A Biblical definition of Forgiveness

Now I’ve heard and read a lot about forgiveness.  There are tons of books out there that address various aspects of forgiveness, but they all seem to regularly suffer from the same flaw:

I rarely find a satisfactory biblical definition of the term “forgiveness”.  Let me explain.

People will often talk about what forgiveness looks like, meaning they’ll talk about no longer “bringing it up” once you’ve forgiven someone…but that only tells me what forgiveness does, not what it is.

People will talk about how God forgives and quote various passages that deal with the frequency or gracious nature of forgiveness, but again those tell me about how forgiveness looks, not what it is.

I’ve recently wanted to really put my thumb down in a biblical idea of what forgiveness is in its essence; a single statement to summarize a definition of “forgiveness” that is positive and gives my mind a nail on which to hang thoughts about forgiveness.  I’m not going to answer all the questions on forgiveness at all, but only try to define the term from the scriptures.  So, here’s a short definition that I’ve come up with some biblical exploration:

1.  What is forgiveness?

Forgiveness is a promise to no longer remember one’s sin and to cease holding it against them.

  • Jeremiah 31:34 “For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more”.  Hebrews 10:15-18 also quotes Jeremiah 31:33-34, pointing out two elements of the new covenant as (1) having the law written on the hearts and minds, and (2) having their sins and lawless deeds no longer remembered.  That is why Heb 10:18 says “where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin”.  God always knows a person’s sin, but if he chooses to no longer remember it, he no longer holds it against them.
  •  In Deuteronomy 9:27, Moses asks for forgiveness for Israel  by asking God to “do not regard their wickedness or their sin…”
  • In Psalm 25:6-7 David asks for forgiveness for the sins of his youth by saying : ” (6) Remember your mercy, O Lord, and your steadfast love, for they have been from of old. (7) Remember not the sins of my youth or my transgressions; according to your steadfast love remember me, for the sake of your goodness, O Lord!”
  •  It is very interesting to note how David talks to God: Remember  your mercy which is old, but do not remember my youthful sins, and remember me in accord with your love and for the sake of your goodness.  David knows full well that God is fully aware of every detail of his sin; he only asks God to not remember his sin!
  • In Psalm 109, David asks God to deal justly with the wicked who attack him.  He implores God to treat them justly, and in ascending magnitude of punishment he asks God to serve them back their wickedness. David asks God to appoint a wicked person against them (6), reveal his sin and ignore his prayer (7), cut his days short (8), bring him to the grave (9), may his children be beggars (10), may the bank seize all he owns and may bandits steal his stuff (11), let he and his family be kept from pity (12), may his name be cut off (13), and finally “May the iniquity of his father be remembered before the Lord, and let none of the sin of his mother be blotted out!”  This is a call for ultimate judgment; a call for God to hold his sin against him.  This is the worst and greatest punishment possible.
  • In the trial of the false gods in Isaiah 40-48, God speaks in Isaiah 43 and defines himself as “I am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins” (43:25).  Those two statements are parallel; God blots out one’s sin (through the death of Christ the payment for sin is made) and the action that follows from that is “not remembering”.  God doesn’t actually make the sin so as to have not happened, but as the payment for sin is paid upon Christ, he can be just and no longer remember it, no longer holding it against the sinner.
  • In Jeremiah 14:1-9, Jeremiah speaks regarding a famine.  14:1-6 describes the famine, 14:7-9 is a prayer for help.  Then, starting at 14:10, the Lord answers and says “They have loved to wander thus; they have not restrained their feet,; therefore the Lord does not accept them; now he will remember their iniquity and punish their sins.”  The famine was simply a just punishment for the sins of the nation of Israel.
  • In Ezekiel 33:14-16, God comments on how if a wicked man turns from his sin walks in the statutes of life, “none of the sins that he has committed shall be remembered against him.”
  • Hosea 8:13 & 9:9 comment on how God’s punishment involves God remembering the iniquity of Israel and punishing their sin.
  • In Revelation 18:5, when Babylon is finally judged, a voice from heaven says “for her sins are heaped high as heaven, and God has remembered her iniquities.”

Now as I said previously, I wasn’t attempting to give a comprehensive lesson on forgiveness, but only to give a definition of the term.  I hope that this post has been both informative and helpful to you.

