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Baker's Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology [1]

Terminology . There are several Hebrew terms equivalent to the English "to forgive, " as defined below. The three most common are verbs (used transitively): salah [2Col 2:7) and apoluo [   Luke 6:37 ) express the same idea.

Divine Forgiveness . God's restoration of relationship that entails the removal of objective guilt. Thus, to forgive the offense against God's holiness or the perpetrator of the offense are synonymous. Forgiveness can be extended both to nations (especially Israel) and to individuals.

The Old Testament . God is depicted in the Old Testament as merciful. He is described as "slow to anger" and "abounding in love/mercy, " "compassionate and gracious" ( Exodus 34:6;  Numbers 14:18;  Nehemiah 9:17;  Psalm 86:15;  103:8;  145:8;  Joel 2:13;  John 4:2 ). God is lenient toward his people, not treating them as their sin deserves ( Ezra 9:13-15;  Psalm 78:35-38;  103:8-10 ), and willing to forgive wickedness, rebellion, and sin ( Exodus 34:7;  Numbers 14:18 ).

There is, however, a tension in the character of God as depicted in the Old Testament, because juxtaposed to the characterization of God as merciful is the warning that God as righteous will not forgive sin or at least not leave sin unpunished ( Exodus 34:7;  Numbers 14:18;  Nahum 1:3 ). Although he is predisposed to be merciful, nonetheless he is a jealous God ( Exodus 20:5;  34:14;  Deuteronomy 4:23-24;  5:9;  6:15;  Joshua 24:19-20;  1:2 ).  Amos 7:1-9 illustrates God's character as both merciful and righteous: God forgives and repents of punishing Israel twice but after that, when Israel does not return, he can no longer spare the nation. This tension in God's nature manifests itself in God's dealings with nations—especially Israeland individuals.

National Forgiveness . In one case God forgave a nation other than Israel and did not bring the punishment on it that he had planned. God as righteous was compelled to bring judgment on Nineveh, but God as merciful sent Jonah to warn the city of the impending judgment. The Ninevites, including the king, believed and repented of their evil ways and their violence ( Jonah 3:8 ). As a result God as merciful relented from the evil that he had planned to bring on them. This is an illustration of the general principle by which God deals with nations ( Jeremiah 18:7-8 ).

Israel is distinguished from other nations as being chosen by God out of all the nations of the earth as his special possession (cf.  Exodus 19:15;  Deuteronomy 7:6;  14:2;  26:18;  1 Kings 3:8;  1 Chronicles 16:13;  Psalm 33:12;  105:6;  106:4-5;  135:4;  Isaiah 41:8;  43:10;  44:1-2 ). Israel's election has its roots in God's covenant with Abraham, renewed with Isaac and Jacob, thus giving God's relationship with the nation an unconditional basis ( Genesis 12:1-3;  15:18;  17:8,21;  22:17;  26:3-5;  28:13-15;  35:11-12;  Exodus 2:24;  6:4;  13:5,11;  32:13;  33:1;  Deuteronomy 1:8;  4:37;  7:8;  10:11;  26:15;  34:4;  Joshua 1:6;  21:43-44;  1 Kings 8:40;  1 Chronicles 16:16-18;  2 Chronicles 20:7;  Nehemiah 9:7-8;  Psalm 105:8-11 ). So, in spite of Israel's disobedience, after he has punished the nation, God is committed to dealing mercifully with it because of the covenant made with the fathers and his love for them ( Leviticus 26:42;  Deuteronomy 4:31;  9:26-27;  2 Kings 13:23;  Psalm 106:40-46;  Jeremiah 33:25-26;  Micah 7:20 ).

Although God made a covenant with the fathers, the generation of the exodus was required to enter into a covenant with him as well. At Mount Sinai the people agreed to do everything that was written in the Book of the Covenant ( Exodus 24:1-8 ). About forty years later the children of the generation of the exodus renewed this covenant ( Deuteronomy 27-30 ). The covenant entered into by these two generations of Israelites, unlike the covenant made with the fathers, was to be conditional on their obedience. God would bless them with prosperity in the land promised to the fathers, so long as they kept the law revealed through Moses; otherwise they would come under the curses of the covenant. It is significant that  Exodus 19:5 makes Israel's status as God's special possession conditional on obedience. Unfortunately, rebellion in the wilderness made the fulfillment of the promises given to the fathers impossible for the generation of the exodus (  Numbers 14:23,30;  32:11;  Deuteronomy 1:35 ); not surprisingly, in Deuteronomy the next generation is advised as to the conditionality of its standing (6:18; 11:8-9; 30:19-20; cf.  Jeremiah 11:1-5 ). The covenant made with Moses, in other words, was to be perpetually renewed by Israel.

A tension was thereby created between the indicative and imperative of Israel's life before God: God unconditionally promised the land and prosperity in the land to the fathers and their descendants (Abrahamic covenant). Their descendants, however, would possess the promises only on the condition of their obedience to the Law (Mosaic covenant), and, after they had sinned, would be restored to a state of prosperity and security in the land only on the condition of national repentance ( Deuteronomy 30:1-10;  31:14-32:47; Book of Judges  1 Kings 8:33-40,46-51;  2 Chronicles 6:24-31,36-39;  7:13-16 ). God as merciful made unconditional promises to Abraham and his descendants, but God as righteous demanded obedience to the Torah as the condition for the realization of these promises for each generation.

Individual Forgiveness . God as righteous required obedience from individual Israelites; by observance of all that God commanded each would live ( Leviticus 18:5;  Nehemiah 9:29 ). Only some violations of the Torah were forgivable, and these through the cult.

In the Torah the intention of the agent is irrelevant to a determination of whether an act needs expiation; any violation of the Torah renders the agent culpable. The expressed purpose of the sin offering, in fact, is to provide expiation for those who sin unintentionally ( Leviticus 4:2 ). The stress is on the objective status of the person or community before God. Even unavoidable things like childbirth (12:1-8) and skin disease (14:1-32) render a person in need of expiation. In some cases nonmoral entities, such as the altar (8:15) or houses, must be expiated (14:53).

There is nonetheless the recognition that there is a difference in kind between intentional and unintentional violations of the Torah. With the exception of theft or fraud against one's neighbor ( Leviticus 6:1-7;  Numbers 5:5-8 ), taking careless oaths ( Leviticus 5:4-5 ), and a lesser sexual offense ( Leviticus 19:20-22 ), intentional violations of the Torah were not forgivable; the perpetrator was to be killed or cut off.  Numbers 15:22-31 explicitly distinguishes between one who disobeys unintentionally, for whom a priest can atone, and one who disobeys intentionally, for whom the penalty is extirpation. The one who sins in a defiant manner despises the word of the Lord.

The cult provided the means of expiation for those violations of the Torah that were forgivable. Three types of sacrifice that could be brought by an individual were expiatory ( Leviticus 1-7 ): the burnt offering, the sin offering, and the guilt offering. Commonly in Leviticus and Numbers, a priest expiates for the offerer by means of a sacrifice and the offerer is pardoned. One of these sacrifices could also be offered for communal guilt (cf.  Numbers 15:22-26;  2 Chronicles 29:24 ).

These expiatory sacrifices that could be brought by individuals also formed part of daily, weekly, and monthly sacrifices, as well as special offerings during the festivals. In three instances expiation is said to be effected for all individuals within the community by a public offering comprised of one of these expiatory sacrifices ( Numbers 28:22,30;  29:5 ). This raises the possibility that all such public sacrifices not explicitly said to expiate do so also.

The Day of Atonement was another means by which individual sins could be forgiven. In  Leviticus 16 Aaron (or his descendants) is instructed first to expiate himself and his house annually . Then, taking two goats, Aaron is to offer onechosen by lotas a sin offering for the expiation of the sanctuary (v. 16), while over the other he is to confess all the wickedness of the sons of Israel and all their rebelliontheir sinand release this second goat into the wilderness. The released goat removes all wickedness. This was a national ritual designed to remove individual offenses against God's holiness.

In his dealing with individual Israelites, God as merciful stands in tension with God as righteous. He does not deal with individual sin as it deserves, but forgives and mitigates punishment.

The Day of Atonement seems designed to atone for all the sins of an individualeven those that should result in extirpation. Consistency should demand that the violations of the Torah to be expiated on the Day of Atonement be those unknown and forgivable violations committed by individuals during the past year. But  Leviticus 16:21 stipulates that Aaron will confess over the goat "all the wickedness and rebellion of the Israelitesall their sins"; the fact that these three terms are used in tandem to denote sin in its totality implies that otherwise unforgivable violations of the Torah were forgiven on that day. To the objection that what is forgiven must be that which the Torah allows to be forgiven, it can be countered that God is described as one who forgives wickedness, rebellion, and sin (  Exodus 34:6 ).

In addition, God forgives people who should not be forgivable; for the sake of mercy God violates the conditions of his own covenant and often Acts more leniently than the Torah would allow. David murdered Uriah and committed adultery with Bathsheba ( 2 Samuel 11 ); both actions were punishable by death so that both David and Bathsheba should have been killed. Instead, God forgave David (and presumably Bathsheba), although he was punished for his deeds ( 2 Samuel 12 ). In  Psalm 51 , said to have been occasioned by Nathan's rebuke, David asks God to forgive him (vv. 1-2) and expresses confidence that his sacrifice of a broken spirit and contrite heart are acceptable to God (vv. 16-17). Solomon went so far as to worship other gods, including the detestable god Molech ( 1 Kings 11 ). Although God removed the kingdom from his son as punishment, Solomon was not judged according to the Torah, which required death for those who turned away from worshiping and serving God ( Deuteronomy 17:2-7 ). God's dealings with the subsequent kings of Israel and Judah also reflect a much greater leniency than was allowed in the Torah. In spite of all the evil Ahab had done, God did not kill Ahab, which was the required penalty for his sin of complicity in the murder of Naboth. Because Ahab repented God did not even bring punishment on Ahab's house ( 1 Kings 21:27-29 ), as he had originally planned.

