Wednesday, July 16, 2014


Everyone needs to give and receive forgiveness. When forgiveness is not extended or embraced, we open ourselves up to a myriad of spiritual, emotional, mental and physical problems. Forgiveness is a subject that cannot be ignored.


What we will look at in this series of studies is a revision of a revision of a revision of a series that I taught in Venezuela.

I was pulled back to this study by something I read in a book on the Trinity. The author made reference to what Genesis says in chapter 1, verse 26: “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness….” Then he related that “image” to community, a perspective I had never considered before. In our first session we will look at forgiveness and its effect on the community which should characterize the church.


There are study sheets that you can use as companions to my remarks. If you are interested in those, feel free to email me at and ask for the pdf files that are companions to what follows.



Sin didn’t take God by surprise. He who created man not only knew man’s capacity for sin, but allowed him to exercise that capacity. It is possible to force obedience, but it is not possible to force love, and God wanted a relationship of love between Himself and the humans He had created. True love has to be voluntary, and for something to be voluntary there has to be the freedom to choose. Man chose and here we are today.

Have you ever wondered why God is a Trinity? It would be so much simpler if the statement “The Lord our God, the Lord is one” was all we had to consider. But we are confronted in the Scriptures with this seeming contradiction. We have one God, but He is Father. Son and Holy Spirit: three distinct identities, but “so related to one another that one can’t be known without the other” as someone put it. Right from the beginning, in Genesis 1:26, we are introduced to this concept of a Triune God, or a Trinity, and this is followed up in the New Testament in places like John 10:30, 38). I can’t explain why there is a Trinity, but think about this: Right from the beginning, before there was sin that broke the relationship between God and man, and man and his fellow man, God demonstrated relationship within His own nature. He demonstrated in Himself what community in its perfect state looks like.

There is within the Trinity a perfect harmony. Though the roles of God, the Father, God, the Son and God, the Spirit, are different from each other, there are no clashes of wills, or of mission, or of personality. There is no misunderstanding, no mistreatment, no manipulation between the three. One never wrongs the others, and one is never wronged by the others. In John 10:30, 38 we are reminded: “I and the Father are one…the Father is in me and I am in the Father.” Scott McKnight in A Community Called Atonement writes: “The Father and the Son and the Spirit remain genuine separable identities while at the same time they are so related to one another that one can’t be known without the other. Relationality, in other words, is inherent to who God is.” God demonstrates community within Himself. And genuine community, as we find it in Acts, is the result of atonement and the forgiveness and reconciliation that comes out of atonement. We model the image of God in which we were created when we live out genuine community as we find it in the relationship between the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

It is the restoration to that perfect relationship that has been God’s mission since the fall of man—first of all the restoration of the relationship between man and His God, and then the restoration of man with his fellow man. And that restoration of relationship involves forgiveness, first and foremost.

The title for our first session is FILE DELETED. We need to begin by reviewing how forgiveness relates to us personally. We might think we have this all figured out, but there is a strong connection between what we believe personally about our own forgiveness, and how we live out that forgiveness in community. Without the first, the second is much more difficult.

“What does the word ‘forgiveness’ mean to you?” Let’s talk about that for a few moments.

My online dictionary expresses it this way:
forgive |fərˈgiv|
verb ( past -gave ; past part. -given ) [ trans. ]
stop feeling angry or resentful toward (someone) for an offense, flaw, or mistake :
• (usu. be forgiven) stop feeling angry or resentful toward someone for (an offense, flaw, or mistake) : they are not going to pat my head and say all is forgiven | [ intrans. ]
• used in polite expressions as a request to excuse or regard indulgently one's foibles, ignorance, or impoliteness :
cancel (a debt) :

In the Old Testament, the root word “forgive” that is most commonly used (nasa) means: to lift, bear up, carry, take

In the New Testament, the word for ‘forgive’ most commonly used (afemame) means: to send away

The word, charizonmai, is from the root work charis, meaning grace, which often appears in Scripture, carries within it the idea of granting forgiveness and graciously restoring one to another.

 There are others but these will take us where we want to go.

I’ve emphasized certain specific elements of the words that are used in Scripture to describe “forgive” because they connect perfectly with passages of Scripture such as Leviticus 16. The Old Testament is full of pictures showing us what Christ would come to do, many years often the events of the Old Testament, to provide a way for us to be forgiven. This illustration from Leviticus is one of the most fascinating.

In the Old Testament, before Christ came, there was a place where God’s justice was satisfied by a payment made by the sinner. This place was to be treated with respect. This was where atonement, or restitution, was made for sins committed.

Read Leviticus 16.

Several of the meanings of the word forgive have to do with carrying something away or sending something away—perfectly illustrated by the scapegoat (a person who is blamed for the wrongdoings, mistakes, or faults of others, esp. for reasons of expediency) that is sent into the wilderness as described for us in Leviticus.