Until Next Time,

Lyndon “Forgiven” Unger


8 thoughts on “A Biblical definition of Forgiveness

  1. I write with hope you are faring better and with kind thoughts of your Mrs. and family.

    Psalm 109’s text fascinates me. I know he loved God and God loved him in return. Yet, in view of his own actions, it made me wonder could such a request end-up applying to himself as well.

    At one point, politics as usual, The King told David to stop worshiping ”his” God.

    Instead, the Bible recounts David would open his windows wide and yell out well and good in song form his Praises of the Lord.

    It took me a long time to note: his wife was making fun of him and disgusted with him. She didn’t give him any support, at least not during this portion of his life. Still, he followed God.

    Now, this woman would she have not been the one he saw bathing on the rooftop when he had decided not to return to battle???

    The same that lured him to murder her husband does not appear to have made at least in that particular instance a very good wife.

    Just an observational thought.

  2. Of course, I forgot my main question. When David is saying, writing or possibly singing Psalm 109 to God, it is during the Old Testament period.
    One of the fascinating facts about the Bible (to me, anyway) is how it intertwines like a puzzle no-one could defy if studied correctly.

    Main Point: It is as if everything in the Old Testament re-appears in the New Testament. As Testament means “Contract”, again how can anyone with Biblical knowledge defy His Deity and Existence???

    Main Question: In the New Testament, it is repeatedly stated (in some cases slightly different wording) “Vengenance is mine, saith The Lord”.

    In your opinion, would you agree this is just one example of the same subject still existing yet being slightly revised to the benefit of humanity by The Trinity??? Because the statement itself (to me) means basically He is saying “vengance is my choice, not yours”.

    Now, David prayed Psalm 109 in some form, how do we know at even that time God agreed with David’s outlook??? Regarding setting standards of punishment.

    This is very interesting to me. +++

  3. Well, if you respond I hope I still receive it, because I forgot to check the receive replies box for the above posting. :(.

    Dear God In Your Son’s Name, Thank you today for Your Innovative Provision. Never in many years have I been able to find a physician who believes in one of my chronic illnesses and/or wants to be involved in the treatment of it. Yet, again, You were at work for me and not against me.

    Three times I tried to shred the invoice charge for the fact I had forgotten to attend a doctor’s appointment. Why should a dr. charge $96.00 for a missed appt.??? How would I be able to pay that and furthermore to be honest why should I pay $96.00 for a missed appointment???

    It would not shred. Yet the machine was functioning correctly. So I sighed and accepted whether or not I liked it wasn’t the point, the point was to face the problem. I called their office, Lord, and find out the reasoning behind the charge is there is no time limit on the first visit, the doctor spends as much time as is necessary to familiarize himself with the patient history. Hmmmm.

    They’re also willing to drop the charge much lower.

    Then it happened…I said does the dr believe in Chronic Fatigue Immunodeficiency Syndrome or just ‘know of it’??? The answer was Yes, he is very knowledgeable in this area and BELIEVES THE ILLNESS IS PHYSIOLOGICAL. Just as the CDC did when they tested me. To top it off, he also believes FM (Fibromyalgia) is also a valid illness.

    Like Sarah, I never stopped believing the day would come when I would find a doctor in my area willing to admit the illnesses exist and are full-body system illnesses. I was beginning to wonder when it would happen.

    Just one more grand moment to add to the List of Blessings You Give To me, your Believer. I waited and waited and in Your Own Timing You Blessed me.

    Please so let it be with Pastor and his wife. Please each step of recovery be bound by the knowledge of the surety of Your Promises to us, please show them Your Magnificence in Many Ways. You Specialize In the Impossible I Know You Will Magnify Your Presence Through Unexpected Blessings in their lives and I thank You for it. Amen. +++

  4. Isn’t thanks something to be given each day to Him??? Thinking of you and Mrs. Mennoknight and baby. And, extended family. Dear God, in Your Son’s Name, Our Lord and Saviour Christ, please according to Psalm 91 give them The Shelter of Your Being and Magnify Your Holy Name by Your Son and show this family Your Blessings Showered Upon Them, Please and Thank You, I ask for Your Believer to be sanctified and healed, I ask for their every need and want to be Given, for Your Eye Searches the World for a Righteous person to bestow upon Your Blessings, and he, Your patient, loyal to You and Your Son, is Most Loyal to You, Boldly I ask You to see him and family and heal and bless, in Your Son’s Name. Thank You. Amen. +++

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