Calvary Road Baptist Church

“THE FORGIVENESS OF SINS”

Ephesians 1.7; Colossians 1.14

Billy is three years old. He thinks he is a big boy who needs no help from his momma. Little does he realize that his momma cooks his meals, launders his clothes, keeps an eye out to make sure older boys do not bully him at the play ground, ensures that his vaccinations are up to date, and that he sleeps in a clean, warm bed at night after taking a bath and brushing his teeth. Billy’s need for his mother is profound, yet to him it is a need that is for the most part unperceived. Do you have unperceived needs, needs that you are unaware of but could not live without? Reminds me of the British sailors who suffered from scurvy until a doctor discovered the benefit of citrus fruits in 1747.[1] They needed vitamin C, yet their need was unperceived. Most people in our country give little thought to their next meal, but in some countries, there is no assurance of a next meal. In even more countries, there are children who have never had a drink of clean water. You need clean water. You need fresh air. You need a certain amount of sunlight. You need a diet of varied food. You need a certain amount of exercise. For the most part, these are usually unperceived needs, constituent ingredients in a healthy lifestyle that most people pay very little attention to. However, remove one from your life and you will begin to notice the degradation in short order, causing the quality and comfort of your life to noticeably suffer.

Have I convinced you that unperceived needs exist? Allow me to name another one of many. How about the protection provided to citizens by our various levels of local, state and federal government? Though we often complain about the quality of service, our different levels of government provide for us, consider what it is like in some countries. There are places where bands of marauders roam from house to house, breaking in and doing whatever they please without any fear of local police. There are places where forces from other countries attack and kidnap people to enslave them and ransom them back to their loved ones for money. For the most part, that kind of thing does not happen in our country, because we have a level of protection that is missing from many countries. That protection is an unperceived need that is simply not met in some countries. Here is one more. What about headaches? Do you ever get headaches? Most people who get headaches will take an aspirin or other kind of pain reliever and a glass of water to get rid of the headache. However, do you realize that most headaches are caused by dehydration and are cured, not by the aspirin that you take, but by the glass of water you drink with the aspirin? Thus, frequently, people with a headache who honestly think that what they need is aspirin need water.

Would you consider the likelihood that other unperceived needs exist? When someone has non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, he frequently has no idea what he has. We once had a church member with non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma for a year before he was diagnosed, and he learned that he needed a bone marrow transplant to save his life. He was not able to find a match quickly enough and he died too young. What if you have something developing in your body at this very moment? Would you not, then, have an unperceived need, a desperate need you were entirely unaware of that if unmet would seal your fate? This morning I want to raise the issue of your need of forgiveness, a need that is for the most part unperceived by most people. Of course, many people realize that when they offend or harm someone they need to seek and obtain forgiveness from the person they have wronged. However, most people even after wronging someone have little interest in obtaining forgiveness and only want to avoid unpleasant consequences. You can usually tell because such a person typically says something like, “I am very sorry,” rather than actually asking, “I wronged you in this way. Will you forgive me?”

However, it is not the forgiveness of someone else that I set before you as an all too often unperceived need, but the forgiveness of God. Recognizing that you need not feel the need for forgiveness for it to be a genuine need, just as there are other needs you are not always aware of, consider God’s forgiveness under two headings:

First, THE NEED FOR GOD’S FORGIVENESS OF SINS

The notion of forgiveness first appears in God’s Word in Genesis 50.17, shortly after Jacob’s death, when his ten oldest sons are overcome with fear for having sold their now powerful brother Joseph into slavery when he was a young lad. They remind Joseph that their father urged them to seek his forgiveness for what they had done to him when they betrayed him. Thus, the implication is that their father, Jacob, knew his sons needed their younger brother’s forgiveness, perhaps before they realized their need. Yet, after their father dies, they are quick to seek Joseph’s forgiveness, so their very powerful brother will not seek vengeance against them now that their father has passed. Thus, they needed Joseph’s forgiveness from the moment they betrayed him, yet they did not comprehend their need for forgiveness until their very lives might be in danger should they not quickly obtain Joseph’s forgiveness. If his brothers eventually recognized their need for Joseph’s forgiveness for their sins against him, do you suppose those who sin against God need His forgiveness? After all, sinning against the holy God is a much more serious offense than sinning against another human being. This realization could have caused David to pen Psalm 25.18, where he wrote this prayer, “Look upon mine affliction and my pain; and forgive all my sins.”

