There are many misconceptions that occur in bible study due to a failure to “rightly divide the word of truth”. When we “rightly divide the word of truth” we give to Israel what belongs to Israel and we give to the body of Christ what belongs to the body of Christ.
Under Israel’s economy or dispensation forgiveness was handled differently than in the dispensation of the grace of God in which we now find ourselves. This is because Israel was kept on a “short account” system. That is, they had no long term provision for sin. Sin had to be dealt with quickly and the Levitical sacrificial system was instituted for this purpose.
It is instructive to note that God used this system to blind and fool Satan into believing he could somehow circumvent the purposes and plans of God. In the Old Testament Satan constantly bombarded that nation with false gods and religious systems to prevent Israel from being in favor with God. Later in the New Testament Satan literally drove the Lord Jesus Christ to the cross thinking – Mat 21:38 … This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and let us seize on his inheritance.
How surprised he must have been on that morning when Christ rose from the dead! As Paul reminds us… 1 Cor 2:7 But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory: 8 Which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.
One of the things that the Lord Jesus Christ bought for us in his death, burial and resurrection was total and complete forgiveness. Total and complete forgiveness was not available until after the death, burial and resurrection of Christ and the setting aside of the nation of Israel.
Traditional thinking errs by not observing this distinction. Therefore you have religious institutions which have implemented “sin management systems” to handle sin that is already forgiven.
They do this by:
Having people to “confess their sins” either to God or a priest.
By a false sacrifice system.
By indulgences and prayers
We will now contrast some verses between instructions given to Israel and those given to the church the body of Christ.
VERSES FOR CONSIDERATION
Mat 6:14 For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: 15 But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
These verses clearly instructed Israel, during the earthly ministry of Christ, that to get forgiveness they must first forgive others. This was part and parcel of the “short account system”. However, in the dispensation of the grace of God, forgiveness is handled NOT on a short account system but totally and complete.
Eph 4:32 And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.
The operative word in this verse is HATH! It is past tense. We do not forgive others today in order to obtain forgiveness – we do so because we HAVE ALREADY RECEIVED fully pardon based upon the finished cross work of Christ in his death, burial and resurrection.
Col 2:13 And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses; 14 Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross;
Notice this is all trespasses! This is good news indeed! I am not motivated by fear of failure to forgive but I am motivated by the grace of God working in me to forgive as God does… for Christ sake!
A dispensational change in the fundamental application of forgiveness takes place in the dispensation of the grace of God with the result being total and complete forgiveness based on the finished cross work of Christ in his death, burial and resurrection.