Repentance is a factor causing God to depart from the standards of the Torah. The individual is understood on analogy to the nation, so that, just as the nation is restored to favor after repentance, so is the individual. Although the prophets mostly spoke to Israel as a nation, in  Ezekiel 18:21-23,27 the individual Israelite is addressed and offered God's unconditional forgiveness. Repentance after committing a violation of the Torah punishable by death has the effect of bringing about God's mercy.

The Eschatological Resolution of the Tension . The tension between God as merciful and God as righteous manifesting itself on both national and individual levels was to be resolved by God at the time of Israel's eschatological renewal. The prophets often spoke of a time when the nation would be restored to the land and forgiven. At this time God would also give to individual Israelites the means by which to meet the conditions of the Mosaic covenant, so that the tension between God's unconditional and conditional promises (the Abrahamic and Mosaic covenants) would become irrelevant: since individual Israelites would have a heart to obey God, the nation would be obedient. This restoration is often spoken of as the establishment of another (eschatological) covenant, which will issue in both forgiveness and the spiritual transformation of the people, and is often associated with the giving of the Spirit ( Jeremiah 31:31-34;  32:27-41;  50:5,20;  Ezekiel 16:59-63;  36:24-32 ). Related to the eschatological resolution of the tension is the Isaian servant, who is said to be the servant of the covenant ( Isaiah 42:6 ) and whose death is expiatory ( Isaiah 53 ).

The New Testament . The tension between God's dealings with human beings in terms of his mercy and righteousness finds resolution in the New Testament. That the eschatological promises of forgiveness and spiritual transformation have become realities through the appearance, death, resurrection, and exaltation of Jesus Christ is assumed throughout the New Testament. This eschatological resolution pertains to the nation, individuals within the nation, and individual Gentiles.

John the Baptist offered eschatological forgiveness to the nation on the condition of repentance ( Mark 1:4;  Luke 3:3 ). His offer exemplified the tension between God as merciful and God as righteous, as shown by the fact John rejected some who had not first produced the fruit of repentance before seeking the baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sin. He evidently assumed that Israel was the totality of Jews who were faithful to the covenant. John the Baptist pointed to the resolution of this tension, however, when he said that the one who would come after him would baptize with the Holy Spirit ( Matthew 3:11;  Mark 1:8;  Luke 3:16 ).

Jesus proclaimed the kingdom of God, and offered his hearers the possibility of entrance into this kingdom on the condition of repentance. He was the mediator of eschatological salvation, which included the extension of forgiveness ( Matthew 9:3-6;  Mark 2:7-12;  Luke 5:21-25;  7:36-50 ). Like John the Baptist, Jesus required that the offer of eschatological salvation be appropriated by individuals; the process of entering the kingdom was that of becoming a child, by passively receiving God's eschatological forgiveness. It is for this reason that Jesus said to his opponents that "the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you" ( Matthew 21:31 b).

Jesus' offer of the kingdom to all on the condition of repentance led to the charge that he associated with tax-collectors and sinners, which his opponents considered offensive to God's righteousness ( Matthew 9:10-13;  11:19;  Mark 2:15-17;  Luke 5:30-32;  7:34;  15:2 ). The offense probably lay not in the fact that Jesus taught that God would forgive the repentant, but that Jesus actively sought out sinners and offered them the possibility of eschatological forgiveness. In Jesus' opponents' view, sinners ought to take the initiative.

One must remember that for a Jew repentance meant more than simple remorse; it included moral reformation. This explains why some of Jesus' sayings emphasize the need for righteousness in order to be included in the kingdom of God. The same stress on God as both merciful and righteous found in the Old Testament period is found in Jesus' teaching about the kingdom. The mere fact that Jesus required repentance as a condition of entrance into the kingdom is sufficient to make the point. These two aspects of Jesus' teaching, however, are not in tension, because he saw his time as that of eschatological salvation, the time of the resolution of the tension between God as merciful and God as righteous in his dealings with human beings. Jesus proclaimed the kingdom of God and later taught that his death would be the means by which the new covenant would be realized. He also taught that the Spirit would be given after his return to the Father ( John 7:39;  14-16 ). Understood against the background of the eschatological promises of the Old Testament, Jesus was saying that the time of Israel's eschatological forgiveness and spiritual transformation had come.

Jesus' preaching of the kingdom of God led to his arrest and execution. This had two consequences. First, in response to the crisis in his ministry that this produced, Jesus incorporated his rejection and impending death into his message. He interpreted his death as vicarious and expiatory, as the means by which eschatological forgiveness and renewal would come to Israel and the nations in spite of Israel's rejection of the messenger of the kingdom. Jesus understood his death in light of the destiny of the Servant as a guilt offering for many ( Matthew 20:28;  Mark 10:45;  Luke 22:37 ). He also interpreted his impending death at the Last Supper as that of the eschatological Passover lamb whose sacrifice would bring about the possibility of forgiveness and the realization of the new covenant ( Matthew 26:26-28;  Mark 14:22-24;  Luke 22:19-20 ). Second, Jesus' rejection would bring into being a messianic community, the church ( ekklesia [   Acts 1:8;  2:1-13 ). Also Gentiles would become part of this community and receive the Holy Spirit ( Matthew 28:18-19;  Acts 10 ). Jesus still foresaw, however, a future for the nation ( Luke 21:24;  Acts 1:6-7 ), when God would bring about eschatological salvation on a national basis.

Paul writes that Jesus' death is the means by which eschatological forgiveness comes not only to the Jew but also to the Gentile ( Galatians 3:7-9; cf.  Acts 3:25 ). Like Jesus, he sees the tension between God as merciful and God as righteous resolved in the realization of the eschatological promises of forgiveness and spiritual transformation.

There are some passages in the New Testament that suggest baptism is a necessary condition for acquiring eschatological forgiveness ( Acts 2:38;  Romans 6:3-4;  Colossians 2:12;  1 Peter 3:21 ). This is a controversial subject; suffice it to say that at the very least baptism is intricately bound up with the reception of eschatological forgiveness.

First John speaks of forgiveness after having received eschatological forgiveness. The author says that the one who is in him (Christ)/born of God does not sin habitually (3:6,9); this person has the Spirit (3:24). But John recognizes that nonhabitual sin is an inevitability and requires a means of expiation (1:7-2:2). Expiation comes by confession, after which the sinner will be cleansed from all unrighteousness by Jesus' expiatory sacrifice.

In the New Testament there are references to sins that are unforgivable. Jesus spoke about blasphemy against the Spirit for which there could be no forgiveness ( Matthew 12:31-32;  Mark 3:28-29;  Luke 12:10 ). The author of Hebrews also allows for the possibility of sins committed by "believers" that are not forgivable (6:4-8; 10:26-31), and 1John refers to a sin that leads to death (5:16-17). These are difficult passages to interpret, but probably should be understood as denoting apostasy issuing in sins for which there is no repentance. The apostate, moreover, never had a genuine experience of God's eschatological salvation.

Human Forgiveness . In the Lord's Prayer, receiving forgiveness from God is joined to forgiving others ( Matthew 6:12;  Luke 11:4 ). Jesus' parable of the unmerciful servant makes the point that human beings are obliged to forgive because God has forgiven them ( Matthew 18:23-35 ). God's forgiveness is actually said to be conditional upon forgiving others ( Matthew 6:14;  18:35;  Mark 11:25-26;  Luke 6:37 ). Jesus says that there ought to be no limit on the number of times that one should forgive another so long as the offender repents and asks for forgiveness ( Matthew 18:21-22;  Luke 17:3-4 ).

Barry D. Smith

See also Atonement; Blasphemy Against The Holy Spirit; Death Of Christ; Faith; Repentance

Bibliography . A. Bü hler, Studies in Sin and Atonement  ; P. Garnet, Salvation and Atonement in the Qumran Scrolls  ; M. Hengel, The Atonement  ; G. E. Ladd, A Theology of the New Testament  ; E. A. Martens, God's Design: A Focus on Old Testament Theology  ; J. Milgrom, Cult and Conscience: The Asham and the Priestly Doctrine of Repentance  ; G. F. Moore, Judaism in the First Centuries of the Christian Era  ; G. F. Oehler, Theology of the Old Testament  ; E. P. Sanders, Paul and Palestinian Judaism  ; B. D. Smith, Jesus' Last Passover Meal  ; V. Taylor, Jesus and His Sacrifice .

Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible [2]

FORGIVENESS . Like many other words employed to convey ideas connected with the relations of God and man, this covers a variety of thoughts. In both OT and NT we have evidences of a more elastic vocabulary than the EV [Note: English Version.] would lead us to suppose. 1. The OT has at least three different words all tr. [Note: translate or translation.] ‘forgiveness’ or ‘ pardon ,’ referring either to God’s actions with regard to men (cf.   Exodus 34:7 ,   Psalms 86:5 ,   Nehemiah 9:17 ) or to forgiveness extended to men by each other (cf.   Genesis 50:17 ,   1 Samuel 25:28 ). At a very early period of human, or at least of Jewish, history, some sense of the need of forgiveness by God seems to have been felt. This will be especially evident if the words of despairing complaint put into the mouth of Caln be tr. [Note: translate or translation.] literally (see Driver, The Book of Genesis , on   Genesis 4:13 , cf. RVm [Note: Revised Version margin.] ). The power to forgive came to be looked on as inherent in God, who not only possessed the authority, but loved thus to exhibit His mercy (  Daniel 9:9 ,   Nehemiah 9:17 ,   Jeremiah 36:3 ). In order, however, to obtain this gift, a corresponding condition of humiliation and repentance on man’s part had to be fulfilled (  2 Chronicles 7:14 ,   Psalms 86:5 ), and without a conscious determination of the transgressor to amend and turn towards his God, no hope of pardon was held out (  Joshua 24:19 ,   2 Kings 24:4 ,   Jeremiah 5:1;   Jeremiah 5:7 ). On the other hand, as soon as men acknowledged their errors, and asked God to forgive, no limit was set to His love in this respect (  1 Kings 8:36;   1 Kings 8:50 ,   Psalms 103:3; cf.   Deuteronomy 30:1-10 ). Nor could this condition be regarded as unreasonable, for holiness, the essential characteristic of the Divine nature, demanded an answering correspondence on the part of man made in God’s image. Without this correspondence forgiveness was rendered impossible, and that, so to speak, automatically (cf.   Leviticus 19:2 ,   Joshua 24:19; see   Numbers 14:18 ,   Job 10:14 ,   Nahum 1:3 ).

According to the Levitical code, when wrong was done between man and man, the first requlsite in order to Divine pardon was restitution, which had to be followed up by a service of atonement ( Leviticus 6:2-7 ). Even in the case of sins of ignorance, repentance and its outward expression in sacrifice had to precede forgiveness (  Leviticus 4:13 ff.,   Numbers 15:23 ff. etc.). Here the educative influence of the Law must have been powerful, inculcating as it did at once the transcendent holiness of God and the need of a similar holiness on the part of His people (  Leviticus 11:44 ). Thus the Pauline saying, ‘The law hath been our tutor to bring us to Christ’ (  Galatians 3:24 ), is profoundly true, and the great priestly services of the Temple, with the solemn and ornate ritual, must have given glimpses of the approach by which men could feel their way and obtain the help indispensable for the needs adumbrated by the demands of the Mosaic institutions. The burden of the prophetic exhortations, ‘Turn ye, turn ye, why will ye die?’ (  Ezekiel 33:11; cf.   Isaiah 44:22 ,   Jeremiah 35:15;   Jeremiah 18:11 ,   Hosea 14:1 ,   Joel 2:13 etc.), would be meaningless if the power to obey were withheld, or the way kept hidden. Indeed, these preachers of moral righteousness did not hesitate to emphasize the converse side of this truth in dwelling on the ‘repentance’ of God and His returning to His afflicted but repentant people (  Jonah 3:9 ,   Malachi 3:7 etc.). The resultant effect of this mutual approach was the restoration to Divine favour, of those who had been alienated, by the free act of forgiveness on the part of God (  Psalms 85:4 ,   Isaiah 55:7;   Isaiah 59:20 ,   Jeremiah 13:17;   Jeremiah 13:24 etc.).

2. We are thus not surprised to learn that belief in the forgiveness of sins was a cardinal article of the Jewish faith in the time of Jesus (  Mark 2:7 =   Luke 5:21 , cf.   Isaiah 43:25 ). Nor was the teaching of Jesus in any instance out of line with the national belief, for, according to His words, the source of all pardon was His Father (  Mark 11:25 f.,   Matthew 6:14 f.; cf. His appeal on the cross, ‘Father, forgive them,’   Luke 23:34 ). It is true that ‘the Son of Man hath power on earth to forgive sins’ (  Mark 2:10 =   Matthew 9:6 =   Luke 5:24 ), but the form of the expression shows that Jesus was laying claim to a delegated authority (cf.   Luke 7:43 , where, as in the case of the palsied man, the words are declaratory rather than absolute; see Plummer, ICC [Note: CC International Critical Commentary.] , in loc. ). This is more clearly seen by a reference to NT epistolary literature, where again and again forgiveness and restoration are spoken of as mediated ‘in’ or ‘through’ Christ (  Ephesians 4:32 ,   Colossians 2:12 ff.,   1 Peter 5:10; cf.   Ephesians 1:7 ,   Revelation 1:5 ,   1 John 2:12 etc.). Here, as in OT, only more insistently dwelt on, the consciousness of guilt and of the need of personal holiness is the first step on the road to God’s forgiveness (  1 John 1:9 , cf.   Psalms 32:5;   Psalms 51:3 etc.); and the open acknowledgment of these feelings is looked on as the natural outcome of their existence (  Acts 19:18; cf.   Romans 10:10 ,   1 John 1:9 ). The hopelessness which at times seemed to have settled down on Jesus, when confronted by Pharisaic opposition, was the result of the moral and spiritual blindness of the religious teachers to their real position (  John 9:40 f.).

3. Again, following along the line we have traced in the OT, only more definitely and specifically emphasized, the NT writers affirm the necessity for a moral likeness between God and man (cf.   Matthew 5:48 ). It is in this region, perhaps, that the most striking development is to be seen. Without exhibiting, in their relations to each other, the Divine spirit of forgiveness, men need never hope to experience God’s pardon for themselves. This, we are inclined to think, is the most striking feature in the ethical creations of Jesus’ teaching. By almost every method of instruction, from incidental postulate (  Matthew 6:12 =  Luke 11:4 ,   Mark 11:25 ) to deliberate statement (  Matthew 18:21 ff;   Matthew 6:15 ,   Mark 11:25 ,   Luke 17:4 ) and elaborate parable (  Matthew 18:23-35 ), He sought to attune the minds of His hearers to this high and difficult note of the Christian spirit (cf.   Colossians 3:13 ,   1 John 4:11 ). Once more, Jesus definitely asserts the limitation to which the pardon and mercy even of God are subjected. Whatever may be the precise meaning attaching to the words ‘an eternal sin’ (  Mark 3:29 ), it is plain that some definite border-line is referred to as the line of demarcation between those who may hope for this evidence of God’s love and those who are outside its scope (  Matthew 12:32 ). See art. Sin, iii. 1.

4. We have lastly to consider the words, recorded only by St. John, of the risen Jesus to His assembled disciples (  John 20:23 ). It is remarkable that this is the only place in the Fourth Gospel where the word tr. [Note: translate or translation.] ‘forgive’ (RV [Note: Revised Version.] ) occurs, and we must not forget that the incident of conferring the power of absolution on the body of believers, as they were gathered together, is peculiar to this writer. At the same time, it is instructive to remember that nowhere is St. John much concerned with a simple narrative of events as such; he seems to be engaged rather in choosing those facts which he can subordinate to his teaching purposes. The choice, then, of this circumstance must have been intentional, as having a particular significance, and when the immediately preceding context is read, it is seen that the peculiar power transmitted is consequent upon the gift of the Holy Spirit. On two other occasions somewhat similar powers were promised, once personally to St. Peter as the great representative of that complete faith in the Incarnation of which the Church is the guardian in the world (  Matthew 16:19 ), and once to the Church in its corporate capacity as the final judge of the terms of fellowship for each of its members (  Matthew 18:18 ). In both these instances the words used by Jesus with regard to this spiritual power differ from those found in the narrative of the Fourth Gospel, and the latter is seen to be more definite, profound, and far-reaching in its scope than the former. The abiding presence of the living Spirit in the Church is the sure guarantee that her powers in judging spiritual things are inherent in her (cf.   1 Corinthians 2:12-15 ) as the Body of Christ. Henceforth she carries in her bosom the authority so emphatically claimed by her Lord, to declare the wondrous fact of Divine forgiveness (  Acts 13:38 ) and to set forth the conditions upon which it ultimately rests (see Westcott, Gospel of St. John, in loc. ). Closely connected with the exercise of this Divinely given authority is the rite of Baptism, conditioned by repentance and issuing in ‘the remission of sins’ (  Acts 2:38 ). It is the initial act in virtue of which the Church claims to rule, guide, and upbuild the life of her members. It is symbolic, as was John’s baptism, of a ‘death unto sin and a new birth unto righteousness’ (  Mark 1:4 =  Luke 3:3; cf.   Romans 6:4 ,   Colossians 2:12 ). It is more than symbolic, for by it, as by a visible channel, the living and active Spirit of God is conveyed to the soul, where the fruition of the promised forgiveness is seen in the fulness of the Christian life (  Acts 2:38 , cf.   Acts 10:43;   Acts 10:47;   Acts 19:5 f.).

5. On more than one occasion St. Paul speaks of the forgiveness of sins as constituting the redemption of the human race effected by the death of Christ (‘through his blood’   Ephesians 1:7 , cf.   Colossians 1:14 ); and the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews emphasizes this aspect of the atoning work of Jesus by showing its harmony with all with which previous revelation had made us familiar, for ‘apart from shedding of blood there is no remission’ (  Hebrews 9:22 ). The same writer, moreover, asserts that once this object has been accomplished, nothing further remains to be done, as ‘there is no more offering for sin’ (  Hebrews 10:18 ) than that which the ‘blood of Jesus’ (  Hebrews 10:19 ) has accomplished. The triumphant cry of the Crucified, ‘It is finished’ (  John 19:30 ), is for this writer the guarantee not only that ‘the Death of Christ is the objective ground on which the sins of men are remitted’ (Dale, The Atonement , p. 430 f.); it is also the assurance that forgiveness of sin is the goal of the life and death of Him whose first words from the cross breathed a prayer for the forgiveness of His tormentors.