There can be no doubt that the Savior recognized man’s need for the forgiveness of sins. When asked to teach His disciples to pray, He included in His model prayer the request for God’s forgiveness. Notice, in Matthew 6.12, that sins require forgiveness and leave the sinner in debt to the one sinned against: “And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.” Thus, when you sin against someone, including God, your sin leaves you with a debt of obligation to make it right. Therefore, sin should not be thought of as something that just goes away when you ignore it for long enough. No, it is a debt that must be somehow paid to whom it is owed. As well, Jesus showed the need for forgiveness of sins by Himself forgiving sins, in Mark 2.5, where He “said unto the sick of the palsy, Son, thy sins be forgiven thee.” Of course, this provoked the outrage of His enemies, who asked, “Why doth this man thus speak blasphemies? who can forgive sins but God only?”[2] We know the answer to that question. No one can forgive sins, but God only. However, Jesus is God manifest in the flesh.

The question, of course, is why do sins need forgiving? There are two ways I would like to respond to that question: First, sins need forgiving because sins are crimes that need to be pardoned, defilements that need to be cleansed, debts that need to be paid, trespasses that need to be remedied, offenses that need to be reconciled, violations that need to be punished, missing the marks that need to be corrected, distortions that need to be straightened, affronts that need to be addressed, and betrayals that need to be set right. Thus, sins are like open spiritual sores that do not heal of themselves because they cannot heal of themselves. They must be dealt with. Looked at from God’s perspective, considering God’s attributes, we must not forget that God is holy, God is love, and God is truth. However, sins are unholy strikes against God’s holiness, unloving assaults on His love, and despicable lies in the face of His truth. If God is just and righteous, which He is, how can sins not be punished? To be sure, God is long-suffering, so that sins are not immediately punished. However, God’s nature demands that sinners eventually be punished, unless they are forgiven. God’s immediate punishment for sins is Hell, where a person whose sins are not forgiven goes the moment he dies.[3] God’s eventual punishment for sins is eternal torment in the lake of fire, where those who sins are not forgiven when they die are cast after the Great White Throne judgment.[4] Are your sins forgiven? Are sins forgiven because you say they are forgiven? Are sins forgiven because you claim they are forgiven? Can sins be forgiven apart from God’s forgiveness? Having established the need for God’s forgiveness, we now turn to . . .

THE NATURE OF GOD’S FORGIVENESS OF SINS

What is misunderstood by many in our day, and what has been misunderstood in the Muslim world since the time of Mohammed, is the requirement for sins to be punished in order for forgiveness to be granted. Error in this regard is owing to the complete omission of God from any consideration of forgiveness or distortion of God’s nature with respect to His forgiveness. Because God is righteous and just, that which is wrong must be dealt with, that which is criminal must be punished, that which is defiled must be purged and cleansed. Thus, the notion that sins can simply be forgiven flies in the face of God’s nature. Muslim’s view that Allah can arbitrarily choose to forgive the sins of some and not others shows that their concept of God’s nature is immature, undeveloped, erroneous, and distorted in that it places God’s mercy at odds with His righteousness. Because our merciful God is holy and righteous, sins must be punished. For God to be true to Himself, sins must be punished. Therefore, for any sinner to be forgiven there must be a recipe for the sinner’s sins to be punished even while the sinner is forgiven, for God’s mercy to be displayed without expense to His righteousness. Do not think this is semantics or word play. Romans 12.19 clearly shows that God reserves to Himself the right to exact vengeance for sins committed against both Him and His: “Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.”

