I believe in the Forgiveness of Sins
Substance of a conversation with a troubled one
“I was glad to see you at the preaching last night, Mr. G——,” said I to a man who was leaning over his garden gate, and watching my movements, as I went from house to house in a little village in the West of England. “I hope you got some blessing to your soul at the meeting,” I continued.
“Well, I like to go to such meetings.”
“Are you yet able to say, ‘My sins, which are many, are all forgiven’?”
“Oh, no I cannot say that, and I don’t think anyone else can speak positively on that point.”
“What place do you attend on Sundays?” I enquired.
“I go across there,” said he, pointing to the parish church.
“Why, Mr. G——, every Sunday in your life you repeat in that ancient Creed, ‘I believe in the forgiveness of sins.’”
“Yes, that is true.”
“Well,” I asked, “whose sins do you believe in the forgiveness of?”
He was silent for a moment, and then said thoughtfully, “I never looked at it like that, but I’ve never met the man yet who could speak with certainty on that question.”
“You never have?”
“Well,” said I, “you take a good look at me; you have seen him at last!” And he did look—literally stared with surprise.
He slowly shook his head and said, “Don’t you think it very presumptuous, sir, to speak so positively!”
“Well, Mr. G——,” I continued, “I can quite understand your looking at this question seriously, for to be deceived upon that point, would be disastrous in the extreme.”
“I suppose you would admit, dear friend, that it would be a very desirable thing to know with assurance the forgiveness of sins?”
“Oh, yes; I desire it myself, and often pray earnestly for it.”
“Now you say that you believe in it, desire it, and pray earnestly for it, and yet you do not know it. How is that?” I asked.
“I do not know, unless it is because I have not prayed earnestly enough, or else because I have not asked in the right way.”
“Well, dear friend, if that was the principle upon which we got the forgiveness of sins, I know two or three verses in the Bible that would have to be altered.” Again he looked surprised. I opened my Bible, and handed it to him, and said, “Will you read 1 John 2:12, and mark carefully what it says, ‘I write unto you, little children, because your sins ARE forgiven you for His name’s sake’? Now notice, Mr. G——, that here is a verse of Scripture addressed to the children of God, whose sins positively ARE forgiven them, not, as you would judge, for their earnestness’ sake, not because they have asked in the right way, but for His—Christ’s—name’s sake. Again, let us read Acts 10:43, ‘Through His name whosoever believeth in Him shall receive remission of sins.’ Observe, it does not say, ‘Through our prayers, whosoever asks earnestly enough shall receive the forgiveness of sins.’ Our forgiveness or remission is based upon God’s estimate of Christ’s atoning work, and not upon our earnest prayers.
“Why did Christ die?”
Mr. G—— “Oh! He died for our sins,” the Bible says.
“Yes, that is true according to 1 Corinthians 15:3; but why should He need to die for our sins? Why would not His holy life, His perfect obedience, His prayers and His tears have atoned for our sins?”
“Well, sir, I must confess I have never thought of all this. It has never been put to me in this way before.”
“Now what I am anxious about is that you should see that, before remission of sins can be received by us, atonement for sin must be made to, and be accepted by, God.
“Sin is an offence against the holiness of God, and incurs the penalty of death and judgment (Rom. 6:3; Heb. 9:27).
“Now the only thing that can dispose of the question of sin is that which will meet the demands of holiness and righteousness in respect of sin. Hence we read, ‘without shedding of blood is no remission’ (Heb. 9:22), because ‘It is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul’ (Lev. 17:11).
“Now blood is the witness of death, and death is the penalty of sin.
“If, after the soldier’s ruthless spear had pierced Him, His eyes—then closed in death—had opened, and His hand, transfixed to the cross, had pointed to that stream of precious blood that flowed from His wounded side, He could truly have said, ‘This is My blood . . . shed for many for the remission of sins.’
“If our prayers, however earnest, or our repentance, however deep, could be accepted by God as a settlement of the question of our sins, then the overwhelming sorrow and death of Jesus were unnecessary, for we could have repented and prayed without His dying. But Christ, in speaking peace to those troubled hearts in Luke 24:46-47, said, ‘It behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name.’ Paul, preaching to the Thessalonians, in Acts 17, says, ‘Christ must needs have suffered’; and Peter tells us in 1 Peter 3:18 the reason and object of that suffering. ‘Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God.’
“How could He bring an unholy sinner into the presence of absolute holiness, without first removing every trace of sin that would be an offence to that holiness? So that, in order to fit us for the light and holiness of God’s presence, ‘the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin.’
