7 “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, And whose sins are covered;
Paul directly quoted from Psalm 32:1-2 in verses seven and eight. The emphasis is on blessing, for David used “blessed” in both verses. These verses confirm Genesis 15:6, that God justifies us by faith.
Psalm 32 is a psalm of forgiveness. The psalm begins with blessedness of forgiveness and ends with the blessedness of faith (Ps 32:10-11). David wrote Psalm 32 after his adultery with Bathsheba and murder of Uriah, her husband. This psalm was a reflection on God’s forgiveness about those events. David came to grips with the certainty of God’s grace in forgiveness. This offered him a state of “blessedness.”
The two verses in the quote from Psalm 32 demonstrate both the positive and negative sides of imputation.
“Blessedness” is the highest term in the Greek for a state of felicity. This is the same word used in the beatitudes of Matthew 5. The idea carries the thought of being prosperous. There is a prosperity toward God by those whose sins are forgiven. This is a blessed state before God.
Forgiveness for David lifted an enormous burden of guilt from him. His faith in God’s promise gave him this state of blessedness.
are those whose lawless deeds are [literally, were forgiven] forgiven [put away],
David rejoiced that God forgave his personal “lawless deeds.” We sometimes translate the Greek word for “lawless deeds” as transgression. A transgression is a lack of conformity to God’s norms. The Greek word for “lawless deeds” is anomia, from which we get the English word antinomian (lawlessness). The word “anti” means against and “nomian” means the law. “Lawless deeds” are against the principles of God’s law. David did not speak of reward for good works as the basis for blessedness.
It was uncommon for Paul to speak of forgiveness, but the principle of forgiveness shows throughout his writings. There are a number of Greek words for “forgive,” all with special connotations. The word here means to send away, to send off. Matthew 13:36 uses it for Jesus sending away the multitudes. The essential idea is separation. God separates us from the penalty of our sins. He separates the sinner from his guilt, placing it upon Christ. The idea of forgiveness is to release from punishment for our sins of violating God’s standards. God releases us from eternal hell by forgiveness.
Justification surpasses forgiveness because it attributes a perfect standing before God to us. Imputation of God’s righteousness to us is more than forgiveness. Justification as a synonym for forgiveness is an insufficient definition of what it means for God’s declaration of us as absolutely right in His eyes. God now treats us as though there is nothing between Him and us. He joins us to Himself by crediting His own righteousness to us. What a wonderful privilege!
Our account is clear with God. God reckons us as never having sinned in reference to our relationship with Him. God treats us as if it were what it is not! We are sinners in fact, but God credits us as if that weren’t true. We are at peace with God as Judge. But what is more, He gives us the status of having His own righteousness.
We can say that all “lawless deeds” are sins but not all sins are “lawless deeds.” This is similar to saying that all cows are quadrupeds but not all quadrupeds are cows. Sin is a broader term than “lawless deeds.” The latter term includes the idea of crossing a barrier. The word “sin” simply means to miss the mark, a term for not measuring up to God’s standard. “Lawless deeds” are, however, outright rebellion against God.
Those who are forgiven the most love the most.
God blesses those whose transgressions or lawless deeds are not laid to their account.
Lu 7:47, Therefore I say to you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much. But to whom little is forgiven, the same loves little.”
Psalm 32 was Augustine’s favorite psalm. He even had it inscribed on the wall of his house. We need reminder of God’s forgiveness, otherwise we wallow in guilt.