Forgiveness part 1

Exodus 34:1-8

The Grace of Forgiveness

 

The context of our text is one in which there is both great sin and great grace on display. Israel, though having experienced an amazing and awe inspiring revelation of God, has chosen to commit the sin of idolatry. While doing so, they fell into gross immorality along with it. God’s wrath was kindled, Moses’ wrath was kindled, the people experienced much death and plague that day, and yet God forgave them. As Moses pled for the LORD’s continued presence with Israel, and the performance of His promise to lead them into the land of promise, he also asks for God to show him His glory. God responded that He would do so, and that He would be gracious to whom He would, and show mercy on whom He would (Exodus 33:17-20). It is soon after this that Moses ascends again into the mount sees the visual glory of God, hears the proclamation of His most excellent name, and learns that God’s glory is seen in His mercy, grace, forgiveness, goodness, truth, holiness, and judgment (Exodus 34:1-8). It is my desire to direct our focus to God’s glory in His forgiving grace.

First of all, let us always remember the nature of grace; because the nature of grace is essential to our understanding of the grace and nature of forgiveness. Grace is free and unmerited favor to those who deserve the wrath of God (See Ephesians 2:1-9). Grace will always be free, and it will never be earned or deserved (Romans 11:6). Furthermore, grace is never given to those who are dependent upon self (Romans 4:1-6) or the arrogant (James 4:6;1 Peter 5:6).

Forgiveness is a gift of grace: “in whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace.” (Ephesians 1:7) Forgiveness, being a gfit of grace, is by nature free. It is not given to those who forgiveness, or else it would not be forgiveness. Forgiveness is the free gift of God, and He is Lord of forgiveness, both in to whom He gives it and in the manner in which He gives it (Exodus 33:19). Note that forgiveness is through the blood of Christ (Ephesians 1:7;Colossians 1:14; Revelation 1:5), which is the price paid once and for all for our sins (Hebrews 1:1-3;9:22-28;10:11-14). If we are ever to be forgiven of our sins, it will be through the merits of the eternal righteousness of Jesus who died for our sins and rose for our justification. This forgiveness is given freely to all who repent and trust Jesus (Mark 1:13-15;Luke 24:47;Acts 13:38-39;Romans 5:1-11).

Forgiveness is also the Divine prerogative, and God forgives that He might be glorified. Notice that Jesus recognized that it is only God who can truly forgive sins against Himself (Mark 2:1-12). We often hear people say, “Only God can judge me!” The reality is that God is the supreme judge and savior. Only God can save you! Only God can forgive and have mercy upon you. “There is one lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy: who art thou that judgest another?” (James 4:12) Apart from the God who gives mercy and forgiveness, mercy and forgiveness would never exist. Thankfully God does forgive. That is His glory, as we see in our text.

Notice that our text also closely relates forgiveness to mercy. Mercy is when judgment is averted. “For he shall have judgment without mercy, that hath shewed no mercy; and mercy rejoiceth against judgment.” (James 2:13) David also praises God for His mercy in delivering Him from hell (Psalm 86:12-13). One of the most emotional proclamations of forgiveness and mercy is seen in the Lamentations of Jeremiah: “It is of the LORD’S mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3:22–23) Rather than utterly destroying Israel, God was merciful to them. How wonderful it is to know that we are the recipients of the free mercies and forgiving grace of God!

Let us recall once more that forgiveness comes because of the intervention of a mediator. Moses prayed for Israel and God forgave them. Jesus is the one who mediates for us that we might be forgiven. “For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.” (1 Timothy 2:5–6) Jesus, when He shed His blood, paid the price for our sins forever. “And every priest standeth daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins: but this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God; from henceforth expecting till his enemies be made his footstool. For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified. Whereof the Holy Ghost also is a witness to us: for after that he had said before, This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them; and their sins and iniquities will I remember no more. Now where remission of these is, there is no more offering for sin.” (Hebrews 10:11–18) Notice that forgiveness comes because a payment is made for sins, Jesus died to secure forgiveness, and God accepted that sacrifice as being worthy of His forgiving us forever. There is no remission of sins without the shedding of blood, which is the giving of the life of a substitute (Hebrews 9:22). Thankfully Jesus stood as that substitute for us that we might be forgiven.

As we consider all of the above truths, we have yet to truly define forgiveness. The word literally means, to take away. This is why John introduced Jesus as follows: “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.” (John 1:29) We again read, “And every priest standeth daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins: but this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God;” (Hebrews 10:11–12) Forgiveness is the taking away of sin.