“‘Precious, precious blood that cleanseth
All who come to God
This the sinners only title—
“As a sinner, I am face to face with two stubborn, solemn facts, viz., God cannot give up His holiness and wink at sin; and I cannot remove one single trace of the defilement of sin that unfits me for the presence of His holiness. The question now arises, In view of these facts, how then can I be brought to God? (Job 9:33).
“The sweet story of the gospel brings a perfectly righteous solution of that difficulty. ‘There is one Mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.’ Sent by the God we had offended Jesus came, the Holy One of God, and on Calvary’s cross took the place of the sinner; and being then and there made sin for us, God visited upon Him, without abatement, all the judgment due to sin and the sinner. There it was that He made full atonement to God for sin by His own blood.
“The question now is, Has that atonement, which Christ made, been accepted by God as a full settlement of the sin question?
“The resurrection and present glory of Christ are the most conclusive answer to that question.
“Referring to His death, by which He should glorify God about sin, Christ said, in John 13:32, ‘If God be glorified in Him, God shall also glorify Him in Himself, and shall straightway glorify Him.’
“It is as though the blessed Lord had said, ‘If I by My death glorify God in respect of sin, the way you will know it is that God will glorify Me.
“Now that is exactly what has happened. (See 1 Peter 1:21.) ‘God has raised Him from the dead, and given Him glory; that your faith and hope might be in God.’ So that Christ’s place in glory is the unerring witness that God has accepted the atonement of Christ, and more still, He has been glorified by it.
“Now, Mr. G——, from that glory God sends this wonderful message into a guilty world, ‘Be it known unto you therefore . . . that through this Man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins: and by Him all that believe are justified from all things’ (Acts 13:38-39).
“If God says, ‘Be it known to you,’ it is hardly presumption to say it may be known; indeed, would it not be more like presumption to say, in the face of this scripture, IT CANNOT BE KNOWN?
“If you had a bit of information that you wished no one to know about, I can’t imagine your paying the bellman to go round and publish it.
“To preach or publish it is the way to make it known. Now, according to Acts 13:38, God preaches—proclaims the forgiveness of sins. He is delighted to make known to a world of sinners that Christ’s atoning death has furnished Him with a righteous ground upon which He can offer full, free, and eternal foiiveness to all.
“Now the question you may ask is, Who receives and is entitled to know this forgiveness?
“Again, Scripture is plain upon this point. Let us turn to Acts 10. Let your eye rest on verse 43, ‘Whosoever believeth in Him SHALL RECEIVE the forgiveness of sins.’ Look also at Acts 13:39, ‘All that believe ARE justified—cleared—from all things.’ Now the point is not, Have you prayed earnestly enough, or asked in the right way? but, Have you simply, really believed in Him, Mr. G——?”
“Oh yes, sir, I do fully trust in Him!”
“Well, then, dear friend, if the confidence of your heart goes out simply to Him, listen to what God says about all such: ‘THEY SHALL receive the forgiveness of sins.’ And if God says ‘they shall,’ He does not mean us to understand that ‘PERHAPS they shall.’ Besides, He says in Acts 13:39, ‘All that believe ARE justified from all things,’ and that not by our prayers or earnestness, but ‘by Him.”
“I see it all now, thank God! What a relief! I can honestly say I do believe in Him.”
“Then let God say all the rest, Mr. G——, and you believe what He says.
“The apostle Paul, writing to the Ephesian believers, could say, ‘God HATH for Christ’s sake forgiven you’ (Eph. 4:32); and taking his place with them—though confessedly the chief of sinners—he could write, ‘In whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace” (Eph. 1:7).
Now, my dear unknown reader, let me put a very serious question to you. What about your sins? To live in your sins is bad enough, but to die in your sins is a thousand times worse. “Be sure your sin will find you out” (Num. 32:23); but it will be a happy thing if it finds you out at His feet, with tears of contrition and repentance, as it did the woman of Luke 7:38, for there is forgiveness with Him, that he may be feared. He will abundantly pardon.
If you ignore and despise God’s offered pardon now, your sin will find you out at the great white throne. Nothing can then save you from the burning lake to which your sins have exposed you. May the Lord trouble you about your sins now, if you have not already been; and if you are, may He graciously deign to use this little paper to show you how you may know that your sins, which are many, may all be forgiven.
“Though thy sins are red like crimson,
Deep in scarlet glow,
Jesus’ precious blood can make them
White as snow.”