Aaron is to offer the bull for his own sin offering to make atonement for himself and his household. Then he is to take the two goats and present them before the Lord at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting. He is to cast lots for the two goats—one lot for the Lord and the other for the scapegoat. Aaron shall bring the goat whose lot falls to the Lord and sacrifice it for a sin offering. But the goat chosen by lot as the scapegoat shall be presented alive before the Lord to be used for making atonement by sending it into the desert as a scapegoat” (16:6-10).

The atonement, the price to be paid for sin, had already been paid by the blood of bull and the first goat. The Hebrews weren’t allowed into the holy places (16:17) so they only had the high priest’s word than anything had happened on the inside. However, the scapegoat was an up-close-and-personal picture that atonement had taken place, that forgiveness had been obtained.

When Aaron has finished making atonement for the Most Holy Place, the Tent of Meeting and the altar, he shall bring forward the live goat. He is to lay both hands on the head of the live goat and confess over it all the wickedness and rebellion of the Israelites—all their sins—and put them on the goat’s head. He shall send the goat away into the desert in the care of a man appointed for the task. The goat will carry on itself all their sins to a solitary place; and the man shall release it in the desert” (16:20-22).

The book of Hebrews, particularly chapters 5 through 10, describes how Christ perfectly became all the elements that we find in the Old Testament pictures of atonement. He was the perfect High Priest, the perfect sacrifice. Though the means of atonement has changed from the Old Testament to the New, one thing hasn’t changed. Someone has to pay for sins committed. And the price is a hefty one.

Hebrews 9:22, 28 says, “…the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed by blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness…Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people…” Ephesians 2:13 reminds us: “…now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ.

A blood sacrifice was still required. That was the price God the Son paid so that we wouldn’t have to. That was the price God paid so that we could be forgiven.

Romans 3:25: “God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished—” The New International Version of the Bible uses the word atonement, the King James Version uses the word propitiation as does the English Standard Version. The Amplified uses a whole bunch of good words and The Message says it this way: “God sacrificed Jesus on the altar of the world to clear that world of sin. Having faith in him sets us in the clear. God decided on this course of action in full view of the public—to set the world in the clear with himself through the sacrifice of Jesus, finally taking care of the sins he had so patiently endured.”

I particularly like the two phrases: on the altar of the world and in full view of the public because they remind me of the scapegoat. What is declared in heaven can’t be seen by man, but what is physically demonstrated on earth can’t be denied.

Romans 4:4-8: “Now to the one who works, wages are not credited as a gift but as an obligation. However, to the one who does not work but trusts God who justifies the ungodly, their faith is credited as righteousness. David speaks the same things when he speaks of the blessedness of the one to whom God credits righteousness apart from works: ‘Blessed are those whose transgressions are covered. Blessed is the one whose sin the Lord will never count against them.”

Notice the word covered. What does that remind you of from our illustration in Leviticus? Our sin is covered by blood, Christ’s blood spilled when He took our place on the altar to pay for our sins.

Ephesians 1:7: “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace...

It’s a short verse but loaded with theology. Remember that one of the New Testament words used for forgiveness carries in it the idea of grace. To forgive is to be gracious and to restore what had been damaged by sin. That will be important when we talk about how forgiveness effects community.

1 John 1:9: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

What Jesus did on the cross is illustrated by both the goat that was sacrificed on the altar whose blood covered our sin and the scapegoat that illustrated the carrying away of our sin. Notice that this verse says all sin. That’s important to know when we, or someone else, thinks that there is some sin that is so bad it cannot be forgiven. Actually there is one sin that cannot be forgiven and that is the sin of unbelief. It’s called the sin unto death in 1 John 5:16.

So all through the Scripture these theological ideas and words appear, and describe what forgiveness from our sins involves.

But what happens to these sins when Christ forgives us? This is where the idea of the “delete” button comes in.

Let’s read the passages that illustrate what happens when God forgives us.

Psalm 103:12: far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.

Micah 7:19: You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl our iniquities into the depths of the sea.

Jeremiah 31:34: No longer will they teach their neighbor, or say to on another, ‘Know the Lord,’ because they will all know me, from the least to the greatest, declares the Lord, For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.

Psalm 51:9: Hide your face from my sins and blot out my iniquity.

Isaiah 44:22: I have swept away your offenses like a cloud, your sins like the morning mist. Return to me, for I have redeemed you.

God has a “delete” button.

There is another issue that comes up here. We know that God knows everything. We call this His “omniscience.” He doesn’t, nor can He, forget anything. So how can we say that God “forgets” our sins once they are forgiven? Someone has explained that in this way. God’s “forgetfulness” means that He chooses not to use our sin against us, effectively “forgetting” that they were committed. This becomes important when we look at forgiving others since we tend to use the sins that others have committed against us, AGAINST them, even after we have said that we have forgiven them.

But there is another aspect to this. If God chooses not to use our sin against us once it is forgiven, and pushes the button and deletes the file that contains that list of our sins, why do we search the cyberspace of our minds, retrieve the file, and use our forgiven sins against ourselves? Why can’t we delete the file just like God does and not use its contents against ourselves?

In the sessions that follow we will further explore how this forgiveness is applied personal and then how it is lived out in community.

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