Holy Father, we humble our hearts before you. We admit our total dependence on you. We want to understand your Word. We want to live your Word. In Jesus' mighty, holy name. Amen!
I'll always quote from the New American Standard Bible unless I mention otherwise. When I quote from my book it is the 1977 edition; otherwise it is the 1995 edition. Sometimes I make comments in the middle of quotations in brackets [ ] or [[ ]] to make them more obvious.
I'm turning to page 141 of my book ("Holiness and Victory Over Sin"), and we come to the chapter titled, "A Study on the Meaning of the Greek Noun 'Aphesis,' " which is a very important chapter. I quoted a few paragraphs from the beginning of this chapter at the end of the last article, but I'm going to read those paragraphs again in this article. We'll be getting into some details, but they are very important details that will help us understand God's Word. We must make it a top priority to understand God's Word. I'll follow the book to a significant extent, but sometimes I modify what is written in the book for these articles.
The Greek noun "aphesis," which is used seventeen times in the New Testament, is translated "forgiveness" fifteen times by the NASB. The KJV translates it "forgiveness" or "remission" fifteen times. The only place where the NASB and KJV translate aphesis other than forgiveness or remission is Luke 4:18, which uses this Greek noun twice. (We will discuss Luke 4:18 as we continue.) The NIV has forgiveness or the verb forgiven in all the fifteen uses that exclude Luke 4:18. The BAGD Greek Lexicon lists each of these fifteen uses under forgiveness and equates forgiveness with the "cancellation of the guilt of sin."
Although forgiveness (or the equivalent) is widely accepted as the normal translation for aphesis in the New Testament (except for Luke 4:18), I don't believe this is an adequate translation in several verses. In my opinion, if forgiveness is understood in the typical sense of the cancellation of the guilt of sin, then this translation frequently says far less than what was intended by the Author/author (especially God). I believe a translation like "release [from sins with the guilt AND THE PENALTIES]" would be much more accurate in several verses. For one thing, we are released from the major penalties of spiritual death and bondage to sin, not to mention hell.
A translation like "release [from sins with the guilt and the penalties]" says much more than the forgiveness of the guilt of sin, though that is included. This suggested translation also includes the ideas of being set free from the kingdom of spiritual death and lawlessness, and being made alive spiritually and being made righteous and holy. In my opinion, there is far-too-little emphasis placed on the gospel truth of being made righteous and holy (with the imparted righteousness and holiness of God) in the Christian church of our day. An understanding of the fuller sense of aphesis will serve as an important step in rectifying this serious problem
There is very much in common between aphesis (understood in this fuller sense) and the idea of redemption. We were spiritually dead slaves of sin living in the kingdom of darkness, but we have been redeemed out of that kingdom. That's a whole lot more than being forgiven the guilt of sin. There is also very much in common with the idea of justification, when justification is used in the full sense we have discussed in these articles and which is discussed in detail in this book. To be justified in the full sense includes being forgiven and declared righteous, being set free from spiritual death and bondage to sin, and being born again and made righteous and holy.
In this study we will first discuss Luke 4:18 (with Luke 4:16-21), where the context make it very clear, and everyone seems to agree, that aphesis means much more than forgiveness. It means release, deliverance, liberty. At the end of the study of Luke 4:18, we will briefly discuss the meaning of aphesis as it is used in the Septuagint (the Greek Old Testament). That is quite important too.
We will then discuss five very important New Testament verses that use aphesis. (In this article, we will just look at two of these verses.) In each of these verses, aphesis has typically been translated forgiveness, or the equivalent. In my opinion, however, it is very important to see that aphesis means much more than forgiveness in each of these verses. Our understanding of the meaning of this Greek noun (as it is used in these verses) will significantly affect our understanding of the meaning of these very important verses. The two verses we will discuss in this article are Col.1:14 (with Col. 1:9-14) and Eph. 1:7.
