An angel announced to Joseph that he was to call Mary’s child “Jesus” (Saviour) for He would save His people from their sins. Notice that the angel didn’t say that He would save His people from hell, but from their sins. It is necessary to be delivered from sin. My belief is that this is a life-long process (He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion in the day of Jesus Christ—Philippians 1:6)
Was the purpose of Jesus’ death to allow Him to grant forgiveness of sins? How could that be? For if His death was necessary in order to grant forgiveness, how could He forgive people prior to His death. Here is one example:
And they brought to Him a paralytic lying on a bed. Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the paralytic, “Take courage, son; your sins are forgiven.” And some of the scribes said to themselves, “This fellow blasphemes.”
And Jesus knowing their thoughts said, "Why are you thinking evil in your hearts? “Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, and walk’? But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—then He *said to the paralytic, “Get up, pick up your bed and go home.” And he got up and went home. (Matt 9:2-7 NAS95)
The concept that Jesus’ death was for the forgiveness of sins seems to be held in conjunction with the notion that salvation has no relation to our behaviour, whether good or bad, rather that it depends on faith in Christ, or results in the act of “accepting Christ as one’s personal Saviour.” The implication is that such a person is then “saved from hell” and could spend the rest of his life being cruel to others—even raping and torturing to death women and girls, and still be acceptable to God because of his faith or acceptance of Christ. This implication, of course, is never actually stated by those who hold this belief. But they quote Ephesians 2:9
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
Of course, salvation is not the result of self-effort, but it is significantly related to our life style.
What did Jesus teach about the result of good deeds and of evil deeds?
… an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment. (John 5:28,28 ESV)
But didn’t Paul teach concerning salvation, that works were of no avail? Not according to Romans 2:6-11 ESV
He will render to each one according to his works: to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury. There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek. For God shows no partiality.
What Paul did teach in his letter to Titus, is that salvation results from the enabling grace of God to live righteously that Christ made available though His sacrifice on our behalf is appropriated by faith.
For the grace of God has appeared for the salvation of all people, training us to renounce impiety and worldly passions, and to live sensible, righteous, and devout lives in the present age, expecting the blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of the great God and of our Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people of his own who are zealous for good works. Declare these things; encourage and reprove with all authority. Let no one disregard you.
So salvation is the process of being saved from sin itself, and not merely being saved from hell.
Perhaps one of the reasons that many dismiss righteousness as unnecessary in order to be accepted by God, is the translation of “αφεσις΅ as “forgiveness” in relation to Christ’s provision for man through His death on their behalf. The word occurs 16 times in the New Testament, and in 15 of those times virtually every translation renders the word as “forgiveness,” and 13 of those occur in the phrase “forgiveness of sins.” For example in Matthew where our Lord institutes the eucharist or communion, He said concerning the wine according to the ESV, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” And again in Ephesians 1:7 the ESV has Paul saying, “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace.” But again, if it were necessary for Jesus to shed His blood in order to forgive, then how did He forgive people their sins prior to His death? Again, in Mark 2:5, it is recorded that Jesus said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” And in Luke 8:48, it is recorded that Jesus said to the woman who kissed His feet and wet them with her tears, “Your sins are forgiven.”
Let’s consider the one verse, Luke 4:18, that contains “αφεσις” in which it would be senseless to translate “αφεσις” as “forgiveness.” If we did it would read, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim forgiveness to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to send away in forgiveness those who are oppressed (broken in pieces, shattered).” Captives don’t need forgiveness; they need deliverance from their bondage— release. Broken, oppressed people don’t need forgiveness, they need deliverance from oppression.
I believe that the word “αφεσις” carries the meaning of “deliverance” in all 16 verses. Jesus didn’t die in order to grant “forgiveness of sins” but to grant “deliverance from sins” or on our part “forsaking of sins.”
It is believed that the noun “αφεσις” is derived from the verb “αφιημι.” The latter word occurs 133 times in the New Testament. I checked out its meaning for the 40 times it is used in Matthew. I found that there seems to be three distinct meanings of the word:
“Allow” 9 times: 3:15, 5:40, 7:4, 8:22, 13:30, 15:14, 19:44, 22:25, 23:13
“Leave” or “forsake” 18 times: 4:4, 4:20, 4:22, 5:24, 8:15, 13:36, 15: 12, 19:27, 19:29, 19:14, 22:22, 23:23, 24:2, 24:40, 24:41, 26:44, 26:56, 27:50
“Forgive” 12 times: 6:12, 6:14, 6:15, 9:2, 9:5, 9:6, 12:31, 12:32, 18:21, 18:27, 18:32, 18:35
It seems be the case that since “αφιημι” sometimes means “forgive” that translators presumed that the derived word “αφεσις” sometimes or even usually means “forgiveness.”
I have seen no evidence that the word “αφεσις” ever means “forgiveness.” The word occurs twice in the Septuagint translation of the Old Testament—Number 36:4 and Deuteronomy 15:2. Clearly, it cannot be construed to mean “forgiveness” in either of those verses.
My general conclusion: Jesus lovingly died on our behalf to deliver us from our sins—not merely to forgive our sins. If the latter were the case, the implication is that righteous living is unnecessary in order to be acceptable to God.