Have you or do you know someone who struggles with feeling forgiven by God? I have seen Christians who, once saved, understood that their sins were gone, but struggled for years with feeling truly forgiven. This unclean feeling separates them from enjoying a full relationship with God; not on God’s part, but in their self-awareness. They don’t have a sure sense of atonement or being at one with God.
An in-depth study of the Greek was of little help. Usually the same Greek word is used for ‘remission’ and ‘forgiveness’ with one exception in Romans 3:25. There the Greek word is paresis meaning a disregarding or passing over. It is the only place paresis is used.
In all other places ‘remission and forgiveness’ are the Greek word aphesis, Strong’s number 859. I asked Holy Spirit for an understanding of remission, forgiveness and atonement. Holy Spirit reminded me of the law concerning leprosy.
Holy Spirit also reminded me of my past diagnosis with cancer. With cancer, sometimes a tumor can be removed or sometimes cancer is said to be in remission. If we are told the cancer is in remission, we get the sense that although the disease is dormant now, it could resurface at any time. In my case, surgery removed the cancer. The disease was gone, but the doctors still tested me for several years before declaring I was ‘cancer free’. At that point, I felt completely restored, but not until that point.
With leprosy, when Jesus healed the leper, He told the man to present himself to the priest (Matthew 8:4). You see, although the man’s skin was beautiful once again, the priest had to see it, receive an offering and then the man could be declared clean and re-enter society. A leper was ceremonially and physically removed from society to prevent infecting others.
I have come to understand the removal of the leprosy is equivalent to remission. The priest declaring the disease is indeed gone and the patient clean is equivalent to forgiveness. The re-admittance into society is equivalent to atonement.
The same was true with the cancer I previously experienced. The removal of the cancer was remission. After 5 years, when the cancer didn’t return, it was like forgiveness. I had escaped a negative judgment. Once I was declared cancer free I felt normal again; like everyone else who never had cancer. This was a form of atonement emotionally.
When we are saved we are told our sins (up to that point) are remitted and are as far from us as east is from the west. (Psalm 103:12) We must come to the realization that not only our past sins are remitted, but we are truly forgiven. Only then do we have a full awareness of our atonement although it is a spiritual reality from the point of reconciliation through Christ. Praise the Lord for grace and mercy.
If you have confessed Jesus is Lord and you believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you are saved. (Romans 10:9-10) Your sins are remitted. God has forgiven you. You are at one with God (atonement). The scriptures tell us that we ‘receive remission, forgiveness and atonement. The word translated ‘receive’ is lambano and means to lay hold of in order to use it, to experience.
I pray Holy Spirit help you to fully realize your salvation. Know that your sins have been taken away, not just covered. Know that God has love toward you and kind and has forgiven you. Live a life that is at one with God. God is not angry. God’s grace is not on a string that is jerked back unexpectedly. Hold your head high, throw your shoulders back and walk as one who is truly clean.