurrection.
APPENDIX 4: A STUDY OF ALL THE HEBREW AND GREEK WORDS TRANSLATED “FORGIVE”
The four Hebrew words translated “forgive are: “sahlagh”, “s’lee ghah”, “nahsah” and “kaphar”.
The Hebrew word “sahlagh” occurs 44 times and is translated “pardon” or “forgive”. The first occurrence of “sahlagh” is found in Ex. 34:9, “And he (Moses) said, ‘If now I have found grace in Thy sight, O Lord, let my Lord, I pray Thee, go among us; for it is a stiff-necked People; and pardon our iniquity and our sin, and take us for Thine inheritance”.
In point of fact, not one of the passages that speak of pardon has anything to do with salvation unto eternal life. But one must bear in mind that the Old Testament has very little to say about eternal life, as it is mostly a history of God’s dealing with His people, Israel. But let us continue for now with the Hebrew words translated “forgiveness”.
Another Hebrew word translated “forgive is “s’lee ghah” and is from the same root as “sahlagh” discussed in the paragraph above. It is mostly translated “pardon” “forgive” and also “extol”, “cast up” and “exalt’. As is true of “sahlagh”, this word is also never used in the context of forgiveness unto eternal salvation.
The first occurrence is found in Gen. 13:6 where we read that , “the land was not able to bear“. This Hebrew word is used several hundred times and it is usually translated “bear”, “carry” or “lift up”. But let us consider the verses in Is. 53 that use this word.
Is. 53:4, “Surely He hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows…..”. And Is. 53:12, “He bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors”.
The Hebrew word “kaphar” occurs many times and is almost always translated “atonement”. But what does “atonement” mean? For the answer to that question we will look at the first occurrence of the word as found in “Gen. 6:14 where God tells Noah how to build the ark, “Make thee an ark of gopher wood; rooms shalt thou make in the arc, and shalt pitch it within and without with pitch”. The note in the Companion Bible on the word “pitch” is extremely helpful. That note reads, “Coat it. Heb. kaphar, to cover; the only word for ‘atonement’ in the OT so that it is only atonement that can keep the waters of judgment from us”.
What does “kaphar”, i.e. “atonement” mean in terms of our question concerning the gospel of salvation? The Greek equivalent is found in Romans 3:25 where we read, “Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation (the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew “kaphar”) through faith in His blood, to declare His righteousness for the remission of sins……..” . Let us put this verse in context so that we are not misled.
We read in verse 22 of the “righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe….”. Please note that this righteousness is “by faith of Jesus Christ“. Both the NIV and the NASB have “faith in Jesus Christ”. This is the message of salvation which says that “whosoever believeth on Him” hath eternal life.
One more thing that must be appreciated is the reason that Christ is the propitiation of our sins. We read in verse 25 exactly what that reason was, “to declare His righteousness for the remission of sins”. What does that tell us? It tells us that a holy God cannot look upon, or fellowship with, sinful man, so by covering those sins He maintains His own righteousness while He fellowships with His children. But please note, there is no hint that this covering of sins (i.e. “propitiation”) is for the purpose of salvation.
There are also four Greek words translated “forgive”. Those words are, “aphieemi”, “apoluo”, aphesis”, and “karizomai”.
The word comes from the root meaning “to send”.
It is translated as “leaveth” as in Matt. 4:11, “then the devil leaveth Him”.
It is translated “forsaken” as in Matt. 19:27, “we have forsaken all”.
It is translated “remit” as in John 20:23, “the sins ye remit, they are remitted“.
And it is translated forgive” as in Matt. 6:12, “Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors”.
It is clear then that this Greek word means to let go of sins, to leave them, to forsake them.
This Greek word also comes from the root meaning “to send”.
It is translated “to put away” as in Matt. 1:19, “he was minded to put her away“. It is also translated “divorce”.
It is translated “release” as in Matt. 27:17, “whom will ye that I release unto you?”
In Acts 15:30 it is translated “dismissed”. “So when they were dismissed, the came to Antioch….”.
And in Luke 6:37 it is translated “forgive”, “forgive and ye shall be forgiven.
This word is usually translated “remission” or “forgiveness”. But we will consider one verse where a different translation is given and thereby gain a better understanding of it.
We read in Luke 4:18, “to preach deliverance to the captives…..to set at liberty them that are bruised”.
This Greek word is, in my opinion, the most interesting of the words translated “forgive”. It is translated “give“, “granted” or “delivered” 11 of the 23 times it is used.
The first occurrence is found in Luke 7:21 where we read, “He gave sight”.
In Acts 3:14 we read that Israel “desired a murderer to be granted unto them”. the murderer was given unto them.
In Acts 27:24 we read, “God hath given thee all them that sail with thee”.
Romans 8:32 reads that God does “freely give us all things”.
In order to understand this Greek word we must reconcile forgiving with giving. It would seem that true forgiveness includes giving. Let us consider a few verses where “karizomai” is translated “forgive”, bearing in mind that the Greek word means basically, “to give”. .
Let us consider II Cor. 2:6-8, “Sufficient to such a man is this punishment, which was inflicted of many so that contrariwise ye ought rather to forgive him and comfort him lest perhaps such a one should be swallowed up with overmuch sorrow. Where fore I beseech you that ye would confirm your love toward him”.
Bearing in mind that “forgive” actually means “to give” we must ask the question, what was given this man who had sinned when the Corinthians forgave him? Paul asks the Corinthians to “comfort him”. The last phrase also answers that question. “confirm your love toward him”. In this context then forgiveness (as this word is used) means to give comfort and love.
Let us consider Col. 2:13, “And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath He quickened together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses”. What was given here? I believe an ellipses taken from the verse itself will be helpful. “…..havinggiven you deliverance from all your trespasses”.
As we consider Eph. 4:32 we will see in the Word of God one of the two reasons that Christ bore, covered and pardoned us our sins. Eph. 4:32 reads, “and be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you”. What was Paul asking the Ephesians to give as they forgave? The context tells us that it was tenderheartedness and kindness. We also read that we should give (forgive) even as God gives (forgives). That means that this verse and this Greek word tells us that when God forgives, He gives kindness and tenderheartedness.
Forgiveness is equated with imputting righteousness in Rom. 4:6-8 reads, “Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works, saying, ‘Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered.Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin”.
I know that what has been expressed in this paper is not what most are used to. I also know that there are many people who believe that the gospel of salvation concerns the death and resurrection of Christ, not that Christ is the Son of God. But we cannot dismiss the fact that we read quite specifically ten times what one must believe in order to be saved. It is that we must believe Who Christ is, that He is the Son of God.
This paper was written by Joyce Pollard. If you would like to respond please write to me at:firstname.lastname@example.org