Did the great atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross of Calvary forgive us of our sins or free us from sin?
Did the eternal God send His only begotten Son into the world to die a cruel death upon the cross only to give us what we already had in the Old Covenant?
These are some of the most very important questions that we will endeavor to answer in this article - Forgiveness or Freedom?
No people knew more about sin and its consequences than the Jewish nation. They were reminded of sin constantly through the Levitical sacrificial system. Through the Law came the knowledge of sin. (Romans 3:20) The Law was their “schoolmaster“ to bring them to Christ. (Galatians 3:24) Under the Levitical system, the priest would offer sacrifices to “make atonement” for the sins of the people. This “atonement” comes from the Hebrew word “kaphar,” which means, “to cover.” Through the centuries the Jewish Priesthood offered millions of animal sacrifices “which can never take away sin (Hebrews 10:11),” only cover sin. This “kaphar” is also the Hebrew word that was translated “forgave,” in Psalms 78:38, when speaking of God’s dealings with the people of Israel during their wanderings in the wilderness for 40 years – He covered their sin.
Other times is the Old Covenant, God’s forgiveness is taken from another Hebrew word, “calach,” which means, “to pardon.” So basically, God’s forgiveness under the Law dealt with covering and pardoning.
It is interesting to note that Webster’s definition of “forgiveness,” has the same meaning of Old Covenant forgiveness.
Forgiveness - act of forgiving; the pardon of an offender, by which he is considered and treated as not guilty.
God also forgave those in Old Testament times who came to him apart from the Law. For instance, David was forgiven of his sins of murder and adultery when he repented before God. The Hebrew meaning for this “forgive” is “to lift.” After his sin was “lifted,” he was no longer an adulterer.
For whatever reason, the King James translators wrongly translated the words “forgiveness,” and “remission,” from the Greek word “alphesis,” which means freedom.
Every time the word “forgiveness” is translated in the King James Bible, it means “freedom.” Every time, with the exception of one, “remission” also means “freedom.”
Also, they translated the word “forgive,” from the Greek word “alphiemi.” “Alphiemi” comes from the prefix “apo,” meaning “off, away from,” and from “hiemi” meaning to “to send away, dismiss.” Thus, forgive in the New Testament means to send away, and remove sin, not “cover sin” as in the Old Covenant.
“Alphesis” (Greek word for forgiveness and remission), also comes from the same prefix “apo.” Thus, alphesis could be more correctly translated “freedom from.” “Apo” also has a spatial nature, thus denotes distance and separation.
And in relation to sin, we are talking about “freedom from sin,” which is the heart of the gospel.
Again, here is the dictionary meaning of forgiveness:
The act of forgiving; the pardon of an offender, by which he is considered and treated as not guilty.
This definition is fine if one is dealing with a wrong that one has been done to him. The Bible teaches that we are to forgive, even to forgive our enemies. However, when dealing with God and our relation to Him as to sin in the New Testament, it is not correct. Jesus did not just pardon our sin and take the guilt of sin away at the cross; HE TOOK SIN AWAY! The blood of the New Covenant speaks of a “better sacrifice” that takes sin away, that cleanses from all unrighteousness, that destroys the sin nature, and that makes us new creations “in Christ.” All these “better things” were impossible under the Law and before the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
The only Scripture where “remission" does not mean “freedom from,” is in Romans 3:25:
“Whom [Jesus Christ] God hath set forth to be a propitiation [atoning sacrifice] through faith in His blood, to declare His righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God.”
Here “remission,” means, “to tolerate.” He tolerates our PAST sins through his atoning sacrifice at the cross and through the forbearance of God.
Let us take a look at some of these key gospel words that were mistranslated, and replace them with the correct translation of forgiveness and remission. We can then see how this helps us to understand the power of the gospel more clearly. Every time we change a word to its proper translation, we will use all CAPS and BOLD print. Let us start with remission - FREEDOM FROM.
Remember “Remission” means “FREEDOM FROM.”
We will first visit the father of John the Baptist, Zacharias in Luke 1:67-79. Notice the distinction that Zacharias, under the anointing of the Holy Spirit, makes between the old and new covenants. Under the New Covenant, we are redeemed, saved from our enemies and free to serve Him in holiness and righteousness, and freed from sin.
“And his father Zacharias was filled with the Holy Ghost, and prophesied, saying,
Blessed be the Lord God of Israel; for he hath visited and redeemed his people,
And hath raised up an horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David;
As he spake by the mouth of his holy prophets, which have been since the world began:
That we should be saved from our enemies, and from the hand of all that hate us;
To perform the mercy promised to our fathers, and to remember his holy covenant;
The oath which he sware to our father Abraham,
That he would grant unto us, that we being delivered out of the hand of our enemies might serve him without fear,
In holiness and righteousness before him, all the days of our life.
And thou, child, shalt be called the prophet of the Highest: for thou shalt go before the face of the Lord to prepare his ways;
To give knowledge of salvation unto his people by the FREEEDOM FROM their sins,
Through the tender mercy of our God; whereby the dayspring from on high hath visited us,
To give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.”
