And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” (Matthew 26:27–28, ESV)

The devotional Greek Word for the Day in a discussion on the word that we translate “forgiveness” points out:

The Greek is aphesis (859), which literally means “release, pardon, or cancellation.” In Classical Greek it means “the voluntary release of a person or thing over which one has legal or actual control.”24 This powerful word actually has three aspects.

  1. First, in legal terms, forgiveness is a judicial release from the guilt and punishment of sin, which is death.
  2. Second, in ethical terms, forgiveness is a release from the terribleness of sin that affects the conscience.
  3. Third, in personal terms, forgiveness is a cessation of God’s intended wrath upon the sinner. [Greek Word for the Day – January 25]

When Jesus took the cup on the night that he would be arrested and shared it together with his disciples, he points out that his blood would be “poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.”  The disciples did not fully comprehend what he meant at the time.  They would, in due course, understand what he meant and would spend the rest of their lives explaining to anyone who would listen what it meant that Jesus’ sacrifice had paid for their sins.

When we come to faith and are forgiven the word “forgiveness” ensures that we are released from the guilt of our sins, that our conscience is cleansed from sin’s effect on it, and that God’s wrath is appeased and rather than being his enemies we are now part of his family.