The current judicial exercise in ensuring a hard separation between religion and the federal or state governments has a fairly short history. It really dates to the last century when Justice Hugo Black resurrected a comment that Thomas Jefferson had made in reply to a letter from the Danbury Baptist Association. The Connecticut group had written to congratulate him upon his election to the Presidency in 1804. His use of the phrase â€œa wall of separationâ€ is its first occurrence in text in this land, and in its context it was used as part of his explanation as to why he had chosen not to call for a national day of fasting and thanksgiving as his two predecessors had done upon election. Justice Blackâ€™s appropriation of the remark was much more insidious.
At Merriam-Webster (www.m-w.com) pardon is defined as 1) “an act officially saying that someone who was judged to be guilty of a crime will be allowed to go free and will not be punished.” Or, it is 2) “forgiveness for something.”
That single internet stop makes it clear that pardon and forgiveness are synonymous.
Granting pardon or forgiveness means “you’re free to go.”
Remission is defined as 1) “a period of time during a serious illness when the patient’s health improves.” Though this modern meaning doesn’t really fit the application in Scripture, we might suggest a serious illness is certainly involved along with a much called for and desired improvement. The other two definitions are – 2) “the act of reducing or canceling the amount of money that you owe” and 3) “the reduction of a prison sentence.” This last one actually fits the bill. Remission means you get out of “jail” as you have been pardoned and forgiven – your sentence commuted. For a Christian remission of sins has terms just as with any other sentence from any court. When the conditions are met, the bill or charge is remitted, pardon is granted, sentence is reduced and the debt is cancelled. The prisoner is released.
In Christianity pardon is the official act of forgiveness. That fits neatly into the language found in any Bible. It is understood that you don’t get to pardon yourself. It is the work of a higher position of authority – a king, an advocate, tribunal or judge. As said, it is granted through the law by completion of any sentence, penalty or as the court’s terms have been met. It is always conditional.
Remission indicates that the appropriate penalty has been served, lifted or taken away. Pardon and forgiveness result. So how is it that you may gain forgiveness of sins? And why should forgiveness be sought?
How many answers can be given for: What is forgiveness of sins? Some folks say it is a “good feeling.” Another may say, “it is love in the heart or soul” or “it is peace you make between God and man.” Someone else might say “it is joy and gratitude.” While all of these may have some value – it is not about feelings or gratitude. As it is in every legal system determined by testimony and actions. Your case is plead before the magistrate or judge. It is the same with God.
Jesus of Nazareth, who is called the Christ, the Messiah, and the Anointed One by The Lord God Almighty, Lord and advocate by his chosen Apostles, disciples, and the multitudes of thousands who were taught by him, healed by him, or who simply came into contact with him. He is the power of law and advocacy before God.
He has made a proclamation that all who believe the Good News – the Gospel sent into the world through his Apostles and disciples, and who obey it by submitting to its terms — all who believe and obey its laws and precepts, who confess allegiance to Him and are immersed in water in His name, shall have their past sins forgiven. They will be pardoned. That is what it means. And if they should sin ignorantly, inadvertently or even when they are swept away in a moment and willingly, that pardon will still be extended upon repentance, with prayer and confession to the Lord of those issues, as the sin is turned away from.
Forgiveness then depends on our compliance to the set conditions — to the Law. That is exactly how it applies in any court. And our spirits testify that if we are “in Christ” and obedient, we are pardoned full and free; and forgiven of our sins through the process of remission as given by our Savior. The price has been paid, the requirement of the High Court of Heaven has been met. But we have access to this when and only when have we been begotten and born again by following the law and its prescription, appointed by Almighty God and overseen by the Holy Son of God: when we are amenable to God’s Law and to the rule of Christ.
Without application of law and remission granted through Christ, forgiveness and pardon through His Word, and by adherence to the particulars found there — all the good feelings we may conjure, the “think so’s” and “hope so’s” accompanied with or without choruses of “I Love the Lord” amount to and prove absolutely nothing.
Where do you stand before the Law and the Advocate? “Have you been to Jesus for the cleansing power, are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?”