When Jesus appeared to His disciples after His death, he commanded them to preach FREEDOM FROM SIN, as recorded in Luke 24:45-47:
“Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures,
And said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day:
And that repentance and FREEDOM FROM sins should be preached in His name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.”
Peter, on the day of Pentecost, preached FREEDOM FROM SINS in Acts 2:38-40. Isn’t it sad how some try to use this Scripture as a salvation formula, and yet deny the very purpose of their salvation – FREEDOM FROM SIN?
“Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the FREEDOM FROM sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.
For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.
And with many other words did he testify and exhort, saying, Save yourselves from this untoward generation.”
The apostle Paul talks about the FREEDOM of sins under the New Covenant in Hebrews 10:16-18:
“This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them;
And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more.
Now where FREEDOM of these is, there is no more offering for sin.”
Now, let us look at some of the Scriptures that were wrongly translated “forgiveness.”
Remember, every time “forgiveness” was translated, it means “FREEDOM FROM.”
The apostle Peter preached FREEDOM FROM SIN when he was taken before the Jewish council in Acts 5:29-31:
“Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men.
The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom ye slew and hanged on a tree.
Him hath God exalted with his right hand to be a Prince and a Savior, for to give repentance to Israel, and FREEDOM FROM sins.”
The apostle Paul preached FREEDOM FROM SIN and makes a clear distinction between the inefficiency of the Old Covenant and the power of the New Covenant in Acts 13:35-39:
“For David, after he had served his own generation by the will of God, fell on sleep, and was laid unto his fathers, and saw corruption:
But He, whom God raised again, saw no corruption.
Be it known unto you therefore, men and brethren, that through this man is preached unto you the FREEDOM FROM sins:
And by Him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses.”
The apostle Paul, before King Agrippa, tells of the powerful commission that Jesus Christ gave him in Acts 26:15-18:
“And I said, Who art thou, Lord? And he said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest.
But rise, and stand upon thy feet: for I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness both of these things which thou hast seen, and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee;
Delivering thee from the people, and from the Gentiles, unto whom now I send thee,
To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive FREEDOM FROM sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me.”
The apostle Paul, while speaking of Jesus in his letter to the “saints which are at Ephesus,” says this in Ephesians 1:7:
“In whom we have redemption through His blood, the FREEDOM FROM sins, according to the riches of His grace.”
The apostle Paul, in Colossians 1:12-14, also speaks of FREEDOM FROM SIN:
“Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light:
Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of His dear Son:
In whom we have redemption through His blood, even the FREEDOM FROM sins.”
The great atoning work of Jesus at the cross did so much more than forgive (pardon) our sins. We had forgiveness (pardon) under the Old Testament. The New Testament is based on a “better sacrifice” and a “better testament,” based on “better promises” and a “better hope,” as stated in Hebrews. Even though they were forgiven in a sense that sin was no longer accounted on their behalf, they could not be free from sin – they were not free from the sin nature that caused them to sin – they were not made righteous (Romans 5:19) - they were not given a new heart and a new spirit which would cause them to obey God and keep His commandments. (Ezekiel 18:31, 36:26, prophesying of the New Covenant)
The millions of animals that were sacrificed in the Old Testament were a foreshadow of the “ONE” sacrifice of Jesus Christ that would “take sin away.” The Jewish Priest offered sacrifices “which can never take away sin.” (Hebrews 10:11) “In those sacrifices,” there was always a remembrance of sin. (Hebrews 10:3) “For the law made nothing perfect [complete], but the bringing in of a better hope did.” (Hebrews 7:19)
John the Baptist then burst on the scene and proclaimed, “Behold the Lamb of God, which TAKETH AWAY the sin of the world.” (John 1:29) The angel that appeared to Joseph tells the same story, “And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name Jesus, for He shall SAVE HIS PEOPLE FROM THEIR SINS.”
Saved from sin, freed from sin (Romans 6), and redeemed from all iniquity (Titus 2:14) is the heart of the gospel, and the very purpose of Calvary.
Paul speaks of the New Covenant in Hebrews 10:16-22:
“This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them.
And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more.
Now where remission [FREEDOM] of these is, there is no more offering for sin.
Having therefore boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus,
By a NEW and living way, which He hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, His flesh;
Let us draw near with a TRUE HEART in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water.”
It is sad that in the modern church so many people seem to be still living under the Old Testament and preaching Old Testament theology and language. Pardoning, covering, removal of guilt, and the punishment of sin removed is preached and believed, and God only “sees” us as righteous is proclaimed.
The message that brought the Second Great Awakening holiness revivals of the nineteenth century in America and produced all of these old-time gospel songs - a message of a new creation in Christ that takes sin away and brings freedom from sin where the believer is “made righteous” and holy has largely been forgotten.
But, as we have seen, the language of the Scriptures points us to a crucified and risen Savior who can save us from our sins in the here and now through believing in that perfect sacrifice at the cross of Calvary.
He not only forgives [off, away from, send away] us of our sins, but also has the power “to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1John 1:9)
The “better sacrifice” of Jesus’ death on the cross has come under the “better covenant.” The “better hope” and the “better promise” brings FREEDOM FROM sin to all those who repent and believe the gospel.