Knowing Your Bible

Jan 30, 2024 | Articles

There is a fascinating Greek word in the New Testament that defines the very essence of our word “forgive,” as in forgiving others who have offended us. That Greek word is aphiemi, and it is used roughly 150 times in the Bible.

According to Greek scholar Spiro Zodhiates in his dictionary for New Testament Greek words, aphiemi is defined primarily as to send forth or away, to let go from oneself, to dismiss. There are a number of different nuances including the idea of “divorce.” These shades of difference vary with the context in which the word is used.

Zodhiates points out that the expression to forgive sins “means to remove the sins from another. Only God is said to be able to do this (Mark 2:10). To remove sins is not to disregard them and do nothing about them, but to liberate a person from their guilt.” Think about it: if God were to forget our sins completely and we still remember them, then we would know something that God doesn’t know and He would no longer be omniscient.

Mortals do not have the authority to forgive sin in another. We do however have a command from Jesus to forgive others in the same way that God has forgiven us (Matthew 6:12). Since we are powerless to forgive sin (that’s God’s prerogative alone, Mark 2:10), we are to do everything we can to help them know Jesus who does have the authority to forgive sin.

In addition, just as God looks at us just as if we had never sinned (i.e., He doesn’t hold forgiven sin against us), we are to do the same for those who offend us. We forgive by dismising their offense and never holding it against them. First Corinthians 13:5 says, love “…keeps no record of wrongs.” We may remember the event, but we do not hold it against the person. We forgive. And forgiveness goes a long way in healing the pain the offense caused us.

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