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In Luke 6:37, Jesus says

"Forgive, and ye shall be forgiven."

Similarly, at Matthew 6:14, Jesus says

"For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you."

Many Christians hold that a human blood sacrifice (Jesus) was required for us to actually be forgiven.

Why didn't Jesus mention this at Luke and Matthew, creating a seemingly misleading statement?

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    I think the parable of the unforgiving servant (Matthew 18:21-35) explains this. The blood sacrifice serves as the atonement for the servant's sins against the king. However, that atonement is conditioned on the servant being equally merciful toward his fellow servants. In other words, the shedding of blood is necessary to receive God's forgiveness of sins, provided that you also forgive those who sin against you. Mar 13 at 1:10
  • See my answer here - hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/questions/56632/…
    – Dottard
    Mar 13 at 7:14
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The NT uses a technical word for this blood-atonement usually translated, "propitiation". Propitiation or expiation (Greek: “hilasterion”) denotes the act of appeasing a deity by sacrifice to incur divine favour (it is only an analogue, metaphor or figure of speech!). Thus, Jesus’ sacrifice is described as propitiation in:

  • Rom 3:25 - whom God set forth as a propitiation through faith in His blood, for a showing forth of His righteousness, because of the forbearance of the sins having taken place beforehand
  • 1 John 2:2 - And He is the propitiation for our sins, and not only for ours, but also for those of the whole world.

These are direct references to the same word used in the Septuagint in Ex 25:17-22 (and repeated in Heb 9:5) where the “atonement cover” or “mercy seat” of the Ark of the Covenant is described. That is, the covering of the Ark provided both atonement and mercy at the same time!

  • 1 Cor 5:7 - Get rid of the old yeast, so that you may be a new unleavened batch--as you really are. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed.
  • 1 Peter 3:18 - For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit.
  • John 1:29 - The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, "Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!
  • John 1:36 - When he saw Jesus passing by, he said, "Look, the Lamb of God!"

This metaphor of Jesus as the sacrificial lamb acting as a propitiation is taken from the Levitical practices in the OT. However, it is just one of many metaphors of the what the atonement of Christ means and how it works as described in the NT.