There is another reason sins must be punished that is often overlooked in our day. It has to do with man’s conscience. Conscience is that faculty God has given to every person that acts judicially, accusing or excusing of wrongdoing, that acts punitively, inflicting remorse and self-punishment for wrongdoing, that anticipates future judgments and then acts by way of prediction, and acts socially in judging others.[5],[6] We all have a conscience, even though the consciences of many people are no longer good and pure but evil and seared as a result of defilement and sinning in the face of a convicted conscience. That being the case, you may have to think back to your childhood to remember the sense of relief and the lifting of a burden that accompanies forgiveness when you have come clean after wronging someone, asked for forgiveness, and then taken your medicine. Part of that sense of relief comes from your conscience when you have been forgiven. However, part of that sense of relief also comes from your conscience when there is realization that the wrongdoing has been appropriately punished. This is because your conscience includes a personal sense of justice, and justice demands that wrongdoing be punished. What a sense of relief washes over a misbehaving child who has been chastened by a loving mother or father, not only from the forgiveness that accompanies dealing with sin properly, but also from the sense of satisfaction that comes to a conscience that is clean after sin has met justice.

This brings us to our texts for today, Ephesians 1.7 and Colossians 1.14, where the Apostle Paul provides a setting in which the forgiveness of sins can be properly understood. Turn to those verses and read them with me:

1.7    In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace.

1.14  In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins.

May I point out the obvious, that Paul is writing to Christians to explain something to them that they probably did not fully understand at the time of their conversion? Therefore, though the truths that I will explain are very helpful to understand, many people have not grasped these truths and their implications until after they came to know Christ as their Savior. However, these two verses will help you to recognize the basis for God’s forgiveness of a sinner’s sins. Both verses begin, “In whom.” The context clearly shows that a relationship with Jesus Christ is referred to. The concept is a sphere of influence, Christ’s sphere of influence that every believer in Jesus Christ occupies when He is miraculously joined with Christ by faith. This happens when the sinner comes to Christ, believes in Christ, and is born again. Next, the two verses both read, “we have redemption.” Redemption is the present possession of all who know Jesus Christ. What is redemption? Redemption is a very large concept of which forgiveness is but a part, the Greek word apolutrwsiV originally meaning to buy back a slave or captive by paying a ransom.[7] The Jewish people would remember the redemption of Israel from Egyptian bondage, and everyone else in Paul’s day would be familiar with the redemption of a slave. The imagery, of course, is a sinner enslaved by his own sinfulness being freed from that bondage to a life of liberty in Christ. Both verses go on to read “through his blood.” The payment price for our redemption is the shed blood of Jesus Christ. The question is payment to whom? Payment to God. Remember God’s insistence that vengeance be His? Remember my comment about sins needing remedies? Crimes must be punished. Therefore, for the sinner to be forgiven, the sins must be dealt with, which is to say they must be punished. So the sinner would not be punished, Jesus took upon Himself the sins of the elect and suffered punishment for their sins on the cross of Calvary, shedding His precious blood a substitutionary atonement for sins.

Ÿ  First Peter 3.18: “For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit.”

Ÿ  First John 2.2: “And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.”

Propitiation meaning Jesus Christ’s sacrifice satisfied God’s demand that sins be punished. The next phrase in our two text verses is “the forgiveness of sins.” One of the consequences of Christ’s substitutionary sacrifice on the cross, one of the results of Jesus shedding His precious blood on our behalf (but a very important one, indeed), is that God can graciously and mercifully forgive sins without in any way perverting justice. Sins have been punished, in the person of Jesus Christ on the cross. Therefore, sinners can be forgiven all their sins when they are joined to Christ by faith. Finally, Ephesians 1.7 concludes, “according to the riches of his grace.” Thus, everything about the forgiveness of a sinner’s sins, and everything about the more comprehensive concept of redemption that includes so much more than forgiveness, is the result of God’s grace. He does not have to do this. He has no obligation toward us. That He chooses to save some is a testimony to His grace. Turn to Romans 3.24-26, where Paul explains a bit more fully:

