Jurisdiction To Forgive

Mark 2:5b Son, thy sins be forgiven thee.
Forgiveness in this passage is a specific type of forgiveness which cannot be given by just anyone. It is legal forgiveness: the forgiver has jurisdiction to forgive. A mother may want her much beloved, but legally convicted, son to be lawfully forgiven of his crimes, but she has no jurisdiction to forgive. It would be a crime for her to set him free.

Sin is a departure from God’s legal standard of uprightness or covenant obligations, and carries legal penalties. In this case the man was guilty of breaking Israel's covenant with God, and was suffering lawful punishment. But he was forgiven… which means he was released from his legal punishment and the record of his crime was expunged. It was as if the sin had never been committed. “Forgiven” in v. 5 is a perfect indicative verb which is “an action as standing at the time of speaking complete.” Burton

Forgiveness in our common usage is generally personal, because that's the forgiveness that is under our jurisdiction. So we tend to think of God's forgiveness in warm personal terms... But the forgiveness we receive from God was won in a cold, hard legal battle for our souls. We believers, who were all convicted sinners waiting for our execution, are now justly allowed to walk free. Our legal debts have been permanently expunged by the gospel work of Jesus Christ. True lasting forgiveness...


  1. Forgiveness and lawful punishment seem to be able to go hand-in-hand, or completely seperated. Unless forgiveness and mercy are used as the same context or definition, It seems the punishment is waved. Where does mercy and grace fit into the punishment side in our society today? ...Or were you only speaking of God's law rather than the law of the land? I might have just misread the whole thing, and I'm not sure my comment even makes sence... Time for bed.... Cody Crisp

  2. I was speaking of God's law. Mercy in our legal system is hotly contested in our popular culture. Mercy means that someone is released from their full obligation to the law, so the full punishment is not given. To those who want to see justice given to the fullest extent mercy is scandalous. A good example would be those who harmed Brady. Should they receive mercy or full justice? For some the level of mercy given simply depends on which side of justice they are on: the giving or receiving side.



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