Vol. 1 - No. 12

November, 1982

Considering Forgiveness

by Vaughn D. Shofner

There is no way to eliminate the guilt of sin except by forgiveness. This removal of the guilt of sin is of necessity, spiritual. When I speak of “spiritual” the eternal part of man is included, and I am also aware of the fact that the intellectual part of man is included. When God breathed into the nostrils of man the breath of life he at the same time breathed into him the eternal spirit which contained the intellect. He therefore at once spoke intelligible information to the intelligence. That this intelligence is eternal is attested by the requirements of the judgment beyond time, where humanity will be required to recall the happenings of the past and the laws of regulation regarding all actions of time. Therefore, the judgment is predicated upon intellectuality, the memory of the past, and consequently the intellect which supplies the memory must be eternal. From this connection of facts we must conclude that sins can only be removed in forgiveness spiritually; that is, nullified in the minds of the offended and the offender.

Notice, God does not correct the results of sin. God does not obliterate the anguish and the memory of anguish which words rashly spoken produce. He does forgive the mental motive that has been repented of which produced the anguish. God does not resurrect the murdered victim, but he does forgive the motivation which led to the murder when his conditions are complied with. And this is different from what is required to receive civil restitution. In this realm the guilt of unlawful behavior is removed when the penalty is paid, regardless of the thoughts of the mind. Consequently, in this realm it is possible to do what is necessary to receive pardon without any change of mind. Repentance is not a requisite because man cannot deal with abstraction. God's way of forgiveness is therefore different. It deals with the moral attitude and the origin of sin. Inspired James wrote, “Every person is tempted when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin; and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death” (James 1:14, 15). From this we can see that forgiveness is of necessity intellectual. Sin is forgiven when the mind is led to submit to the laws God appointed for the purpose of forgiveness. It is evident therefore that sin is stopped in the mind. When honorable and righteous motives replace the dishonorable and sinful motives, then righteous behavior will persevere.

This change is accomplished by education. New ideas are introduced to the mind and they supplant the thoughts and ideas which produce sins. This emphasizes the importance of Paul's admonition, “Study to show thyself approved unto God” (2 Timothy 2:15). This learning process is symbolized as a begettal, and since the germinal principle of life lives in the seed the use of seed is inevitable. In the parable of Luke chapter 8, verse 11 says, “The seed is the word of God,” and it can never be deprived of its life principle. The Spirit of God dwells in and works in the immutable laws he has set up. Persons begotten by the word of God are “born again” (John 3:3); that is, they enter a new existence, a new way of life. Paul wrote of this existence as he considered the Christians at Corinth: “In Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel” (1 Corinthians 4:15). James 1:18 speaks of God and this process: “Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth.” And Paul explains it to the Roman Christians, “God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, ye obeyed from the heart that form of teaching delivered you. Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness” (Romans 6:17, 18). Thus we see that forgiveness is obtained by way of an intellectual, educational process; a process which supplants service to sin with service to righteousness.

There are two realms of thought and action involved in this process. There is the realm of divine thought and action, and the realm of human thought and action. The point where divine thought and action touches and controls human thought and action is the point of forgiveness. This determinant is specifically revealed, and an instance of the revelation is presented from one aspect in 1 John 5:8: “There are three that bear witness in earth, the Spirit and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one.” Just as is revealed at other places, the Father and the Word and the Holy Spirit are one in heaven, so the Spirit and the water and the blood are one in earth. Where the Spirit and the water and the blood come together in testimony that involves and influences the human spirit, that is the point of pardon. The testimony is that God has given Christ in order to take away that which prevents eternal life. “And this is the record, that God hath given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son” (1 John 5:11). The testimony is that the Spirit, the water and the blood deal with mankind's arch enemy, sin. They are in complete harmony in the removal of sin.

