When we recognize we are in a forgiven state, we can then operate within that condition in a manner that honors the Creator of the universe.
When John the baptizer was born six months ahead of Yeshua, his father, Zechariah, was provided a prophetic utterance by the holy Spirit regarding the work of his newborn son.
Luke 1:76-77 – “And you, child, will be called a prophet of the Most High, for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, to give his people knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins.”
Zechariah prophesied that his son John would give God’s people “knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of sins.” What does this mean?
Well, if we look a little more closely at the underlying terms in the Greek text, we can see that a more literal rendering might be something like, “to give salvation knowledge to [the] people of him, in forgiveness of [the] sins of them.” To me, one of the most striking differences is the substitution of the preposition “in” for “through.” God’s people would have “salvation knowledge” in forgiveness of their sins, not through forgiveness of their sins.
This subtle difference is captured in the literal English versions such as the Young’s Literal Translation, Weymouth, Literal Standard Version, Aramaic Bible, American Standard Version, Berean Literal, and the English Standard Version. Almost all other English translations will use the word “through” or “by.”
So what’s the big deal? Why is this significant?
The HELPS Word Studies concordance elaborates:
“en (a preposition) – properly, in (inside, within); (figuratively) “in the realm (sphere) of,” as in the condition (state) in which something operates from the inside (within).”
To be forgiven is to be in the condition or state of forgiveness. The prophecy states that it is in this condition that one has a recognition, a knowledge and understanding of one’s “saved” state. By contrast, if the knowledge and understanding of salvation must be present first which then provides the vehicle through which forgiveness is provided to the individual, then we are by default limiting forgiveness to those who are exposed to and understand this knowledge. This in essence restricts God’s ability to forgive anyone unless they have the proper and right knowledge.
On a casual reading of this passage, this may not seem like it has any bearing on anything. But let’s run this logic out a little to see where it leads.
What about those who may not have the ability to grasp the gospel message, such as those who are mentally challenged? Does this mean that they can’t be forgiven because they can’t understand the knowledge of salvation? What about infants and small children who have not gained the ability to reason about life and eternity, can they not receive forgiveness?
Interestingly, Yeshua states that the kingdom of God belongs to those who are innocent as children.
Matthew 18:1-5 – At that time the disciples came to Yeshua and asked, “So who is greatest in the kingdom of heaven? ” He called a child and had him stand among them. “Truly I tell you,” he said, “unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. “Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child – this one is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. “And whoever welcomes one child like this in my name welcomes me.
Can a child understand all of the complexities that surround the concepts of salvation and forgiveness? Yet, Yeshua says it is this innocence and humility which is the basis of those populating the kingdom.
The crux of the issue determines in a large way how we approach the whole concept of evangelism and outreach. Modern models of evangelism focus so intently on providing information about salvation, trying to convince people of the reasonableness of the gospel message, that we lose sight of Who is it is Who is really responsible for the forgiveness of an individual. Yes, we have to provide non-believers a general understanding of the biblical worldview, but it is not that knowledge specifically that provides forgiveness. It is God, and God alone, who draws people to himself and forgives them.
Yeshua taught that those whom God would call would listen to him.
John 6:44-45 – “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up on the last day. It is written in the Prophets: ‘And they will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has listened to and learned from the Father comes to me – ”
This misapplication of this “knowledge principle” is one of the main reasons why churches and individuals head down a road of compromise with the world. They start to operate on the principle that if the information is just packaged correctly, more people will get saved. This, in turn, leads to “seeker sensitive” churches and materials in an attempt to reach the widest possible audiences.
It sounds logical and good on the surface, but what it ends up doing is watering down the kingdom message of the gospel to make it more palatable to more people. In so doing, it is robbed of its power by the nature of what it is: a message that is designed by God to set people apart and call them to be holy, not to compromise with the standards and sensibilities of the world.
Paul writes about it this way:
1 Corinthians 1:18, 21-24 – For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but it is the power of God to us who are being saved. … For since, in God’s wisdom, the world did not know God through wisdom, God was pleased to save those who believe through the foolishness of what is preached. For the Jews ask for signs and the Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Messiah crucified, a stumbling block to the Jews and foolishness to the Gentiles. Yet to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Messiah is the power of God and the wisdom of God…
See, it is not some knowledge of salvation that we need to convince non-believers of; it is foolishness to them. But the message of the Messiah bringing the kingdom of God through the cross, a message of self-sacrifice and renunciation of worldly values, this is the light that shines in the darkness, and whoever will may come.
No, Zechariah’s prophecy, which literally says “you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, to give his people knowledge of salvation in the forgiveness of their sins,” has a much simpler meaning and message. It is that those who have already been forgiven (God’s people) will have a recognition, a knowledge and understanding, of their salvation from everything and all that is opposed to the perfect will of God. That is its simple and beautiful message to those who are forgiven. They will be able to rejoice within the influence of the forgiveness they have already received, having a full understanding and appreciation of all from which they have been forgiven.
When we recognize we are in a forgiven state, we can then operate within that condition in a manner that honors the Creator of the universe; we can be truly holy for the rest of our days.
Luke 1:73-75 – He has given us the privilege, since we have been rescued from the hand of our enemies, to serve him without fear in holiness and righteousness in his presence all our days.
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