Forgiveness in this Dispensation
By: Scott Morton
We have moved up to today with our look at forgiveness. This is an important thing to realize, as we all need to know how it is that we are forgiven today. I do not think there is anyone who really wants to be left in a state where there sin is still present and they have to answer to God for this, even though there are occasional reports of someone making a statement that they want to end up in hell instead of heaven. The end result of this cannot be good, as there is none righteous in the eyes of God (Romans 3:10-11).
The first thing we have to remember is we are not part of the message of Jesus Christ during His earthly ministry. This is something a lot of people think is true, but it cannot be. There are a couple of passages in the book of Romans that help to clear up this point of confusion:
Now I say that Jesus Christ was a minister of the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made unto the fathers:
Nevertheless, brethren, I have written the more boldly unto you in some sort, as putting you in mind, because of the grace that is given to me of God,  That I should be the minister of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles, ministering the gospel of God, that the offering up of the Gentiles might be acceptable, being sanctified by the Holy Ghost.
In the first passage, Jesus Christ is identified as a minister of the circumcision. This phrase refers to Israel, as it is a phrase in reference to the covenants made with the nation and the fact they were a chosen people. The sign of circumcision is a sign for the Abrahamic Covenant, which was the first covenant made with Israel. It does not describe any other group of people.
Romans 15:8 also states the purpose of Jesus Christ coming during His earthly ministry. He was coming to confirm the promises made unto the fathers. Who is this group of people that had received some promises? The only promises made were to Israel and are laid out in Genesis through Malachi. In fact, Jesus Christ Himself stated He had come to fulfill the law and the prophets (Matthew 5:17). Paul also identifies in Ephesians 2:11-12 that the Gentiles were strangers from the covenants of promise. We were not part of God�s program at that time. The only way an individual could have any salvation was to join themselves with Israel and follow what God had laid out for them, which includes being part of the law, covenants, and the prophets.
However, there is an important distinction brought up by the Apostle Paul just a few verses later in this same chapter. He identifies he is the minister of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles. Paul was the chosen one to carry the message to the Gentile nations. This occurred during his salvation in Acts 9. When this happened, he was identified as being a chosen vessel to go to the Gentiles (Acts 9:15). Prior to this, the message given by God only went to Israel and the Gentiles had to go through Israel in order to have anything to do with God.
Some individuals feel Paul was making things up, as they look at what he says and feel it is contradictory to everything else in the Bible, and therefore should not be in the Bible. This would make him a renegade and going contrary to anything that is part of God�s program. However, he addresses this in the following passage:
But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man.  For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ.
Paul indicates the information given to him was directly from revelation of Jesus Christ. He was not making things up or just giving information he felt would be good. All of the things written in his epistles (Romans through Philemon) has been given by Jesus Christ in order to give information to the Gentiles on how they are going to be dealt with. This is important to have an understanding of, because we need to know where to get our doctrine from.
But of these who seemed to be somewhat, (whatsoever they were, it maketh no matter to me: God accepteth no man's person:) for they who seemed to be somewhat in conference added nothing to me:  But contrariwise, when they saw that the gospel of the uncircumcision was committed unto me, as the gospel of the circumcision was unto Peter;  (For he that wrought effectually in Peter to the apostleship of the circumcision, the same was mighty in me toward the Gentiles:)  And when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given unto me, they gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship; that we should go unto the heathen, and they unto the circumcision.
It is interesting to note that James, Cephas (Peter), and John understood this. They restricted their ministry to the circumcision, the saved remnant of Israel. Paul was given the responsibility of taking his message unto the Gentiles. He is the one we need to focus on and see what he says about the condition of an individual during this dispensation.
