How God’s Forgiveness Works
It’s not easy to understand forgiveness, let alone accept it and give it to others ourselves. And if we struggle to grasp human forgiveness, how much more do we struggle to understand how God forgives, because God is not like us.
God lives both inside of time, in his incarnation, and outside of time, in the essence of being. Another way of saying this God is that God interacts with us in real-time, but he knows and experiences everything in the past, present and future. God, if he is to be God, must be infinite.
So, how could such a God forgive our errors and mistakes? Why would God forgive your sin today if he knows that you will fall again tomorrow, as so often happens?
If God is truly infinite and omniscient (he knows everything: past, present, and future), then that is also how he forgives. When God offers you his forgiveness, he is dealing with the sins you have committed in the past, and the sins you will commit in the future. As Billy Graham rightly said,
God’s forgiveness is not just a casual statement; it is the complete blotting out of all dirt and degradation of our past, present, and future.
The sacrifice of the Cross was “once for all” (Heb 10:10). That means for all who have ever lived and all who will ever live. That means for every sin committed from the beginning to the end of time. Christ is the “Lamb slain from the foundation of the world” (Rev 13:8, NKJV). The provision for your salvation has been made, for all who will accept through faith (John 3:16).
As God’s mighty saving act, the Cross of Christ straddles both historical time and the transcendent timelessness of God.
When you have been forgiven by God, his righteousness covers all of your life, all the way until the end. God isn’t watching from heaven, just waiting for you to stuff up again, so he can say, “OK, I see what you did there! Now, unfortunately, you are no longer my child. Your life is no longer covered by the blood of Jesus.” That’s why you can always come boldly into the presence of God (Eph 3:11). That’s why you can have courage in every circumstance (Rom 8:11).
An infinite God forgives infinitely.
So, if that’s how the justification and forgiveness of God work, then what do you need to do to retain it? You need to “abide in him,” lest you be like the branch that withers and is thrown into the fire to be burnt (John 15:5-6). Keep believing. Keep receiving. Keep abiding.
Why then, are we told to continually ask God for the forgiveness of our sins? It’s because the judicial pardon and the imputed standing that God gives you through the merits of Christ don’t mean that you don’t have to deal with the subjective reality of sin in your life. Unless you regularly confess your sins to God, you will be consumed by guilt, which will slowly and inexorably draw you away from Christ. You have to keep remembering that you are a child of God, and that you are loved and accepted in Christ. And you have to let the Spirit of God deal with your guilt and with the transformation of your life.
There is no free pass here for sin. There is no such thing as “cheap grace.” It cost God everything.
The magnitude of the gift of pardon and eternal life you have been given must naturally and inevitably motivate you to reflect more of the love and graciousness of the Jesus Christ. Be assured that the Holy Spirit will do the rest.
God does not forgive conditionally. God does not forgive partially. God does not forgive grudgingly. An infinite God forgives infinitely.
You are forgiven in Christ.
Article supplied with thanks to Dr Eliezer Gonzalez.
About the Author: Dr Eli is the Senior Pastor of Good News Unlimited and the presenter of the Unlimited radio spots, and The Big Question.