The challenge of freely offering forgiveness

It involves giving others something they do not have, but desparately need.

Contrary to how much the word is used among congregations today, the word forgiveness appears in the Bible only a limited number of times. In the King James version, the frequency is as follows:

  • forgiveness occurs 56 times in 48 verses, 21 in the NT
  • forgiven occurs 42 times in 38 verses, 20 in the NT
  • forgiveness occurs 7 times in 7 verses, 6 in the NT
  • forgiving occurs 4 times in 4 verses, 2 in the NT

Overall, the concept of forgiveness in all of the forms above is mentioned just under fifty times in the NT. By comparison, the Holy Spirit or Holy Ghost is mentioned over a hundred times in the NT, and love is represented 158 times in the NT.

There are several Hebrew and Greek words that are used to express this concept of forgiveness; however, I would like to focus one of the primary Greek words used in the NT for forgive, charizomai. In the Outline of Biblical Usage, the word is used in the following ways:

  • to do something pleasant or agreeable (to one), to do a favour to, gratify
  • to show one’s self gracious, kind, benevolent
  • to grant forgiveness, to pardon
  • to give graciously, give freely, bestow
  • to forgive
  • graciously to restore one to another
  • to preserve for one a person in peril

The Strong’s definition puts an even finer point on it by defining it this way:
to grant as a favor, i.e. gratuitously, in kindness, pardon or rescue:—deliver, (frankly) forgive, (freely) give, grant.

Looking at all of the various ways that this word is used, I get a sense that this concept involves a type of giving; giving of something to someone else that they don’t currently have. I like the Strong’s perspective of granting a favor or pardon. What this emphasizes to me is that the process of forgiveness involves a bestowal of favor, merited or not, upon another individual. In fact, the word is rooted in the Greek term charis, where we get the English word grace, generally meaning unmerited favor.

You see, to forgive someone is to unequivocally grant them something they are lacking: pardon for an offense. To be able to give this to someone else involves a letting go of any negative emotion that may be tied to that offense in order to give a genuine pardon freely and sincerely. There can be no strings attached, no conditions of forgiveness. They may continue to create offense in the same or different ways, but if we are sincere in our granting of forgiveness we must continue to do so.

Peter clarified this for us when he asked Yeshua about how many times we should bestow forgiveness upon another:

Matthew 18:21-22 – Then Peter came to Him and said, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” Yeshua said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.”

We may think that forgiving someone who has wronged us is a monumental thing in the eyes of God. It certainly is an indication that we are allowing God’s Spirit to work through us. However, if it is only the first of 490 times that we are commanded to forgive someone, then we still have a long way to go to meet God’s standards!

Obviously, the number of times we are commanded to forgive is hyperbole for the sake of emphasis, but doesn’t it adequately make the point that we should essentially be in a constant state of forgiving others? Especially in today’s digital age, there is no shortage of offense that is displayed between individuals. How much more we need to emphasize the lofty standard of forgiveness to those around us.

By doing so, our exhibition of this trait can spur others to notice with what difference we, as believers in Messiah, react to the situations we encounter. When those with whom you interact begin to realize that you are sincere in this level of granting favor, their lives can be positively impacted in tangible ways when they receive the forgiveness and pardon that can only be granted by you.

Don’t hold it over their heads; offer it freely.


If you enjoy these daily blog posts, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week we take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive on our Podcast Page, at Core of the Bible on Simplecast, or your favorite podcast streaming service.

Now also on YouTube, find us at: Core of the Bible on YouTube.

Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at coreofthebible@gmail.com.

To trust God by serving others removes anxiety from our lives

Allowing God to work in our interest, not against us, requires faith.

1 Peter 5:5-7 – In the same way, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. All of you clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble. Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, so that he may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your cares on him, because he cares about you.

Peter here is encouraging humility among those to whom he is writing. First for the elders and leaders of the congregations, and then for the young who might be resistant to authority. He then justifies this position with a quote from Proverbs 3:34, saying “God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble.” In his context, Peter relates that a position of humility is preferred so that God can then lift them up at the appropriate time. This is reminiscent of the teaching of Yeshua:

Luke 14:8-11 – “When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet, don’t recline at the best place, because a more distinguished person than you may have been invited by your host. “The one who invited both of you may come and say to you, ‘Give your place to this man,’ and then in humiliation, you will proceed to take the lowest place. “But when you are invited, go and recline in the lowest place, so that when the one who invited you comes, he will say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher.’ You will then be honored in the presence of all the other guests. “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

By drawing on this imagery from Messiah, Peter is encouraging humility among all the believers so that God would then have opportunity to exalt them. In this way, Peter continues, there was no need to be anxious, since God would surely accomplish this in his perfect timing. Take care of others, he says, and God will take care of you.