J. R. Willis.

Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament [3]

The purpose of this article is not to discuss the large theological problems involved (see Atonement), but to consider the passages in which the term actually occurs in the Acts and the Epistles. The general word is ἀφίημι, of very common occurrence in the NT, especially in the Gospels, meaning ‘send away from oneself’ ( Matthew 13:36), ‘let go’ ( Matthew 4:20) ‘turn away from’ ( Matthew 19:29,  1 Corinthians 7:11), ‘pass over’ or ‘neglect’ ( Hebrews 6:1,  Matthew 23:23), ‘relinquish one’s prey’ (used of robbers [ Luke 10:30] or a disease [ Matthew 8:15,  Mark 1:31,  Luke 4:39,  John 4:52]), or simply ‘leave a person free’ ( Mark 10:14;  Mark 14:6,  John 11:44,  Acts 5:38), or treat him as if one had no more concern with him. Hence it is used of remitting a debt ( Matthew 18:27;  Matthew 6:12;  Matthew 6:14), equivalent to οὐ λογἱζεσθαι ( 2 Corinthians 5:19; see also Sanday-Headlam, Romans 5 [ International Critical Commentary , 1902], 100); the creditor tears up the bill, so to speak, or never enters the debt in his ledger. The verb, however, is rare outside the Gospels in the sense of ‘forgive.’ It occurs in  Acts 8:22 (the forgiveness of the thought of Simon’s heart),  James 5:15,  1 John 1:9;  1 John 2:12 (in each case with ‘sins’), and, as a quotation, in  Romans 4:7 (the forgiveness of ‘lawlessnesses,’ ἀνομίαι).

Side by side with these instances, however, we must put the noun, ἅφεσις. This is very rare in the Gospels (it is never attributed to Christ Himself, save in quotations and in the institution of the Eucharist in  Matthew 26:28 -not in the parallels). It is more frequent in the Acts:  Acts 2:38 (baptism for forgiveness of sins in the name of Christ),  Acts 5:31 (repentance and forgiveness of sins),  Acts 10:43 (forgiveness of sins through His name),  Acts 13:38 (through Him the forgiveness of sins is preached),  Acts 26:18 (forgiveness of sins … by faith that is in Christ). Here, the object is always ‘sins’; forgiveness is sometimes explicitly joined to repentance and baptism; but more particularly connected with Christ, Christ’s name, or faith in Christ. The procedure suggested by these passages is simple: preaching Christ, belief in Christ, and the resultant acceptance of the new position of freedom from sin. This might be all that was explicit in the experience of the early believers; it is obviously not the last word for the preacher, the theologian, or the believer himself. Hence, the fuller expression of St. Paul in  Ephesians 1:7, ‘in whom we have our redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of our transgressions’ (cf.  Colossians 1:14). Here, the figure of the cancelling of a debt is joined to another-rescue from some usurping power; and this (in the passage in Eph., not in Col.) is definitely connected with the shedding of the blood of Christ at His death; so in  Hebrews 9:22 (‘apart from shedding of blood there is no remission of sins’). The only other passage in the Epistles where the word occurs is  Hebrews 10:18, where forgiveness of sins and lawlessnesses is regarded as equivalent to their being remembered no more ( Jeremiah 31:34), and so needing no further sacrifice.

At first sight, it would seem strange that ἀφίημι is not used oftener; it does not occur at all in Rom. in the sense of forgiveness, save in a quotation ( Romans 4:7, from  Psalms 32:1). But the reason is not far to seek. The conception, as already said, was not final; it was a figure, and one of several possible figures; and it was a single term applied to a mysterious and far-reaching experience which required further analysis. The writers of the Epistles do not neglect the experience, but they pass beyond the expression. In the primitive apostolic teaching of the Acts, it was enough to announce that Jesus was the Messiah, that He had risen from the death to which the rulers of the Jews had condemned Him, and that in Him the old promises of forgiveness of sins wore fulfilled-forgiveness even for the sin of putting Him to death. The cardinal notes of the apostles’ early preaching are the facts of the Resurrection and Messiahship of Jesus, and the necessity of believing in Him for the promised spiritual change. But it was inevitable that further questions should arise. How can this forgiveness be reconciled with God’s unchanging abhorrence of sin? What is the connexion between the death of Christ and the change in me? To answer these, St. Paul takes up the suggestion implied in the word ἄφεσις, ‘a cancelled debt,’ already familiar to Pharisaic thought, and develops it into his doctrine of justification: there is a debt-all men owe it-caused by the nonperformance of the necessary works; judgment must therefore be given against us; but with the Judge who would pronounce the sentence there is also grace. Christ the Son of God dies for our sin; and this same death we also die, by faith, to sin; hence, we are justified before God-that is, we are like men who have never contracted a debt; and there is nothing for us but acquittal. This forensic figure is worked out by St. Paul more fully than any other; but he lays equal stress on the more mystical conceptions of redemption (see above) and death to sin ( Romans 6:11 ‘estimate yourselves to be mere corpses with regard to sin’). ‘The importance of faith, however, is never left unexpressed, faith being at once surrender to, reliance on, and identification with its object. Here, St. Paul brings us to the circle of the thought of St. John, which only once refers to forgiveness (see above), but moves round the act of believing which joins man to God.

As kindred expressions we may notice the words χαρίζεσθαι-properly, ‘do a favour to a person,’ or, with the accusative of the thing, ‘make a present of’-sometimes in the sense of making a present of an act of wrong-doing, i.e. , not insisting on the penalty for it ( 2 Corinthians 12:13,  Colossians 2:13); πάρεσις ( Romans 3:25), ‘a temporary suspension of punishment which may be one day inflicted,’ and therefore entirely distinct from forgiveness (see R. C. Trench, NT Synonyms 8, 1876, p. 110ff.); καλύπτειν, ‘to conceal, cover over’ (cf. the Hebrew kipper ) ( Romans 4:7 [quoting from  Psalms 32:1],  1 Peter 4:8); and λύειν, ‘to loose’ ( Revelation 1:5).

Literature.-Forgiveness has very little modern literature devoted to it; but it is discussed in all literature dealing with Atonement and Reconciliation, and, at least Indirectly, in that referring to Sin and Conversion. See the articles Atonement, Conversion, Justification, Repentance, Sin, with the Literature there cited. Reference may also be made to G. B. Stevens, Theology of the NT , 1899; A. Ritschl, The Christian Doctrine of Justification and Reconciliation , Eng. translation, 1900; W. E. Orchard, Modern Theories of Sin , 1909; W. L. Walker, The Gospel of Reconciliation , 1909; P. T. Forsyth, The Work of Christ , 1910; R. Mackintosh, Christianity and Sin , 1913.

W. F. Lofthouse.

Holman Bible Dictionary [4]

Everyone Needs Forgiveness The basic facts of the Bible are God's creative power and holiness, human rebellion, and the efforts of our merciful God to bring us back to an intended relationship of sonship and fellowship. The need of forgiveness is first seen in the third chapter of Genesis, as Adam and Eve willfully disobeyed God, choosing rather to satisfy their own self-will. The result was guilt ( Genesis 3:8 ,Genesis 3:8, 3:10 ), separation from God, loss of fellowship ( Genesis 3:8 ,Genesis 3:8, 3:23-24 ), and a life of hardship, anxiety, and death ( Genesis 3:16-24 ) lived under the wrath of God. David expressed this terrible condition of the unforgiven sinner graphically in  Psalm 51:1 . He spoke of being unclean ( Psalm 51:2 ,Psalms 51:2, 51:7 ,Psalms 51:7, 51:10 ), of being sinful by his very nature ( Psalm 51:5 ), of his grief and sorrow at being separated from God ( Psalm 51:8 ,Psalms 51:8, 51:11-12 ), and of his guilt ( Psalm 51:14 ). Sinners cannot live rightly without God, and yet as a sinner a person is cut off from the holy God. Only through the mercy of God can one find peace and forgiveness.

Forgiveness in the Old Testament The primary means of obtaining forgiveness in the Old Testament is through the sacrificial system of the covenant relationship, which God established when He brought His people out of Egypt. The sacrificial system expressed the dynamics of the sinful human condition. The bringing of the sacrifice showed the sense of need; the laying of the hands on the living sacrifice symbolized identification of the person with the sacrifice, as did the releasing of the life of the animal through the sacrificial slaughter. Emphasis on an unblemished sacrifice stressed the holiness of God contrasted with human sinfulness. The forgiveness of God, channeled through the sacrificial offering, was an act of mercy freely bestowed by God, not purchased by the one bringing the offering.

An emphasis upon God's demand for a repentant heart as the basis for forgiveness, while not totally absent earlier (see Ps . 51), gained its full expression in the prophets ( Isaiah 1:10-18;  Jeremiah 7:21-26;  Hosea 6:6;  Amos 5:21-27 ). This element does not negate but rather deepens the understanding of the sacrifice. The Old Testament sacrificial system could never give once-for-all forgiveness. It had to be repeated over and over ( Hebrews 10:1-4 ).

