Q. What do you believe concerning “the forgiveness of sins”?
A. I believe that God, because of Christ’s satisfaction, will no longer remember
any of my sins (1) or my sinful nature which I need to struggle against all my life (2). Rather, by grace God grants me the righteousness of Christ to free me forever from judgment (3).
Read: (1) Ps. 103:3-4, 10, 12; Mic. 7:18-19; 2 Cor. 5:18-21; 1 John 1:7; (2) 2 2 Rom. 7:21-25; (3) John 3:17-18; Rom. 8:1-2.
Odds are you have some debt in your finances. Imagine if the debt collector showed up at your doorstep and said: “You know what, Jane, I have decided to forgive all your debt. In fact, I have already paid it on your behalf this and any future debt. No one else can ever come and claim that debt ever again. You are free.” I know, your heart leaped with joy! It would be an peace giving, joy saturated moment! Well, this is exactly what Jesus accomplished with your sins on the Cross. But why do we keep sinning? Let’s study question 56 of The Heidelberg Catechism and explore what is the forgiveness of sins.
You were born sinful. It is in you from birth. Even at a young age it manifests itself in small acts of rebellion. It is your nature. From birth you start accumulating a sin debt that compounds itself exponentially till all of a sudden you realize the magnitude of your sin. At the same time, God exists. And God is Holy. Sin simply can’t stand before Him. God, who is the standard of holiness, has dictaminated that the payment for sin is death (Romans 6:23). So basically, you and I dear sister have sinned and deserve eternal death.
But God is good. And in His goodness He decided to make payment for your sins by sending His Son, Jesus to pay for your debt. Only He could pay for it because He is fully God and fully human and though He lived in this world and was tempted as we are, He never gave in. He lived a perfect life. He had no sin. So “for the joy set before Him, He endured the cross” (Hebrews 12:2), that is, He took your punishment and paid it eternally on Himself. So He comes and by grace allows you to have faith in His work so that your sins; past, present and future, are fully paid. That is a substitutionary atonement (someone else paying on your behalf). That is justification (Christ’s declaration of making you righteous in the eyes of God).
So now you are justified. By grace you believed that Jesus paid for your sin and are now declared righteous. Your sin debt has been paid in full. But why do you continue to sin? Martin Luther, who coined the phrase “simul justus et peccator” (at the same time saints and sinners), also started his 95 Theses acknowledging that “our Lord and Master Jesus Christ . . . willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.” Why? Because even though we are forgiven and righteous in the eyes of Christ, we still live in a broken world. So in this broken world we still sin against God. But because we have been made righteous in Christ we no longer fear judgement when we sin. The unilateral covenant that God has made for your justification does not depend on you but solely on Him. It is not on the basis of what you did, what you do or what you may do; but only on what Jesus did.
This does not mean that sin does not affect our relationship with God. The reality is that sin strains our relationship with Him. This is what happens in families. You love your kids no matter what. However, when they sin against you, they strain your relationship. In order to put that behind you, there needs to be reconciliation. Well, the same is true with our Heavenly Father. We need to confess and repent and go back to Him so that our relationship may continue to thrive but never in fear that He will cast us away from His family.
So sister, this is what it means to have forgiveness of sins in Christ, that you are made righteous in the eyes of Christ on the basis of Jesus’ finished work on the Cross by faith. God does not remember your sins and even your present struggle with sin has been paid in full by Jesus. You are free from judgement and you too are free to repent. May God continue to grant us repentance as we seek to glorify Him and enjoy Him forever.
Freed in Christ #enthralledbygrace