Now we come to the heading, "Luke 4:18 and the Meaning of 'Aphesis.' " First I'll read Luke 4:16-21, then we'll get into the details of Luke 4:18. "And He [Jesus] came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up; and as was His custom, He entered the synagogue on the Sabbath, and stood up to read. (17) And the book [probably better, "the scroll"] of the prophet Isaiah was handed to Him. And He opened the [scroll] and found the place where it was written, (18) 'The Spirit of the Lord [Yahweh] is upon Me, Because He anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim release [Greek aphesis] to the captives, And recovery of sight to the blind, To set free [Greek aphesis] those who are downtrodden, (19) To proclaim the favorable year of the Lord.' (20) And He closed the [scroll], and gave it back to the attendant, and sat down; and the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed upon Him. (21) And He began to say to them, 'Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.' "
Now we'll get into the details of Luke 4:18. I'll read the verse again, " 'The Spirit of the Lord [Yahweh] is upon Me, Because He anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim RELEASE [Greek aphesis] to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, To set free [Greek aphesis] those who are downtrodden...' " Note that aphesis is used twice in this verse. The quotation in Luke 4:18, 19 comes almost entirely from Isa. 61:1, 2. These verses in Isaiah prophesy regarding the anointed ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ, as these verses in Luke chapter 4 demonstrate. "The Christ" (from the Greek) and "the Messiah" (from the Hebrew) both mean "the Anointed One." Instead of "release to the captives," the KJV has "deliverance to the captives," and the NIV has "freedom for the prisoners." Instead of "to set free," the KJV has "to set at liberty," and the NIV has "to release." I prefer a more literal translation for these words in the last line of verse 18, "to send out in the release," or the equivalent. The Amplified Bible has, "to send forth delivered those who are oppressed - those who are downtrodden, bruised, crushed and broken down by calamity."
We were all "captives" in bondage to sin, Satan, and spiritual death; we were under our sins with the guilt and the penalties, back to Adam. But the Savior came to release the captives. He has released us (He has set us free) from bondage to sin, Satan, and spiritual death.
Isaiah chapter 53, for example, showed by what means the Servant of God would set the captives free. He bore our sins with the guilt and with the penalties. He set us free from sin, Satan, and spiritual death. He gives us spiritual life and makes us righteous and holy. Matthew 1:21 says, "And she will bear a son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for it is He who will save His people from their sins." He saves His people (all believers) from their sins with the guilt and with the penalties. He bore our sins with the guilt and with the penalties, including the penalties of spiritual death and bondage to sin. The name Jesus means "The Lord [Yah, Yahweh] Saves."
The words "to proclaim release [Greek aphesis] to the captives," which are quoted from Isa. 61:1, build on the old-covenant year of jubilee. The year of jubilee, which is spelled out in Lev. 25:8-55, was a year of release. Leviticus 25:10 says, "You shall thus consecrate the fiftieth year and proclaim a release through the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you, and each of you shall return to his own property, and each of you shall return to his family." The Hebrew verb for "proclaim" and the Hebrew noun for "release" that are used in Lev. 25:10 are also used in Isa. 61:1.
The last line of Luke 4:18 (which I would translate "to send out in the release") and Luke 4:19 ("to proclaim the favorable year of the Lord") also apparently build on the release of jubilee. In the Septuagint (the Greek Old Testament), aphesis is used some fifteen times in Lev. 25:8-55. [[I have an endnote here. I'll read part of this endnote. Aphesis is used twice in the Greek of Lev. 25:10, "And ye shall sanctify the year, the fiftieth year, and ye shall proclaim a release [aphesis] upon the land to all that inhabit it; it shall be a year of release [aphesis], a jubilee for you; and each one shall depart to his possession, and ye shall go each to his family." In Lev. 25:28, 31, 33, 41, and 54, we read of persons or property going out in the release [aphesis]. In Lev. 25:13, 40, 50, 52, and 54, we read of "the year of the release [aphesis]." We will further discuss the meaning of aphesis as it was used in the Septuagint at the end of the study of Luke 4:18." Now I'll turn back to page 144.]]
One primary feature of the release of jubilee was that any Israelites who had sold themselves into bondage because of poverty were to be set free, if they had not been set free beforehand (Lev. 25:10, 39-43, 47-55). Another primary feature of the release of jubilee was that the Israelites were to return to any property they had temporarily lost; the property was released that the Israelites might return to that which had been given to them by God (Lev. 25:10. 13-17, 23-28, 31-33).
It is not hard to see how the release of jubilee prefigured the much greater release that was to be accomplished through the Lord Jesus Christ and new-covenant salvation. He has already released the captives from sin, Satan, and spiritual death, and He will ultimately overthrow every enemy, including physical death. "The creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God" (Rom. 8:21).
I should mention one more important feature regarding the release of jubilee. Leviticus 25:9 shows that it began on the Day of Atonement. The release of Christians has come through the Sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ, which was prefigured by the sacrifices of the Day of Atonement. Isaiah 61:1-3 build on Isaiah chapter 53, which is one of the most important chapters in the Bible dealing with the atoning death of the Lord Jesus Christ.