The work of the Spirit is to inform by the truth. “And it is the Spirit that beareth witness, because the Spirit is truth” (1 John 5:6). “The Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall bear witness of me” (John 15:26). At the baptism of our Lord, the Spirit bore witness that he was the Son of God (Matthew 3:16, 17). The Spirit bore witness to the Messiahship of Jesus by coming down according to promise and supernaturally influencing the minds of the apostles. “He shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you” (John 14:26). The only work of the Spirit according to Scripture involves the revelation of the truth, by which mankind is enlightened and convicted, and in this way motivated to surrender to God's laws of forgiveness.

The object of the blood is to cleanse all sinners of all sin. “Without the shedding of blood there is no remission” (Hebrews 9:22). I reckon this to be God's plan for. forgiveness in view of the penalty for sin (Genesis 2:17). Therefore, since the life is in the blood there had to be the giving of blood in order to satisfy the judgment. Genesis 9:4 respects the blood of edible animals because of the life therein. “But the flesh with the life thereof which is the blood thereof, shall ye not eat.” Again in Leviticus 17:11 this respect for life is emphasized: “For the life of the flesh is in the blood: and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls; for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for your souls.” This atonement was typified by the animal sacrifices of the Old Testament, looking forward to the meaningful sacrifice of Jesus. “It is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats should take away sins” (Hebrews 10:4). “Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood (Christ) entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us” (Hebrews 9:12). “He gave himself for our sins” (Galatians 1:4). “Christ also suffered for sins once, the righteous for the unrighteous” (1 Peter 3:18). Therefore, the principles for which he gave his life blood to pay the ransom that sin demands are the principles of the everlasting covenant which prepare human minds and intelligently lead penitent souls to the point of pardon.

Then baptism in water consummates the united agreement of these three witnesses in earth. Baptism brings the penitent sinner into the state of remission. “Repent and be baptized for the remission of sins” (Acts 2:38). Baptism brings mankind into Christ, into his death, in order to the appropriation of the cleansing blood. “Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? There fore we are buried with him by baptism into death
            (Romans 6:3-4). Baptism is the fruition of the begettal. “Buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also' in the likeness of his resurrection” (Romans 6:4-5). Thus baptism perfects the way which grants humanity a higher existence, a nobler service. “Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin” (Romans 6:6). It is at this point that the Spirit, the water and the blood agree in corroborative testimony of the forgiveness of sins. They are one in purpose, and at this point the submissive sinner has completely turned to the Creator's will. This is the point of pardon.

Gentle reader, how could anything else be needed or desired in obtaining forgiveness? “The gospel of Christ is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth” (Romans 1:16). The appeal is to man's image of God, the intellectual spirit. When God made man he made him completely able to do all that was intended for him to do. “God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold it was very good” (Genesis 1:31). He didn't leave out something that had to be added as a person, an actual being, thousands of years after creation. Man was the “paragon of animals,” the God-image made to have dominion over all the other creation of this earth. Man possessed an eternal spirit which God influenced intelligently. When the needs demanded it he influenced the spirit of man miraculously and gave the spirit of his image the supernatural ability to accomplish his purpose. He used what he had created by the exercise of his laws and supernatural influence, and found no need to make over or add to what he declared to be “very good” in the beginning.

If indeed there is need for man to receive the personal indwelling of the Holy Spirit, the addition of another entity within his person these thousands of years after creation, then God failed to make man “very good” and able to fulfill his purpose for him in creation and procreation. Just as the proportionate blood and the proportionate water of the man of God's making could remain consistent to the needs through time, so the spirit of the man of God's creation has also been sufficient for all needs through time. The same man that sins is the man that is converted. He is composed of the proportionate amounts of spirit, water and blood which God appointed in creation, and it is no more foolish to attempt to change the proportionate blood and water of physical man than it is to be led to believe that there is need to add the Holy Spirit in person to the “very good” spiritual being that God appointed in creation and procreation. Mortal man, what kind of a faltering, imperfect God do you serve?