Part 4 - Forgiveness in the Scriptures
(Showing the Other Definition of Forgiveness)What is happening in the heart of God? What we have considered so far is forgiveness as it applies to the forgivee, the one who is forgiven. Now let's look at the other half of this two-party transaction, at what is happening on the part of the forgiver. Remember, we are the forgivees, God is the forgiver. Let's examine what takes place in God's heart, on the level of His emotions; at how God "feels" toward us as sinners.
If you haven't yet read it, go back to part 3 (of 6).
"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." (John 3:l6)We see that the gift of God's Son to die for us was preceded by a love that already existed in God's heart toward sinners. This forgiveness did not emanate from the cross - it was already there before Jesus' sacrifice. Had it not been for God's preexisting love for us, the events of the cross would never have taken place. It was because of God's love for the world that He gave us His only Son. This is a vital point because many believe that God would have retained malice in His heart continually toward man if it weren't for the cross. Many teach that, through the cross, God was appeased of His enmity, His hard feelings toward man. The cross, however, did not bring about a change in God's emotional response toward us; rather, it manifested or displayed God's heartfelt sentiments for man that He had held long before the events of the cross took place. Notice another passage that speaks of God's intrinsic forgiveness:
"In whatever our heart condemns us; ... God is greater than our heart, and knows all things" (1 John 3:20, NAS)We have all experienced that nagging feeling deep inside after we've done something we know to be wrong, have we not? The apostle John reminds us that when we are conscience stricken and wrestling under a weight of guilt, we are not to think the condemnation comes from God. God is greater than the heart. Although our hearts, our consciences, do condemn us, His spirit of forgiveness and love is already working to win us back from sin's consequences. Here is another way of saying it:
"By genuinely loving our brother we may know that we are children of the truth, or of God. This knowledge will enable us to stand confidently in the presence of God, for even though our heart condemns us, since we are still sinners, we know that God is greater than our heart, His knowledge and understanding far surpass our own, and He is able to perceive our sincerity and to allow for the mistakes into which we fall." (1 John 3:19-20, paraphrased)He allows for our mistakes in that He has made provision for it. Long ago, I learned a little trick that has helped me through life. Maybe you've learned this as well. The trick, the lesson is to not beat yourself up emotionally when you do something wrong, make a bad decision, really mess up big time. We are human, we will make mistakes. And mistakes are not good, you may have to suffer some consequences. But admit that you are not perfect, make it right in whatever way you need to and get on with your life. I believe that God wants us to do that. He doesn't want us carrying burdens around. He has forgiven us; He wants us to forgive ourselves.
Let's look at the story in John chapter 8 of the woman taken in adultery. Jesus, after saying to her accusers "He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her," wrote with His finger in the sand. It is understood by many that what He was writing was something to reveal the sins of the accusers. After her accusers had crept away, Jesus asked her:
"Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee? She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more." (John 8:10-11)Jesus, the revealer of the character of God to mankind, showed us, through His encounter with an adulteress and her accusers, that God's attitude toward sinners is one of simple and complete love and forgiveness. We may not "feel" that He is relating to us that way, but faith is not "feeling." Our job is to believe that God loves us and has forgiven us in spite of our sin, no matter how dark that sin may be. This must be our belief about God, whether we "feel" it is true or not. Believing in God's changeless love in direct opposition to our feelings is the battle against self. This is the fight of faith.
Had this woman confessed her sins yet? - noThe forgiveness in God's heart not only preceded the cross, it also preceded any response of faith and repentance on our part. This type of forgiveness refers to what God "feels" towards sinners. God's goodness is what leads us to repentance. It is there before any response we make to Him.
So, is there a word translated as "forgiveness" that describes forgiveness on the part of God the forgiver? Yes, that word is charizomai (Strong's #5483)
AV-forgive 11, give 6, freely give 2, deliver 2, grant 1, frankly forgive 1; 23Let's look at some verses using charizomai:
"And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven <5483> you all trespasses" (Col 2:13)
God has charizomied you. When? - when you were dead in your sins. Was that before confession on your part? - yes
Where has that forgiveness, that charizomai, taken place; in who's heart? - God's. Charizomai happens in God's heart
"And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven <5483> you." (Eph 4:32)Has God already forgiven you, according to this verse? - yes
"So that contrariwise ye ought rather to forgive <5483> him, and comfort him, lest perhaps such a one should be swallowed up with overmuch sorrow." (2 Cor 2:7)If you forgive someone, that forgiveness is taking place in your heart, right? Whether or not it affects the heart of the one being forgiven, it has to happen in your heart. Can you comfort someone who you are still steaming mad at? No, you have to have charizomai first. You have to have forgiveness in your heart.
Here is a little test to see if you understand the distinction. Look at this passage:
"To whom ye forgive any thing, I forgive also: for if I forgave any thing, to whom I forgave it, for your sakes forgave I it in the person of Christ;" (2 Cor 2:10)
The second "forgive" is supplied but it is supplied because it is clearly implied and it must be the same form of forgiveness because it says "I forgive also"
"To whom ye forgive anything." The question is which "forgive" is this - is it charizomai or aphiemi/apoluo? - charizomai
Is it forgiveness happening in the heart of the forgiver or the forgivee? - the forgiver.
Why? You would likely answer: because it says "ye forgive" But there is another reason. There are many verses that mention forgiveness from God where it is referring to what happens in the heart of the forgivee.
If you forgive a forgivee (a sinner) and that forgiveness is aphiemi/apoluo then what has happened in the forgivee? - the guilt and shame is removed. Then can Paul, who is speaking here, or anyone else come along and remove guilt and shame? - no, it is already gone. You can't remove something that is not there.
For a continuation of this study on Biblical Forgiveness go to Part 5 (of 6).
God is even better than you've ever hoped or imagined.
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