This week, a young man who has many questions about God and how a person can be forgiven by the death of Jesus on the cross, asked me to explain this procedure. The amount of space necessary to answer this question sufficiently is beyond the capacity of space allowed in a Facebook Post Update. For this reason, I thought it a good idea to post this information here since this is likely a question that many people have.
In order for God to forgive sin, there must be a just basis for this forgiveness. When a person wrongs us, we may choose to forgive his error and release him from the debt he owes us.
In order for God to have a just reason to forgive, a penalty must be paid by the person who committed the wrong. According to the law of God: Without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness of sins (Hebrews 9:22).
Jurisprudence requires that a penalty be paid when a crime has been committed. To enact laws without the enforcement of those laws would constitute injustice. God has said, The soul that sins will die; therefore, when we sin, the law requires that we must die.
Ezekiel 18:4 “Behold, all souls are Mine; The soul of the father As well as the soul of the son is Mine; The soul who sins shall die.”
Only God possesses the right to institute laws by virtue of His title as Creator. Since He is perfect in every regard, His law is always just and true. It is impossible that God could institute any directive which did not have a righteous basis.
Psalms 19:7 The law of the LORD is perfect…
We may not understand the laws of God but we should accept, as a basic fundamental principle: whatever God has said, is the truth—for He cannot lie.
Titus 1:2 …God, who cannot lie…
Hebrews 6:18 t… it is impossible for God to lie…
The Purpose Of God’s Law
If the Lord has commanded us to adhere to certain rules of moral conduct, these directives will always have our best interests at heart. His infinite wisdom and eternal knowledge of all things allows Him the benefit of knowing the reasons and consequences for every law that He institutes.
Every law of God is designed to order and protect human life, the animals that share this world with us, and the planet itself.
Imagine that God would declare laws by His wisdom and then fail to enforce them by His power. If God did not punish those who break His laws, then He could not be trusted to reward those who obey Him.
The Justice Of God
What kind of nation would the United States be, if the laws instituted by the executive and legislative branches of our government were not enforced by the judicial branch, with penalties exacted against those who violated these laws? This land would be unsafe and unfit for any decent person to live in.
If God cannot be trusted to do what He has said, both positively and negatively, then He cannot be trusted at all. What makes God trustworthy is the certainty that He always does what He says He will do. More importantly, since God has promised to punish sin, we can understand that there are moral absolutes in the world. We are not left to decide for ourselves what is right and what is wrong. All of the laws of civilized societies have, as their origin, the laws of God—defined first in the Old Testament. Each one of us understands that if we break human laws, we will suffer a penalty for our errors.
Part of the justice of God is to forever deal with the curse of sin and death. God did not create human beings to suffer the horrible effects of sin, sickness, and death. He made us perfect, morally upright, and eternal. The dreadful condition that the word in in, today, is due to sin. If anyone should deny that sin is a reality, they would have to be completely blind to all of the unjust actions of human beings that occur every day on the earth. Rich and prosperous people do not sin more than the poor. I have traveled a good part of the earth and the universal truth that I have discovered about people is that they are the same everywhere you go. There is selfishness, evil, corruption, and violence in every corner of this planet. One of the stunning proofs for the validity of the Bible, as the word of the Living God, is the manner in which He describes our true nature.
Genesis 6:5 The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. (ESV)
The purpose and plan of God is to end all sin and the horrific effects that it causes. We have been robbed of the infinite blessings that God so earnestly wants to give us. Sin has ruined our lives and our planet and deprived us all of the beauty that life was meant to contain. Soon, the Lord will restore the earth to His original purpose and make all human life full of joy and perfect, forevermore.
Psalms 16:11 You will show me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
1 Corinthians 2:9 But as it is written: “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, Nor have entered into the heart of man The things which God has prepared for those who love Him.”
First, God must deal with our sins; then He can restore us. The method by which The Lord has dealt with all of our sins is by the death of Jesus, the Messiah. He took our place and paid the penalty that was due for the sins of the whole world.
As much as God loves us, He cannot break His own law: The soul that sins must die.
When the Lord created man upon the earth, His creation was perfect in every regard. Until sin was brought forth: first from the heart of Lucifer, and later by the heart of Adam, there existed no imperfection anywhere on earth. God did not create sin, this moral defect came into existence in the heart of His creatures—by their willing acts of rebellion against God and His law.
Simply defined: Sin is a moral defect that came into existence by disobedience to God’s commands.
If man would obey what God has said, he would be the ultimate benefactor. Every person could live upon the earth in a perfect environment. There would be no sickness or death. No one would harm any other person. Every part of human existence would be perfect. Sin is the fatal flaw which as ruined life for human beings.
Alienation From God
Of greater significance is the fact of man’s estrangement from God—due to his sin. It is impossible for God to have communion or fellowship with man in his present sinful state.
Isaiah 59:1-2 Behold, the LORD’S hand is not shortened, That it cannot save; Nor His ear heavy, That it cannot hear. But your iniquities have separated you from your God; And your sins have hidden His face from you, So that He will not hear.
