by John Reiss
CGG Weekly, March 5, 2021
"Sin has been pardoned at such a price that we cannot henceforth trifle with it."
Charles H. Spurgeon
Passover is an annual renewal of the covenant we made with our heavenly Father and a remembrance of what His Son has done for us so our sins can be forgiven. Forgiveness concerns each of us, and without God's forbearance, we would have absolutely no hope for anything beyond this brief, physical life. We need to remember this daily, thanking God and asking for His compassion.
We have many reasons to hope. God has already done an incredible amount on our behalf. He tells us in Isaiah 1:18, "‘Come now, and let us reason together,' says the LORD, ‘though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall be as wool.'" God wants to forgive us and restore us to righteousness. Our future hope—our ultimate salvation—rests entirely on His undeserved forgiveness of our sinful actions.
Wikipedia defines forgiveness as "the intentional and voluntary process by which a victim undergoes a change in feelings and attitude regarding an offense, lets go of negative emotions such as vengefulness, with an increased ability to wish the offender well." Forgiveness is different from condoning, pardoning, forgetting, and reconciliation. Our experience shows that God's forgiveness may also provide some of these additional benefits.
A word linked to forgiveness is "remission." Jesus says in Matthew 26:28, speaking of the Passover wine, "For this is the blood of the New Covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins." Remission is "a canceling of a legitimate debt," which is the handwriting of requirements that Christ discharged by His death (Colossians 2:14).
"Forgive" is composed of two parts. One, obviously, means "give," and the other means "completely." Paul, in Romans 3:23, says that everyone has sinned, and later, he tells us that the wages of sin, what we earn by our misdeeds, is death (Romans 6:23). Nothing is more opposite of hope than death.
The second part of the same verse informs us that eternal life, on the other hand, is God's gift. John 3:16, one of the best-known verses in the Bible, affirms Paul's statement: "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life" (emphasis ours).
Most importantly, we must remember that our forgiveness and salvation do not come by our works but by God's loving mercy and sacrificial love. Ephesians 2:8 tells us, "For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God." Lives of generosity, sacrifice, mercy, and devotion—which God commands us to live—will not save us. We are still obliged to obey because God is our Lord, but our futures are only possible because, when Jesus sacrificed Himself and shed His blood on our behalf, He became sin for us (II Corinthians 5:21). In doing so, He put Himself between us and God's righteous anger at sin.
The Creator of the universe provides us with the only way to fulfill His law's requirements and save us from the consequences for our violations without abandoning it (Matthew 5:18). For us to have any hope of eternal salvation, it had to happen this way. Sin is so destructive and opposed to God's way of life that the penalty for its incurrence had to be paid!
We sometimes feel almost overwhelmed with guilt because of our sins, and indeed we are guilty of breaking God's laws. David writes in Psalm 103:10-14:
He has not dealt with us according to our sins, nor punished us according to our iniquities. For as the heavens are high above the earth, so great is His mercy toward those who fear Him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us. As a father pities his children, so the LORD pities those who fear Him. For He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust.
God knows how very fragile we are, and so, through the death of Jesus Christ, He rescues us from the clutches of Satan (I Peter 1:18). We will review a few examples of His gracious generosity toward other guilty sinners in the past.
Consider the Ninevites in Jonah's day, who were under the condemnation of God for their wickedness. Nineveh was a bustling city that was full of violence, deception, and idolatry. The monstrous leaders of Assyria proudly boasted of their brutality and cruelty on their monuments. God sent Jonah to announce His intention to punish the Assyrians for their wickedness by destroying its vast capital city. But after the prophet proclaimed God's impending judgment, every one of its citizens repented! God relented of His decree and granted forgiveness.
What about God's forgiveness of the man in Corinth? The city of Corinth was an old and cosmopolitan commercial center restored by Julius Caesar in 44 BC, shortly before his assassination. It was full of the world's vices and idolatries, known for its sexual perversions. In this milieu, a newly converted Christian had entered an incestuous relationship with his father's wife (I Corinthians 5:1), a sin plainly addressed in Leviticus 18:8. Paul had him put out of the church, ensuring that he knew how serious this sin and its consequences are. II Corinthians 2:6-8 records that, after this rebuke by the entire congregation, the man repented, was forgiven by God, and accepted back into the church's fellowship.
If any biblical story shows the extent of God's forgiveness, it is the story of David and Bathsheba (II Samuel 11). David dallies with his beautiful, married neighbor, Bathsheba, while her husband, Uriah, fights at the battlefront. Later, they find out that she is pregnant, and David tries to cover his sin by calling Uriah back from the front and setting up a rendezvous between him and Bathsheba. But Uriah, a loyal servant and selfless leader, refused to go home to his wife.
In desperation, David frantically worsens his sin by commanding that Uriah be sent into the fiercest fight of the battle while ordering everyone else back. This is clearly a case of "malice aforethought" or premeditated murder; it was the worst sin of his life (I Kings 15:5). God later sends Nathan to call David into account. In II Samuel 12:13, David confesses his sin and admits it was against God Himself. His repentance must have been sincere because God forgave him!
Though David committed lust, adultery, deceit, betrayal, premeditated murder, and all the lies in the cover-up, God, who loves mercy and forgiveness, forgave him upon his deep repentance. His forgiveness was real because, in God's Kingdom, David will rule over all Israel (Ezekiel 37:24-25).
The prophet Micah sums up this facet of God's amazing character in Micah 7:18-19:
Who is a God like You, pardoning iniquity and passing over the transgressions of the remnant of His heritage? He does not retain His anger forever, because He delights in mercy. He will again have compassion on us, and will subdue our iniquities. [He] will cast all of our sins into the depths of the sea.
As we prepare to take the Passover in remembrance of Jesus Christ's sacrifice, think about the hope we now have. It is a direct result of God's giving nature, His patience, His forbearance, and the personal cost He paid to purge us from our sins and make our forgiveness possible.