This Sunday we are gathering to discuss forgiveness, and in preparation, I have distributed the following as a bit of a guide to forgiveness in the Bible. This isn't everything there is to say. But just doing this, compiling it, was an overwhelming experience. Sometimes we have a tendency to focus on bits of scripture which might be of interest but miss the overwhelming themes. So here goes:
The New Testament uses a variety of images to express the unique event and consequences of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Words like justification, rescue, freedom, healing, ransom, reconciliation, adoption, peace, sanctification, and forgiveness. (And there are still more.) Forgiveness is a keyword from everyday experience that is used as a lens to understand what God has accomplished for us in Christ. Here are some passages from the (Old and) New Testament that speak of forgiveness. There are more!
Genesis 33:1-4 Esau forgives Jacob
Genesis 45:1-8 Jacob forgives his brothers
Jeremiah 31:31-34. The prophet in this passage looks to a New Covenant that stands as both a renewal of the Old Covenant and stands in contrast to it. The New Covenant will bring a new intimacy with God and God’s ways, for no longer will people have to get the law from a stone tablet but it will be written directly on the human heart. They would know God’s ways by heart and their sins will be forgiven. (Jesus claims the new Covenant is enacted in his blood, see Mark 14:22-25) See also Ezekiel 36:22-28.
Ezekiel envisages God washing clean the people of God and providing a new heart of flesh rather than their old hearts of stone. With new hearts and a new spirit within them, they will be able to follow God’s commands. (36:25-27) And they will, finally and truly, be God’s people and God will be their God. (36:28) And notice that God does this not because the people deserve it, but it is an act of grace, because of God’s name, that is, who God is. (Compare with 1John 2:12)
Matthew 6:7-15 Lord’s Prayer and forgiveness
Matthew 18:21-22 (See Genesis 4:23-24) vengeance and forgiveness
Matthew 18:23-35 a huge debt forgiven compared to the miserly slave
Mark 2:3-12 What is easier to say?
Mark 11:25-26 when you pray, forgive …
Luke 6:37-38 forgive and you will be forgiven
Lk 7:36-50 Which of them will love him more? … hence she has shown great love
Luke 15:11-32 the forgiving father
Luke 24:44-49 proclaim repentance and forgiveness of sins (see also Acts 5:30-32; 10:37-43; 13:38-39)
John 20:19-23. Receive the Holy Spirit …
Acts 7:60 Stephen forgives his murderers (see also Luke 23:34)
2Corinthians 2:5-11 forgive and console him …anyone you forgive I forgive
Ephesians 1:3-14 with a smorgasboard of images for God’s love for us in Christ.
Philemon 1:17-21 the debt he owes you, add to my account
Hebrews 10:11-18 quoting Jeremiah 31