Forgiveness in the New Testament Jesus is the perfect and final Sacrifice through which God's forgiveness is mediated to every person ( Romans 3:25;  Hebrews 10:11-12 ). The connection of Jesus with forgiveness is seen in His own self-understanding. According to the Old Testament, only God could forgive sins; yet Jesus declared that He could do so, and He did ( Mark 2:1-12;  John 8:2-11 ). He saw His own death as the fulfillment of the Old Testament sacrificial system. At the Last Supper He spoke of His death as “my blood of the new testament [covenant]” ( Mark 14:24 ). Jesus Himself is the unblemished Sacrifice ( Isaiah 53:3-7 ), offered once for all ( Hebrews 9:28 ) not by a human being, but by God Himself in Christ Jesus for the sins of mankind ( Hebrews 9:14;  Romans 3:25;  Acts 13:38 ). Forgiveness through the sacrifice of Christ is available for everyone who truly repents ( Luke 23:39-43;  John 8:2-11 ). This is the message of the early church. The promised new age has arrived; old things have passed away ( Acts 2:36-39;  Acts 3:13-19 ,Acts 3:13-19, 3:26;  Acts 5:31 ).

The Sin Which is Unforgivable It is true that Jesus spoke of an unforgivable sin ( Matthew 12:22-32;  Mark 3:22-30;  Luke 12:10 ). It is not a question of God's ability or desire to forgive, but rather a matter of human willingness to meet the conditions for forgiveness. The background of the saying was the controversy between Jesus and the religious leaders of His time. The Pharisees refused to see the merciful hand of God in the work of Jesus, and rather attributed His miracles to the power of Satan. For such who deliberately closed their minds to the work and invitation of God in Christ to draw near, repent, and receive forgiveness, there is no hope. But the fault lies with them, rather than with God.

Human Forgiveness in the New Testament As a part of His teaching about human need for forgiveness and the means of receiving it, Jesus spoke of the human dimension of forgiveness. A firm condition for the receiving of God's forgiveness is the willingness to forgive others. In the Lord's Prayer ( Matthew 6:12;  Luke 11:4 ) and the parable of the Unforgiving Servant ( Matthew 18:12-35 ) Jesus clearly indicated such is the case: “But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” ( Matthew 6:15 ). The forgiven life is the forgiving life.

Human forgiveness reflects our experience and understanding of divine forgiveness. Love, not wooden rules, governs forgiveness ( Matthew 18:21-22 ). Jesus powerfully demonstrated this teaching on the cross, as He asked for forgiveness for His executioners ( Luke 23:34 ). Paul reminded the church at Ephesus of both the grounds of their forgiveness and the basis on which they must forgive one another ( Ephesians 4:32 ). See Cross; Mercy; Redemption; Sin .

Earl C. Davis

Bridgeway Bible Dictionary [5]

Since wrongdoing spoils a relationship, forgiveness is necessary if the relationship is to be restored. Forgiveness does not mean pretending that some wrongdoing did not happen. It means recognizing the wrongdoing for what it is, and then in love forgiving it, forgetting it, and restoring the relationship with the forgiven person ( Hebrews 10:17-18).

The basis of forgiveness

Men and women, being sinners, have more than spoiled their relationship with God; they have also fallen under God’s judgment. They are therefore in need of God’s forgiveness if they are to escape that judgment ( Exodus 32:32;  Romans 3:23-24). God alone can grant this forgiveness ( Mark 2:7;  Mark 2:10;  Acts 5:31), but sinners are in no position to demand it of him. No person has a right to forgiveness. Forgiveness is possible only because of the grace of God – the mercy that he exercises towards people even though they do not deserve it ( Numbers 14:19;  Psalms 78:38;  Romans 5:20;  Titus 3:4-7).

God wants to forgive ( Nehemiah 9:17;  Micah 7:18) but he requires repentance and faith in those who seek his forgiveness ( Psalms 32:5;  Psalms 51:17;  Luke 7:36-50;  Acts 3:19;  Acts 10:43;  Acts 20:21;  1 John 1:9). There is no mechanical way of gaining forgiveness, such as by offering a sacrifice or reciting a formula. Sinners are dependent entirely upon God’s mercy ( Psalms 51:1-4;  Colossians 2:13).

This was so even in the sacrificial system of the Old Testament. There was no thought of bribing God by offering him sacrifices. On the contrary the sacrificial system was something God graciously gave as a means by which repentant sinners might approach him and obtain forgiveness ( Leviticus 17:11; cf.  Psalms 130:3).

In the sacrifices, God provided a way whereby people could demonstrate their repentance, faith and obedience. Without such attitudes, they benefited nothing from their sacrifices ( Psalms 50:9;  Psalms 50:13-14;  Psalms 51:16-17;  Isaiah 1:11;  Isaiah 1:16-20).

The death of the animal in the place of the sinner also showed the sinner clearly that forgiveness of sin was possible only when the penalty of sin had justly been carried out. Forgiveness was costly. Without the shedding of blood there could be no forgiveness ( Hebrews 9:22; cf.  Leviticus 4:2-7;  Leviticus 16:15-19; see Sacrifice ). Christ’s death is the basis on which God forgives all sins, past, present or future ( Matthew 26:28;  Acts 13:38;  Romans 3:24-26;  Ephesians 1:7;  Hebrews 9:11-14;  Hebrews 9:26). And once God has forgiven sins, they are removed for ever ( Psalms 103:12;  Isaiah 43:25;  Colossians 2:13-14;  Hebrews 8:12;  Hebrews 10:17-18).

Forgiveness in practice

Christ’s followers have the responsibility to preach the forgiveness of sins, and because of this they become the means by which people either believe the gospel and are forgiven, or reject it and remain in their sins ( John 20:22-23;  Acts 13:38). Jesus on one occasion referred to the deliberate rejection of him as the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit, a sin for which there could be no forgiveness ( Matthew 12:31-32; for further discussion see Blasphemy ).

Once people have been forgiven by God, they have the responsibility to forgive any who sin against them. This is more than a sign of their gratitude to God. It is a requirement laid upon them if they want to experience God’s continued forgiveness of their own failures ( Matthew 6:12;  Matthew 18:21-35;  Mark 11:25;  Luke 6:37;  Luke 7:47;  Luke 17:4;  Ephesians 4:32). (Concerning the forgiven person’s subsequent wrongdoings and their relationship to salvation see JUSTIFICATION, sub-heading ‘Justification and forgiveness’.)

Morrish Bible Dictionary [6]

There are three Hebrew words translated to forgive.

1. kaphar , 'to cover,'  Deuteronomy 21:8;  Psalm 78:38;  Jeremiah 18:23 . It is also translated 'atonement.'

2. nasa , 'to bear,' take away [guilt]: used by Joseph's brethren when they asked him to forgive them,  Genesis 50:17; and used of God as "forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin."  Exodus 34:7;  Numbers 14:18; and in describing the blessedness of the man "whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered."  Psalm 32:1 .

3. salach , 'to pardon,' used only of the forgiveness that God gives. It is employed for the forgiveness attached to the sacrifices: "it shall be forgiven him."  Leviticus 4:20,26,31,35;  Leviticus 5:10,13,16,18; etc. It occurs in the prayer of Solomon at the dedication of the temple.  1 Kings 8:30,34,36,39,50 . Also in  Psalm 103:3;  Jeremiah 31:34;  Jeremiah 36:3;  Daniel 9:19 .

In the N.T. two words are used: ἄφεσις, from ἀφίημι, 'to send from, release, remit,' several times translated REMISSION;and χαρίζομαι, 'to be gracious, bestow freely, forgive.' Both words are applied to the forgiveness granted by God, as well as that between man and his fellow.

There are two aspects in which forgiveness is brought before us in scripture.

1. The mind and thought of God Himself towards the sinner whom He forgives. On the ground of the sacrifice of Christ, God not only ceases to hold those who have faith in Christ's blood as guilty before Him, but His favour is towards them. "Their sins and iniquities will I remember no more."  Hebrews 10:17 . Thus all sense of imputation of guilt is gone from the mind of God. "God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you" (ἐχαρίσατο, graciously forgiven).  Ephesians 4:32 . So in the O.T., "I will heal their backsliding, I will love them freely."  Hosea 14:4 .

2. The guilty one is released, forgiven. "That they may receive forgiveness of sins."  Acts 26:18 . "As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us ."  Psalm 103:12 . "Your sins are forgiven you for his name's sake."   1 John 2:12 . Hence it is true of all Christians, that their sins are forgiven. Another thought is included in the forgiveness of sins, namely, that having redemption by Christ, which brings into a new state, the whole guilty past is forgiven, removed from us, so that there is no hindrance to the enjoyment of that into which redemption brings.

The general principle as to forgiveness is stated in  1 John 1:9; "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins;" and to this is added, "and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." This involves honesty of heart, whether in a sinner first coming to God, or in a child who has grieved the heart of the Father by sinning. The two aspects above referred to are here also. The faithfulness and righteousness of God in forgiving, and the cleansing us from all unrighteousness. God is faithful to His own blessed character of grace revealed in His Son, and righteous through the propitiation which He has made.

3. If a Christian is 'put away' from the assembly and is repentant, he is forgiven and restored.   2 Corinthians 2:7,10 . This of course is different from the act of God in forgiving sins, and may be called administrative forgiveness in the church; and if the act of discipline is led of the Spirit, it is ratified in heaven: cf.  John 20:22,23 . This is entirely different from any pretended absolution that may be pronounced over poor deluded unconverted persons.

4. There is also a governmental forgiveness in connection with the government of God here below in time, both on God's part, and toward one another.  Isaiah 40:1,2;  Luke 17:3;  James 5:15,16;  1 John 5:16 . We are called upon to forgive one another; and if we indulge in a harsh unforgiving spirit, we must not expect our Father to forgive us in His governmental dealings.  Matthew 6:14,15 .