I'll briefly comment on the last two lines of Isa. 61:3 since these words are so relevant to the topic of holiness and victory over sin. The last two lines of Isa. 61:3 say, "So they will be called oaks of righteousness, The planting of the LORD [Yahweh], that He may be glorified." There cannot be any substantial or permanent salvation for the people of God until they are set free from bondage to sin and made righteous. This release (deliverance) from sin and transformation to righteousness are the heart and foundation of new-covenant salvation in Christ Jesus. This is a whole lot more than the forgiveness of sins, as important as that is. God makes His people righteous; He makes them "oaks of righteousness," and He is glorified by our righteousness. He imputes and imparts His righteousness to us through the atoning death of Christ Jesus and by His outpoured Spirit. "For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them" (Eph. 2:10).
We come to the subheading, "Some concluding remarks on the meaning of aphesis as it is used in Luke 4:18." It is clear that aphesis is used in Luke 4:18 with the sense of release or the equivalent. The forgiveness of guilt is included, but the salvation pictured in Luke 4:18 goes far beyond forgiveness. The captives are set free - released - from bondage to sin, Satan, and spiritual death, and they are born again and made righteous and holy.
We come to the heading, "The Meaning of 'Aphesis' as it is Used in the Septuagint." The Septuagint is the Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament. It was widely used by the early Christian church and is frequently quoted in the New Testament. The Septuagint helped prepare many Greek words to communicate the Christian gospel, which spread across the Roman world in the Greek language.
Aphesis is used approximately forty-five times in the Septuagint, but I didn't find one clear example where it is used of forgiveness. It is used about twenty-five times of the release of jubilee. Some fifteen of those uses are found in Leviticus chapter 25. Approximately ten uses deal with the seventh-year release, which is different than the release of jubilee (see Deut. 15:1-18). Other uses are fountains of water and the torrents of water coming forth from the eyes of Jeremiah (in Lam. 3:48).
I am not suggesting that aphesis should never be translated forgiveness in the New Testament, but a translation like release (release from sins with the guilt and the penalties) is required in several verses.
Now we come to the heading, "Colossians 1:9-14 with Special Emphasis on the Meaning of 'Aphesis' as it is Used in Colossians 1:14." First I'll read Col. 1:9-11 and make a few comments. "For this reason also, since the day we heard of it we have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, (10) so that you may walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; (11) strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for the attaining of all steadfastness and patience."
I'll read part of what I said under Col. 1:9-11. The apostle Paul was concerned that the Colossian Christians (and all Christians) be transformed/sanctified and "walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects." Christians must know the will of God (see verse 9) so they can cooperate with His grace, which includes His saving power (see verse 11). These verses show that Christians are enabled (and expected) to live righteous, holy, fruitful, and steadfast lives (by the saving grace of God in Christ through faith). In the following verses, verses 12-14, the apostle Paul goes on speaking of the glory of new-covenant salvation that redeems sinners from the kingdom of sin and spiritual death and transfers them to the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ and makes them righteous and holy.
I'll read Col. 1:12-14, then we'll get into the important details, "joyously giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in [the] light. (13) For He delivered us from the domain of [the] darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, (14) in whom we have [the] redemption, the forgiveness [Greek aphesis] of sins."
Now we'll discuss Col. 1:12, "joyously giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in light." First we'll discuss the words, "who has qualified us." We could also translate "who has made us fit." The Amplified Bible has, "Who has qualified and made us fit." For one major thing, the Father has qualified us (or, made us fit) to share in the inheritance of the saints in the light by making us saints (holy people, set-apart-for God people).
God has qualified us (or, made us fit) "to share in the inheritance of the saints in the light" by delivering us from the kingdom of the darkness (with its spiritual death and bondage to sin), and transferring us to the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ, which is the kingdom of the light (with its truth and its righteousness and holiness). See verses 13, 14.
The word "saints" is a translation of the plural of the Greek adjective "hagios," which is typically translated "holy" or "saint" in the New Testament. Christians are saints (holy people) in that they have been set apart (by God) for God. They have been set apart from the kingdom of the darkness, from spiritual death, and from sin. They have been transferred into the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ, which is the kingdom of light, and they partake of the life of God (having been born again), and they become slaves of righteousness (having been redeemed out of the kingdom of sin). Much of Col. 1:9-14 helps explain what it means to be saints. Also see Col. 1:21-4:6 and 4:12, and see the last chapter of my book.
I'll read Col. 1:12, 13 again, "joyously giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us [or, "made us fit"] to share in the inheritance of the saints in light [or, better yet, "in the light"]. He delivered us from the domain of the darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son." Let's discuss the words "in [the] light." I would translate "in the light." The definite article is included in the Greek. "The light" here at the end of verse 12 is contrasted with "the darkness" that is mentioned in verse 13. God is light and His kingdom is the kingdom of the light (see, for example, John 1:4-9; 8:12; 9:5; Acts 26:18; 1 Pet. 2:9; 1 John 1:5-7; Rev. 21:23; and 22:5). To be in the light includes being in the truth, life, righteousness, and holiness of God (and I listed many verses from the New Testament here).