Exodus 33:20 But God said to Moses, “You cannot see My face; for no man shall see Me, and live.” (RCR)
Unless God should remove man’s sin by a just method, he would remain in this isolated and irreversible condition, forever, with no hope of redemption.
Terms For Redemption
As established by Ezekiel 18:4 above, the law of sin requires a penalty of death—initiated against the guilty party. No sin is sufficiently dealt with under the law of God without the punitive action of God’s judgement. Either the sinner must die for his sins, or a redeemer must come in his stead—to bear the penalty of death for him.
Under the law of God, there is a provision in His justice system for a substitute to be offered. This principle is illustrated by the sacrifices of the Old Testament—which were only shadows of the true intent of the Law: to provide a single, perfect sacrifice which would permanently remove all sins, forever.
The animals which were brought to the priests for sins were an example of the future offering that Jesus would make to fully pay for all of our sins. This one sacrifice would bring to an end the Old Testament need for perpetual sacrifices, and fulfill every requirement of God’s law to forgive all sins.
The important components of the sacrifice required for sin:
- The sacrifice must be “a male.”
- The sacrifice must be “without blemish.”
- The sacrifice must be offered “of his own free will.”
- The guilty shall “lay his hand on the head” of the sacrifice.
- The sacrifice “will be accepted on his behalf.”
- The sacrifice “will make atonement for him.”
- He shall kill the sacrifice “before the Lord.”
It is interesting that Jesus is described as possessing all of these qualities in His life.
When we arrive at the New Testament, we see Paul describing these sacrifices that were made by the sinner under the old covenant. Paul describes these as only a shadow of the good things to come. These sacrifices were an example of how God was going to forgive the sins of all people, after the Messiah came and offered His one sacrifice for all sins, for all time. Hebrews 10:1-10
The sacrifices of the Old Testament were a temporary covering for sin, not a permanent removal of them. When Jesus came as the Messiah and offered His perfect life, as God, dwelling in human flesh; this one sacrifice was sufficient to remove the sins of every person—forever. The only remaining stipulation, requires each person to approach God themselves—through this sacrifice of the Messiah and believe that His death has atoned for their sins. When this is done, wholeheartedly and with faith in what God has said, this person is saved.
Jesus Death Was The Just Basis For God To Forgive Sins
When God chose to punish His Son instead of the sinner, He was able to righteously carry out the sentence of death upon Jesus for the wrongs which we committed, without punishing those who committed the acts directly. Jesus bore the full penalty for the sins of all people, for all time. In this way; God can be both Just and Merciful. The opportunity for a full pardon exists today for every person because Jesus was willing to die for us.
When the Old Testament speaks of the Messiah—bringing “Justice,” this means that He is coming to make a way for all of us to be seen as just in the sight of God, because the Messiah has removed all of our sins.
What Happened To Our Sins?
The Bible describes forgiveness as the remission of sin. The basic meaning of forgiveness in this context is to send away our sins. Another way of thinking of forgiveness or remission is that when God forgives our sins, He separates us from them so that they no longer exist.
When Jesus died on the cross, God had a just basis to forgive us, providing that we choose to remain under the protection of Jesus’ offering for those sins. Without us personally appropriating—to our own account—what Jesus has done for us, we remain guilty, with no hope of salvation by any other means.
How Salvation Works
Romans 5:18-19 Therefore, as through one man’s offense (Adam) judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation, even so through one Man’s righteous act (Jesus) the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life. For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man’s obedience many will be made righteous.
At the moment that we ask God to place into our account, the righteous sacrifice that Jesus made, in taking the penalty for all of our sins; His righteousness is transferred to our account. Our many sins are removed from our record as if they never existed.
God now has a righteous and just basis to forgive us and grant us eternal life.
Knowledge Is Insufficient
This is why it is not enough to simply know who Jesus is. We must enter into a personal relationship with Him, whereby we ask God to appropriate the death of Jesus’ life for our sins, into our personal account. God will not forgive us on the basis of Jesus’ death until we ask Him. To force us to take Jesus’ sacrifice for our salvation, without our full consent, would be a violation of our freedom of choice.
As much as God loves us, He will not force anyone to be saved. He provided a just basis for our sins to be permanently removed—then He made available this forgiveness to every person. For this reason, if we fail to seize this one-time offer for a full pardon for all of ours sins, those sins will forever remain on our account. At the end of our earthly life, we will face the judgment for those sins.
What Happens When You Believe
For the person who has believed that Jesus has died for his sins and has asked Him for forgiveness, based on Jesus sacrifice, this person immediately has the removal of all his sins. At death, and even into the life to come; there awaits no future judgment by God. Jesus took the penalty for our sins and He was judged in our place, so that no judgement awaits anyone who has received Jesus Christ as their Savior.
For the person who will not believe and ask God for a pardon for his sins, based on Jesus’ sacrifice, those sins remain on his account, forever. At a day—future, all those who have a record of sin remaining on their account after their death will stand before God and pay for those sins themselves.
Try to imagine that you have power to simply speak, and the entire universe begins. You have been alive forever and are perfect in every regard. You have never experienced sin or violence in your person. You have lived in glory, beauty, and perfection forever.
