THE LORD WILL NOT IMPUTE SIN
- Read Psalms 32:1–2; Romans 4:7.
- No mystery attached. No special license granted to sin.
- There are three terms for sin used in this passage.
- Iniquity = lawlessness.
- Sin = to miss the mark or standard set by God.
- Transgression = to turn or step aside.
- There are three things that sin will do:
- Sear (I Timothy 4:2). Cauterize; become inured and impervious to the appeals of the gospel.
- Harden. The hardened path (Matthew 13:4, 15). Traffic of sin across our hearts (Hebrews 3:8, 13).
- Make us past feeling (Ephesians 4:19). To cease to feel pain or grief. To become callous.
- There are three terms used for the removal of sin:
- To send away. Likely came from the scapegoat.
- Aaron to confess all the sins and put them on the goat's head (Leviticus 16:21–22).
- So far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12). There is the element of forgetting (Hebrews 8:12).
- And that is what He promises to do in the gospel: To send our sins far away (Acts 2:38; John 20:23). There are no limitations to this law of forgiveness if the conditions are met (Ephesians 1:7).
- To lift up or away (John 1:29).
- Joseph's brethren asked for forgiveness. Had born heavy burden (Genesis 50:17).
- In the Middle East, the Orient women carry heavy burdens on their heads.
- Sin is pictured as an oppressive load (Psalm 38:4).
- One of the most gratifying assurances is that this burden will be lifted (Isaiah 10:27; Psalm 25:18; Matthew 11:28).
- Cancel completely. Sin is here consider a debt (Matthew 6:12). To wipe off or away; obliterate, erase (Revelation 3:5).
- Blotted out as a thick cloud (Isaiah 44:22).
- Repent and turn again to blot out sins (Acts 3:19).
- Christ has blotted out the handwriting of ordinances (Colossians 2:14). Nailed it to the cross.
- The ancients used wax for writing and then expunged it.
- Papyrus commonly used. The debt was paid; canceled.
- Loosed. To be delivered or set free.
- The picture is one of bondage.
- Loose the colt (Mark 11:2–4).
- Thus we are loosed in forgiveness from our sins (Luke 6:37; Revelation 1:5).
- Delivered from bondage of sin and darkness (Colossians 1:13).
- To be gracious (Luke 7:42; Ephesians 4:32; Colossians 2:13).
- Covered: To cover over or veil by pardon—so as not to come to view.
- Love shall cover a multitude of sins (I Peter 4:8).
- Sins are covered in the sense of being forgiven.
- By conversion (James 5:20).
- By forgiveness (Psalm 78:38).
- By atonement (Exodus 30:10).
- Impute: to count or calculate. To set down as a matter of account; reckon.
- Paul prayed that the abandonment of brethren may not be reckoned against them (II Timothy 4:16).
- Love does not keep an account of evil (I Corinthians 13:5).
- God does not hold sin as a matter of account, but forgives sin forever (Hebrews 8:12).
- By reconciliation (II Corinthians 5:18–20).
- “Blessed” = happy, fortunate. This is the joy of those blessings of forgiveness.
- “He went on his way rejoicing.”
- “And he rejoiced, believing in God with all his house.”
- “And there was great joy in that city.”
THE LORD WILL NOT IMPUTE SIN
“Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, Whose sin in covered. Blessed is the man unto whom the Lord does not impute iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit” (Psalm 32:1–2). “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered” (Romans 4:7).
There is no mystery attached to this passage. It does not refer to some special dispensation conferred upon one to whom God is partial. In it some special or favor is not granted. There is no permission to sin with impunity. Rather, some facts are stated and some blessings are offered under certain stipulated conditions with which men must comply.
Three Terms for Sin
The first term to which we give our attention is “iniquity.” It means lawlessness. In the Old Testament, the verb form of the word meant to rebel or revolt; to make war; to renounce and resist the authority of the ruler or government to which one owed allegiance; to be insubordinate; to oppose. In the New Testament, it means very much the same thing. It describes man's attitude toward God and His authority.
“Woe unto them! For they have gone in the way of Cain, have run greedily in the error of Balaam for profit, and perished in the rebellion [gainsaying] of Korah” (Jude 11). The word here that describes the attitude of rebellion toward God is “gainsaying.” This spirit is seen and defined by Jesus in a narrative He told. “A certain nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom, and to return. So he called ten of his servants and delivered to them ten minas and said unto them, ‘Do business till I come.’ But his citizens hated him, and sent a delegation after him, saying, ‘We will not have this man to reign over us’ ” (Luke 19:12–14). Those who, in any age, will not subordinate themselves to the authority of God and humbly arrange themselves under His will are rebels and are guilty of iniquity.
The second term in our study of this passage is “sin.” It means, primarily, to miss the mark. The teaching here is a refusal or a failure to come up to the divinely set mark, to measure up to the standard of the law of God, to bring our hearts and lives into conformity with the rule of His inspired will.