  • The Greek verb “aphiemi”, to forgive or give remission, means (literally) to send forth or send away. It is used of sins in Matt 9:2, 5, 6, 12:31, 32, 26:28, Mark 14:24, Acts 8:22, Rom 4:7, James 5:12, 1 John 1:9, 2:12, etc. That is, our sins are sent away or banished. See also Mark 3:29, Acts 5:31, 13:38, 26:18, Eph 1:7, Col 1:14. Again, Jesus accomplished this great work on the cross.
  • Christ’s robe of righteousness provided a covering to hide the sinner’s wretched state. Job 29:14, Ps 132:9, Isa 11:5, 59:17, 61:10, 64:6, Zech 3:4, 5, Matt 22:1-14 (wedding garment parable), Rev 3:4, 6:11, 7:9, 19:8. This robe is a counterpoint to the “filthy rags” of Isa 64:6 and Zech 3:4, and immediately and completely hides them.
  • Justify and Justification (Greek cognate root: “dike”) means to pronounce righteous or acquit and is obviously a legal term. Paul, in Romans, tells us that God has freely justified all sinners (Rom 3:23-27) and that this occurred while we were still sinners (Rom 5:5, 8, 9) by His death on the cross. This “declaring right” is clearly what God does and is His initiative and something that cannot be earned (Rom 3:20). In Gal 2:16 we are emphatically told that we are justified by trusting God and not by works of the law. See “Election” for more information. It is often used inter-changeably with “Credit”, see below.
  • The Bible also uses the idea of Jesus’ death being a kind of penal substitutionary execution to satisfy the requirements of “the law”; thus, His death was an essential part of our salvation. Isa 53:5, 6, 11, 12, Matt 20:28, Rom 5:19, 2 Cor 5:21, Gal 1:4, 3:13, Heb 9:15. Again, the extent to which this is literally true is highly debated – is it only a metaphor to demonstrate God’s great love and grace? Or did Jesus’ death actually change something about God’s attitude to us (recall that Jesus is also God!) Obviously Jesus’ death did not change God’s mind because God gave His Son and God did not give something in order to change His own mind! Jesus death was to demonstrate His justice (Rom 3:22-28).
  • In Rev 12:7-10 the process that leads to atonement is depicted as a war which Jesus wins. His victory obtains atonement for mankind (Col 2:15, 1 Peter 3:22). In this warfare, sinners are God’s enemies that He must capture in the war (Rom 5:10). This metaphor is extended for the Christian life (Eph 6:10-17, 1 Thess 5:8, 2 Cor 10:3-5, Isa 59:17) with “the armour of God”. See also Rev 19:11-21.
  • The atonement is also presented as a kind of recapitulation: Jesus became the second Adam and succeeded where Adam failed. “For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive” (1 Cor 15:22). Rom 5 discusses this idea at some length but the idea of sacrifice and the gift of salvation are never too far away even in this passage.
  • “Credit”, “account”, “imputed”, or “reckoned” (Greek: logizomai) is a financial or accounting term used in the market place but was employed by Paul to denote the act of God in crediting Abraham (and sinners generally) as righteous when they trusted in God, apart from the works of the law, as a free gift. The idea is based upon the assumption that sin creates a debt to God which must be repaid (Col 2:13-15, Matt 6:12). Again, it is only an analogue, metaphor or figure of speech and so is not literally true. (Rom 4:3, 5, 6, 8, 9, 10, 11, 22, 23, 24, 2 Cor 5:19, Gal 3:6, James 2:23. See also Gen 15:6.) That is, the righteousness of God is “imputed” to the undeserving sinner, freely. Thus, God “cancels the debt” (Matt 18:21-35).
  • “Gift” is used to convey the idea that atonement is absolutely free and the initiative of God. Rom 4:4, 5:15-17, 6:23, 2 Cor 9:14, 15, Eph 2:8, 3:7, Heb 6:4.
  • Redemption, Ransom, or most correctly, Manumission: Two Greek words are translated “redeem” (“exagerazo” and “lutroo”) with almost exactly equivalent meanings. Both speak of Christ redeeming sinners as slaves (Luke 1:68, 24:21) by paying a ransom (Matt 20:28, Mark 10:45, 1 Tim 2:6, Heb 9:15), but, Scripture is silent about to whom the manumission fee was paid (it is only an analogue, metaphor or figure of speech!). 1 Cor 6:20, 7:23, Gal 3:13, 4:5, Titus 2:14, 1 Peter 1:18, Rev 5:9. This manumission idea emphasises God’s free gift of salvation because both Greek verbs were commonly used to buy freedom for a slave or hostage, without any contribution of the slave. Perhaps the most touching example of redemption is contained in the enacted parable of Hosea and Gomer – see Hosea 3:1-3. The New Testament also presents several things from which the sinner needs freedom: (a) Freedom from the devil, Heb 2:14, 15 (b) Freedom from death, 1 Cor 15:56, 57 (c) Freedom from the power of sin that enslaves, Rom 6:22 (d) Freedom from the condemnation of the law, Rom 3:19-24, Gal 3:13, 4:5
  • Reconciliation describes the process of reuniting an estranged family member. It is predicated on two Biblical assumptions that (a) Jesus is our brother (Heb 2:11-13, Ps 22:22, Isa 8:17, 18, Matt 12:48, 49, John 20:17, Rom 8:29), and (b) sin separates us from Jesus our brother (Isa 59:2, Gal 5:4, Eph 2:12, Ps 22:1, Eze 14:5, Jer 6:8). Reconciliation is found in only a few places but they, again, emphasise that atonement is God’s initiative without any input from us. In 2 Cor 5:18, 19 we find that Christ reconciled the world to Himself by “not counting our sins against us”. Rom 5:10, 11 teaches that sinners were reconciled to God by Christ’s death. Further, a comparison with v9 shows that justification and reconciliation are used in parallel.
  • Rescue (save): The Greek verb, “sozo” means literally to rescue or deliver from danger (Matt 8:25, Mark 13:20, Luke 23:35, John 12:27, 1 Tim 2:15, 2 Tim 4:18). Thus, when the New Testament discusses salvation, it is using the figure of someone in immanent mortal danger being rescued by a “rescuer” (Acts 2:47, 16:31, Rom 8:24, Eph 2:5, 8, 1 Tim 2:4, 2 Tim 19, Titus 3:5, etc). This a perfect figure of our relationship with Jesus who delivers us from the danger of sin (Phil 2:12) and eternal loss (Rom 13:11, 1 Thess 5:8, 9 2 Thess 2:13, Heb 1:14, 9:28, 1 Peter 1:5, 2 Peter 3:15, etc). See also Eph 6:17 where salvation is described as a helmet to protect from spiritual danger. This figure also emphasises that salvation must come from outside the person.
  • The absolving of sin is sometimes represented as a “washing away” of sin, or “cleansing”. Lev 16:30, Num 19:9, Ps 51:2, 7, 10, Isa 4:4, Eze 36:25, Zech 13:1, 1 Cor 6:10, Eph 5:26, 1 John 1:7, 9. The practice of Baptism is built on this vivid metaphor and thus depicted as washing away of sin (Acts 22:16) as well as death to the old life and resurrection to a new life in Christ.
  • Adoption can also be a figure of atonement – see “Adoption”. In this case the metaphor serves both as a figure of the change of life and of the privileges of being adopted into a “royal” family of God.