Charles Buck Theological Dictionary [7]

The pardon of any offence committed against us. This is a virtue which our Lord expressly inculcates, not as extending to our friends only, but to our enemies. "Ye have heard, " saith he, "Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy; but I say unto you, love your enemies, " &c. "This, " says an ingenious writer, "was a lesson so new, and utterly unknown till taught by his doctrines and enforced by his example, that the wisest moralists of the wisest nations and ages represented the desire of revenge as a mark of a noble mind; but how much more magnanimous, how much more beneficial to mankind, is forgiveness! It is more magnanimous, because every generous and exalted disposition of the human mind is requisite to the practice of it; and it is the most beneficial, because it puts an end to an eternal succession of injuries and retaliation." Let us, therefore, learn to cherish this noble disposition; let the bitterest enemy we have be softened by its effects; let us consider also how friendly it is to our own happiness, and how much it prevents the unhappiness of others. "The feuds and animosities, in families, and between neighbours, which disturb the intercourse of human life, and collectively compose half the misery of it, have their foundation in the want of a forgiving temper, and can never cease but by the exercise of this virtue on one side, or on both." Paley's Mor. Phil. vol. 1: p. 271; Soame Jenyns's Int. Evid. p. 67, 68; Clarke's Sermons, ser. 2. vol. x; Tillotson's Ser. vol. 8: p. 254.

People's Dictionary of the Bible [8]

Forgiveness. The remission of a fault. In the gospel of Christ, free forgiveness of sins is set forth.  Acts 5:31;  Acts 13:38-39;  1 John 1:6-9;  1 John 2:12. And the full remission, which transgressors have at God's hand for Christ's sake, is made the ground and the pattern of that forgiving spirit which is to be manifested by Christ's true followers.  Matthew 6:12;  Matthew 6:14-15;  Matthew 18:21-35;  Mark 11:25-26 A. V., but verse 26 is omitted in the R. V.;  Ephesians 4:32, and elsewhere. See Justification.

King James Dictionary [9]

FORGIV'ENESS, n. forgiv'ness.

1. The act of forgiving the pardon of an offender, by which he is considered and treated as not guilty. The forgiveness of enemies is a christian duty. 2. The pardon or remission of an offense or crime as the forgiveness of sin or of injuries. 3. Disposition to pardon willingness to forgive.

And mild forgiveness intercede to stop the coming blow.

4. Remission of a debt, fine or penalty.

Webster's Dictionary [10]

(1): ( n.) Disposition to pardon; willingness to forgive.

(2): ( n.) The act of forgiving; the state of being forgiven; as, the forgiveness of sin or of injuries.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia [11]

for - giv´nes ( כּפר , kāphar , נשׂא , nāsā' , סלח , ṣālaḥ  ; ἀπολύειν , apolúein χαρίζεσθαι , áphesis πάρεσις 1. Etymology

Of the seven words, three Hebrew and four Greek, which are used to express the idea of forgiveness, the last two occur in this sense only once each. Apoluein ( Luke 6:37 ) is used because of the analogy of sin to debt, and denotes the release from it. It has the meaning "forgiveness" in 2 Macc 12:45 also, in which passage the word for sin is expressed. In  Romans 3:25 Paul uses paresis instead of the usual aphesis ̌ . The former means "putting aside," "disregarding," "pretermission"; the latter, "putting away" completely and unreservedly (Trench, Synonyms of the New Testament , section xxxiii). It does not mean forgiveness in the complete sense, and in the King James Version is incorrectly translated "remission." Nor does it mean that God had temporarily suspended punishment which at some later date He might inflict (Sanday on  Romans 3:25 ). It was apparent that God had treated sins as though He had forgiven them, though in fact such an attitude on the part of God was without such a foundation as was later supplied by an adequate atonement, and so the apostle avoids saying that God forgave them. This passing over of sins had the tendency of destroying man's conception of God's righteousness, and in order to avert this Christ was set forth as a propitiation and God's disregard of sin ( paresis ) became a real forgiveness ( aphesis ); compare  Acts 14:16;  Acts 17:30 . Charizesthai is not found outside of the writings of Luke and Paul, and in the sense "to forgive sins" is peculiarly Pauline ( 2 Corinthians 2:7;  2 Corinthians 12:13;  Ephesians 3:2;  Colossians 2:13;  Colossians 3:13 ). It expresses, as no other of these words does, his conception of the graciousness of God's pardon. Kāphar ( Deuteronomy 21:8;  Psalm 78:38;  Jeremiah 18:23 ) and ṣālah ( Numbers 30:5 ,  Numbers 30:8 ,  Numbers 30:12;  1 Kings 8:30 ,  1 Kings 8:34 ,  1 Kings 8:36 ,  1 Kings 8:39 ,  1 Kings 8:50 , etc.) are used only of Divine forgiveness, while nāsā' is used in this sense ( Exodus 32:32;  Numbers 14:19;  Joshua 24:19;  Psalm 25:18;  Psalm 32:1 ,  Psalm 32:5;  Psalm 99:8;  Isaiah 2:9 ), and also of human forgiveness ( Genesis 50:17;  Exodus 10:17;  1 Samuel 25:28 ). Remission ( Matthew 26:28;  Mark 1:4;  Luke 1:77;  Luke 24:47;  Acts 2:38;  Acts 10:43;  Hebrews 9:22;  Hebrews 10:18 ) and blotting out ( Psalm 51:1 ,  Psalm 51:9;  Isaiah 43:25;  Jeremiah 18:23;  Acts 3:19 ) are synonyms of forgiveness, and to understand it fully such words as save, justify, reconcile and atonement should also be considered.

2. Pagan and Jewish Ideas

Forgiveness was not a pagan virtue. The large-souled man might disregard offenses in cases where he considered them beneath his notice, but to forgive was weak-spirited (F. W. Robertson on  1 Corinthians 4:12 ). Even in the Old Testament, man's forgiveness of his fellow-man is infrequently mentioned. In every case the one asking forgiveness is in a position of subserviency, and is petitioning for that to which he has no just right ( Genesis 50:17;  Exodus 10:17;  1 Samuel 15:25;  1 Samuel 25:28 ). The Imprecatory Psalms attest the fact that forgiveness of enemies was not esteemed as a virtue by Israel. They could appeal to the law which enjoined upon them to seek neither the peace nor the prosperity of their avowed enemies ( Deuteronomy 23:6; compare  Ezra 9:12 ). Jesus gave the popular summing-up of the law and not its exact words when he said, "Ye have heard that it was said ... hate thine enemy" ( Matthew 5:43 ), and this certainly does represent their attitude and their understanding of the teaching of the Scriptures.

3. The Teaching of Christ

Christ taught that forgiveness is a duty. No limit can be set to the extent of forgiveness ( Luke 17:4 ) and it must be granted without reserve. Jesus will not admit that there is any wrong so gross nor so often repeated that it is beyond forgiveness. To Him an unforgiving spirit is one of the most heinous of sins (Bruce, Parabolic Teaching , 376ff). This is the offense which God will not forgive ( Matthew 18:34 ,  Matthew 18:35 ). It is the very essence of the unpardonable sin ( Mark 3:22-30 ). It was the one blemish of the elder son which marred an otherwise irreproachable life ( Luke 15:28-30 ). This natural, pagan spirit of implacability Jesus sought to displace by a generous, forgiving spirit. It is so far the essence of His teaching that in popular language "a Christian spirit" is not inappropriately understood to be synonymous with a forgiving disposition. His answer to Peter that one should forgive not merely seven times in a day, but seventy times seven ( Matthew 18:21 ,  Matthew 18:22 ), not only shows that He thought of no limit to one's forgiveness, but that the principle could not be reduced to a definite formula.

4. Conditions of Forgiveness

Jesus recognized that there are conditions to be fulfilled before forgiveness can be granted. Forgiveness is part of a mutual relationship; the other part is the repentance of the offender. God does not forgive without repentance, nor is it required of man. The effect of forgiveness is to restore to its former state the relationship which was broken by sin. Such a restoration requires the coöperation of both parties. There must be both a granting and an acceptance of the forgiveness. Sincere, deep-felt sorrow for the wrong which works repentance ( 2 Corinthians 7:10 ) is the condition of mind which insures the acceptance of the forgiveness. Hence, Jesus commands forgiveness when the offender turns again, saying, "I repent" ( Luke 17:3 ,  Luke 17:1 ). It was this state of mind which led the father joyfully to welcome the Prodigal before he even gave utterance to his newly formed purpose ( Luke 15:21 ).

5. The Offended Party

It is not to be supposed, however, that failure to repent upon the part of the offender releases the offended from all obligation to extend forgiveness. Without the repentance of the one who has wronged him he can have a forgiving state of mind. This Jesus requires, as is implied by, "if ye forgive not every one his brother from your hearts" ( Matthew 18:35 ). It is also implied by the past tense in the Lord's Prayer: "as we also have forgiven our debtors" ( Matthew 6:12 ). It is this forgiving spirit which conditions God's forgiveness of our sins ( Mark 11:25;  Matthew 6:14 ,  Matthew 6:15 ). In such a case the unforgiving spirit is essentially unrepentance ( Matthew 18:23-35 ). "Of all acts, is not, for a man, repentance the most Divine?"

The offended is to go even farther and is to seek to bring the wrongdoer to repentance. This is the purpose of the rebuking commanded in  Luke 17:3 . More explicitly Jesus says, "If thy brother sin against thee, go, show him his fault between thee and him alone" ( Matthew 18:15-17 ). He is to carry his pursuit to the point of making every reasonable effort to win the wrongdoer, and only when he has exhausted every effort may he abandon it. The object is the gaining of his brother. Only when this is evidently unattainable is all effort to cease.

