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Part 2 - The Definition for Forgiveness

Should Include Both Sides of the Transaction

  To better understand the definition for forgiveness, let's examine what is happening on the side of each party involved in the forgiveness transaction and see what the Bible says about it and how the original words translated into "forgiveness" are involved. I'll share a few forgiveness quotes to illustrate the confusion then we will do a word study and, I hope that, especially if you are dealing with guilt, you will be able to better understand the Biblical definition for forgiveness.
If you haven't yet read it go back to part 1 (of 6).

Please continue reading this study on Biblical Forgiveness ... but, if you are in a hurry, here is a quick summary. (Opens in new window.) When you see the importance of it, you may want to return later to read the full study or add your own comments/questions or see what others have written. (Opens in new window.)

First, consider these verses:

"But they and our fathers dealt proudly, and hardened their necks, and hearkened not to thy commandments, And refused to obey ... but thou art a God ready to pardon ..." (Neh 9:16-17)

In this passage, has God's forgiveness already been given to them? No, He is "ready to pardon" - like He is about to do it. That means, at the point of writing, He hadn't done it yet. Perhaps He was waiting for them to do something.

What is commonly understood to happen before God administers forgiveness? - repentance, confession. Then God's forgiveness will be granted; He will pardon and bless.

Maybe this doesn't match your definition of the forgiveness process, - or maybe it does - but what is the common understanding of most people of God's attitude towards us before we repent and confess, before He has forgiven us? - something like that He is angry or upset with us. And, after we repent, what is the attitude of God (in the common understanding) towards us after we repent? - He is happy with us, favorable towards us, ready to bless us. He is ready to pardon, we repent and 'fess up and then He is ready to follow that with being ready to bless us. Is that really how it is? Does that correspond to your understanding of and definition for forgiveness? Consider this verse:
"Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?" (Rom 2:4)
Which comes first according to this verse, the goodness of God or something on our part? - the goodness of God. If the goodness of God leads us to repentance then the goodness of God has to come first.
goodness of God then confession/repentance
Now look at 1 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." (1 John 1:9)
Which comes first according to this verse; our confession or His forgiveness? - our confession. This verse seems to put a clear precondition on forgiveness. When we have confessed our sins, then and only then do we receive forgiveness. It seems that God is holding something back from us until we meet a condition. It is confession first, then forgiveness.
confession then forgiveness
Couldn't this be confusing? First, it sounds like God is ready to forgive once we repent and confess. Second, we have the goodness of God first that leads us to confess and repent. Third, we have if we confess then He will forgive. "If" sounds like a precondition to me. Then we have a couple of verses that go back to the other way:
"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 3:16)
For sure, He gave His Son before I came along and needed forgiveness.
"But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." (Rom 5:8)

These verses suggest that God loved the world before He gave His son to die for it which suggests no precondition.

So which is it? Does He love us but not forgive us? Does He forgive us only as we meet conditions? And if He has not forgiven us what is His attitude toward us? Does God's attitude toward us change when we sin? Do we need to pray earnestly so that God will change His attitude towards us; so that He will no longer, ignore, reject or punish us and so He will forgive us?

In looking at just a few scriptures to help come up with a definition for forgiveness we have seen seemingly contradictory statements that could be used in a definition of forgiveness. These verses have caused debate and misunderstanding. We know that the word of God does not really contradict itself so let's take a look at some of these apparent contradictions, explore the meaning of forgiveness and see if we can understand this topic better. The benefits may be not only a better understanding of the subject but also a clearer conscience and a better appreciation of the plan of God and of His great love for us.

The Bible actually talks about two related-but-different events or processes when using the word forgiveness. We will see that forgiveness in the Bible is actually translated from several different original Hebrew and Greek words with different meanings. We get confused because we have only one English word that does not cover the shades of meaning in the original languages. As we study into forgiveness we find that there is good news. When all is understood in the definition for forgiveness it is a great help in dealing with guilt and it is good news indeed.

Now that we have a definition for forgiveness that includes both parties to the transaction, let's continue this study on Biblical Forgiveness. Please go to part 3 (of 6).


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The Greek has multiple words for forgiveness? God forgives (charizomai) whether we ask or not. Receiving forgiveness (apheimi) is by our choice.
God always forgives!


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