Humbling oneself requires a deep trust in God. In humbling oneself, one must believe that there is a greater good for God’s purposes that can result from this humility, because our natural response is not to humble ourselves in the service and preference of others but to serve ourselves and our needs above others.

From Peter’s perspective when we focus on ourselves we tend to be more anxious, not knowing how we can achieve or gain what we need. Yet, when we humble ourselves and choose to put others before ourselves, our anxiety can be shed in this service of God, knowing that he is the One who cares for our needs. While we are busying ourselves with the needs of others, God is working quietly on our behalf, providing us favor in our time of need.

The proverb contrasts this state of grace and favor among the humble with an unfavorable alternative by saying that God actively resists the proud and arrogant. This idea goes back to a principle I believe is throughout the Bible: there are natural moral and spiritual consequences built into this Creation by God. In this instance, when one is arrogant, self-centered, and mocking others God has set bounds in place that work against that type of individual, whether socially, physically, or spiritually.

The apostle James also leverages this same quote from Proverbs for a similar use, in encouraging his hearers to get their eyes off praying for things they personally desire and onto the needs of others.

James 4:3-4, 6 – You ask and don’t receive because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures. You adulterous people! Don’t you know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? So whoever wants to be the friend of the world becomes the enemy of God. … But he gives greater grace. Therefore he says: God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.

Why should we place ourselves in an adversarial position against God by seeking our own elevated status and position? According to Peter and James, this is what happens when we seek our own desires above the needs of others. This condition creates anxiety for always having to gauge who we can trust and how we can maintain our standing.

Instead, when we demonstrate our trust in God and his design for the world by producing fruit of genuine humility and service for others, we can then shed our anxiety for our position and status in this world. Serving God by serving others relieves us from our concern for ourselves and allows us the freedom to truly provide for the needs of those around us with sincerity and love.


If you enjoy these daily blog posts, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week we take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive on our Podcast Page, at Core of the Bible on Simplecast, or your favorite podcast streaming service.

Now also on YouTube, find us at: Core of the Bible on YouTube.

Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at coreofthebible@gmail.com.

A refusal to forgive others can result in the discipline and training of God

We may encounter hardship or trial due to our unwillingness to forgive others, not because God is vindictive, but because he is trying to guide our feet in the right way.

Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, in the same manner you should forgive others.

Colossians 3:13

Paul was encouraging the believers to overlook the offenses of others based on the fact that God had forgiven them of their faults. This principle of reciprocity is stated in many places.

Luke 6:37 “Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn others, or it will all come back against you. Forgive others, and you will be forgiven.
Ephesians 4:31-32 Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.

If the believers were enjoying the favor of God, then their peers should have been enjoying their favor. One cannot be truly forgiven without that same forgiveness being evident in their life toward others.

This reciprocity sounds all well and good until we realize that Yeshua also taught its opposite.

“If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.

Matthew 6:14-15

A refusal to forgive others engenders a type of spiritual hostility, not only with others, but with God. God is just, and desires us to be equitable. Why? Because he is. If we are to be considered his children, then we should carry his characteristics in this world. If we have been forgiven, we should forgive others.

However, if we choose to hold on to animosity, jealousy, and selfish ambition instead of releasing it through forgiveness, then God is not obligated to forgive us of our faults. We are acting like stubborn children who then will likely require discipline to understand the error of our way. We may encounter hardship or trial due to our unwillingness to forgive others, not because God is vindictive, but because he is trying to guide our feet in the right way.

And have you forgotten the encouraging words God spoke to you as his children? He said, “My child, don’t make light of the LORD’s discipline, and don’t give up when he corrects you. For the LORD disciplines those he loves, and he punishes each one he accepts as his child.” As you endure this divine discipline, remember that God is treating you as his own children. Who ever heard of a child who is never disciplined by its father? If God doesn’t discipline you as he does all of his children, it means that you are illegitimate and are not really his children at all. Since we respected our earthly fathers who disciplined us, shouldn’t we submit even more to the discipline of the Father of our spirits, and live forever? For our earthly fathers disciplined us for a few years, doing the best they knew how. But God’s discipline is always good for us, so that we might share in his holiness. No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening–it’s painful! But afterward there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way.