24     Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus:

25     Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God;

26     To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.

Thus, it is easy to see after considering these two verses why God does not, why God cannot, simply forgive sins in the sense of just pretending sins were never committed. That is what some people envision by forgiveness, just pretending the sins were never committed. Indeed, that is the approach Islam’s concept of forgiveness is built upon. However, it is an assault on truth and a repudiation of God’s holiness and righteousness to expect Him to forgive sinners without also punishing sins. After all, sins have been committed. Wrong has been done. Punishment is deserved. Thankfully, Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of the living God, became sin for us Who knew no sin, Second Corinthians 5.21. So you see, Jesus is indispensable for the forgiveness of sins. May I conclude with a point not so obvious? With the substitutionary sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross being the ground on which forgiveness is based, He shed His blood and sin was punished, there is also a basis for a conscience now clear and clean. This is why Peter declares in First Peter 3.21 that believer baptism is “the answer of a good conscience toward God.” The child of God knows that my sins have been forgiven, but they have also been punished. My conscience is therefore clear. Such is not the case with any lost person, no matter how he may feel. Thus, Jesus is also indispensable for a clear conscience.

Unperceived needs. Unperceived needs are needs that you do not realize you have, needs you do not recognize. Such needs are real, even when they are unrecognized. Too often, a husband will not recognize the need to love his wife until she has had enough of his nonsense and threatens to leave him. Only recently, I read that the single most likely factor contributing to a husband leaving his wife is not her unfaithfulness to him, but her incessant nagging and criticism. Perhaps too late, she recognizes her husband’s unmet need. In like manner, one of your great spiritual needs is God’s forgiveness for your sins. Your sins are an offense to Him, a crime against Him, and an outrage to His holiness. Your sins block your access to heaven. Thankfully, God is long-suffering and does not immediately avenge Himself for our sins, but gives sinners space to consider their sins and turn to Christ in faith for forgiveness. Typically, a sinner is unaware of his need for forgiveness, and is just as commonly unconcerned about the wrongness of his sins against God. Thankfully, the Holy Spirit makes use of witnessing, preaching, and God’s Word, along with conscience to some degree, to convict sinners of their sins. In this way, sinners are shown their need of forgiveness and pointed to Jesus as the only Savior of sinful men’s souls, Who being God can forgive sins. However, sins are not forgiven just because God is nice or Jesus is easy going. Sins must be punished in order for sinners to be forgiven, and the only way sins can be punished while forgiving sinners is by Jesus Christ suffering our punishment for us, taking our sins on His own body to the cross to suffer God’s wrath poured out for sins.

Does the substitutionary sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross of Calvary do you any good whatsoever? Not unless you have turned from your sins and come to Christ. You bear the burden for your own sins unless you embrace the One Who died in your place on the cross. Only then will you experience the forgiveness of all your sins. So you see, there is a tremendous difference between the attitude that says, “Sorry,” for sins and the heartfelt contrition that seeks God’s forgiveness though faith in His Son, Jesus. The one attitude is a simple desire to avoid the punishment deserved for wrongdoing, while the other springs from a recognition of the real sinfulness of sins, some appreciation of the holy and righteous nature of the One sinned against, and a recognition of personal guilt that fully deserves God’s punishment.

I conclude by commending you to Christ and the Word of His grace, in the hope that you will come to Christ and experience the forgiveness of sins.



[2] Mark 2.7

[3] Luke 16.19-31

[4] Matthew 25.46; Revelation 20.11-15

[5] Romans 2.15; 14.4; First Corinthians 8.13

[6] Lewis Sperry Chafer, Systematic Theology, Vol. VII, (Dallas, TX: Dallas Seminary Press, 1948), page 92.

[7] Bauer, Danker, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other Early Christian Literature, (Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press, 2000), page 117.



Would you like to contact Dr. Waldrip about this sermon? Please contact him by clicking on the link below. Please do not change the subject within your email message. Thank you.

pastor@calvaryroadbaptist.org