The third term is “transgression” which means to turn or step aside. Eve was deceived and led astray. She stepped across the line, beside the path of right, having taken her eye and heart off the goal. Israel said: “All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, every one, to his own way ...” (Isaiah 53:6). And James said: “Brethren, if anyone among you wanders from the truth ...” (James 5:19). Paul called to mind that “we ourselves were also once foolish, disobedient, deceived ...” (Titus 3:3).
In this transgression, there is the element of deceit. One is led astray by sin and its bold and attractive promise. This does not make it excusable at all. It is still violation. It is self–will against God's will. Each would be his own god and make his own law and choose the way in which he would walk.
Three Things Sin Will Do
1. It will sear the conscience (I Timothy 4:2). This “searing” derives from an instrument for branding and the lesson is drawn that sin will cauterize and sear into insensibility the hearts of those who are indulgent and yielding toward it. By habit, by repeated practice of evil, they become the children of wrath (Ephesians 2:3). Accustomed to sin, they become indurate.
2. Jesus taught that sin will harden the heart. Of the good seed that was sown, he said that some “fell by the wayside” (Parable of the Sower, Mark 4:4–20). The hard, beaten path was not suitable soil for the reception of the seed. So many feet had passed over the path, it had become impervious. In like manner, the traffic of sin across the hearts of man leaves them hard and impenetrable. They are untouched by the appeals of the gospel. Their hearts are gross, their ears are deaf, and their eyes are closed.
3. Paul affirms that sin will darken the understanding, blind the heart, alienate from God, and bring one to the point of being “past feeling” (Ephesians 4:18–19). He ceases to feel pain or grief over his condition and has no twinges of conscience, having given himself over to lasciviousness. it is possible for a man to abandon himself to uncleanness and become so callous in this degraded moral condition that he is completely inured to any plea for rectification of his life. He has become so compliant and has so habituated himself to sin, he has lost all desire to adjust his habits, correct his conduct, and remedy his lost condition by
turning to the Lord for help and forgiveness. Unless we are sober and watchful, we may place ourselves outside the compass of God's provisions and beyond the possibility of recovery.
Terms Used for the Removal of Sin
There is nothing more important to our happiness and usefulness in this world than forgiveness. It is necessary to the proper function and maintenance of the home. Its defenses would be destroyed without it. In our relationship with friends and associates, and in just about every other area of life, forgiveness is tremendously important. It is most important to us, personally, in our relationship to God.
What comfort and consolation in the assurance that God will forgive us upon the condition that we yield to His will. What alleviation of misery and distress by His guarantee that He will forgive us and thereafter support, sustain, and encourage us if we will walk in His paths. There are a number of words in the Bible which are used to express the great extent and almost limitless scope of God's forgiveness.
To Send Away
One of the most strikingly beautiful words used for forgiveness means “to send away.” I do not know the origin of this thought. It likely came from the practice, under the law, of sending the scapegoat away into the wilderness during the yearly feast of expiations.
This is the provision that was made: “And Aaron shall lay both his hands on the head of the live goat, and confess over it all the iniquities of the children of Israel, and all their transgressions, concerning all their sins, putting them on the head of the goat, and shall send it away into the wilderness by the hand of a suitable man. The goat shall bear on itself all their iniquities to an uninhabited land: and he shall release the goat in the wilderness.” (Leviticus 16:21–22).
There is not only the sending away of the sins as indicated here, but the very desirable element of their being forgotten forever. This is what the prophet promised Christ would grant to us and accomplish for us.
“For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more” (Jeremiah 31:34). This has been fulfilled (Hebrews 8:12).
God promises to send our sins away upon the conditions of repentance and baptism. To those who, on Pentecost, asked what to do, Peter replied: “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins” (Acts 2:38). Great satisfaction is derived from knowing that all of the sins of our past life are sent far away. “As far as the east is from the west, So far hath he removed our transgressions from us” (Psalm 103:12).
We are further promised and assured that if we, as Christians, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (I John 1:9). Here again is the word “forgive,” which means, “to send away.” In Christ, we have the forgiveness of sins (Ephesians 1:7; Colossians 1:14). If we have some knowledge of how God views sin, feel some weight of its guilt, and realize that the consequences of it are terrible, we will deeply appreciate this provision of God's love to send our sins far away and cast our iniquities into the depths of the sea (Micah 7:19).
To Lift Up or Away
Sin is pictured as an oppressive and grievous load. “For my iniquities have gone over my head: Like a heavy burden they are too heavy for me” (Psalm 38:4). The brothers of Joseph carried the load of their monstrous crime for a quarter of a century and more. They had not only sold their brother into slavery, but they had lied to their father about his beloved son. It must have weighed heavily on them.
When Jacob died, “they sent messengers to Joseph, saying, ‘Before your father died he commanded, saying, “Thus you shall say to Joseph: ‘I beg you, please forgive the trespass of your brothers and their sin; for they did evil to you. Now, please, forgive the trespass of the servants of the God of your father.’ And Joseph wept when they spoke to him” (Genesis 50:16–17). This kind of forgiveness is the lifting up and the removing of the guilt and punishment which justice would require that it receive.
