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God’s Word for You

Colossians 1:14b forgiveness of sins

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Wednesday, January 3, 2018

the forgiveness of sins.

Paul uses the phrase “the forgiveness of sins” just four times, twice in his letters (see Ephesians 1:7) and twice in his preaching Acts (Acts 13:38 and 26:18). But the impact of this phase cannot be understated. It is the core of our faith.

What are sins? As a concept, a sin is anything that violates the will of God, including the command to be perfect (Matthew 5:48). It is an aberration of the divine law. “Everyone who sins breaks the law” (1 John 3:4). The Bible has a whole catalog of terms for sin. In Hebrew, the abstract concept of sin can be called:

  • chatah / chata “sin” (Genesis 20:9; Leviticus 19:17)
  • avon “iniquity” (Hoseah 12:8, Job 7:21)
  • bushah “shame, guilt” (Obadiah 10)
  • pesha “trespass / transgressing” (Amos 4:4; Micah 1:5)
  • parah “rebellion, deviation” (Deuteronomy 13:5; Isaiah 1:5; Jeremiah 28:16)
  • ma’al “unfaithfulness, treachery” (Ezekiel 15:8; Daniel 9:7)
  • marah “rebellious” (Zephaniah 3:1)
  • tame’ “be, become defiled” (Haggai 2:13)
  • shagaga “error (of ignorance)” (Ecclesiastes 5:6, 10:5; Leviticus 4:2)
  • nabalah “folly, wickedness” (Job 42:8; 2 Samuel 13:12)
  • aven “iniquity, guilt” (Isaiah 13:12)
  • asham “guilt” (Genesis 26:10; Numbers 5:7-8)
  • and ‘ebrah “pride, wrath” (Isaiah 16:6; Jeremiah 48:30; Proverbs 21:24).

Other concrete Hebrew terms include ra’ “evil” (Psalm 51:4) and resha’ “wickedness” (Psalm 5:4).

A few portions of the Old Testament were written in Aramaic (Daniel 2-7, Jeremiah 10:11, and parts of Ezra). In these we find:

  • marad “rebellion” (Ezra 4:15, 4:19)
  • cahta’ah “sin” (Ezra 6:17; Daniel 4:24)
  • ‘avayah “perversity, iniquity; guilt” (Daniel 4:24)

In the New Testament, there are a lot of Greek terms:

  • hamartia “sin, miss the mark” (John 1:29; Colossians 1:14)
  • anomia “lawlessness” (Matthew 7:23)
  • adikia “unrighteousness” (Romans 1:18)
  • parabasis “transgression” (Galatians 3:19)
  • parakoē “disobedience” (Hebrews 2:2).

Two that might be accidental sins are paraktoma “misstep” (Matthew 6:14-15, in the Lord’s Prayer) and planē “error” (Acts 3:26). There is also kakia “malice” (1 Corinthians 5:8) and poneria “wickedness” (Ephesians 6:12).

These names for sin include every kind of sin: the original sin we’re born with, the sins we commit by mistake, the sins we commit on purpose, the sins we commit through ignorance, sins of omission, and the sin of trying to obey God but failing (missing the mark).

With such a burden of sin, we must never be tempted to try to redefine what sin is. Sin is real; sin in our status before God. Sin is what infects us through and through.

The word “forgiveness” that Paul uses (aphesis, ἄϕεσις) is to send something away. This can be a release from captivity (Isaiah 49:9), a pardon from a prison sentence (Joel 3:21), or the cancellation of a debt (Matthew 18:27). So by offering himself, his own body, as the sacrifice to atone for our sins, what did Christ accomplish?

Our original sin is no longer counted against us.
God’s judgment: It never happened.

Sins that are mistakes are overlooked.
God’s judgment: It never happened.

Sins that are outright rebellion are removed from our record.
God’s judgment: It never happened.

Sins committed in ignorance are brushed off.
God’s judgment: It never happened.

Sins of omission are set aside.
God’s judgment: It never happened.

“I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more” (Jeremiah 31:34). “God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them” (2 Corinthians 5:19). This is what it means to be forgiven. Christ’s perfect life and atoning death cover the guilt of every one of our sins, sins of every single kind. It is as if none of it ever happened. Through Jesus we are right in God’s sight. We are holy. We are saved.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim SmithAbout Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. His wife, Kathryn, attended the Chapel from 1987-1990 while studying Secondary Education (Theater and Math) at UW-Madison. Kathryn’s father, John Meyer, was also the first man to serve as a Vicar at Chapel.

To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please contact Pastor Smith.

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