Presbyterians/forgiveness

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Question
I am at a complete loss of understanding as to what forgiveness is. Allow me to explain: When God forgives sin, according to the bible it is in the following way:
1)" In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness." Hebrews 9:22. So we see the in when God forgives it is with the shedding of blood
2) 1)" God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God". 2 corinthians 5:21. So God took our sins and Jesus turned into them according to this verse and many others.
3) Then Jesus (who now was our sin) died on the cross and our sins - which Jesus was, died along with him.
4) So God didnt just pardon our sins and say "I'll let them slide if you say im sorry and repent". What he did was to exact punishment (the punishment of Jesus and his death on the cross). He punished our sins, demanded bloodshed and killed them and THAT is how we are forgiven.
    My inability to understand forgiveness comes in here - When God wants me to forgive someone for a sin such as stealing from me, he certainly doesnt want me to shed blood and exact punishment on a cross by to before I forgive that perons sins.
     So I guess my question is - If I am forgiving sins, but Im not doing it the way God did it.....Then by what way am I forgiving them.
    I really need to understand this, I am totally baffled and have no idea what forgiveness really is.

Answer
Peter,

Wow, my friend, you are a deep thinker. That is a very thought-provoking question, and shows  some profound reflection.

In the NT the common word for "forgive" means "to release." At a fundamental level, when one person forgives another person, they are releasing that person from the debt they owe.

With respect to God, our debt is so serious that the only way to pay it is by shedding of blood, that is, by death (Rom. 6:23). However, with respect to our fellow human beings, death is only required in certain specific cases (e.g. murder). The whole Mosaic law was dedicated to making sure that the punishment fit the crime with regard to human interaction. With regard to human-divine interaction, however, every sin deserves death. So to flesh this out, if I steal from you, with respect to you, the punishment for that may be restitution, or in the modern context, jail time ("paying one's debt to society") but it would not be the death penalty. However, in my relationship to God, any sin is deserving of death.

In forgiving us, then, Jesus absorbed our wrong doing, took the weight of it on himself, and paid for it.

When we as Christians forgive others (release them from their debts) we do a similar thing. We absorb their wrong-doing and release them from their debt. So if I stole from you and I couldn't repay you and you forgave me, that would meant that you absorbed the loss for me so I could be released and didn't need to pay it. Even if I made restitution (repentance is an important part of forgiveness), your forgiving me would mean that you absorbed the harm I meant toward you, released me from it, and no longer held it against me.

Ultimately, only Jesus can shed his blood for the sins of another, because he is sinless. I could only shed my blood for my own sins. But as a Christian who has been forgiven by what Jesus has done, I can walk in Jesus steps and be Christ-like in forgiving others by absorbing myself what they are liable to me for and releasing them from it, and that is what forgiveness is.

If you read Matthew 18:21-35 in the light of our discussion, I think the principle will become clear.

Thanks, Peter, for a really excellent question, and God bless you as you follow Jesus in the seriousness and zeal you've exhibited here.

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Pastor G

Expertise

I am glad to answer questions about the Scriptures, Systematic, Biblical and Historic Theology, New Testament Greek, Biblical Hebrew (although my Greek is stronger than my Hebrew); and I am also glad to give pastoral advise and counsel.

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A minister ordained in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church since 1993. Prior to that I served as an elder. Former Senior Police Chaplain. College and Seminary-level lecturer.

Education/Credentials
B.A. Psychology and Theology, M.Div., Westminster Theological Seminary D.Min., Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary Law Enforcement Chaplaincy certification, ICPC

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