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The New Testament uses two words that are translated “forgive.” Aphiemi primarily means, “to send forth, send away,” and denotes “to remit or forgive” debts (Matthew 6:12; 18:27, 32), sins (Matt. 9:2, 5, 6; 12:31-32; Ephesians 1:7-8; 1 John 1:9; 2:12). It is used for deliverance of the sinner from the penalty, and the complete removal of the cause of offence based on the death of Christ for the sinner.

“Forgiveness” is also used to translate the word charizomai in Colossians 2:13 which literally means, “to wipe away,” “to rub out,” or “to turn one’s back on.” It has to do primarily with God restoring the relationship between Himself and the sinner who believes on Jesus Christ.

How much can the Lord forgive?

God has made a provision for sin, defeat and guilt.

Satan is the winner when the Christian is preoccupied with his failures in living the Christian life.

The apostle Paul wrote, “When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven (charizomai) us all our transgressions, having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross” (Colossians 2:13-14).

God has “forgiven us all our transgressions.” Not a few of them, but “all” of them.

The death of Jesus Christ was an all-sufficient sacrifice for all our sins, past, present and future. Every sin that you will ever commit has already been paid for! All of our sins were future when Christ died. The only exception to being forgiveness is the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 12:31-32), and no true believer in Jesus Christ can commit that sin. There is no sin that the believer will ever commit which has not already been included in Christ’s death.

God does not find it hard to forgive us. The price of forgiveness has already been paid in full and God wants us to accept it freely.

First John 2:2 tells us Jesus Christ “is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.” The death of Jesus satisfied God for all sins that can possibly be committed. Jesus cried, “It is finished!” It is paid in full, and God accepted that payment for all our sins.

Now if God is satisfied, should we not also be completely satisfied with that payment?

God cannot and will not punish us for our sins a second time.

We were spiritually dead in trespasses and sins, and by means of regeneration, God made us “alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions” (Colossians 2:13). The same “power” that raised Christ from the dead resurrects believing sinners to spiritual life. “He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions.” We received this new life when God forgave us all our sins. The next verse tells us God “cancelled the written code.” The Law pointed its finger and said, “You are guilty.” “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God. . . . The wages of sin is death . . .” (Romans 3:23; 6:23).

However, in the person of Jesus Christ the Law is fulfilled (Romans 8:2), and done away with (Galatians 3:25; Hebrews 7:12). Believers are dead to the Law in Christ. Jesus Christ fulfilled the demands of the Law in His life and death. Believers are “in Him.”

The Law was like the “certificate of debt” which was a document acknowledging that a debt had to be paid. It was written on a piece of papyrus with an ink of soot, mixed with gum and diluted with water. Ancient ink did not have acid in it to bite into the paper. The writing could be sponged off, “wiped out” forever.

The “certificate” or “bill of debt” was like the bill of indictment. Jesus took away the certificate by dying for us. By “nailing it to the cross” with Himself, He paid the debt, and the slate on which the “certificate of debt” was written was wiped clean. The idea is like taking a wet sponge and cleaning the writing off the writing slate. “Having cancelled out” is “to wipe out.”

God did not write “cancelled” on the debt; He took all the ink off the paper. There is no record of our sins! There are no charges against us. Our charge sheet is absolutely clean.

Our indictment has been “rubbed out, wiped off, erased”! It is another way of saying, “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1).

“He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross” (Col. 2:14b). The Lamb of God lifts up and carries away all our sins (John 1:29). The perfect tense emphasizes the permanence of the removal of the certificate or bond which has been nailed to the cross with Jesus and paid in full, cancelled and can never be presented again. Remember, it has been completely wiped away forever. Peake said, “When Christ was crucified, God nailed the Law to His cross.” God took the indictment and nailed it to the cross of Christ.

We had a vile list of sins on that “certificate of debt,” and it was impossible for us to pay the debt. We were guilty. God stepped in and out of grace sent His Son to wipe out that debt forever. The death of Jesus Christ is all-sufficient to take away our sin debt. The certificate is wiped clean forever.

M. R. Vincent wrote, “The law with its decrees was abolished in Christ’s death, as if crucified with Him.”

The Christian is not in any way subject to the Old Testament legal system because it cannot help him gain a right relationship with God. Only the all-sufficient sacrifice of Christ can meet our every spiritual need. The certificate of spiritual debt is no longer valid in the sense that the death of Christ wiped out our indebtedness. It no longer has power to condemn the believer in Christ.

All of the punishment has already been given to Christ. He paid it all. There is no more sin debt to be paid by the sinner who puts his faith in the perfect atonement of Jesus Christ.

All that remains for the sinner to do is simply believe God’s Word (John 3:16-19). God does not become weary of hearing our confession (1 John 1:9; Hebrews 8:12).

Our basis for pleasing God is by faith in the sacrifice of Christ, which satisfied the Father completely. That standing before God remains secure even when we fail to live up to the high standards of God’s will. God sees believers as absolutely perfect “in Christ” (2 Cor. 5:21). God sees us in Him. There is nothing we can do to change God’s complete acceptance of us. God permanently accepts us because of our relationship with Christ.

Why is it necessary for believers to confess their sins? Sins block our fellowship with God and His family. But this is a simple solution that God has provided that restores our broken fellowship. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

Key Scriptures

Colossians 2:13-14; 1 John 1:9; Psalm 32:1-5; Ephesians 1:7-8; Romans 4:3-9; 8:1; Hebrews 4:3; 9:14, 22, 26-28; 10:10; 1 Peter 3:18;

Abiding Principles and Practical Applications

1.  Because Jesus Christ died on the cross for all our sins there is no more sin debt to be paid. "It is finished!" Our responsibility is to trust in Him for God's forgiveness and peace (John 3:16, 36; Romans 10:9-10, 13).

2.  God has provided a bar of soap when we sin (1 John 1:9). Let's use it daily.

3.  Our sole basis for pleasing God is by faith in the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ for our sins. We stand before God complete "in Christ" because God sees us "in Him."

4.  The "certificate of debt" has no more power to condemn the believer in Jesus Christ. The certificate is wiped clean forever by the blood of Jesus.


For Further Study

Forgiveness According to the Riches of God’s Grace 
What Does God Do With All Our Sins? 
Romans 3:25-26 The Vindication of God's Righteousness
John 8:1-11 Go and Sin no More
Mathew 5:4 The Gift of Mourning
Abiding in Faith - A Right Relationship with God Romans 3:21-4:25
Exodus 12 Christ Our Passover is Slain
Luke 22:31-34 One More Chance, Peter 
The Forsaken and the Forgiven
Model Prayer: Forgive Our Debts






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Unless otherwise noted "Scripture quotations taken from the NASB." "Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE" © Copyright 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation Used by permission." (www.Lockman.org)

Scripture quoted by permission. Quotations designated (NET) are from the NET Bible copyright ©1996-2006 by Biblical Studies Press, L.L.C. http://www.bible.org/. All rights reserved.

Wil is a graduate of William Carey University, B. A.; New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, Th. M.; and Azusa Pacific University, M. A. He has pastored in Panama, Ecuador and the U. S, and served for over 20 years as missionary in Ecuador and Honduras. He had a daily expository Bible teaching ministry head in over 100 countries from 1972-2005. He continues to seek opportunities to be personally involved in world missions. Wil and his wife Ann have three grown daughters. He currently serves as a Baptist pastor and teaches seminary extension courses in Ecuador.


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