by Mike Ratliff
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, 4 just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love 5 He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, 6 to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. 7 In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace 8 which He lavished on us. In all wisdom and insight 9 He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His kind intention which He purposed in Him 10 with a view to an administration suitable to the fullness of the times, that is, the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things on the earth. In Him 11 also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will, 12 to the end that we who were the first to hope in Christ would be to the praise of His glory. (Ephesians 1:3-12 NASB)
The key to understanding the passage above is in getting who the “us” is that Paul mentions repeatedly all through it. Whoever they are, they are indeed blessed. Of course Paul is talking about those who are called, those who believe the Gospel and are redeemed out of spiritual death unto eternal life in Christ. In this posts we will look at one of the direct results of our redemption, which is the forgiveness of sins. It seems that the majority “opinion” of those with the loudest voices and coolest ministries in the visible church never talk about this because they never talk about sin and the doctrine of depravity. Why? They are merely a newer version of what is known as Christian Liberalism, which is a misnomer for it is not true Christianity at all for it denies the necessity of Christ as Saviour so they never preach the Cross. According to them, the Good News is about man not what God has done on man’s behalf. Fortunately, we still have God’s Word and some good solid Bible teachers, well grounded, who never waiver from preaching the whole Gospel. God still has His remnant and always will until Christ returns. Let us look at the three aspects of forgiveness that is the direct result of our redemption.
Here is Ephesians 1:7 from the NASB, “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace…”
Here is v7 from the NA28 text, “Ἐν ᾧ ἔχομεν τὴν ἀπολύτρωσιν διὰ τοῦ αἵματος αὐτοῦ, τὴν ἄφεσιν τῶν παραπτωμάτων, κατὰ τὸ πλοῦτος τῆς χάριτος αὐτοῦ…”
Here is a word-for-word translation, “In whom we have the redemption through the blood of Him, the forgiveness of the trespasses, by the richness of His grace…”
The word forgiveness translates ἄφεσιν the Accusative, Singular, Feminine form of ἄφεσις or aphesis, which literally means “release, pardon, or cancellation.” One of my direct translations rendered this word in this verse as “the sending off.” In Classical Greek, it means “the voluntary release of a person or thing over which one has legal or actual control.”
Aspect one, in legal terms, forgiveness is a judicial release from the guilt and punishment of sin, which is death. Primarily, forgiveness is a legal transaction. I think Christians have lost sight of this truth for the most part, but it is vitally important for us to understand it. Why? We who were under the legal sentence of death according to the Law, are now forgiven by legal transaction. This is our Justification. The Law can never save; it can only reveal guilt and condemn us, “for the law is the knowledge of sin” (Romans 3:20), and “no man is justified by the law” (Galatians 3:11). Paul’s intent through the first half of the book of Romans is to show man’s guilt and THEN to show God’s grace.
Aspect two, in ethical terms, forgiveness is a release from the terribleness of sin that affect the conscience. Salvation changes the sinner ethically. The Christian no longer desires the things he or she used to desire (2 Corinthians 5:17). Hence, the reverse is true. If a professing Christian has absolutely no problem going hard after their old sins and their conscience does not condemn them for it then the washing of regeneration and the forgiveness of sins has not taken place in them.
Aspect three, in personal terms, forgiveness is a cessation of God’s intended wrath upon the sinner. We see a picture of this in the Old Testament scapegoat in Leviticus 16. On the Day of Atonement, the High Priest chose two unblemished goats, one of which he killed and sprinkled its blood on the mercy seat. In vv21-22 we read of the High Priest laying his hands on the live goat, confessing the sins of the nation, and then sending it into the wilderness.
That was an analogy of what God does with our sin. He sends it away forever. That was only symbolic though. In Christ, it is no longer symbolic, but real for Jesus Christ came to be the perfect sacrificial lamb and the perfect scapegoat. He would not only redeem His people with His blood, but He would also remove their sin forever. That is ἄφεσις.
Soli Deo Gloria!