The great message of the gospel is a message of forgiveness.
The Proffer of Forgiveness
The Lord Jesus, having opened the understanding of the disciples that they might understand the Scriptures, and having reviewed with them what was written of Him in the Law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the Psalms, proved to them that “it was necessary for Christ to suffer, and to rise from among the dead the third day, and that repentance and remission (forgiveness) of sins should be preached in His Name among all the nations, beginning at Jerusalem” (Luke 24:44-48). Again, Peter, in the house of Cornelius, the Gentile, summarized his message when he said, “To Him give all the prophets witness, that through His Name whosoever believeth in Him shall receive remission (forgiveness) of sins” (Acts 10:43). Later, Paul said to the Jews, “Be it known unto you therefore, men and brethren, that through this Man is preached unto you the forgiveness (remission) of sins, and by Him all that believe are justified from all things” (Acts 13:38-39). Our texts tell us that forgiveness can only be founded upon the work of Christ on the Cross. Forgiveness is the fruit of Calvary.
The Principles of Forgiveness
We need to look first at the words forgive, forgiveness, remit, and remission to learn their meaning. The word that is translated “forgive” in Colossians 2:13 and in Ephesians 4:32, “And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ has forgiven you’” (#5483) is charizomai, and means “to forgive, to give graciously, or to act graciously toward.” God acted graciously toward us when He forgave us. The more usual word for forgive is aphesia (#859 and #863). The word means to forgive, to dismiss, to send away. When God forgave us, He sent our sins away. The Psalmist said, “As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us” (Psalm 103:12). It is interesting to consider the words in Luke 4:18-19. The Lord Jesus said, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the broken-hearted; to preach deliverance to the captives; and recovering of sight to the blind; to set at liberty them that are bruised; to preach the acceptable year of the Lord.” The word translated “deliverance” in that text is aphesis, as also is the word “liberty!” Forgiveness is deliverance and therefore is freedom, a setting at liberty. It is a breaking of the bondage.
Secondly, we need to emphasize that the Bible teaches us that forgiveness is based solely on the shedding of the blood of the Lord Jesus. He said, as He introduced the Lord’s Supper, “This is My blood of the New Testament, which is shed for many, for (unto) remission of sins” (Matthew 26:28). And no doubt we all know the verse, “Without shedding of blood is no remission” (Hebrews 9:22). Paul wrote, “In Whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace” (Ephesians 1:7).
Thirdly, we need to be reminded that forgiveness is always and only on the ground of faith alone. We have earlier quoted Peter in the home of Cornelius. “To Him give all the prophets witness, that through His Name, whosoever believeth in Him shall receive remission of sins” (Acts 10:43). Forgiveness is never the result of works of righteousness. It is the result of simple faith in the Savior and His work on the cross.
A Picture of Forgiveness
On the Day of Atonement, Aaron was required to take from the congregation of the children of Israel “two kids of the goats for a sin offering and one ram for a burnt offering” (Leviticus 16:5). When the lots were cast upon the two goats, one was taken to be the sin offering and, as a result, was slain and its blood shed. The other goat was to be the scapegoat-the goat of departure. We read that “the goat, on which the lot fell to be the scapegoat, shall be presented alive before the Lord, to make an atonement with Him, and to let him go for a scapegoat into the wilderness” (16:10). After taking the blood of the slain goat inside the vail and sprinkling the mercy seat with the blood, Aaron was then instructed to bring the live goat, the goat of departure, and “lay both his hands upon the head of the live goat, and confess over him all the iniquities of the children of Israel, and all their transgressions in all their sins, putting them upon the head of the goat, and shall send him away by the hand of a fit man into the wilderness, and the goat shall bear upon him all their iniquities unto a land not inhabited: and he shall let go the goat in the wilderness” (16:20-22). As the congregation saw the live goat being led far away into the wilderness, they knew that their sins were being dismissed. John the Baptist, seeing the Lord Jesus coming to him said, “Behold the Lamb of God which taketh (beareth) away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). The two goats provide us with a vivid picture of forgiveness – the sending away of our sins.
The Preaching of Forgiveness
Luke’s record of the Great Commission is recorded for us in 24:44-48, “And He said unto them, ‘These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the Psalms, concerning Me.’ Then opened He their understanding, that they might understand the Scriptures, and said unto them, ‘Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day; and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His Name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. And ye are witnesses of these things.’ “
What a message! What a privilege! What a responsibility!