Forgiveness

The message of the Bible and Christianity is that forgiveness is available to the world. Many have wrongly assumed that Jesus came into the world to offer lesser gifts like wealth, health or prosperity. But the message of Jesus and the Bible is very clear. Jesus did not come to give physical healing to everyone, nor did he come to make life easier or more comfortable. The message of Jesus Christ is the good news that sinners can be saved from their sin (1 Timothy 1:15). There is no question that this will be offensive to many in the world who do not believe in God, nor believe that they have sinned against God. But the truth of Scripture is that everyone has sinned against God (Rom 3:23), but God has provided forgiveness in His Son. John the Baptist made it clear when he said early on in Jesus’ ministry, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).

The Message of the Apostles
The message of forgiveness was made clearer when the resurrected Jesus first appeared and spoke to His disciples. In the very first words Jesus spoke, He commissioned them to go into the world and particularly preach the message that sin could be forgiven. Jesus told them, “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld” (John 20:23). This verse has wrongly been interpreted by some that church leaders (namely popes and priests) have the authority to forgive sins and that sinners must seek to have their sins absolved from a priest. But a simple reading through the book of Acts clears up the matter when we see that the Apostles did exactly what Jesus commanded of them. They did not go and tell sinners that they could receive forgiveness through penance or confession to a priest. Rather they preached that forgiveness is found alone in the name of Jesus. They preached that sins could be forgiven by simply trusting in Jesus Christ. The Apostle Peter preached to Cornelius in Acts 10:43,

“And [Jesus] commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that He is the one appointed by God to be judge of the living and the dead. To Him all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through His name.”

The Apostle Paul preached a very similar message to the Jews in Acts 13:38-39. Since every person was condemned by the Law of Moses, there had to be another way to be set free. This freedom comes only through one man, Jesus Christ.

“Let it be known to you therefore, brothers that through this man (Jesus), forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, and by Him everyone who believes is freed from everything from which you could not be freed by the law of Moses.”

The Apostles preached that forgiveness of sin was the only message they had to preach. No where do you see the Apostles preaching that Jesus provides physical healing, or prosperity. The Church of Jesus Christ must stay faithful to the Apostolic message of forgiveness of sin.

Coming to Jesus
Many have been delusional and deceived by false teachers who teach that Jesus will provide some great miracle in their life. You would do well to run from the preachers who tell you about some pseudo-Jesus who promises you the comforts of this life. In the end, this message only cheapens the real reason why Jesus came. Jesus was clear about his own mission when He said that He came “to seek and save the lost” (Luke 19:10). Jesus had a mission with heavenly ramifications, not earthly ones. Jesus came alone to save sinners “from the wrath of God to come” (1 Thessalonians 1:10). If you have come to Jesus for any other reason, you are going to be sorely and sadly disappointed. You must come to Jesus for the right reason, to have Him alone forgive you (Acts 4:12).

How Do I Get Forgiveness?
Humility is required: So how does this forgiveness come? First it requires humility! In Luke 18:9-14 Jesus shocks his listeners by telling them that a religious and outwardly righteous Pharisee (preacher of the day) would not go to heaven because he was arrogant and unwilling to admit that he was a sinner in need of God’s mercy. But shockingly Jesus told about a wicked tax collector who had his sins forgiven because he was broken and humbled over his wretchedness before God. The tax collector humbly cried out saying “God be merciful to me a sinner.” In the end Jesus said this man went home saved rather than the other. And then Jesus gave this important explanation, “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” If you will humble yourself before God and acknowledge that you are a sinner before Him, and cry out to Jesus for forgiveness, you can have all of your sins forgiven, even the worst of sins (2 Chronicles 7:14).

Repentance is required: But repentance is also necessary for forgiveness. In Acts 3:19, when asked how to be forgiven the Apostle Peter said, “Repent, therefore, and turn back that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord.” To repent means literally “a change of mind.” But inevitably that change of mind will lead to a change of action, causing a person to turn away from sin (see also Luke 5:32, 24:47, Acts 2:38, 8:32, 17:30, 20:21, 26:20).

Faith in Christ is required: Last, but certainly not least, faith in Christ is required for true forgiveness. Many people boast of having “faith” but it should be noted that a general faith in God is not sufficient for forgiveness of sin. The scripture is clear that faith alone (not works) in Christ will result in forgiveness (Rom 3:19-4:8, Eph 2:8-9). A synonym for faith is trust. Sinners are called to trust Christ for forgiveness. The Scripture commands us to “believe” in Christ and to “receive” Him for the forgives of our sin (John 1:11-12, 3:16).

Forgiveness is the greatest gift that God could offer sinful mankind. While God blesses His people with much to enjoy in this life, the chief blessings He gives us are “in the heavenly places” (Eph 1:3). The exciting thing is that God so loves the world that He offers this wonderful gift to every person. If you have never received the forgiveness of Christ, please humble yourself before God, repent of your sins and place your trust in Jesus Christ!