by Ed Cardwell
Death is a most certain event that every member of the human family must face. But can anyone depart this life in full confidence of his ultimate destiny, knowing assuredly that he is at complete and total peace with his Creator? The answer is a resounding ‘Yes’, and this treatise proposes to explain how this can be so.
Let us take a short journey beginning in a familiar passage from the Gospel of Mark:
“And when He had come back to
several days afterward, it was
heard that He was at home. And many were
gathered together, so that there was no longer room, even near the door; and He
was speaking the word to them. And they
came, bringing to Him a paralytic, carried by four men. And being unable to get to Him because of the
crowd, they removed the roof above Him; and when they had dug an opening, they
let down the pallet on which the paralytic was lying. And Jesus seeing their faith said to the
paralytic, ‘My son, your sins are forgiven.’ But there were some of the scribes sitting
there and reasoning in their hearts, ‘Why
does this man speak that way? He is blaspheming; who can forgive sins but
God alone?’ And immediately Jesus,
aware in His spirit that they were reasoning that way within themselves, said
to them, ‘Why are you reasoning about these things in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, 'Your
sins are forgiven'; or to say, 'Arise, and take up your pallet and walk
'? But in order that you may know that
the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins’ -- He said to the
paralytic-- ‘I say to you, rise, take up
your pallet and go home.’ And he rose
and immediately took up the pallet and went out in the sight of all; so that
they were all amazed and were glorifying God, saying, ‘We have never seen
anything like this.’” Mark 2:1-12 Capernaum
Four times in this passage we encounter a form of the word ‘forgive’. In the English language Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary defines ‘forgive’ as: to give up resentment of or claim to requital(compensation, retaliation) for something; to pardon, excuse, grant relief from payment. Before we go any further we need to understand the Biblical definition of this word. The original language (Greek) is far more concise and descriptive of the action involved in forgiveness. The word in this passage is avfi,hmi (aphiemi), which is made up of two words, avpo, (apo) (away) and a root word hiemi (to send) and gives a mental picture of ‘a lifting up and carrying away.’ It is a New Testament word for an event in the Old Testament for which it was a type. It visualizes in New Testament terms its prophetic fulfillment from the Old Testament – the annual sending away into the wilderness the Scapegoat that bore all the sins of
“Then Aaron shall lay both of his hands on the head of the live goat, and confess over it all the iniquities of the sons of Israel, and all their transgressions in regard to all their sins; and he shall lay them on the head of the goat and send it away into the wilderness by the hand of a man who stands in readiness. And the goat shall bear on itself all their iniquities to a solitary land; and he shall release the goat in the wilderness.” Leviticus 16:21-22 [‘solitary’ land: a land ‘cut off’, where there is no returning]
This is the picture that describes New Testament ‘forgiveness’ that comes from God Himself.
But who is this man that is referred to as ‘the Lord Jesus Christ’? And how does he qualify to forgive any man’s sin?
The religious leaders who were charging Jesus with blasphemy in the above narrative were theologically correct: Only God can forgive sins.
Can it be that this man from Nazareth, born in Bethlehem, nailed to a cross outside Jerusalem some 20 centuries ago, was merely a royal ‘Whipping Boy’ - like those young men in England in the 15th and 16th centuries whose sole purpose it was to suffer for the evil deeds of the princes of the court? Was he only some innocent young man whom God nurtured and led along to take the humiliation, blows and stripes, and even taste death for the sins of others? Simply stated: How can someone be punished for the misdeeds of others and that be called justice?
Even Isaiah the prophet extols this aspect of the divine nature: “For the LORD is a God of justice.” Isaiah 30:18
But note the clear testimony of these Jewish apostles of New Testament Scripture regarding this Jesus, who is called the Christ:
“For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust.” 1 Peter 3:18
“Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us” Galatians 3:13
“For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.” Romans 5:6
“He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” 2 Corinthians 5:21
So, the New Testament writers, and indeed all of orthodox Christianity, teach that the death of Jesus on the cross was a divinely purposeful event. The death of Christ on the cross is even hailed as the supreme sacrificial act worthy of the highest of exultation Galatians 6:14 The Apostle Paul said the word of the cross was ‘the power of God.’ 1Corinthians 1:18 It would seem then that unless we understand the full scope of forgiveness and establish the real identity of this man Jesus, the Christian faith and the so-called Gospel(Good News), which is its fundamental tenet, seem all too incongruous, and utter nonsense at best.
