All those who come to faith in Jesus and ask Him to forgive them of their sins because they have repented of them, receive unmerited, undeserved forgiveness by grace. There is no requirement for us to achieve anything in order to receive the forgiveness of sins. We see this clearly when Jesus opened the way into Paradise for the robber on the cross who repented of his sins: “Today you will be with Me in Paradise.” This is God’s great love for us that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.
“… the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus …” Romans 3:21-24.
Jesus bore our sin and the sin of the entire world, both upon His body and in His body. When He died on the cross, the just for the unjust, He wiped out the handwriting of requirements, or the letter of accusation, or the condemnation that came from breaking the law. “The wages of sin is death,” (Romans 6:23) and Satan used this for what it was worth to accuse people before God. There was nothing more to accuse now – Jesus had crushed the power of the devil by overcoming all the sin that had entered in through the Fall. The debt of sin had been paid. The devil was never able to outwit or fool Jesus into doing His own will. On the contrary, by God’s help, by power and grace from on high, He overcame every time. This work took place in His body, in His flesh, and thereby He had power over death. By this work we also have the possibility of receiving forgiveness for all the sin we have committed.
Paul puts it in this way: “And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.” Colossians 2:13-14.
Those who committed sin in the old covenant were guilty according to the law and were punished; some even received a death sentence. Sacrifices always had to be offered for sin, but these sacrifices did not take away sin. (Hebrews 10:1-4) However, Jesus, God’s only begotten Son, took all the sins of the world upon Himself; we can say that He took the blame for all sins committed throughout history. He did not give in to temptation like all people before Him, but in the power of the eternal Spirit that was with Him, He overcame all the sin that had entered in through the Fall, which was the source of all subsequent falling in sin throughout history. Thereby He wiped out the “handwriting of requirements” that went against us! This is incomprehensibly great! It means that we can partake of Jesus’ life without having done lots of good works to deserve it – we are saved by grace!
Everyone can therefore receive forgiveness by unmerited grace for all the sins they have committed; but if we want to enter into the life of discipleship there are some clear conditions. Peter says: “Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord.” Acts 3:19. A wholehearted conversion must result in us turning away from the old life where we served sin and sought the world with our mind. We must start on a new way, on which we seek God and the heavenly things. We cannot continue to commit sin in secret. When Jesus met Paul on the way to Damascus, He said to him: “… to open their eyes, in order to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith in Me.” Acts 26:16-18.
If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. It is important to understand that the forgiveness of sins is not the final goal of a disciple, but the beginning of a new life, a life we can live without committing sin! Paul describes this glorious development as follows: “But now having been set free from sin, and having become slaves of God, you have your fruit to sanctification, and the end, everlasting life.” Romans 6:22. Partaking of sanctification means that we partake of more and more of God’s nature.
“The sea of forgetfulness”
In Isaiah we read what God says about the future: “Do not remember the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I will do a new thing, now it shall spring forth; shall you not know it? I will even make a road in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. … I, even I, am He who blots out your transgressions for My own sake; and I will not remember your sins.” Isaiah 43:18-19,25.
When we have asked God for forgiveness for the sins we have committed, and firmly resolved not to do them anymore, God blots out the transgression, and does not remember it any more.
“He will again have compassion on us, and will subdue our iniquities. You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea.” Micah 7:19.
God casts all the sins we have committed and for which we have asked for forgiveness into this “sea.” If we have sinned against other people and harmed them, we must put this in order, if possible. However, we must also cast the sins that others have committed against us into that same sea. Like God, we must be able to forgive our fellow man for their sins and injustices against us.
We must forgive
Jesus taught His disciples to pray, and this is a part of the so-called “Lord’s Prayer:” “And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.” Matthew 6:12.
There is a clear condition to receiving the forgiveness of sins that we also forgive the sin and injustice which we think other people have done to us. We see that Jesus emphasizes this in the Lord’s Prayer, which He taught His disciples.
Also read Matthew 18:25-35. Here we see how Jesus views the matter of forgiveness. If God forgives us, we are obligated to forgive our brother. Without a forgiving spirit, we stop serving God, and Satan gains power. If we are unable to forgive, and begin to hate our brother, we remain in death and have no future. John says that we have passed from death to life if we love our brothers. (1 John 3:14) That is where our future lies!