The Vocabulary of Salvation – Remission

This particular episode is dedicated to my daughter Aphesia. You are a constant reminder of God’s love and forgiveness. You may be too young to read this right now but know that you’re loved and cherished.

Hi fellow bible nerds! Yes if you’ve stuck with us throughout this series, you’re now on bible nerd status. The VOS series has been an exciting one and today we take it a step further. In today’s post we are going to examine the word Remission. We’re going to look at what the biblical authors seek to communicate when they use this word, what it should mean to us and as always how it all ties up in the person of Jesus Christ. Great? Let’s jump right in.

Remission stands at the heart of the Christian doctrine of Justification (our next post). Because of Christ’s propitiatory sacrifice on our behalf on the cross, His righteousness is imputed on us as he paid the price for our sin. (Need a refresher? Check our post on propitiation). The word remission is made up of the prefix “Re” and the word “mission”. The word mission is from the Latin word “missio” which means to send. The prefix “Re” means again or away. So in effect when we speak of remission of sins we are talking about the sending away of our sins. Sins are said to be remitted when the offender is treated as though the offence never happened.

In the old testament we don’t see the word readily used by the biblical authors however we see a picture being painted which points to a reality that would be fulfilled in the future in Jesus. Remember the elaborate sacrifice we mentioned from our last post? In Leviticus chapter 16, there were two goats that played a pivotal role on the national Day of Atonement. All the animal sacrifices find their ultimate fulfilment in Christ but today we focus on these two. On the Day of Atonement, these two goats would be presented at the door of the tabernacle of meeting on behalf of the nation. Lots would be cast for the goats. One would be sacrificed on behalf of the people for their sins in that year. The second goat on the other hand was labeled the scapegoat. This goat was a physical embodiment of all the sins of the nation of Israel that year. After the sacrifice the scapegoat would be carried outside the camp of Israel’s dwelling in the wilderness. This signified the “sending away” of the sins of the nation. The two actions should not be seen as two separate actions but one action in two parts. Think of it like a symphony in two movements. The first movement sets the stage for the second which brings out the import of the first act. In the first act, the price for sin is paid and in the second the presence of sin is sent away.

All this like other practices of the nation of Israel was pointing toward a time where the sins of humanity would be paid for and finally sent away from our lives and God’s presence.

The writer of the book of Hebrews reflecting on this idea, in the light of Jesus’ death on the cross aptly remarks;

Hebrews 9:22

And according to the law almost all things are purified with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no remission.

In the New Testament two Greek words are usually translated as remission in our English bibles. They are ‘Paresis’ and ‘Aphesis’. Both carry a similar range of meaning but one is used more frequently than the other. Paresis which is used less frequently by the New Testament authors means to let pass or disregard. When the New Testament writers use this word in regards to the sacrifice of Christ, they are indicating to us that God has decided to disregard our sin on account of Jesus’ sacrifice (Isn’t that amazing?). The next word which most of the NT writers use is the word Aphesis. It means to release from bondage or imprisonment. It also means to pardon a crime worthy of punishment. It is also sometimes translated as forgiveness depending on the context in which it appears. In fact whenever the apostle Paul spoke about the sacrifice of Christ and the forgiveness we have as a result, this was the word he used. In Ephesians chapter 1 verse 7 we read;

“In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness (Aphesis) of sins, according to the riches of His grace.”

You and I know how painful forgiveness can be sometimes especially when the culprits are unrepentant. But God looks at us in our sinful and guilty state and because of what He in Jesus has done for us, He stands ready to forgive us and drive our sins away. Jesus became the scapegoat that carried and embodied the sin of humanity and at the same time was the goat that was slaughtered to pay the price of our sins. He at once took our sins away while granting us access to God’s presence.

Interestingly when Jesus appeared to his disciples after his resurrection and was commissioning them to preach, the message he sent them out with was the gospel of remission. In Luke 24:46-48 we read the words of Jesus. 

Then He said to them, “Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and remission (Aphesis) of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. And you are witnesses of these things.

Just as it was back then so it is today. Our message is a simple one. Jesus Christ suffered, died and rose again on the third day on your behalf so that you may receive the remission of your sin if only you will believe. His arms are outstretched, longing to reel you in. Don’t leave Him hanging.

What is your answer to His offer?

All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from The New King James Version (NKJV).

VOS – Vocabulary of Salvation

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