The importance of forgiveness is a constant theme of Scripture. There are no less than seventy-five different word pictures about forgiveness in the Bible. They help us grasp the importance, the nature, and the effects of forgiveness. Forgiveness is so important that the Holy Spirit devoted an entire book of the Bible to it. In the brief book of Philemon, the spiritual duty to forgive is emphasized, but not in principle, parable, or word picture. Through a real life situation involving two people dear to him, Paul teaches the importance of forgiving others.
Although the word forgiveness is not mentioned in this letter from Paul to Philemon, forgiveness is the reason for the writing of this letter. There are two New Testament words translated forgive. One word translated “forgive” (aphesin) means to send off or to send away. This word means the wrong is cut out and sent away from the wrongdoer. This word means the sin is separated from the sinner. This is the word that speaks of our sins being forgiven through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross.
The forgiveness offered by Jesus is offered because of our proneness to do wrong and the guilt that results from our doing wrong. However, God offers forgiveness for our wrongdoing and guilt because there is a penalty to be paid because of our wrongdoing and guilt. God forgives us because Jesus paid the penalty. Through Jesus Christ, we have been forgiven totally. Through the total forgiveness offered through Jesus, we maintain constant fellowship with God. Sin disturbs and breaks our fellowship with God. But forgiveness restores it.
Forgiveness offered through Jesus Christ is also the means by which we are released from the guilt of sin. Once we know we have been forgiven, there is no longer a need to carry the burden of the sin. The offender knows that God does not have any resentment because of the offense. The offender has a clear conscience because of being set free from the guilt and penalty of sin.
Forgiveness has to be understood as a part of justification. In justification, God set us free from the condemnation of the law. Because of the work of Jesus Christ, God removes the guilt of sin. The sinner is no longer liable for the payment for his sin.
A second word translated “forgive” (charizomenoi) means to grant pardon. It suggests being gracious to a person. It is canceling a debt or pardoning someone who has done wrong. This word translated “forgive” means a quarrel with a person has taken place. One person has hurt another person and caused that person harm. Despite being offended, the forgiving person cancels the wrong done by the offender. The hurt or harmed person is gracious to the offender. The offended person pardons the offender by wiping out the wrong and treating the person as if he has not sinned.
Sunday we tried to unwrap this gift of forgiveness in this manner, God's gift of forgiveness gave us:
I. A New Day
1. Erases our Past (justification)
2. Equips us for our Present (Sanctification)
3. Enables our Future (Glorification)
II. A New Directive
1. Speak as a partner to a partner
2. Speak as a Father to a Follower
3. Speak in Love
III. A New Designation
4.Onesimus=From Slave to Son
Pray for us in this journey through Philemon as next week during this Advent season with God's help, we will unwrap the gift of Reconciliation.