The Remission of Sins

The Remission of Sins

by J. W. McGarvey
Sermons by McGarvey, p. 56-57.

The same word in the Greek is translated remission that is translated forgiveness. The two English words, remission, and forgiveness, are used interchangeable, and they mean the same thing. So then, if you are ever again in any confusion of thought about that somewhat unusual expression, remission of sins, remember that it means precisely the same as forgiveness of sins. Now forgiveness is one of those simple English words, the meaning of which is so obvious to every person that it is hard to give a definition of it. The definition would not make it any plainer. Everybody knows what it is to forgive, although we practice it so little. Everybody knows what forgiveness is. We extend it sometimes to one another—not as often as we should. That is remission. The only difference between the two words is, that in the word remission there is a figure of speech. Literally, to remit means to throw back, or throw away, and it is used simply because, when God forgives our sins, He is contemplated as throwing them away, tossing them clear off, outside of all subsequent thought or concern in regard to them.

There is another expression used in the Scripture for the same thought, which is also figurative ...."Repent and turn," says Peter, "that you sins may be blotted out." They are contemplated in that expression as having been written down in some book, of God's remembrance as it were, and God in forgiving them is figuratively represented as blotting out that writing. And blotting out with the ancients was a little more complete than it is, usually, with us. When we write something down with ink, and blot it out, there still remain some marks to indicate that once there was a writing there. The ancients used a wax tablet. You take one of our common slates and fill it with wax even with the frame, and you will have an ancient wax tablet. A sharp pointed instrument made the marks in the wax, and when they wished to blot it out, they turned the flat end of the stylus and rubbed it over, and there was an absolute erasure of every mark that had been made. That is the figure, then, used by Peter for the forgiveness of sins — indicating that when God forgives sins, they are not only thrown away, as in the expression remission, but they are blotted out — the last trace of them being gone, and gone forever.

In perfect harmony with this last thought, another expression is used. One of the terms of the new covenant that God makes with Israel in these days under Christ, is this, "their sins and their iniquities, I will remember no more." (Hebrews 8:12). That is a very surprising and astonishing statement. I do not know how God makes out to forget them. We can't forget them: I don't know how He does. I don't know exactly what He means when He says, "their sins and their iniquities I will remember no more;" unless it means, I will never bring them up against you any more. They are gone. I have thrown them away; they are blotted out. Brethren, after having lived and groaned under sin, with a conscience that has ground us and tormented us for a long time, how blessed the relief — how unspeakably blissful the state, to know that they will never be brought up by the great God against us in all eternity — that in the day of judgment no mention will be made of them! That is the happy condition of the man who is redeemed by the blood of Christ, and has obtained the remission of sins.

And now, you have already seen from what I have said in explaining these expressions, not only that the change called remission of sins is not a change that takes place within us, but that it is an act of the mind of God with reference to us. He it is who forgives. He it is who blots out of the book that He keeps. He it is that throws them away. It is He who will remember them no more forever. The whole process of the remission of sins, is an act in the mind of God with reference to it. The change that takes place within us must precede it. All the change necessary for our salvation from sin, as regards our own hearts and souls, must take place before He pronounces our freedom from sin.