How is sin taken away? We still live with sin. We are told, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.” (1 John 1:8–10) In this life we shall always be plagued with sin, it seems. Paul stated that sin was ever present with him (Romans 7:21), and that our bodies are dead because of sin despite our being saved by God’s grace (Romans 8:10). Sin is not literally taken away in this life as if we will never have to deal with it again. Sin is taken away in the sense of it never being held against us in the judgment. This is why we read, “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” (Romans 8:1) And remember, “mercy rejoiceth against judgment.” (James 2:13)

We also read of sins being forgotten. Micah rejoiced in this (Micah 7:18-20), Jeremiah prophesied of it (Jeremiah 31:31-34), and the writer to the Hebrews spoke of it also (Hebrews 8:12;10:17-18). What does this mean? Does God literally forget our sins as if they are no longer in His memory at all? That would be impossible, for God is omniscient, knowing all things. In fact, the idea of God acting as if sins never happened at all minimizes sin and shows disrespect to the grace and glory of God. What is meant, then, by sins being forgotten? Sins are forgotten in that they will never be held against us in judgment: we will never be punished for them, nor pay for them by suffering God’s wrath. Notice how David speaks of forgiveness: “Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man unto whom the LORD imputeth not iniquity, And in whose spirit there is no guile.” (Psalm 32:1–2) The sin is not literally removed or forgotten, but it is covered: God does not see it on our record. God does not impute iniquity to us. That is, He does not keep the sin on our account as though we are still chargeable for it. The forgiveness of sin and the forgetting of it are judicial things. Our slate is clean before God. We have no sins on our account. They are forgotten. Paul spoke of this when he wrote, “And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses; blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross;” (Colossians 2:13–14) The account of my sins has been blotted out because Jesus paid the debt in full. This is what is meant by sins being forgotten.

Considering the truth that forgiveness is God’s prerogative, and freely given that we might glorify Him, there are two important things to keep in mind. First, the forgiveness of sins is not given to the proud, arrogant, self-righteous person who demands it.  God resists the proud (James 4:6;1 Peter 5:6). He will not forgive those who will not confess and truly repent. It is the broken-hearted one who repents of his sins whom God will forgive (2 Corinthians 7:7-10). “For thou desirest not sacrifice; else would I give it: Thou delightest not in burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: A broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.” (Psalm 51:16–17) Forgiveness can never be earned nor demanded. We must with a broken heart plead with God, trusting Him to give it to us. Finally, forgiveness is for God’s glory. “I write unto you, little children, because your sins are forgiven you for his name’s sake.” (1 John 2:12) He forgives us for the glory of His grace (Ephesians 1:1-14), so we should worship Him because of being forgiven by Him. Moses worshiped the LORD when he saw and heard His glory. So, too, must we. Let us never forget our own sinfulness, and let us humbly seek to exalt Him in our lives because of His great forgiveness.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sharing Grace

Sharing Grace

Put them in mind to be subject to principalities and powers, to obey magistrates, to be ready to every good work, to speak evil of no man, to be no brawlers, but gentle, shewing all meekness unto all men. For we ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another. But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour; that being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life. This is a faithful saying, and these things I will that thou affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable unto men.” (Titus 3:1–8)

 

The text here presents us with a picture of ourselves. We were by no means good people. We were foolish. We were rebels. We believed the devil’s lies. We were slaves to the passions of the heart and of the flesh. We lived in envy and treated people in evil ways. We were hateful and hated others. That is by no means a good picture of us. It is not into our goodness that God’s grace appeared, but into our wickedness. We did not deserve our salvation, but He saved us, washed us from our sins, poured out the Holy Spirit upon/within us, gave us new life, and has counted us righteous in His sight. God freely saves us despite ourselves.

With this in mind, we are told that grace teaches us to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts (Titus 2:11-15), and to maintain good works (Titus 3:8). We are taught that we are saved so that we might give glory to God (Hebrews 2:10) and for the purpose of good works (Ephesians 2:8-10).

Among the most important of good works that can be done is that of showing grace to others. Our text tells us that we should be obedient and submissive to those who are in authority to us. Grace will teach us that we should pray for our rulers and all who are in authority (1 Timothy 2:1-5-6), and that we are to obey those in authority over us (Romans 13:1-7). Often this is an act of grace, because we are not submitting and obeying because we agree with those in authority, but despite the fact that we do not agree. Considering that Paul wrote of submission and obedience to rulers when Nero, the enemy of all that is holy, was Caesar, we know that such must come from the grace of God.

