Biblical Imagery on the Forgiveness of Sins (Watson)

There are quite a few different ways the Bible talks about the forgiveness of sins. For one example, Psalm 103:12 says, “…As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us” (NIV). I’ve always been comforted by the different imagery Scripture uses to explain the forgiveness of sins. Here’s how Thomas Watson explained a few of these images of forgiveness in Scripture.

What is forgiveness of sin? It is God’s passing by sin, wiping off the score and giving us a discharge (Micah 7:18). The nature of forgiveness will more clearly appear by opening some Scripture phrases; and by laying down some propositions.

(1) To forgive sin, is to take away iniquity. ‘Why dost thou not take away mine iniquity?’ (Job 7:21). The Hebrew, says ‘lift off.’ It is a metaphor taken from a man that carries a heavy burden which is ready to sink him, and another comes, and lifts it off, so when the heavy burden of sin is on us, God in pardoning, lifts it off from the conscience, and lays it upon Christ. ‘He has laid on him the iniquity of us all’ (Isa 53:6).

(2) To forgive sin, is to cover it. ‘Thou hast covered all their sin’ (Psa 85:2). This was typified by the mercy-seat covering the ark, to show God’s covering of sin through Christ. God does not cover sin in the Antinomian sense, so as he sees it not, but he so covers it, that he will not impute it.

(3) To forgive sin, is to blot it out. ‘I am he that blotteth out thy transgressions’ (Isa 43:25). The Hebrew word, to blot out, alludes to a creditor who, when his debtor has paid him, blots out the debt, and gives him an acquittance; so when God forgives sin, he blots out the debt, he draws the red lines of Christ’s blood over it, and so crosses the debt-book.

(4) To forgive sin is for God to scatter our sins as a cloud. ‘I have blotted out as a thick cloud thy transgressions’ (Isa 44:22). Sin is the cloud, an interposing cloud, which disperses, that the light of his countenance may break forth.

(5) To forgive sin, is for God to cast our sins into the depths of the sea, which implies burying them out of sight, that they shall not rise up in judgement against us. ‘Thou wilt cast all their sins into the depths of the sea’ (Micah 7:19). God will throw them in, not as cork that rises again, but as lead that sinks to the bottom.

Thomas Watson, The Lord’s Prayer, p. 214-215.

Shane Lems
Hammond, WI, 54015