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The Why and How of Total Forgiveness: Roman Prison Illustration

for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God

Romans 3:23

Watch Week Three Day Two

Let’s jump in and look at another diagram to help us understand why we need forgiveness of sin.

The Why: Bridge Diagram

Make a bridge diagram with people on one side, sin as the canyon separating us and God, and God on the other side.

View the bridge illustration here .

Look up these verses:

Romans 3:23 (sin)
Romans 6:23 (death)
Hebrews 9:27 (judgment)
Isaiah 59:2 (separation from God)

Ask: What did God do to alleviate the problem of sin?

Read Romans 5:8

Complete the bridge with a cross.

View the finished bridge illustration here .

The How: Roman Prison Illustration

Read Colossians 2:13–14:

“And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.”

The “record of debt” Paul refers to is a legal interaction taken during Roman times when a prisoner committed a crime and served time in jail. The crime was written on the certificate and nailed outside the cell, detailing what the punishment required. Upon serving the sentence, the certificate was stamped, “paid in full.” The prisoner went free and took the stamped certificate as proof of paying his debt to society.

The Greek word meaning “paid in full” is tetelestai. It is the same Jesus spoke before He died on the cross (“It is finished” is the word tetelestai in John 19:30). Jesus took the certificate of debt for all people, of all time, listing all our sin, which required the punishment of death, and nailed it to the cross, declaring tetelestai, “paid in full!”

Ask: In view of our forgiveness, how does God now see us?

Read Colossians 1:21–22.

Ask: What happens when I sin in the future?

Read Hebrews 10:10–14.

Ask: What are some of the verses you found on forgiveness from 1 John?

Let the learner share.

Our sins are forgiven. All of them. Past, present, and future. This truth still takes my (Vivian’s) breath away. “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). Our standing with God is secure, unchanging, and solid. It’s not a yo-yo, on-again, off-again relationship, depending on when (not if) we sin. We don’t confess so we can be forgiven; we are forgiven because Jesus paid the penalty for our sin.


Share the bridge diagram and the Roman prison illustration with someone this week.

Watch a captioned version of today’s video here:


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