Daily Archives: 02/16/2019

“Remission” and “forgiveness”—same or different?

“REMISSION” AND “FORGIVENESS”—SAME OR DIFFERENT?

by Shawn Brasseaux

Is there any difference between the Bible terms “remission” and “forgiveness?”

“REMISSION” (ENGLISH)

The word “remission” appears 10 times in the King James Bible, found only in the New Testament Scriptures:

  • Matthew 26:28: “For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.”
  • Mark 1:4: “John did baptize in the wilderness, and preach the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins.”
  • Luke 1:77: “To give knowledge of salvation unto his people by the remission of their sins,….”
  • Luke 3:3: “And he came into all the country about Jordan, preaching the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins;….”
  • Luke 24:47: “And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.”
  • Acts 2:38: “Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.”
  • Acts 10:43: “To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins.”
  • Romans 3:25: “Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God;….”
  • Hebrews 9:22: “And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission.”
  • Hebrews 10:18: “Now where remission of these is, there is no more offering for sin.”

According to The Oxford English Dictionary, “remission” means “the cancellation of a debt, charge, or penalty.” A sub-definition is “{formal} forgiveness of sins.”

The word “remission,” in common parlance, is “a temporary diminution of the severity of disease or pain.” For example, cancer “in remission” means it has momentarily subsided, and may return at some later time. People will then use this definition to define the Bible term as pertaining to sin. It is thus assumed that remission of sins is “temporary forgiveness,” sins that God does not hold against the sinner now but may do so later. This is not how the Bible uses the term “remission.” It is highly significant to point out here that we should be careful not to insert non-biblical meanings to biblical words. We will use the Bible to give us the sense of its vocabulary.

“FORGIVENESS” (ENGLISH)

The word “forgiveness” (including its related form, the plural “forgivenesses”) appears 8 times in the King James Bible, with two references in the Old Testament Scriptures:

  • Psalm 130:4: “But there is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared.”
  • Daniel 9:9: “To the LORD our God belong mercies and forgivenesses, though we have rebelled against him;….”
  • Mark 3:29: “But he that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost hath never forgiveness, but is in danger of eternal damnation.”
  • Acts 5:31: “Him hath God exalted with his right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins.”
  • Acts 13:38: “Be it known unto you therefore, men and brethren, that through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins:….”
  • Acts 26:18: “To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me.”
  • Ephesians 1:7: “In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace;….”
  • Colossians 1:14: “In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins:….”

According to The Oxford English Dictionary, “forgive” means “stop feeling angry or resentful towards (someone) for an offence, flaw, or mistake.” A sub-definition is “no longer feel angry about or wish to punish (an offence, flaw, or mistake).” A second sub-definition is “cancel (a debt).”

“REMISSION” AND “FORGIVENESS” (GREEK)

We can turn to the Greek language for further insight. The word “aphesis” (Strong’s #G859) is what translates to “forgiveness” on six of the above occasions (Mark 3:29; Acts 5:31; Acts 13:38; Acts 26:18; Ephesians 1:7; Colossians 1:14). (The Old Testament, written in Hebrew, uses “celiychah” [Strong’s #H5547] for Psalm 130:4 and Daniel 9:9.)

Concerning the word “remission,” it is nine times rendered from the Greek “aphesis”—which you will immediately recognize as the same term for “forgiveness!” See our “remission” verses quoted at the beginning of this study. The Greek word used regarding “remission” in Romans 3:25 is different, the term “paresis” (Strong’s #G3929). Here in that context, it carries the special meaning “God passing over the sins Israel committed under the Old Covenant” (cf. Hebrews 9:15).

Of the 17 times “aphesis” appears in the Greek Textus Receptus of the King James Bible, we have covered 15. In addition to carrying the meaning of “remission” (9 times) and “forgiveness” (6 times), it has two special definitions which we find in Luke 4:18: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance [aphesis] to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty [aphesis] them that are bruised,….” This verse allows us to see “liberty” and “deliverance” are synonyms, parallel thoughts, both equal to “remission” and “forgiveness.”

For further illumination, “aphesis” demands extra comment. It is derived from “aphiemi” (Strong’s #G863), which appears over 150 times in our New Testament with applications: Simon and Andrew forsaking their fishing nets (Mark 1:18), a husband divorcing his wife (1 Corinthians 7:11-13), Satan leaving Jesus (Matthew 4:11), and Christ sending away the multitudes (Matthew 13:36), among other varieties. The last instance—sending away—is a beautiful illustration of what God forgiving sin is all about. To where would God send our sins, though? Does He pretend like they are not there? How can He just forgive sins? What does He do with them? Why, you already read about it earlier and yet you probably never realized it. The forgiveness is through Calvary’s cross!!

Ephesians 1:7: “In whom [Jesus Christ] we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace;….” Colossians 1:14: “In whom [Jesus Christ] we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins:….” Romans 3:23-25 adds, “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God;….” Father God took care of our sin problem at the cross of Christ. Christ died for them. That is where we, by faith, send all the wrongs committed against us. This is how we forgive others: God gave us the pattern and we follow Him. Christ died to pay for those sins others committed against us, just as He died to pay for sins we committed against Almighty God.

CONCLUSION

All these verses indicate “remission” and “forgiveness” are nearly synonymous, with two exceptions. They are the same Greek word, and both in general involve canceling the sin debt (being liberated or delivered from the debt incurred). If one insists on being technical, then “remission” is the more formal term. “Forgiveness” can, depending on the context, take on the meaning, “end of the resentment or anger the sin causes.” Other than those nuances, the idea is essentially the same.

Also see:
» What is true forgiveness?
» What are the “sins that are past” in Romans 3:25?
» Was God “unfair” to punish us for Adam’s sin?