In the two previous lessons, God's care was not readily obvious in His commands for all to repent and confess their faith in Jesus His Son. We trust that His care for us was explained in those lessons. But with this lesson, surely it is quite apparent that God's care and desire is to forgive us! As with all men who love others, so also it is with God: when love exists between two, or is known, felt and shown toward another, there is always desire and concern for that object of our love. We want that person to feel loved and to be a part of our lives. But, when there is trouble between us, sin has been committed or perhaps only a misunderstanding, a separation takes place. We do not cease to love though we may feel badly. What then is our heart's desire? To be reconciled with that one we love. This reconciliation is what FORGIVENESS is all about.
THE MEANING OF FORGIVENESS
In the Old Testament language of Hebrew, the word "forgive" or "forgiveness" was used by God with reference to "lifting up; acceptance; exaltation or honor." It meant to "spare; cancel or cleanse...to purge or put off" sin. So, when the Old Testament prophets or preachers spoke of God and His forgiveness or forgiving nature, they had two basic things in mind: the putting away of sin by God from off the person seeking forgiveness, and the exaltation or raising up of that person to a place of respect and honor in God's sight.
Similar uses are found within the Greek words for "forgive" and "forgiveness"
in the New Testament. In both Testaments, God's desire was to "rescue,
deliver or grant freedom and liberty from sin" to all those who desired
to be forgiven by God for past sins.
ILLUSTRATIONS/EXCLAMATIONS OF GOD'S FORGIVENESS
Nehemiah, a man who served his people as Governor and served God in helping to restore to Israel her city, her temple worship, and her civil activities, worded this prayer to God: "And refused to obey, neither were mindful of thy wonders that thou didst among them; but hardened their necks, and in their rebellion appointed a captain to return to their bondage: but thou art A GOD READY TO PARDON, gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and forsookest them not" (Nehemiah 9:17).
Nehemiah was confessing the sins of his people through many generations. But through all the times that Israel had turned away from God, the Bible tells us that God remained One who was ready to pardon (FORGIVE). Here also from the Psalms is great news to read indeed: "For thou, Lord, art good, and READY TO FORGIVE, And abundant in lovingkindness unto all them that call upon thee" (Psalms 86:5).
"If thou, Jehovah, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? But THERE IS FORGIVENESS with thee, That thou mayest be feared" (Psalms 130:3-4).
BLESSING OF FORGIVENESS
Keeping in mind some of the meanings of the term FORGIVENESS, such as "to purge, cover and lift up," please take note of the blessing the apostle Paul mentions as he quotes from King David saying, "Blessed are they whose iniquities are FORGIVEN, And whose sins are COVERED" (Romans 4:7). Forgiven sins, therefore, are those that have been covered. This thought harkens back to the Old Testament sacrificial system of pouring the blood of sacrificial animals upon an altar to "cover" (temporarily) the sins of the people. All this looked forward to the time when all sins could be covered (permanently) by the great, one-time sacrifice of Jesus for all men's sins. Such sacrifice is discussed at length in the book of Hebrews. You should note especially the terms "once for all" as found in Hebrews. Clearly, Jesus could only die once for sinsóthis was sufficient!
How then, can we acquire this blessing of having our sins forgiven by being covered by the blood of Christ? We must contact that blood which cleanses and forgives. Not that Jesus must be sacrificed again, and then His blood poured upon us, but we must "go to" that blood where God has placed it for us to find. When Jesus died upon the cross, He shed His blood for the release of all mankind from sin. This release (another term coming from "forgiveness") is available for all men (Titus 2:11), but sadly not all will avail themselves of it due to their lack of faith or unwillingness to repent or confess Christ as Lord.
God has decreed that those who desire to be forgiven must "put to death" their "old man of sin," that is, their old way of living, thinking and believing. They must decide to believe God and follow what Jesus His Son says in the Bible. This "old man of sin" is "crucified, put to death or put off" in only one way. When we put this "old man of sin" off, or in other words, when we crucify our "old man of sin" with Christ, we can then be raised up (another term for forgiveness) with Christ. All these things point to the same thingóbeing FORGIVEN. Paul addresses them thus: "I have been CRUCIFIED WITH CHRIST; and it is no longer I that live, but Christ living in me: and that life which I now live in the flesh I live in faith, the faith which is in the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself up for me" (Galatians 2:20).
Again, please read:
"That ye PUT AWAY, as concerning your former manner of life, THE OLD MAN, that waxeth corrupt after the lusts of deceit; and that ye be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and PUT ON THE NEW MAN, that after God hath been created in righteousness and holiness of truth" (Ephesians 4:22-24).
How then can we put off this "old man" and "put on the new?" The Bible is quite clear regarding this question: "Or are ye ignorant that ALL WE WHO WERE BAPTIZED INTO CHRIST JESUS were baptized INTO HIS DEATH? We were buried therefore with him through baptism unto death: that like as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we also might walk in NEWNESS OF LIFE. For if we have become united with him in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection; KNOWING THIS, THAT OUR OLD MAN WAS CRUCIFIED WITH HIM, that the body of sin might be done away, that so WE SHOULD NO LONGER BE IN BONDAGE TO SIN" (Romans 6:3-6).
THIS MEANS WE ARE FORGIVEN!
Friend, God "would have all men to be saved, and come to the knowledge of the truth" (1 Timothy 2:4). His will and desire is to forgive all men of their trespasses and sins. He "is not slack concerning his promise, as some count slackness; but is longsuffering to you-ward, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance" (2 Peter 3:9). This forgiveness is found only in the blood of Christ, and this blood is contacted only in baptism. If you have not yet been baptized unto the remission (forgiveness) of your sins, we would ask you this same question that was asked of the apostle Paul just before he was baptized, "And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on his name" (Acts 22:16). God bless you as you continue to study God's word and learn His will for your life!
Questions for Lesson Nine
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