2 occurrences in 2 dictionaries

Reference: Forgiveness


Like many other words employed to convey ideas connected with the relations of God and man, this covers a variety of thoughts. In both OT and NT we have evidences of a more elastic vocabulary than the English Version would lead us to suppose. 1. The OT has at least three different words all tr 'forgiveness' or 'pardon,' referring either to God's actions with regard to men (cf. Ex 34:7; Ps 86:5; Ne 9:17) or to forgiveness extended to men by each other (cf. Ge 50:17; 1Sa 25:28). At a very early period of human, or at least of Jewish, history, some sense of the need of forgiveness by God seems to have been felt. This will be especially evident if the words of despairing complaint put into the mouth of Caln be tr literally (see Driver, The Book of Genesis, on Ge 4:13, cf. Revised Version margin). The power to forgive came to be looked on as inherent in God, who not only possessed the authority, but loved thus to exhibit His mercy (Da 9:9; Ne 9:17; Jer 36:3). In order, however, to obtain this gift, a corresponding condition of humiliation and repentance on man's part had to be fulfilled (2Ch 7:14; Ps 86:5), and without a conscious determination of the transgressor to amend and turn towards his God, no hope of pardon was held out (Jos 24:19; 2Ki 24:4; Jer 5:1,7). On the other hand, as soon as men acknowledged their errors, and asked God to forgive, no limit was set to His love in this respect (1Ki 8:36,50; Ps 103:3; cf. De 30:1-10). Nor could this condition be regarded as unreasonable, for holiness, the essential characteristic of the Divine nature, demanded an answering correspondence on the part of man made in God's image. Without this correspondence forgiveness was rendered impossible, and that, so to speak, automatically (cf. Le 19:2; Jos 24:19; see Nu 14:18; Job 10:14; Na 1:3).

According to the Levitical code, when wrong was done between man and man, the first requlsite in order to Divine pardon was restitution, which had to be followed up by a service of atonement (Le 6:2-7). Even in the case of sins of ignorance, repentance and its outward expression in sacrifice had to precede forgiveness (Le 4:13 ff., Nu 15:23 ff. etc.). Here the educative influence of the Law must have been powerful, inculcating as it did at once the transcendent holiness of God and the need of a similar holiness on the part of His people (Le 11:44). Thus the Pauline saying, 'The law hath been our tutor to bring us to Christ' (Ga 3:24), is profoundly true, and the great priestly services of the Temple, with the solemn and ornate ritual, must have given glimpses of the approach by which men could feel their way and obtain the help indispensable for the needs adumbrated by the demands of the Mosaic institutions. The burden of the prophetic exhortations, 'Turn ye, turn ye, why will ye die?' (Eze 33:11; cf. Isa 44:22; Jer 35:15; 18:11; Ho 14:1; Joe 2:13 etc.), would be meaningless if the power to obey were withheld, or the way kept hidden. Indeed, these preachers of moral righteousness did not hesitate to emphasize the converse side of this truth in dwelling on the 'repentance' of God and His returning to His afflicted but repentant people (Jon 3:9; Mal 3:7 etc.). The resultant effect of this mutual approach was the restoration to Divine favour, of those who had been alienated, by the free act of forgiveness on the part of God (Ps 85:4; Isa 55:7; 59:20; Jer 13:17,24 etc.).

2. We are thus not surprised to learn that belief in the forgiveness of sins was a cardinal article of the Jewish faith in the time of Jesus (Mr 2:7 = Lu 5:21, cf. Isa 43:25). Nor was the teaching of Jesus in any instance out of line with the national belief, for, according to His words, the source of all pardon was His Father (Mr 11:25 f., Mt 6:14 f.; cf. His appeal on the cross, 'Father, forgive them,' Lu 23:34). It is true that 'the Son of Man hath power on earth to forgive sins' (Mr 2:10 = Mt 9:6 = Lu 5:24), but the form of the expression shows that Jesus was laying claim to a delegated authority (cf. Lu 7:43, where, as in the case of the palsied man, the words are declaratory rather than absolute; see Plummer, CC International Critical Commentary, in loc.). This is more clearly seen by a reference to NT epistolary literature, where again and again forgiveness and restoration are spoken of as mediated 'in' or 'through' Christ (Eph 4:32; Col 2:12 ff., 1Pe 5:10; cf. Eph 1:7; Re 1:5; 1Jo 2:12 etc.). Here, as in OT, only more insistently dwelt on, the consciousness of guilt and of the need of personal holiness is the first step on the road to God's forgiveness (1Jo 1:9, cf. Ps 32:5; 51:3 etc.); and the open acknowledgment of these feelings is looked on as the natural outcome of their existence (Ac 19:18; cf. Ro 10:10; 1Jo 1:9). The hopelessness which at times seemed to have settled down on Jesus, when confronted by Pharisaic opposition, was the result of the moral and spiritual blindness of the religious teachers to their real position (Joh 9:40 f.).

