Mark Twain once said, “Forgiveness is the  fragrance the violet sheds on the heel that  has crushed it.” Many in the world do not  understand the subject of forgiveness since they fail  to see what God says in His word about such. Some  think that if we only pray to God concerning sin, no  matter what the circumstances, God automatically and  immediately forgives. Some think that we should forgive  others even if they refuse to admit guilt, express remorse  or show any signs of repentance. What are we to make  of this confusing subject?

Let us first define this word in the way the Bible  defines it, which it does employing five different terms:

•  It uses a financial term called “ remission ”  (Matt. 26:28). Concerning sin, man is indebted  to God (Matt. 6:12), but in forgiveness, the  blood of Jesus remits the guilt of past sins and  forwards a zero balance.

•  It uses a judicial term called “ justification ”  (Rom. 3:24-26). Concerning sin, man stands  guilty (James 2:10), but in forgiveness, the  blood of Jesus removes our guilt and releases  us from the penalty of sin.

•  It uses a ceremonial term called “ purification ”  (Titus 2:14). Concerning sin, our souls are  defiled (Jer. 2:23), but in forgiveness, the blood  of Jesus cleanses us from the filth of iniquity  (1 John 1:7; Isa. 1:18).

•  It uses a geographic term called “ sanctification ”  (Heb. 10:29). Concerning sin, we stand in the  realm of the world and all who are friends to  it (James 4:4), but in forgiveness, the blood of  Jesus cuts us loose and sets us apart for holy  service in His church (Rom. 12:1-2).

•  It uses a social term called “ reconciliation ”  (Rom. 5:10). Concerning sin, we are separated  from God (Isa. 59:1-2), but in forgiveness, the  blood of Jesus satisfies the justice of God and  allows us to draw near to Him in fellowship  (Heb. 8:10; James 4:8).

Now, there is actually a great deal of difference  in demonstrating a forgiving spirit and obtaining  forgiveness, because forgiveness is a two-way street.  Let us now distinguish the two. The Bible declares  that we must be people who are willing to forgive  (Matt. 5:44-45; 6:14-15; Mark 11:25; Eph. 4:32; Matt.  18:21-35). This was the demonstration by example of  our Lord on Calvary in Luke 23:34: “ Father, forgive  them; for they know not what they do .” Nevertheless,  unless the perpetrator recognizes fault and expresses  proper remorse, one cannot obtain forgiveness. Since  we have offended God by our sins, we must obtain His  forgiveness based upon His terms. The Bible is replete  with passages that inform us of the need of developing  a broken and contrite spirit (Ps. 34:18; 51:17). The  New Testament declares thus for the child of God: “ If  we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us  our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness ” (1  John 1:9). Peter told the anguished ones who crucified  the Lord, “ Repent, and be baptized every one of you in  the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins …”  (Acts 2:38) for this reason—while Jesus demonstrated a  forgiving spirit, they still needed to indicate proper steps  of recognition and remorse for what they did. With both  of these, they were able to obtain forgiveness from God,  which serves as a wonderful pattern for us in forgiving  others also.

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