John said to his disciples concerning Christ: “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of world” (John 1:29)! Jesus is the one who lifts up the burden of sin from our hearts and who bears it away. “He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed. ... And He was numbered with the transgressors, And He bore the sin of many, And made intercession for the transgressors” (Isaiah 53:5, 12).
In lifting them up, He grants us pardon from our offences, and permits us to enter into fellowship with Him. “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).
In the Middle East and the Orient and some other parts of the world, women carry considerable loads. For years, I watched African women leave their villages, go to the distant hills, gather long, heavy loads of wood, bind them together with bark string, balance them perfectly on their heads, and jog for many miles across rough terrain to their homes to provide fuel for cooking their food and warmth for their mud and thatch houses. These bundles of long African hardwood poles often weighed between two and three hundred pounds. It seems impossible that they spend their lives with such daily tasks.
I suspect there is no greater joy you could bring to the life of an African woman than to relieve her of this lifelong, burdensome assignment imposed on her because she was born a female and which she has born constantly since she was a little girl.
In some such way, we should feel the burden of sin on us and gratefully receive the assurances that our Lord will lift it off if we will accept the forgiveness provided by the Lamb of God. “Look on my affliction and my pain, And forgive [lift up] all my sins” (Psalm 25:18).
To Cancel Completely
The figure suggested by the use of this term is that sin is a debt. “I have blotted out, like a thick cloud, your transgressions, And like a cloud, your sins. ...” (Isaiah 44:22). Jeremiah was speaking of forgiveness when he prayed: “Yet, Lord, You know all
their counsel Which is against me, to slay me. Provide no atonement for their iniquity, Nor blot out their sin from Your sight; But let them be overthrown before You. ...” (Jeremiah 18:23).
Among the things Jesus taught His disciples to pray was “... forgive us our debts ...” (Matthew 6:12). Although the word translated forgive here is not commonly used for cancel, Young, in his concordance, says it means: “what is owing, indebtedness.” This story is graphically told and the lesson effectively presented by Jesus in these words: “Therefore the kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. And when he had begun to settle accounts, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. But as he was not able to pay, his master commanded that he be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and that payment be made. The servant therefore fell down before him, saying, ‘Master, have patience with me, and I will pay you all.’ Then the master of that servant was moved with compassion, released him, and forgave him the debt” (Matthew 18:23–27). He marked out and canceled what was owed.
The Lord told another story which illustrates this lesson of forgiveness of sin as a debt. “There was a certain creditor who had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. And when they had nothing with which to repay, he freely forgave them both” (Luke 7:41–42). Although one owed ten times more than the other, they were equally forgiven. He abolished the debt freeing them of their obligation. Peter preached to a great multitude gathered in Solomon's porch of the temple. His instruction to them was “Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out ...” (Acts 3:19).
Wax was one of the common but impermanent types of writing materials used by the ancients. A contract was made on it by the use of a stylus and it was signed by the debtor's hand. When the debt was paid, the blunt or flat end of the stylus was drawn over the writing smearing it out, expunging it, and so cancelling it.
Perhaps the most common type of material they used for writing was papyrus. It was a reed that grew along the banks of rivers and streams. Its fibers were sliced thin and pressed together. On it was recorded an account of a debt and a bond was signed by the debtor. When the debt was discharged, it was canceled and the document was then nailed up by way of publication.
When Jesus died on the cross, He “wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us ... having nailed it to the cross” (Colossians 2:14). The forgiveness Jesus offers us today through the gospel provides a complete cancellation of our sins and a publication for all to see that they have been nailed to the cross.
To Be Gracious
I feel a need today for the forgiveness of God in its every aspect. Truly, it is comprehensive and I am glad. It should stir our souls with the spirit of gratitude and humility and submission to contemplate the limitless scope of His forgiveness. In His forgiveness, He sends our sins far away. He lifts them off as a burden. He cancels them as a debt and He looses us and sets us free. But the consideration of this great divine gift that stirs and lifts my heart most, and which is of greatest significance to me, is the fact that , in it all, God is gracious.
Without His grace and mercy we could never arrive at home. It is only by His graciousness and condescension toward us that we entertain any hope at all of eternal happiness. I know that none would “make it” without His mercy. Our God is merciful in forgiveness. “And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:32).
This forgiveness means “to be gracious.” Paul describes the condition of the Colossians prior to their becoming Christians: “And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses” (Colossians 2:13). How fortunate we are and how happy we ought to be that God is gracious—that He has covered our sins by forgiveness and, on the grounds of our conversion to Him, “Let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his ways will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins” (James 5:20).
Will you then turn to the Lord in belief of, and obedience to, His will, having abandoned sin and self, and thus receive the full, free, and loving forgiveness He offers now?