In Paul's epistles, he identifies he is writing unto the brethren. This term indicates the epistles are written to those who are saved individuals. It is important then to know how a person has salvation during this dispensation, as this will give the starting point on knowing how we are forgiven:
1 Corinthians 15:1-4
Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand;  By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain.  For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures;  And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:
This is the message of salvation given. There is no other message given to believers today that can bring salvation. It is as simple as believing this gospel and not performing any works (Romans 4:5). Many people will try to make it confusing by trying to add something to this, or trying to use a passage like James 2 to show how works are necessary. The important thing to remember is James is writing to Israel and Paul is writing to us (Gentiles), who have been made members of the Body of Christ.
When a person puts their trust in this message, they are immediately made members of the Body of Christ. This work is done by the Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:12-13) and there is a permanent seal (Ephesians 1:13-14). This seal keep us in the Body and there is no way for us to undo the work that has been done to place us into the Body. Without this seal, we would eventually figure out how to do something that would prevent us from being saved.
Now that we understand our salvation, we need to take a look at the forgiveness we have as members of the Body of Christ. How is it that we have been forgiven during this dispensation?
Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son:  In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins:
The first thing we need to think about is who is being talked about here. The individual whose blood was shed is Jesus Christ. This is the work done on the cross at Calvary that we put our trust in after reading or hearing 1 Corinthians 15:1-4. It is this work that brings about the redemption we have, which includes forgiveness of sins.
It is important to realize the issue of blood. There needed to be shed blood to have forgiveness. There needs to be a shedding of blood to have forgiveness of sins (Hebrews 9:22). We saw this in the Garden of Eden, as the animals were killed in order to cover Adam and Eve. We saw this in the Old Testament under the law, as the animal sacrifices were used to cover the individual for a period of time. You cannot remove the issue of the shed blood, if you want to be able to maintain your forgiveness.
And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses;
Paul brings up another aspect of the forgiveness we have. This forgiveness is for all trespasses. There is not a sin we have committed where we can say it was not covered by the work of Jesus Christ at Calvary. There is not a thing we have done that is so horrible, Jesus Christ would say this was not forgiven. In the Dispensation of Grace, we are given forgiveness over all of our sins simply by putting our trust in the gospel. This is truly a glorious thing to realize.
Paul also brought up the issue of being dead in sins. The individual is considered to be dead in sin, as the result of sin is death (Romans 6:23). This is one of the major reasons an individual is in need of forgiveness, is we all need to have this death to be removed from us and need to be given what is being talked about here, a quickening, or the giving of life. Eternal life is a major issue in the Bible and we need to have this in order to be part of God's program.
How are we supposed to forgive others?
We saw how the Lord's Prayer identified this forgiveness for members of the Nation of Israel. They had to forgive other people in order to receive forgiveness. Is this what we are supposed to do today? Let's take a look at the following passage in order to see the doctrine Paul is laying out for us today:
Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.
Is the forgiveness we are supposed to demonstrate conditional? There is a condition Paul mentions, but it has nothing to do with what Jesus Christ had taught during His earthly ministry. Paul is saying here we are to forgive people because we have received forgiveness.
This is a very difficult thing for a lot of people to really think about and to attempt to demonstrate. I am sure we can all think of some situation that has happened where we would not forgive someone, because we felt the situation was something grievous enough to not warrant being forgiven. However, Paul is saying we need to actually demonstrate forgiveness with anyone who has done something wrong to us.
We are truly blessed
Individuals who are members of the Body of Christ truly have received the blessings of God. Paul states we have received spiritual blessings in heavenly places (Ephesians 1:3). There is a passage in the book of Romans that shows another part of the blessing we have received from God:
Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works,  Saying, Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered.  Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin.
Have our iniquities been forgiven? Have our sins been covered? The answer to both of these questions is yes. The shed blood of Jesus Christ on Calvary, and our belief in the work done, takes care of the sin issue. Because of this fact, we are blessed as members of the Body of Christ. Have our sins been imputed (charged to our account) to us? Again, the answer to this questions is no. We are blessed individuals because our sin is not imputed to our account.
As members of the Body of Christ, we have received forgiveness. It had nothing to do with anything we did, but is a free gift to us when we have accepted the Gospel (1 Corinthians 15:1-4). It is a truly great thing for us to have as a present possession.