Let us examine some universal moral principles that might help us discover the answer to the questions just raised and perhaps throw light on the person of Jesus, who is called The Christ (Messiah).
Principle #1: AN OFFENSE IS A TRANSGRESSION AGAINST SOMEONE AND ALWAYS CARRIES A PENALTY. Regardless of its severity, any infringement of the rules of law or social norms or any misdeed of any kind always brings an unwelcome consequence, which we call: debt, guilt, or obligation of some sort. Examples are endless. A dented fender requires restitution; a slandered reputation causing a wounded spirit results in a law suit; an accidental coffee spill on a new rug requires some payment for cleansing, etc…ad infinitum.
Principle #2: THE ONE WHO COMMITS AN OFFENSE BECOMES INDEBTED TO THE OFFENDED PARTY. The offender becomes a debtor to the offended party, who may be considered a creditor, much like one who has borrowed money and is held responsible for its repayment. Again, examples are limitless. The lawbreaker must answer to the courts for his misdeeds. The shop owner is owed restitution for a customer’s careless handling and breakage of shelf merchandise. An inventor is owed compensation for infringement of his copyright. The full payment of any fine, forfeiture, or punishment may be exacted to satisfy any offense.
Principle #3: THE OFFENDED PARTY, ie THE CREDITOR, HAS THE MORAL RIGHT AND MORAL AUTHORITY TO CHOOSE BETWEEN TWO OPTIONS IN RESPONSE TO THE OFFENSE:
A. He may exact the full amount of the debt, or
B. He may forgive the debt.
Notice carefully: he is fully justified in exacting the full amount or any portion of the restitution; and he is equally fully justified if he chooses to forgive the debt. This is because the moral authority rests with him as creditor, the offended party.
So, if the offended party, the creditor, chooses option B, to forgive the debt, then…
Principle #4: IN THE ACT OF FORGIVING, THE OFFENDED PARTY (THE CREDITOR) CHOOSES TO RELEASE THE DEBTOR FROM HIS DEBT, But note carefully that this act does not nullify the reality of the debt itself; forgiveness does not cause the consequence of the offense to disappear: the dress is still torn, the glass remains broken, the money has not been repaid, the embarrassment and humiliation is still painful, etc, etc, etc…
Principle #5: IN THE ACT OF FORGIVING, THE OFFENDED PARTY BEARS THE PENALTY OF THE OFFENSE HIMSELF!!! And the result is the offended party suffers the damages incurred by the debt ON HIS OWN HEAD!! The shop owner must pay for the damage/loss of his merchandise; the inventor suffers the loss of income from another’s violation of his copyright; the owner of the torn dress pays for the loss herself, etc…
Principle #6: WHEN FORGIVEN, THE OFFENDING PARTY (THE DEBTOR) IS SET FREE OF THE OBLIGATION INCURRED BY HIS OWN OFFENSE. He is released!!! He is set at liberty!!!
Note the exultant language of the psalmist:
“Bless the LORD, O my soul, And forget none of His benefits; Who pardons all your iniquities; Who heals all your diseases.” Psalm 103:2-3
And remembering the duty of the Scapegoat:
“As far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us.” Psalm 103:12
And the celebration of this freedom by the Apostle Paul in the New Testament:
“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.” Romans 8:1-2
Principle #7: ALL SIN IS ULTIMATELY AGAINST GOD. All moral offenses against those made in His image are ultimately against Him. God, therefore, is ultimately the offended party in all such occasions.
To anyone familiar with the life of David and the events surrounding his relationship with Bathsheba, his sins are well known: adultery, the murder of Uriah, bringing shame upon the nation of
. Yet he acknowledges that all these are
ultimately against the Lord God Himself: Israel
“Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, And cleanse me from my sin. For I know my transgressions, And my sin is ever before me. Against Thee, Thee only, I have sinned, And done what is evil in Thy sight, So that Thou art justified when Thou dost speak, And blameless when Thou dost judge.” Psalm 51:2-4
Principle #8: THE PENALTY FOR SIN IS DEATH. Death in the Biblical sense is total eternal separation from God.
“For the wages of sin is death.” Romans 6:23
“Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned.” Romans 5:12
Principle #9: SIN IS UNIVERSAL. Mankind is under the curse since the Fall in the Garden. All the children of men have the same nature. No exceptions.