Grace is also to be manifest in our treatment of our fellow men. We are told that we are to do good to all men, especially those who are our fellow brothers in the faith (Galatians 6:10). Not only so, but we are to not be brawlers, or contentious and strife filled people. Strife only occurs where pride is (Proverbs 13:10), and we know that pride and grace do not co-exist well at all (James 4:5-6). We are to humble ourselves to have good relationships with others rather than habitually striving with them. Furthermore, we are told to be gentle, or reasonable. That reasonableness is mentioned by Paul as moderation (Philippians 4:5). Our text also speaks of meekness, or gentleness. God’s people are not to be harsh, but loving and kind. Too many people act as if they have the right to show anger and wrath to those with whom they disagree. Such people know so very little about the grace of God. Had they known the grace of God, they would realize that God has not treated them as their sins deserve (Psalm 103:8-17), but has graciously forgives sinners who deserve His wrath. Grace teaches us to love even those who are our enemies (Matthew 5:44-45).

When Jesus would teach us about how to treat others, He reminds us of how much He cares for even the smallest of the lost sheep (Matthew 18:1-14), and sternly warns us that we dare not be an occasion of stumbling for anyone. He warns us that we would be better off dead than to be a stumbling block. He continues from there and calls us to seek reconciliation with our brothers when division arises (Matthew 18:15-18). Following up on that, Jesus gives a parable regarding forgiveness that demonstrates that those who truly know the forgiving mercy and grace of God will show the same to others (Matthew 18:21-35). We are commanded to forgive, or show grace, as we have been forgiven and shown grace (Ephesians 4:32). If we do not do so, we are warned about how judgment will be for us: “For he shall have judgment without mercy, that hath shewed no mercy; and mercy rejoiceth against judgment.” (James 2:13) The one who refuses to show mercy and grace gives evidence of not having known or experienced mercy and grace, and will receive neither in the day of judgment. Where grace is present in the soul, it will manifest itself in the way we treat other people.

This cannot be emphasized enough, because we are called to an unworldly godliness. We are called to show Christ in our behavior. Far too often we show bitterness, anger, wrath, and impatience, even to those we call our brothers and sisters in Christ! I will be quick to admit that I have failed in many ways in this respect. Sadly these things have not been taught among us as they should have been. That will be no excuse for us, however, when we stand before God. God’s grace is transforming grace. He will not leave us as we were before we trusted Him. God, in His grace, has shown us love, mercy, forgiveness, justification, sanctification, and much kindness, despite our sinfulness. If we are not careful, we will treat others as if they must earn our goodwill, and will tend toward a harshness with those who disagree with us or wrong us. This is not the way of grace. Grace will cause us to treat others with the same kindness as God treats us. God’s grace will not leave us hateful and hating one another, therefore let us yield to the authority and transforming power of His grace in order to show kindness and love to all with whom we come in contact.

The Significance Of Baptism pt 2

Baptized In The Name…

Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:” (Matthew 28:19)

Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.” (Acts 2:38)

            What does it mean to be baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost? What does it mean to be baptized in the name of Jesus? Is this a series of words that must be said over the one being baptized, or is there another significance? 

            The preposition ες is often translated in, into, unto, or for and is seen in both of these texts as well as 1 Corinthians 10:1-4, where Israel is spoken of as being baptized unto Moses. “Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; And were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea; And did all eat the same spiritual meat; And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ.” (1 Corinthians 10:1–4) 

(It is interesting to note that there is a parallel to be seen here: Israel was redeemed by blood and then baptized in the Red Sea, and the saints are redeemed by the blood of Jesus and then baptized in water.) Notice that Israel was baptized unto Moses. Just as we are baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, in the name of Jesus Christ, unto repentance, and for the remission of sins, Israel was baptized unto Moses. Were they baptized in order to receive Moses into their hearts? Were they baptized to be joined unto Moses? No, they were baptized in identification with Moses. They were identified with Him as their leader as they followed the visible presence of the LORD in the fiery and cloudy pillar.

            What, then, does it mean when we read of being baptized unto repentance, for the remission of sins, in the name of Jesus Christ, or in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit? It simply means that we are identifying with repentance, the remission of sins, Jesus Christ, or the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. As we saw earlier, baptism occurs after repentance, which brings the remission of sins (Luke 24:47;2 Corinthians 7:8-10). Baptism neither saves, nor brings the remission of sins. Neither does water baptism join us to Jesus Christ, or the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Baptism is an outward sign that identifies us with all of these.

            Thus it is that, when we are baptized, we are saying that we have repented of our sins, received the forgiveness of our sins, are joined to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and are thus identifying ourselves as such.