Now, you are going to set all of this aside for thirty-three and one-half years. You will come to earth as a helpless infant and learn to walk, talk, and live as a man. When you are a little more than 12 or 13, you become aware who you really are: The Eternal God and you are going to die for the sins of the world.
You remember that before the universe was created, you determined to make man and woman. You knew before this happened that they would turn against you, and be lost. By their actions, they would condemn themselves and be lost forever.
The only way that you could save your creation was by going to earth yourself and becoming a man. You will have to live a life that is perfect and free of sin so that you can offer your perfect life as a man, with the infinite and eternal worth of God, in order to redeem all people.
You will have to take upon your perfect being, all the filthy and vile things that every person has said and done for all time. You will become their sins, and then all of judgment for all sins will be poured out upon you. You will bear the sins of the world and the punishment for every person all at once.
For the first time in eternity, you will be separated from the Father and the Spirit when you are made sin.
In the 24 hours before they crucify you, the Roman soldiers, the soldiers of the High Priest, and the people who see you will tear you to pieces with their fists, sticks, rocks, and words. By the time you arrive at the place where they scourge you, death will already be near.
The Roman soldiers whip you with a leather cat of nine tails. Pieces of bone, glass, and metal are attached for the purpose of destroying human flesh. After 39 lashes your body is torn to ribbons and bleeding profusely.
A soldier compels you to carry the heavy splintered timber of the upper crossmember. The wood will further tear your back and cheek. Soldiers continue to spit upon you, striking your face, ripping out your beard in handfuls. They shove a crown of four-inch Judean thorns into your skull, and place a long reed for a scepter into your hand. The Roman soldiers throw a garment across your back, while they continue to mock you as a weak and insignificant king and laugh-you to scorn.
After a mile walk up the hill outside Jerusalem, the soldiers tear the robe from your body where blood from your wounds has coagulated and stuck to the cloth. Intense pain shocks your body once again as they throw you to the ground, tear off the garment covering your genitals, and nail you—naked to the wood of a cross with nine-inch nails. With every pound of the hammer, pain shoots through your body until you feel as though your heart can take no more.
Hoisting your naked, butchered body into the air, the violence of the wooden cross, as its slammed to the bottom of the hole, dug for its support, is felt as a shudder by every fiber of your body.
The God who created the universe is now naked and dying on a cross before the world.
You hear laughter and mocking from your tormenters, as they taunt you to “come down from the cross if you really are the Son of God.” The thirst is so intense that your tongue is stuck to the roof of your mouth, and there is nothing to swallow though every cell in your body cries out for moisture.
A soldier raises his spear with a sponge filled with bitter wine and gall to your mouth. Though your body is dying for a drink, you refuse the bitter mixture, as the numbing effect of the alcohol will prevent some of the pain. You came to bear all the suffering for all the world’s sins, so you take no drink.
As the soldiers stand looking up and the mocking crowd continue their taunts, you cry out to the Father: “Forgive them; they don’t understand what they are doing.”
The soldier who nailed you to the wood still has the heavy mallet in his right hand. As he hears you cry out to God to forgive him, he looks down at the hammer in disgust. Closing his eyes, tears fill his face; and he throws the mallet as far as possible.
It’s beginning to happen. The sins of the world are approaching. Every sin since Adam and those for all time. Vile acts, every murder, rape, abuse, sickness, and suffering, coming to take residence in you. The sting of sins piercing your soul; such horror, so much horror.
Looking off in the distance, you see a glimpse of people walking up the hill to watch you die. You realize that this suffering is going to free all those who believe and give them eternal life. In a few years, the whole world will be filled with people who know, love, and receive your precious gift. These thoughts bring you great joy.
As each and every sin comes into your being, your heart races faster and faster. No one can kill you, for you are the Eternal God. Yet sin, just one sin, can putrefy your pure soul and take away your life. Over One-Hundred Trillion of man’s sins pierce your being as all the world’s filth finds its secret hiding place in you.1
Now it’s time to suffer for the sins of the world. For six hours you languish in intense agony, the likes of which no human has ever endured. In reality, you feel all the suffering of every person for all time.
No one who trusts in you will ever feel what you are experiencing at this moment. Your death pays the price, and all those who believe are free forever from sin’s plague.
“Father, why have you forsaken me?”
Sin has done its most horrific damage. Never before has the Father and Son been torn apart. This anguish is almost more than they can bear. The Spirit runs across the sky, as clouds and darkness fill the earth. Sin is dying, but at such a high cost. The Son of God, He is bearing it all.
“It is finished.”
Man’s debt for all sin is paid. All those who receive God’s gift are pardoned. Even those who will never come to Jesus and ask Him for salvation, He dies now also for them. He suffers now, also for these who reject Him. God didn’t want anyone to be excluded—though He knew that most would deny Him, laugh at Him, ridicule what He has done.
“Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.”
God in human flesh has died. Sin is dead and all its power; but, oh, what a great cost. The world doesn’t understand what Jesus has paid; perhaps they never will…
Categories: How Salvation Occurs, Jesus born to die, Justice, Justification, No one is "good", Religion vs. Relationship, Robert Clifton Robinson, Salvation is a free gift, We must see our need, What is required for Heaven?