The power of binding and loosing, which means forbidding and allowing, was granted to Peter ( Matthew 16:19 ) and to the Christian community ( Matthew 18:18;  John 20:23 ). It clearly implies the possession of the power to forgive sins. In the case of Peter's power it was exercised when he used the keys of the kingdom of heaven ( Matthew 16:19 ). This consisted in the proclamation of the gospel and especially of the conditions upon which men might enter into relationship with God ( Acts 2:38;  Acts 10:34 ). It was not limited to Peter only, but was shared by the other apostles ( Matthew 16:19;  Matthew 18:18 ). Christ left no fixed rules the observance or non-observance of which would determine whether one is or is not in the kingdom of God. He gave to His disciples principles, and in the application of these principles to the problems of life there had to be the exercise of discriminating judgment. The exercise of this judgment was left to the Christian community ( 2 Corinthians 2:10 ). It is limited by the principles which are the basis of the kingdom, but within these principles the voice of the community is supreme. The forgiveness here implied is not the pronouncing of absolution for the sins of individuals, but the determination of courses of conduct and worship which will be acceptable. In doing this its decisions will be ratified in heaven (Westcott on  John 20:23 ).

That there is a close analogy between human and Divine forgiveness is clearly implied ( Matthew 5:23 ,  Matthew 5:14;  Matthew 6:12;  Mark 11:25;  Luke 6:37;  Colossians 1:14;  Colossians 3:13 ). God"s forgiveness is conditional upon man's forgiveness of the wrongs done him, not because God forgives grudgingly but because forgiveness alone indicates that disposition of mind which will humbly accept the Divine pardon.

6. Divine and Human Forgiveness

Repentance is a necessary ingredient of the fully developed forgiveness. There is no essential difference between the human and the Divine pardon, though the latter is necessarily more complete. It results in the complete removal of all estrangement and alienation between God and man. It restores completely the relationship which existed prior to the sin. The total removal of the sin as a result of the Divine forgiveness is variously expressed in the Scriptures: "Thou hast cast all my sins behind thy back" ( Isaiah 38:17 ); "Thou wilt cast all their sins into the depths of the sea" ( Micah 7:19 ); "I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin will I remember no more" ( Jeremiah 31:34 ); "I, even I, am he that blotteth out thy transgressions" ( Isaiah 43:25 ); "As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us" ( Psalm 103:12 ). Ideally this same result is attained in human forgiveness, but actually the memory of the sin remains with both parties as a barrier between them, and even when there is a complete restoration of amity the former state of alienation cannot entirely be removed from memory. When God forgives, however, He restores man to the condition of former favor. Release from punishment is involved, though Divine forgiveness is more than this. In most cases the consequences, which in some instances are spoken of as punishment, are not removed, but they lose all penal character and become disciplinary. Nor does the forgiveness remove from human mind the consciousness of sin and the guilt which that involved, but it does remove the mistrust which was the ground of the alienation. Mistrust is changed into trust, and this produces peace of mind ( Psalm 32:5-7;  Romans 5:1 ); consciousness of the Divine love and mercy ( Psalm 103:2 ); removes fear of punishment ( 2 Samuel 12:13 ); and awakens love to God.

7. Forgiveness and Justification

Paul rarely uses the term "forgiveness," but in its place prefers justification. They are to his understanding practically synonymous (Stevens, Theology of the New Testament , 418). He preferred the latter, however, because it was better fitted to express the idea of secure, present and permanent acceptance in the sight of God. It connoted both a complete and a permanent state of grace. In popular thought forgiveness is not so comprehensive, but in the Biblical sense it means no less than this. It removes all of the guilt and cause of alienation from the past; it assures a state of grace for the present; and promises Divine mercy and aid for the future. Its fullness cannot adequately be conveyed by any one term or formula.

Divine, like human, forgiveness is always contingent upon the fulfillment of conditions. It must be preceded by repentance and a firmly fixed intention not to repeat the offense. In addition to this, one was required to conform to certain legal or formal acts before the assurance of pardon was his. These acts were expressive of the sinner's state of mind. They consisted of certain acts of sacrifice in the pre-Christian times and of baptism during the ministry of John the Baptist ( Mark 1:4;  Luke 3:3 ) and under Christ ( Acts 2:38;  Acts 22:16 ). These acts are never regarded as in any sense a quid pro quo in return for which the benefit of forgiveness is granted. It is an act of pure grace on God's part, and these acts are required as expressions of the man's attitude toward God. The state of mind required in order to obtain the gift of forgiveness is that to which the Prodigal Son came (  Luke 15:17-19 ), and that of the sinner who went to his house justified rather than the Pharisee ( Luke 18:9-14 ), because he realized that forgiveness was to him an act of pure favor.

There was real and actual forgiveness of sins in the Old Testament times as well as since Christ. Certain passages have been construed to teach that the Law provided only for a passing over or rolling back of sins, and that there was not then an actual forgiveness.

8. Old Testament Teaching

The sacrifices prescribed by the Law were not adequate atonements, so that there was constant necessity of yearly remembrance of sin ( Hebrews 10:3; compare  Leviticus 16:21 ). The atonement of Christ is, however, of permanent adequacy, and became retroactive in the sense that it unified in Christ the Divine arrangement for saving mankind in all ages ( Hebrews 11:40 ). "The passing over of the sins done aforetime" ( Romans 3:25 ) does not imply a partial or apparent forgiveness, but means that they were forgiven, though seemingly without adequate recognition on the part of God of their heinous character. In view of God's righteous character men might naturally have expected punishment, but instead the offenders were spared (compare  Acts 14:16;  Acts 17:30 ). No expression in the Old Testament suggests any inadequacy of the forgiveness extended to Israel, but on the other hand many passages may be quoted to show how rich and full it was deemed to be (Ps 103;  Micah 7:19;  Isaiah 38:17 ,  Jeremiah 31:34 ).

9. Limitations of Forgiveness

Two passages seem to limit God's forgiveness. They are Christ's discussion of the unpardonable sin ( Matthew 12:31 ,  Matthew 12:32;  Mark 3:28-30;  Luke 12:10 ), and the one which mentions the sin unto death ( 1 John 5:16; compare  Hebrews 6:4-6 ). In the former passage there is mentioned a sin which has no forgiveness, and in the latter, one on behalf of which the apostle cannot enjoin prayer that it be forgiven, though he does not prohibit it. In both cases the sin is excluded from the customary forgiveness which is extended to sins of all other classes.

The act of the Pharisees which led Jesus to speak of the unpardonable sin was the attributing of a good deed wrought by Him through the Spirit of God ( Matthew 12:28 ) to Beelzebub. No one could do such a thing unless his moral nature was completely warped. To such a person the fundamental distinctions between good and evil were obliterated. No ordinary appeal could reach him, for to him good seemed evil and evil seemed good. The possibility of winning him back is practically gone; hence, he is beyond the hope of forgiveness, not because God has set an arbitrary line of sinfulness, beyond which His grace of forgiveness will not reach, but because the man has put himself beyond the possibility of attaining to that state of mind which is the essential condition of Divine forgiveness. It is practically certain that John did not have any particular sinful act in mind when he spoke of the sin which is unto death. See Blasphemy .

There is no possible way of determining what specific sin, if any, he refers to. Probably the same principle applies in this case as in that of the unpardonable sin. God's forgiveness is limited solely by the condition that man must accept it in the proper spirit.

There are some passages which seem to imply that forgiveness was the principal Messianic task. This is suggested by the name given to the Messiah during His earthly career ( Matthew 1:21 ), and by the fact that He was the Saviour. The remission of sins was the preparation for the advent of the Messiah ( Luke 1:77 ), and repentance and remission of sins were the prerequisites to a state of preparation for the kingdom.

10. Christ's Power to Forgive Sins

It is not surprising, therefore, that we find Jesus laying claim to the power to forgive sins. This provoked a bitter controversy with the Jews, for it was axiomatic with them that no one could forgive sins but God only ( Mark 2:7;  Luke 5:21;  Luke 7:49 ). This Jesus did not question, but He would have them infer from His power to forgive sins that He was the possessor of Divine power. Jesus asserted His possession of this power on two occasions only, though it has been insufficiently inferred from  John 5:14;  John 8:11 that He was accustomed to pronounce absolution upon all of those He healed. On one of these occasions He not merely asserted that He possessed the power, but demonstrated it by showing Himself to be the possessor of the Divine gift of healing. The impostor might claim some such intangible power as the authority to forgive sins, but he would never assert the possession of such easily disproved power as the ability to heal the sick. But Jesus claimed both, and based His claim to be the possessor of the former on the demonstration that He possessed the latter. God would not support an impostor, hence, his aid in healing the paralytic proved that Jesus could forgive sins. The multitude accepted this logic and "glorified God, who had given such authority unto men" (  Matthew 9:2-9; compare  Mark 2:3-12;  Luke 5:18-26 ).