“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Romans 3:23
“As it is written, ‘There is none righteous, not even one.’” Romans 3:10
“For God has shut up all in disobedience that He might show mercy to all.” Romans 11:32
What does this tell us about this Jesus of Nazareth, who is called the Christ (Messiah)? What, and who, is he claiming to be? Jesus did not respond directly to their question as to whether it was only God who could forgive sins. Was it not left for his audience to conclude the obvious? Is it not now left for the reader of Mark’s recorded narrative to arrive at the same logical and necessary end? Clearly Jesus is claiming to be the offended party, or the full representative of the offended party. Compare the following passages:
“He who has seen Me has seen the Father.” John 14:9
“I and the Father are one.” John 10:30
Incidentally, Jesus spoke those last words to a very skeptical audience in the
and because of those words he was immediately threatened with stoning. When Jesus asked why they were going to do
this, they answered him, “because You, being a man, make Yourself out
to be God.” John 10:33 temple of Solomon
Many have insisted mistakenly over the years that Jesus never claimed to be God, or the Son of God. Such a view could only be held by someone who is unfamiliar with the reading of the New Testament. The passage in Mark’s Gospel is just one of many passages where Jesus claimed to be God, and as such, leaves no doubt as to who this Jesus claimed to be.
The prophet Isaiah spoke plainly of the purpose and the suffering of this coming Redeemer in that famous passage that portrays His great sacrifice for all mankind:
“All of us like sheep have gone astray, Each of us has turned to his own way; But the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all To fall on Him.” Isaiah 53:6
The apostle Paul describes His servant’s heart in fulfilling that mission for which He came:
“And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” Philippians 2:8
Principle #10: FORGIVENESS OF SIN IS A FREE GIFT FROM GOD. No amount of saying ‘I’m sorry’ can eliminate the penalty incurred by sin. Only the offended party, God Himself, can erase such a consequence, and that by bearing the debt Himself. God Himself, in the form of man, must die.
“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 6:23
“For if by the transgression of the one, death reigned through the one, much more those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.” Romans 5:17
* * * * * * *
What is left to say, except that this Jesus, prophesied from the beginning (Genesis 3:15) to appear at the appointed time (Luke 2:34), born of the virgin Mary (Matthew 1:24f), performing many powerful miracles throughout his stay on this earth (Acts 2:22), crucified at the hands of His own creation (Acts 2:36), buried in a sealed tomb (Matthew 27:59f), raised from the dead on the third day (Mark 9:31), and ascended to His heavenly home in glory (Luke 24:50f) is indeed the very Son of God, God become man.
GOD IS THE OFFENDED PARTY, THE CREDITOR, WHO IN HIS INFINITE MERCY HAS OFFERED TO ALL FULL PARDON FOR ALL SINS.
* * * * * * *
What then? How does one rightfully respond to such wonderful grace? How does one respond to complete forgiveness?
“That if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved.” Romans 10:9
“And they said, ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you shall be saved, you and your household.’” Acts 16:31
“‘Do not work for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man shall give to you, for on Him the Father, even God, has set His seal.’ They said therefore to Him, ‘What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?’ Jesus answered and said to them, ‘This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.’” John 6:27-29
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Is there any other road to heaven? Is there any other who could qualify to forgive the sins of man but the God-man Jesus the Christ? Many have argued that there are many ways to God. But that is the greatest mistake that has eternally tragic consequences. If one does not receive this marvelous gift of forgiveness freely offered to all, he, by his refusal, bears the full penalty of the debt on his own head – the 2nd death, eternal separation from God.
“And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men, by which we must be saved.” Acts 4:12
“I said therefore to you, that you shall die in your sins; for unless you believe that I am He, you shall die in your sins.” John 8:24
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You are invited, dear friend, to receive this free gift of forgiveness and eternal salvation in which you will live forever in unspeakable joy and fellowship with the Creator of the Universe who has redeemed your soul.
“Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.” Psalm 16:11
Do not delay. Now is the day of salvation!
“For He says, ‘At the acceptable time I listened to you, And on the day of salvation I helped you’; behold, now is ‘the acceptable time,’ behold, now is ‘the day of salvation’.” 2 Corinthians 6:2
“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart; and you shall find rest for your souls.” Matthew 11:28
“And the Spirit and the bride say, "Come." And let the one who hears say, "Come." And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who wishes take the water of life without cost.” Revelation 22:17
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Ed Cardwell is my friend and long-time co-worker in the ministry of Christian school education. He spent several years as principal while I was head administrator. He was an excellent and very popular Bible and foreign language teacher. We were of one mind, and it was very natural to work together since we thought so much alike.