GOSPEL FREEDOM

COMPLETE FREEDOM FROM SIN’S DEBT

In Ephesians 1:7 and Colossians 1:14 Paul uses the phrase ‘the forgiveness of sins’ as an explanatory expansion of the word ‘redemption’. In Christ, and through his blood, we ‘have redemption, the forgiveness of sins’. While it is true that God forgives us because of the death of Jesus, there is a very obvious, but nevertheless subtle, difference of meaning here. It is this: that this redemption, this freedom, that is here called ‘the forgiveness of sins’, is a noun, not a verb. It is the result of a verb. It is the result of God’s action in which he forgave all our sins, but here, in itself, it is a noun. And this is important because it tells us that forgiveness of sins is something that we have. It is not something that has to be done and done again and done again. In Christ we have the forgiveness of sins. That is what God clearly says here.

In Matthew 18:21-35 Jesus told a lengthy parable to explain the meaning and mindset of forgiveness, in response to a question raised by Peter. This parable teaches many very important truths about this freedom, this forgiveness of sins, that is part and parcel of the gift of salvation in Christ.

[1] Forgiveness issues from the deep compassion of God.

[2] Forgiveness is granted by One who understands the immensity of the debt.

[3] Forgiveness comes from One who completely understands our spiritual destitution, who knows that we have absolutely no ability to pay the debt ourselves.

[4] Forgiveness is complete and total.

[5] Forgiveness is portrayed as the permanent cancellation of debt. [Which means that the King stands the cost.]

[6] Forgiveness is clearly stated by the King.

[7] Forgiveness has two aspects: the cancellation of the debt and release from the incurred penalty.

[8] The pronouncement of this forgiveness may be heard, but neither believed nor understood, and therefore not received.

The parable in Matthew 18 tells us of a person who heard the pronouncement of forgiveness, but neither believed it nor understood it. He continued to live as one unforgiven: he did not live with the joy of forgiveness; he did not live in the freedom of forgiveness; he went out still burdened by his debt, still needing money, still thinking that he had to, and could, somehow either pay back the King or diminish the debt.

The forgiveness we have in Christ through his blood is neither puny nor a stop-gap measure: it is, rather, immeasurable and unlimited: it is ‘according to the riches of his grace that he has lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding’ [Ephesians 1:7,8]. As in the Matthew 18 parable, so here:

This forgiveness is in the same quantity and quality as God’s grace, which is immeasurable, incomparable, unsearchable.

Like God’s grace, it has been lavished upon us – more, far more, than what we need. It will never run out or wear out.

It is not defined by our human understanding of our situation or our supposed wisdom about our merits and demerits but by God’s understanding of our situation and God’s wisdom about our inability to ever pay or repay our sin debt.

Our sin debt is gone. Totally. God knew how big it was. God knew how impossible it was for us to pay it. So he paid the debt. Completely. And forever. With no repayment or pay back required. Ever.

This is the freedom of forgiveness. In this freedom of forgiveness we can now love God and our neighbour freely, that is, without any sense of doing it to obtain or earn spiritual merit for ourselves with which to repay the debt.

Let us so live that we honour God by really understanding and really believing what he has done for us in Christ and through his blood.

© Rosemary Bardsley 2012