Saturday, January 24, 2015
Sin and Forgiveness - Part 4
Finally we want to look at God's solution to the sinning problem. We have looked at how God has solved our guilt in Adam and how he has changed our hearts so that we don't have that old dead, fallen nature any more. But what to do about sins we commit. That is the problem we want to look at next.
First of all we have to believe God when he says that we have forgiveness of our sins (Ephesians 1:7), and that he has forgiven all our trespasses (Col 2:13). The Psalmist reminds us that as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us (Psalm 103:12). Notice the word "from". Our sins are removed from us. Mary's baby was to be called Jesus because he would save his people from (there it is again) their sins. I think we have a huge problem believing what God is saying about our sins. I'm not speaking to the world here; I'm speaking to those who have trusted Christ as savior, those whom the Holy Spirit as regenerated through the Gospel. So I would like to look at this subject through some important teaching found in Hebrews 9-10 and then in 1 John 1. So first, Hebrews 9-10
The author of Hebrews tells us that the old sacrificial system, the Old Covenant could not make a person perfect with respect to conscience (Heb 9:9, 10:1). Now as we'll see, the implication of his teaching is that what the Old Covenant could not do, Christ and the New Covenant could and would do. Therefore I conclude that there should be cleansing with respect to the conscience through the New Covenant.
Next the author tells us that Christ obtained eternal redemption for us through his sacrifice once for all (Heb 9:12). That means it was sufficient and does not need to be repeated. He goes on to say in verse 14 that his blood cleanses our conscience from dead works to serve the living God. Dead works are those we try to do to make ourselves acceptable to God or to win his approval. In chapter 6 of Hebrews, the author had connected this with elementary teaching. Elemental principles are those of basic religion where people try to make God happy with them through endless human effort, ceremonies, rituals and penance. Even Christians do this. When they confess their sins, people sometimes don't believe that God forgives them and so they try to do things to prove they are really, really sorry. If they can cry they will do that. They may put extra money in the offering or do extra works of penance so that God knows they really, really, really mean it. They may abstain from certain pleasures that aren't sinful in themselves, but somehow it makes them feel as though they are proving a point to God. Paul, at the end of Colossians 2 tells us that these efforts don't work in stifling our fleshly tendencies or in approving us to God. So the blood of Christ cleanses our consciences from the need to perform these sorts of deeds.
Hebrews 9:26 tells us that he came to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. We need to understand that Jesus put away sin. He removed it. He even says of the people in the world, "that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them" (2 Corinthians 5:19). We need to remember that the whole point is for him to solve the sin question. He put way sin by the sacrifice of himself.
The author goes on in Hebrews 10 to tell us that if the old system had made the worshippers perfect, two things would have happened: the sacrifices would have ceased (10:2), and the consciousness of sin would have been removed (10:2). But as it was, those sacrifices didn't stop, and instead of solving the conscience problem, they actually made it worse by reminding people day after day that they were sinners because new sacrifices were required all of the time. And so the author concludes that the blood of bulls and goats cannot take away sin (10:4).
But in contrast to that, the sacrifice of Christ has sanctified forever (10:10), and those who are sanctified have been perfected forever (10:14). So what the Old Covenant could not do, the New Covenant has accomplished. In fact he quotes from the New Covenant passages we studied earlier. And he summarizes with this amazing statement, "Their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more" (Hebrews 10:17).I take all of this to mean that if we keep resurrecting our sins in a way that is reminiscent of the Old Covenant we are acting in disbelief of what God has promised us in Christ. He put away sins by the sacrifice of himself and separated them from us and refuses to remember them or impute them to us (Romans 4:8).