On the other occasion when His possession of this power was under discussion ( Luke 7:36-50 ), He offered no other proof than the forgiven woman's deep gratitude and love. One expression that He uses, however, has raised some discussion as to the relative order in time of her love and forgiveness ( Luke 7:47 ). Did she love because she was forgiven, or vice versa? Manifestly the forgiveness precedes the love, in spite of the fact that  Luke 7:47 seems to assert the opposite, for this is the bearing of the parable of the Two Debtors (  Luke 7:41-43 ), and the latter part of  Luke 7:47 has the same implication. It is clear that she had previously repented and had been accepted, and the anointing of Jesus was an outpouring of her gratitude. The phrase of   Luke 7:47 , "for she loved much ," is proof of the greatness of her sin rather than a reason why she was forgiven. In both cases where Jesus forgave sins, He did so because the state of mind of the person forgiven showed worthiness of the blessing. To this as a condition of forgiveness there is no exception. Christ's prayer on the cross ( Luke 23:34 ) would not avail to secure the pardon of His murderers without their repentance.

11. The Need of an Atonement

Though forgiveness is on God's part an act of pure grace prompted by His love and mercy, and though He forgives freely all those who comply with the condition of repentance and abandonment of sin, yet this does not dispense with the necessity of an atonement. The parable of the Prodigal Son was spoken to teach the freedom of God's forgiveness and acceptance of returning sinners, and the duty of men to assume the same attitude toward them. This much it teaches, but it fails to set forth entirely God's attitude toward sin. With reference to the sinner God is love and mercy, but with reference to sin He is righteous, and this element of God's nature is no less essential to Him than His love, and must be considered in any effort to set forth completely the doctrine of God's forgiveness of sinners. The atonement of Christ and the many atonements of the Law were manifestations of this phase of God's nature.

12. The New Testament Doctrine of Atonement

The idea of an atonement is fundamental in the teachings of the New Testament ( Romans 5:10;  2 Corinthians 5:18-21;  Colossians 1:21 ). It is very clearly implied in such terms as reconciliation and propitiation, and is no less present in pardon, remission and forgiveness. The doctrine of the atonement is not developed by Jesus, but it is strongly hinted at and is unmistakably implied in the language of  Matthew 20:28;  Matthew 26:28;  Mark 10:45;  Luke 24:46 ,  Luke 24:47 . John the Baptist's salute, "Behold, the Lamb of God, that taketh away the sin of the world!" ( John 1:29 ), also implies it. In the writings of the apostles it is repeatedly and clearly affirmed that our forgiveness and reconciliation to God is based upon the death of Christ. "In none other is there salvation" ( Acts 4:12 ); through Him is the redemption ( Romans 3:24 ); God set Him forth to be a propitiation ( Romans 3:25 ); through Him "we have now received the reconciliation" ( Romans 5:11 ); "God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself" ( 2 Corinthians 5:19 ); "Him who knew no sin he made to be sin on our behalf" ( 2 Corinthians 5:21 ); and "Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us" ( Galatians 3:13 ). Such citations might be greatly multiplied. That which was so perfectly accomplished by the offering of Christ was in an analagous though imperfect way accomplished by the sacrifices required by the Law. It had "a shadow of the good things to come" ( Hebrews 10:1 ).

The unvarying effect of sin is to produce an estrangement between the injurer and the wronged. The nature of God is such and the relationship between Him and man is of such a character that sin brings about an alienation between them. It is this presupposition of an estrangement between them which renders the atonement necessary before forgiveness can be extended to man. This estrangement must be removed, and the alienation be transformed into a reconciliation. In what then does the alienation consist?

The sin of man produces a changed attitude toward each other on the part of both God and man. God holds no personal pique against man because of his sin. The New Testament language is very carefully chosen to avoid any statement which would seem to convey such a conception. Yet God's holy righteousness is such that He cannot be indifferent to sin. His wrath must rest upon the disobedient ( John 3:36;  Romans 1:18 ). It is not merely impersonal. It is not enough to say He hates the sin. Man's unrighteousness has not merely alienated him from God, but God also from him. The word "enemies" ( echthroı́ ) of  Romans 5:10 is passive, and means the object of God's enmity (Sunday, at the place). It was because of this fact that God set forth Christ to be a propitiation to show His righteousness because of the passing over of sins done aforetime (  Romans 3:25 ,  Romans 3:26 ). God's passing over, without inflicting punishment, the sins of pre-Christian times had placed in jeopardy His righteousness; had exposed Him to the implication that He could tolerate sin. God could not be true to Himself while He tolerated such an imputation, and so instead of visiting punishment upon all who sinned - which would have been one way of showing His righteousness - H e set forth Christ to death ("in his blood"), and in this way placed Himself beyond the imputation of unrighteousness while it enabled Him to show mercy to sinners. The effect of sin upon man was to estrange him from God, to lead him farther and farther away from his Maker. Each successive sin produced a greater barrier between the two. Now the atonement was designed to remove the cause of this estrangement and restore the former relationship between God and man. This too, it has been observed, is the purpose of forgiveness, so that the atonement finds its completion in forgiveness. It should be noted that the reconciliation originates with God and not with man ( Romans 3:25;  2 Corinthians 5:19 ). God woos man before the latter seeks God. The effect of the atonement on man is to reconcile him, attract him, to God. It shows him God's love for man, and the forgiveness, in that it removes sin completely, takes away the estranging factor between them and so wins man back to God. "We love, because he first loved us." At the same time the atonement is such a complete expression of both the love and the righteousness of God that, while on the one hand it exhibits his yearning for man, on the other it shows that He is not tolerant toward sin. In the atonement of Christ, therefore, is the meeting-place and the reconcilement of God's holy horror of sin and the free bestowal of forgiveness upon penitent believers.

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature [12]

"the pardon of any offense committed against us. We are not apt to entertain any permanent or incurable ill will against the author of injuries to others, and why should we be irreconcilable when injuries have been done to ourselves? To love our enemies, or rather not to hate our enemies, is a duty which no guilt can annul, no injury efface. We are not required to love our enemies as our friends; but, when any injury has been done us, we are to endeavor to regard it with so much resentment as any just and impartial person would feel on hearing it related, and no more. To revenge injuries is to retaliate evil for the sake of retaliation. We are, all weak, frail, and sinful creatures. None of us passes through one day without feeling that he requires forgiveness from his God, and too often also from his fellow- creatures. Mercy is all our hope, forgiveness our constant prayer. In such a state, should we not pity and assist each other? Does not mutual weakness call for mutual forbearances? Weak, frail, and sinful as we are, we all hope, through the merits of Christ, to attain the happiness of heaven; and can creatures who, after a few short years, expect to, be forever united in the presence of God, to be liberated from all unruly passions, and to live together forever in heavens, in peace, and joy, and everlasting love can such creatures hate each other on earth? can they add to the sorrows of this state of trial, and spread more thorns in the path of life by acts of malice and revenge? can they risk their own eternal happiness by denying to each other that forgiveness without which they must not dare to hope that they shall be themselves forgiven? We know, from the express declaration of our Savior, that if we forgive not men their trespasses, neither will our heavenly Father forgive us. Christ estimated virtues by their solid utility, and not by their fashion or popularity, and hence he prefers the duty of forgiveness to every other. He enjoins it more frequently, with more earnestness, and under a greater variety of forms and he adds this weighty and peculiar circumstance, that the forgiveness of others is the sole condition on which we are to expect or even ask from God forgiveness for ourselves. This preference is justified by the superior importance of the virtue itself. The feuds and animosities which exist in families and among neighbors, which disturb the intercourse of human life, and collectively compose half its misery, have their foundation in the want of a forgiving temper, and can never cease except by the exercise of this virtue. Let us endeavor to forgive, that we may not be afraid to ask forgiveness. Let us take care so to pray for forgiveness, that our prayers may not justify and increase our condemnation. Let us remember the amazing condescension of the Son of God, in taking upon him the form of a servant,' and thence learn humility. Let us represent to our minds the terms of our salvation, in order to excite us to repentance. Let us adore the infinite love of our Redeem, who laid down his life for his enemies,' and let this be the pattern of our charity" (Fellowes, Body of Theology, 2:210-213; Paley, Moral and Polit. Philosophy, 1:269; Warner, System of Divinity and Morality, 2:356). Robinson, Theological Dictionary, s.v.; American Presbyterian Review, October 1867, art. 2.

"Some confound things that are separate and different the act of forgiving with the act of loving with approbation. Repentance and confession are indispensable, when one has intentionally injured us in any way, to restore him to our fellowship and approbation. But what is a necessary condition of this is not a necessary condition of forgiving. Blending these two things together, and thinking of them as if they were one and inseparable, has doubtless caused some to differ in opinion from others who clearly discern the proper distinctions. It is a mistaken idea that in the matter of forgiveness we are strictly to imitate God the Father, and not forgive those who trespass against us until they repent and ask our pardon. God is clothed with the responsibilities of moral government over his creatures, while we are not. If he had made it our duty to revenge our own wrongs, and administer just punishment to the doers of the wrong, then it would be right and wise to follow his example in that particular. But the case is far otherwise. The Lord not only relieves us of that responsibility, but has commanded us not to usurp his prerogatives: Avenge not yourselves.' No doubt there are certain cases in civil and family governments in. which the outward acts of forgiveness. should be held in abeyance until forgiveness is duly sought. The offender in himself has no right to forgiveness until he seeks it in the true spirit of repentance. In the outward expressions of this, parents should often wait for the outward signs of penitence in their children. The same. may be true sometimes in other relations as between brothers and sisters and other domestic and civil relations. Hence there is an objective and a subjective view to be taken of the duty of forgiveness an act in the heart, and an appropriate outward and formal expression of it. The former should be performed at once, to prevent greater evil to ourselves, while the latter may wisely be delayed until the proper occasion for it arrives. One may say he forgives, when in reality he does not forgive from the heart; so we may forgive from the heart long before we proclaim it to the parties concerned" (Zion's Heralds, January 2, 1867).