3. Again, following along the line we have traced in the OT, only more definitely and specifically emphasized, the NT writers affirm the necessity for a moral likeness between God and man (cf. Mt 5:48). It is in this region, perhaps, that the most striking development is to be seen. Without exhibiting, in their relations to each other, the Divine spirit of forgiveness, men need never hope to experience God's pardon for themselves. This, we are inclined to think, is the most striking feature in the ethical creations of Jesus' teaching. By almost every method of instruction, from incidental postulate (Mt 6:12=Lu 11:4; Mr 11:25) to deliberate statement (Mt 18:21 ff; Mt 6:15; Mr 11:25; Lu 17:4) and elaborate parable (Mt 18:23-35), He sought to attune the minds of His hearers to this high and difficult note of the Christian spirit (cf. Col 3:13; 1Jo 4:11). Once more, Jesus definitely asserts the limitation to which the pardon and mercy even of God are subjected. Whatever may be the precise meaning attaching to the words 'an eternal sin' (Mr 3:29), it is plain that some definite border-line is referred to as the line of demarcation between those who may hope for this evidence of God's love and those who are outside its scope (Mt 12:32). See art. Sin, iii. 1.

4. We have lastly to consider the words, recorded only by St. John, of the risen Jesus to His assembled disciples (Joh 20:23). It is remarkable that this is the only place in the Fourth Gospel where the word tr 'forgive' (RV) occurs, and we must not forget that the incident of conferring the power of absolution on the body of believers, as they were gathered together, is peculiar to this writer. At the same time, it is instructive to remember that nowhere is St. John much concerned with a simple narrative of events as such; he seems to be engaged rather in choosing those facts which he can subordinate to his teaching purposes. The choice, then, of this circumstance must have been intentional, as having a particular significance, and when the immediately preceding context is read, it is seen that the peculiar power transmitted is consequent upon the gift of the Holy Spirit. On two other occasions somewhat similar powers were promised, once personally to St. Peter as the great representative of that complete faith in the Incarnation of which the Church is the guardian in the world (Mt 16:19), and once to the Church in its corporate capacity as the final judge of the terms of fellowship for each of its members (Mt 18:18). In both these instances the words used by Jesus with regard to this spiritual power differ from those found in the narrative of the Fourth Gospel, and the latter is seen to be more definite, profound, and far-reaching in its scope than the former. The abiding presence of the living Spirit in the Church is the sure guarantee that her powers in judging spiritual things are inherent in her (cf. 1Co 2:12-15) as the Body of Christ. Henceforth she carries in her bosom the authority so emphatically claimed by her Lord, to declare the wondrous fact of Divine forgiveness (Ac 13:38) and to set forth the conditions upon which it ultimately rests (see Westcott, Gospel of St. John, in loc.). Closely connected with the exercis

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There are three Hebrew words translated to forgive.

1. kaphar, 'to cover,' De 21:8; Ps 78:38; Jer 18:23. It is also translated 'atonement.'

2. nasa, 'to bear,' take away guilt: used by Joseph's brethren when they asked him to forgive them, Ge 50:17; and used of God as "forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin." Ex 34:7; Nu 14:18; and in describing the blessedness of the man "whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered." Ps 32:1.

3. salach, 'to pardon,' used only of the forgiveness that God gives. It is employed for the forgiveness attached to the sacrifices: "it shall be forgiven him." Le 4:20,26,31,35; 5:10,13,16,18; etc. It occurs in the prayer of Solomon at the dedication of the temple. 1Ki 8:30,34,36,39,50. Also in Ps 103:3; Jer 31:34; 36:3; Da 9:19.

In the N.T. two words are used: fesi" -->??????, from ??????, 'to send from, release, remit,' several times translated REMISSION; and ?????????, 'to be gracious, bestow freely, forgive.' Both words are applied to the forgiveness granted by God, as well as that between man and his fellow.

There are two aspects in which forgiveness is brought before us in scripture.

1. The mind and thought of God Himself towards the sinner whom He forgives. On the ground of the sacrifice of Christ, God not only ceases to hold those who have faith in Christ's blood as guilty before Him, but His favour is towards them. "Their sins and iniquities will I remember no more." Heb 10:17. Thus all sense of imputation of guilt is gone from the mind of God. "God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you" (?????????, graciously forgiven). Eph 4:32. So in the O.T., "I will heal their backsliding, I will love them freely." Ho 14:4.

2. The guilty one is released, forgiven. "That they may receive forgiveness of sins." Ac 26:18. "As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us." Ps 103:12. "Your sins are forgiven you for his name's sake." 1Jo 2:12. Hence it is true of all Christians, that their sins are forgiven. Another thought is included in the forgiveness of sins, namely, that having redemption by Christ, which brings into a new state, the whole guilty past is forgiven, removed from us, so that there is no hindrance to the enjoyment of that into which redemption brings.

The general principle as to forgiveness is stated in 1Jo 1:9; "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins;" and to this is added, "and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." This involves honesty of heart, whether in a sinner first coming to God, or in a child who has grieved the heart of the Father by sinning. The two aspects above referred to are here also. The faithfulness and righteousness of God in forgiving, and the cleansing us from all unrighteousness. God is faithful to His own blessed character of grace revealed in His Son, and righteous through the propitiation which He has made.

3. If a Christian is 'put away' from the assembly and is repentant, he is forgiven and restored. 2Co 2:7,10. This of course is different from the act of God in forgiving sins, and may be called administrative forgiveness in the church; and if the act of discipline is led of the Spirit, it is ratified in heaven: cf. Joh 20:22-23. This is entirely different from any pretended absolution that may be pronounced over poor deluded unconverted persons.

4. There is also a governmental forgiveness in connection with the government of God here below in time, both on God's part, and toward one another. Isa 40:1-2; Lu 17:3; Jas 5:15-16; 1Jo 5:16. We are called upon to forgive one another; and if we indulge in a harsh unforgiving spirit, we must not expect our Father to forgive us in His governmental dealings. Mt 6:14-15.

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