I'll read Col. 1:12 from the Amplified Bible, "Giving thanks to the Father, Who has qualified and made us fit to share the portion, which is the inheritance of the saints (God's holy people) in the light."
Let's discuss Col. 1:13. I'll read the verse again. "For He delivered us from the domain of [the] darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son." I would translate "the darkness." The definite article is included in the Greek. As I mentioned, "the darkness" of verse 13 is contrasted with "the light" of verse 12. Also, I would translate "the authority of the darkness" instead of "the domain of the darkness." The New American Standard Bible points out in the margin that the more basic meaning of the Greek noun used here (eksousia) is "authority."
Formerly we were slaves of sin and the god of this world; we were under "the authority of the darkness." I'll quote what the apostle Paul said in Rom. 13:12-14, "The night is almost gone, and the day is near. Therefore let us lay aside the deeds [or, the works] of [the] darkness and put on the armor of [the] light. Let us behave properly as in the day, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual promiscuity and sensuality, not in strife and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts." And I'll quote what he said in Eph. 5:8, 9, 11, 12, "for you were formerly darkness, but now you are light in the Lord; walk as children of Light (9) (for the fruit of the Light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth).... (11) Do not participate in the unfruitful deeds [or, works] of darkness, but instead even expose them; for it is disgraceful even to speak of the things which are done by them in secret."
God the Father has delivered us from the authority of the darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, or, better yet, "the kingdom of the Son of His love."
Acts 26:18 (which is discussed in detail later in this chapter) is an important cross-reference for Col. 1:12-14. I'll read Acts 26:18 (The Lord Jesus Christ was speaking to the apostle Paul), "to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the dominion [or, authority] of Satan to God, in order that they may receive forgiveness [Greek aphesis] of sins and an inheritance among those who have been sanctified by faith in Me."
The Greek noun translated "dominion" in Acts 26:18 is "eksousia," the same noun translated "domain" in Col. 1:13. I prefer the translation "authority" in both verses. The dominion/domain/authority [kingdom] of darkness is the equivalent of the dominion/domain/authority [kingdom] of Satan. The emphasis in Acts 26:18, as in Col. 1:9-14, is on the deliverance from the kingdom of sin, Satan, and darkness and the transformation to the righteousness, holiness, and light of the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ.
It is important to see that the emphasis of Col. 1:12, 13 goes far beyond the forgiveness of the guilt of sins, though that is included, and is very important. On being set free from the authority of sin, see, for example, John 8:31-36; Rom. 5:19-6:23; 8:1-14; 1 Cor. 6:9-11; Gal. 5:16-25; Eph. 4:17-6:20; Titus 2:11-3:11; and 1 Pet. 1:13-2:25. On being set free from the authority of Satan, see Matt. 28:18-20; John 16:11; Gal. 1:4; Eph. 1:20-2:10; 4:27; Col. 2:15; and Heb. 2:14-18. I'll quote two of the passages I listed here: Col. 2:15, "When He [God the Father] had disarmed the rulers and authorities, He made a public display of them, having triumphed over them through Him [through the Lord Jesus Christ]." And Heb. 2:14-18 (I'll read these verses from the NIV), "Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death - that is, the devil - and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death. For surely it is not angels he helps, but Abraham's descendants. For this reason he had to be made like his brothers in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people. Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted."
We're almost finished with this article. In closing I'll read one of the passages I listed on being set free from the authority of sin, John 8:31-36. "So Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, 'If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.' They answered Him, 'We are Abraham's descendants and have never yet been enslaved to anyone; how is it that You say, "You will become free"?' Jesus answered them, 'Truly, truly, I say to you, EVERYONE WHO COMMITS SIN IS THE SLAVE OF SIN. The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son [I would translate Son, with the KJV.] does remain forever. SO IF THE SON [the Lord Jesus Christ] MAKES YOU FREE YOU WILL BE FREE INDEED.' " The Lord Jesus Christ sets us free from being slaves of sin. John chapter 8 is discussed verse-by-verse in my paper on John chapters 5-8 on my internet site.
We'll discuss Col. 1:14 in the next article. God bless you! May His name be glorified; His will be done; His will be done in us!
Copyright by Karl Kemp
http://www.karlkempteachingministries.com Karl Kemp worked as an engineer in the space field throughout the 60s. He became a born-again Christian in 1964. He received an MA in Biblical Studies in 1972. He has been a Bible teacher for 45 years. See the website for more info on his books, papers, etc.
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