Knowing the Truth of God’s Forgiveness

Originally posted on the Bibles for America Blog.

Have you ever wondered whether God keeps a record of the sins you committed before you were saved? Have you ever been afraid those sins might still be a problem?

To counter these fears, we need to know God granted us a deep and thorough forgiveness of all our sins when we were saved. But how can we know that? We can know not by our feelings or thoughts but by God’s sure Word.

In another post we discussed what believers should do about the sins we commit after we’re saved. While the verses we use below apply to God’s forgiveness generally, here we’ll focus on God’s forgiveness of our sins at the time we were saved. Seeing God’s great forgiveness in His Word rescues us from all unsettling doubts.

Knowing God’s forgiveness is part of a firm foundation

Whether we are newly saved or have been saved for a long time, having a good grasp of what we gained when we first believed is crucial. It’s the foundation of our Christian life.

For any building to be sound, it must rest on a firm foundation. In the same way, knowing certain fundamental truths in God’s Word is the solid foundation for us to build our Christian life on. God’s forgiveness of our sins is one of these truths; without knowing this truth, our foundation will be shaky. Unnecessarily plagued by fears and doubts, we’ll be hindered from going forward in our Christian life.

To get into this truth, let’s see how the Word of God answers some basic questions about God’s forgiveness.

When did God forgive us of our sins?

Before we were saved each of us had a sinful record, which condemned us before God. That was our number one problem. But Acts 10:43 says,

“To this One all the prophets testify that through His name everyone who believes into Him will receive forgiveness of sins.”

When we repented to God and believed in Christ as our Savior, God forgave us of all our prior sins! This verse makes no mention of any other qualification nor of any delay between believing and receiving God’s forgiveness. When we believe, we immediately receive the forgiveness of our sins; our sinful record with God is erased. The very first thing we enjoy of God’s wonderful salvation is His forgiveness.

What does God’s forgiveness of sins mean?

The New Testament uses several Greek words for forgive and forgiveness. One word (aphiemi) means to cause to depart; another word (aphesis) means to send away. God’s forgiveness means He causes the sins we committed to depart from us and to be sent away from us. Our sins are no longer with us!

How did our sins depart from us? First Peter 2:24, speaking of Christ says,

“Who Himself bore up our sins in His body on the tree.”

When the Lord Jesus was on the cross, God laid on Him the sins of the world. Jesus bore all our sins on the cross (the tree), and suffered the judgment and punishment for sins in our place. All the sins we ever committed were borne by Jesus, and thus departed from us forever.

So since the Lord Jesus bore our sins away for us, where did they go? Where were they sent? The answer is in Leviticus 16, which presents a vivid picture of the great redemption Christ accomplished for us. In this chapter on the atonement of the children of Israel, Aaron, the high priest was instructed to take two goats for a sin offering. Then verse 8 says,

“And Aaron shall cast lots on the two goats: one lot for Jehovah and the other lot for Azazel.”

The note on Azazel in the Recovery Version of the Bible explains the rich meaning of this verse:

“Azazel signifies Satan, the devil, the sinful one, the one who is the source, the origin, of sin (John 8:44). The goat that was for Jehovah was to be killed (v. 9), but the goat that was for Azazel was to be sent away into the wilderness to bear away all the iniquities of the children of Israel on itself (vv. 10, 20-22). This signifies that Christ as the sin offering for God’s people, on the one hand, deals with our sin before God and, on the other hand, sends sin, through the efficacy of the cross, back to Satan, from whom sin came into man. Through the cross the Lord Jesus has the position and qualification with the power, strength, and authority to take sin away from the redeemed ones (John 1:29; Heb. 9:26) and send it back to its source, Satan, who will bear it in the lake of fire forever (Rev. 20:10).”

The Lord Jesus took our sins away from us and sent them back to Satan where they came from! This is God’s forgiveness of our sins.

Does God remember the sins I committed?

Although God sent our sins away from us, we still might wonder, does God remember what we did? For this, God gave us this word in Hebrews 8:12: 

“For I will be propitious to their unrighteousnesses, and their sins I shall by no means remember anymore.”

God doesn’t remember our sins! In fact, this verse tells us emphatically that God will by no means remember them. When God forgives us of our sins, He forgets them. Even if we tried to remind Him, He wouldn’t remember. 

How can the righteous God forgive sinners?

God didn’t forgive us because of our earnest tears or fervent hopes for forgiveness. And though God loves us immensely, He can’t simply ignore our sinful record because of His love for us. God is righteous, and sin offends God and violates His righteousness. His righteousness demands that anyone who sins must die. So how can God forgive any sinner? Hebrews 9:22 clearly says,

“Without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.”

God’s forgiveness requires the shedding of blood. But whose blood?

In the Old Testament, God’s way of atonement was for His people to offer up an animal whose blood was shed by being killed on the altar. That was a symbol, a picture, of the Lord Jesus who as the spotless Lamb of God is the real sacrifice for sins.

Matthew 26:28 tells us that on the night Jesus was betrayed, He took a cup and gave it to His disciples saying,

“This is My blood of the covenant, which is being poured out for many for forgiveness of sins.

The Lord Jesus poured out His own blood on the cross! His blood fulfilled the righteous requirement of God upon sinners. Because Christ died and shed His blood in our place, God can forgive sinners who believe in Jesus, without contradicting His righteousness. God accepts the blood of Jesus shed for all. How precious is Christ’s blood to God and to us! Through it, we have forgiveness of sins.

Knowing God’s forgiveness

We’ve now seen how immediate, thorough, and absolute, God’s forgiveness is, and that it’s based entirely on Christ’s death on the cross for us.

Fears about the sins we committed before we were saved need never oppress us. Knowing the truth of God’s forgiveness sets us free from any lies of the devil about our past. We can go forward in God’s full salvation with grateful hearts. Praise God for His forgiveness of our sins!

To read about what believers should do regarding the sins they commit after they’re saved, take a look at our post What Do I Do When I Sin after Being Saved?

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