The above does not include another metaphor sometimes called, “The Divine Exchange” and is illustrated in the following texts:

  • 2 Cor 5:21, God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
  • Gal 1:4, who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father.
  • Gal 3:13, Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us. For it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.
  • John 3:16, For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that everyone who believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.
  • 2 Cor 8:9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor…
  • Isa 53:4-6, Surely He took on our infirmities and carried our sorrows; yet we considered Him stricken by God, struck down and afflicted. But He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

That is, Jesus was treated as we deserve so that we can be treated as He deserved.

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  • This answer contains a lot of verse citations, but I'm not clear if it contains an answer to the question. Could you perhaps add a summary with the answer? Mar 15 at 5:22
  • @AnthonyBurg - that is the point - the blood sacrifice was just a metaphor - as are all the other metaphors of atonement in the NT
    – Dottard
    Mar 15 at 6:30
  • Would it be fair to say then your answer is "God does not require a human blood sacrifice - that idea is a metaphor for what is actually required."? Mar 15 at 17:28
  • @AnthonyBurg - correct - I have listed about a dozen metaphors to explain the atonement, of which propitiation/expiation is just one.
    – Dottard
    Mar 15 at 21:13
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    @AnthonyBurg - that is a vexed question with many answers. My answer says that forgiveness is a product of grace which is a manifestation of love (1 John 4:8, 16). The atonement demonstrates how great that love and grace was and how much god loved us.
    – Dottard
    Mar 15 at 21:35
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Jesus's sacrifice ("the [Christ] must give his life a ransom for many" Mt 20:28) is the basis of the effectiveness of such forgiveness outside the immediate context of sacrifice. In other words, you can't forgive if you are in hell, where you'd be if Christ hadn't ransomed you from sin and death.

Jesus' focus in His ministry is how Christians are to live assuming they have been saved, it doesn't assume their needing to be saved. How to be saved is, after all, the smallest and the quickest part of Christian life (the majority of peopel being regenerated as babies): it will do you no good if you don't remain in God's favor by obeying what the Son has been sent to teach us. In fact, according to the Bible, it is worse (Heb. 10:29) than breaking the Mosaic Law, which resulted in "death without mercy under two or three witnesses" (ibid. 10:28). "Better that someone was never born" again, as it were. Than to recieve the Adamic promise and to reject it once again, making yourself 'twice as much as child of hell.'

As for why some Christians says Jesus must have offered a blood sacrifice in order to save people from their sins, this is presumably based on Hebrews 9.

Hebrews 9:22 And almost all things, according to the law, are cleansed with blood: and without shedding of blood there is no remission.

However, this is demonstrating how everything in the Old Law pointed to Christ in some way, even down to the fact that ritual and moral cleanness came from the shedding of blood. It isn't claiming that unless there is shedding of blood, sin can't be forgiven. This is absurd on its face (God requires certain specs of DNA to leave one location and be in another, in order to continue his work of salvation), but it's also a misapplication and misreading of the verse (fails to recognize whent the author is referring to types of Christ, vs. asserting absolute requirements). Reading it by its clauses, the author is stating that "according to the law [of Moses] ... without shedding of blood there is no remission." He isn't stating an absolute requirement for God's forgiveness.

In fact, later in the same Epistle (the next chapter, in fact), he writes:

Hebrews 10:4 For it is impossible that with the blood of oxen and goats sin should be taken away.

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  • "you can't forgive if you are in hell" By hell do you mean Sheol (Hades)? Do you believe the righteous in Sheol were in Paradise before Jesus? Mar 15 at 5:18
  • I mean Gehenna, hellfire, the abode of the damned. Mar 15 at 13:05
  • As clarification of this answer, would you hold that everyone who had died was in Gehenna before Jesus' sacrifice? Mar 15 at 17:29
  • Gehenna is not Sheol, it is in Sheol. Mar 15 at 19:13
  • So before Jesus' sacrifice, were there people in another part of Sheol as well? Did they go somewhere else after Jesus' sacrifice? Mar 15 at 20:42

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