If we would take the basics of the Christian faith seriously, then we must begin with what Jesus actually said.
Of Forgiveness

Jesus said: "for this is the blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins," (Matt. 26:28).

By these words Jesus not only describes the cup of communion as a testament of His blood but He directs us to the nature of God's forgiveness of sins. Forgiveness involves the remitting of a debt, a setting it aside as if it were fully paid by one who cannot pay. Jesus teaches us to pray for this blessing when He teaches us to pray, "forgive us our debts," (Matt. 6:12), and to pray, "Forgive us our sins," (Luke 11:4).

Sin is the violation of God's holy will. It is transgression of His moral law. It leaves man guilty before God's judgment seat as a debtor who owes to God that obedience he has not offered and deserves God's just wrath for the evil he has done. Man is a debtor, bound in the prison house of sin. Sin is not just what we do, or say, or think, but we are sinners. Our very nature is corrupted in disobedience. We cannot ever pay that debt. It must be paid by another, even Jesus Christ. The punishment for sin, which is eternal death, must be borne.

Jesus came "to give his life a ransom for many," (Matt. 20:28). That ransom price is death, both in body and soul. Jesus came to pay that ransom for the "many" who are His people, laying down His life for His sheep. Upon the ground of that ransom the debt is paid and God forgives sins. The ground of that forgiveness is only in Christ. Our works add nothing to it. God has given unto Christ divine authority (as the One by Whom He will judge the world) in His name, to forgive sins. Jesus therefore declares to His people, "Thy sins are forgiven thee," (Luke 5:20; 7:48). By His word, Jesus declares that God dismisses our debt of sin and guilt from His mind and remembers it no more. By His Word Jesus cleanses the troubled conscience and truly frees the guilty, burdened sinner.

To accomplish that work, Jesus came, both to die and to call "...sinners to repentance," (Luke 5:32). Repentance, sorrow for sin, and confession of sin are the means through which God in Christ imparts this blessing. We are not forgiven because we repent or believe, but through these means, for Christ calls forth faith and repentance by the power of His grace in His people. He truly calls "...sinners to repentance," (Luke 5:32), showing a man his sin and working a sincere sorrow before God. Thus the sinner comes to Christ. To the laboring and heavy laden, He says, "I will give you rest," (Matt. 11:28). That call to repent and believe, together with the promise unto His believing people, "Thy sins be forgiven thee, " He sends forth by the preaching of the gospel. It belongs to the purpose of His work, "that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations," (Luke 20:47). By his irresistible grace His sheep, in sorrow for sin, hear His voice through that Word preached, "Thy sins are forgiven...thy faith hath saved thee; go in peace" (Luke 7:48, 50).

By Rev. Thomas Miersma, Missionary Pastor

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