Hebrews 12:5-11

When we can let go of our pride and stubbornness in our relationships with others, then God will restore his favor upon us in response to our willingness to be obedient.

Lord, your discipline is good, for it leads to life and health. You restore my health and allow me to live! Yes, this anguish was good for me, for you have rescued me from death and forgiven all my sins.

Isaiah 38:16-17

The choice is ours: we can choose to forgive or we can endure God’s discipline, as he trains his children further in his ways.

But you are not like that, for you are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light.

1 Peter 2:9

If you enjoy these daily blog posts, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week we take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive here. Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at coreofthebible@gmail.

Forgiveness always comes at a cost to someone

Forgiveness always positively changes a relationship, but it always comes at a cost.

The book of Leviticus is the heart of the “law of Moses,” the torah, or instruction that Moses provided to Israel. In it is outlined much of the ritual that defined the ancient Israelite worship of God. To our modern Western mind, some of the practices appear to make no practical sense, such as specific types of offerings that God expected his people to provide.

However, if one looks more closely at chapters 4-6, a pattern emerges that has significance even for us today. Amidst all of the rules and regulations, we can see that God desires to forgive his people when they have strayed from right paths.

Leviticus 4:26, 31 Through this process, the priest will purify the leader from his sin, making him right with the LORD, and he will be forgiven. … Through this process, the priest will purify the people, making them right with the LORD, and they will be forgiven.

Leviticus 5:6, 10 This is a sin offering with which the priest will purify you from your sin, making you right with the LORD. … Through this process the priest will purify you from your sin, making you right with the LORD, and you will be forgiven.

Leviticus 6:7 Through this process, the priest will purify you before the LORD, making you right with him, and you will be forgiven for any of these sins you have committed.”

All of these instructions point to one thing: God desired for the people to be reconciled with him, otherwise, why would he spend so much time describing how they were to go about making that happen?

An often-overlooked aspect of this process of forgiveness is the cost that the individual had to incur when bringing a sacrifice. Bulls, goats, rams, sheep, birds; all of these were costly offerings for sin that had to be brought to the priest in order for God’s forgiveness to be granted.

This highlights an important principle: when forgiveness is granted, it always costs somebody something; it is never free.

There was nothing inherent in the animal itself that somehow provided this forgiveness. This is even brought out in the New Testament writings.

For it is not possible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.

Hebrews 10:4

No, it was the value of the sacrifice that demonstrated the sincerity of the giver. The offerer had to demonstrate true intent (that is, repentance). Among other things (like the identity substitution), the giving of a perfectly good animal that could provide much personal benefit to the offerer was a way of showing they were sincere in asking for forgiveness.

The bringing of the animals to the priest was not for blood debts to be repaid, and God certainly didn’t need the animals for himself. But through this process, he was teaching the Israelites that there is a value to be exchanged for a renewed relationship with God.

Forgiveness always positively changes a relationship, but it always comes at a cost. This is why it is even still a custom today to bring a gift to someone when apologizing for some sort of relationship transgression. The thoughtfulness or value of the gift demonstrates the sincerity of the giver.

We are commanded by Yeshua to forgive others and to love our enemies when they don’t deserve it or when they are not demonstrating sacrificial repentance. Even if we are approached multiple times a day by the same individual, we are to forgive them. When these types of passages are discussed today, what is rarely mentioned is the cost that this forgiveness exacts from us. If the individual asking for forgiveness is not providing some sort of sacrificial benefit on their behalf, then the one who is absorbing or carrying the cost of the forgiveness is you.

This is why the act of forgiveness is so unique among God’s people today. Forgiveness that is freely offered is not cheap, it still comes at a great expense. It is a sacrificial lifestyle with real cost to the believer in every relationship. But the sacrificial obedience that God demands of us provides for positive relationships in all areas of life and honors him by demonstrating we have learned the true value of forgiveness.

If you enjoy these daily blog posts, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week we take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive here. Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at coreofthebible@gmail.com.