Unmasking the Domestic Abuser in the Church

More Truths about Forgiveness (Part 2)

Here are some more thoughts on this matter of forgiveness that help us dispel the confusion we have so often been hampered (and guilted) by. Once again we thank our friend who sent her essay to us:

First of all, when God forgives, what does He actually do? The Biblical language for forgiveness (or the withholding of forgiveness) is –

  • who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin; forgiving iniquity and transgression;
  • He will by no means clear the guilty; pardons all your iniquities,
  • wipes out your transgressions; Passes over rebellious act
  • Retains His anger
  • Cleanses us from all unrighteousness

So from a Biblical standpoint forgiveness essentially is a pardoning of sin, a clearing of the guilty, a removing of debt or wiping out transgression. And because God’s forgiveness of us entails our salvation, there is a sense in which no one can forgive sins but God, and the people were [logically] right to marvel that Jesus would say this, although once they witnessed the power of God in Jesus’ healing of the man, they were accountable for believing.

I believe this means that there is a sense in which we represent God’s forgiveness when we forgive another person, so we better get this right. We do not have any right to invent our own version of forgiveness, (just like we can’t redefine ‘love’!) And because in God’s economy our forgiveness is directly tied to our salvation, then His forgiveness of us will inevitably lead to our reconciliation to Him. The Gospel in a nutshell is forgiveness of sins so we can be restored to God. Obviously we’re not going to save anybody when we forgive, but this is good to keep in mind, just to lay down the foundation for what forgiveness is —and isn’t—and to keep in perspective the depth of the powerful transaction between sinner and God in forgiveness.

Having a Biblical definition of forgiveness is important so that we don’t diminish God’s attributes. If we think of forgiveness only in terms of how we feel, or the relinquishing resentment or bitterness or revenge —then what does that say about God? Isn’t it right for a Holy God to punish sinners? Or are we saying that if God does not forgive then that means He “wants to hurt the person back”? Why should He forgive? For Himself—so He can feel better? Is God giving up something when He forgives, like His “right” to avenge? IF He forgives us is it because He has “let go of grudges” or because His rightful wrath was fully satisfied? Or to use Corrie Ten Boom’s other famous words (inserting God into her equation) does God “set the prisoner free only to realize the prisoner was God”? Do we realize that when we make such nonsense statements about forgiveness we say something distorted about God’s character?

And to play this out in our relationships, if it’s all about how we feel and what we do in private then we not only change what Biblical forgiveness is, but we’d have to forgive no matter what the offender did. And guess who is going to benefit from that? The predators. Because, after all, it would be sin to be resentful, bitter, and vengeful. And guess who gets blamed for that all the time. The victims. Which is actually so backwards! So when we twist forgiveness into something it’s not, it will mar God’s character and only backfire on innocent people while the guilty go free. But if we define forgiveness Biblically and we think in terms of pardoning transgression—the same way God forgives, then it would force us to deal  with the sin, rather than ignore it, and put some “boundaries” around how or when forgiveness is extended. We would need certain conditions to be met because it would be wrong to forgive sin without the removal of guilt first.

More Thoughts on Forgiveness (Part 3)


More Helpful Truths About Forgiveness


A Wonderful Article: A High View of Marriage Includes Divorce by Rebecca VanDoodewaard


  1. this is interesting to me. partly because of my 19 years in a different theological stream (which had many points about which I did not agree, like infant baptism etc, AND the particular congregation of which had many characteristics of toxic people, like my H), and partly because of the issue of definitions.

    If the comment is not appropriate for the forum, i definitely invite the moderator to delete it; i don’t want to cause offense, but i am thinking…..

    Due to the mental/theological influence of that theological stream, though (trying to keep ideas separate from bad people, because there are many warm, non-toxic congregations in this theological stream, who actually helped me in my partial, ongoing escape)……. however, I do ponder in my mind if & how forgiveness / salvation would be the same. This particular theological stream to which i refer, basically teaches that God forgives everyone (in my thinking, I’ve translated that to propitiation – forgiveness is in sufficient quantities for and available to all) BUT not everyone is saved (because due to the inherent depravity of the sinful nature, man is by nature against what God has to offer and rejects the forgiveness because man believes he is good enough without God, I *think*). the impasse is broken, according to them, when the Holy Spirit comes to the person and forces the person to admit the person is a sinner and to turn to Jesus to receive the forgiveness that is available. That is how , I *think* they understand salvation. they teach that if you are saved, the glory belongs to God; if you are not saved, the fault is your own, and they don’t go any further with it. I hope this is not an inappropriate comment for this forum.

    Out of that & all of the other theological influences in my history, I do sort of mentally have a distinction between forgiveness & salvation. That God forgives, that there’s enough of it to go around for the whole world, but that only some have salvation. But those who have salvation, feel the relief of not suffering eternally for the consequences of sin in the world and sin in themselves. HOWEVER, they also seek to make amends because the forgiveness (which is somehow part of their salvation) is not something they want to ask for again. The power of feeling bad enough to repent of something is curative, i don’t want to offend God again with this sin, so I will make a change.

    I definitely also feel like there is an extent to which the forgiveness that God gives is something that a human cannot replicate, because it does not confer salvation upon anyone. there is also the idea that salvation now is the precursor to a full reconciliation later in eternity in heaven. I feel like the linchpin is repentance.

    In the formerly mentioned congregation within the formerly mentioned theological stream, AS WELL AS, the H, I consistently felt that the model of repentance was inadequate. I would be interested in continuing to understand the role of repentance in this forgiveness/salvation dynamic, whether forgiveness & salvation Are or Are-Not the same things.

    Again, if these comments are not appropriate for this forum, please feel free to redact or not to publish, but these are my thoughts in response to this post. I hope they do not cause any problems for anyone. My thoughts are a bit wandering because I too am pondering this situation. I hope something in them helps someone somewhere.

    • Jeff Crippen

      Nita- i think a help on this subject would be my recent sermon series entitled “Tulip”. Also my series “Does God Love Everyone?” You can find them on youtube, or sermonaudio.com/crc. Short answer- Christ died only for the elect, not for everyone. And God does not love everyone. Those teaching series will show you why.

    • twbtc

      Here are links to the series that Pastor Crippen referred to in his comment.

      TULIP – Sunday Sermon Series at sermon audio.com

      This series is also on the YouTube Channel under the playlist: TULIP.

      The “Does God Love Everyone?” series is harder to find on sermon audio.com because it is a subset of the Gospel of John Study. But it is easy to find on our YouTube Channel under the playlist: Does God Love Everyone?. There are 11 lessons in that series.

      Hope this is helpful.

  2. Er

    Fascinating. Is there going to be a part three? Who then can we forgive?

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