October 1, 2019
This article is based on Pastor Adrian Rogers' message, How Does God Forgive Sin?.
Have you ever wondered how God could forgive your sins? We all hope we won’t be held accountable for the bad things we’ve done. After all, nobody’s perfect, right? But knowing the holiness and purity of God—and His justice—I wouldn’t give you half a hallelujah for my chances that I could be good enough—even on the best day I ever lived—to be in Heaven.
So what’s to be done? What can I do? What can any of us do? Even the Apostle Paul, one of the godliest men who ever lived, whose letters comprise a majority of the New Testament, said as he drew near the end of life, “I’m the chief of sinners” (1 Timothy 1:15) and “Who shall deliver me from this body of death?” (Romans 7:24)
If that’s what Paul is saying, what hope is there for me?
I want to assure you, there’s hope. This is why Jesus came to earth. In the very next sentence, Paul says, “I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 7:25).
Look at 1 Peter 3:18—“For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God…”
What a verse! Spiritually speaking, it’s packed with dynamite. How does a holy, righteous God forgive sin? How does this work out?
We all know we need forgiveness if we understand what sin is. Sin is a moral affront to God. It’s falling short. It’s missing the mark of what He wanted for us.
Suppose someone comes up and punches you in the nose. You decide you’ll be big-hearted about it and say, “Even though you punched me, I forgive you.” But suppose the guy says, “You don’t need to forgive me. I’ve already forgiven myself.” That would be weird, wouldn’t it?
Who should be doing the forgiving? The one who got punched! Not the one who did the punching. He can’t forgive himself. It is the punch-ee, not the punch-er, who does the forgiving.
How does God, whom we’ve definitely offended, forgive our sin? First Peter 3:18 tells us. Through Jesus Christ.
“For Christ hath also once suffered for sins (now notice this phrase), the just for the unjust…”
Here, the word for means “in place of”—a substitute for. Jesus actually took our place. He was our substitute, and thus, our Savior.
We’re sinners—by birth, by nature, by choice, by practice. We have morally struck and offended an infinitely holy God. To be just, He must punish sin, and we deserve punishment.
Yet at the same time, God loves us. So this would present God with a problem: How could He love and forgive me, a sinner, and at the same time, being just and righteous, punish sin?
Answer: a stand-in. A substitutionary sacrifice. Someone who takes the punishment on our behalf. The substitute has to be innocent of any sin himself—perfectly righteous, perfectly holy, perfectly good—to become our substitute. The only one who could do that was and is the Son of God. He is God’s substitutionary sacrifice—and our Savior.
He died not merely for us, He died instead of us.
In the Passover, God depicted Calvary. He provides the Passover Lamb, a substitute to atone for sin. When the blood of the lamb was applied to the lintel and the doorposts of the Jewish home exactly as God instructed, it formed the sign of the cross.
Centuries before even that, God had told Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac on Mt. Moriah. But just as Abraham drew his knife, God Himself provided the substitutionary sacrifice.
What’s more: Jesus, our Passover lamb, died on Mt. Moriah—that same location, and the one where the priests sacrificed Passover lambs. On the Cross of Calvary, God once again provided Himself a lamb. There Jesus took the sin of the world—the just for the unjust—and suffered as an innocent substitute.
“He who knew no sin, God hath made to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21).
When He cried, “It is finished!” instantly the old Levitical system was finished. God’s Lamb fulfilled it all.
“For as much as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold…but with the precious blood of Christ, as a lamb without blemish and without spot” (1 Peter 1:18-19).
Jesus Christ became our Passover that He might bring us to God. And now, hallelujah, we can say when the blood is applied to our hearts by faith, God’s angel of judgment will pass over us.
"And, therefore, God is both just and the justifier of them that believe in Christ” (Romans 3:26).
God is just because sin is punished. He’s justified because there was a substitute for us. Mercy and justice meet together in the cross. Thank God for the substitutionary death of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, the just for the unjust.
“For Christ also hath once suffered…”
No drama, song, or poet can describe the suffering of Jesus Christ. Only those in hell can begin to know what He suffered on that cross. The only way you can begin to know is for the Holy Spirit to reveal it to you.
You will suffer for your sin unless you have a substitute. Either Christ does the suffering for you or you will.
If you do not allow Him to become your substitute, you will experience a Calvary of your own, a cross of your own, a hell of your own, because you refused the One who died in your place.
“For Christ also hath once suffered…”
—“once, for all,” never to suffer again. He died, never to die again. Jesus bowed His head, crying “tetelestai!” (in Greek, “It is finished!”) Paid in full!
In those days, when a man was placed in prison, a Certificate of Debt was nailed to his cell door, his crime on one side, penalty on the other. After he served his time, the jailer wrote across it tetelestai, “Paid in Full,” his proof positive his debt was paid, no double jeopardy, no payment for those crimes again.
Friend, you and I have a Certificate of Debt stamped “Paid in Full!” in the crimson blood of the Son of God. You can’t add to it or take from it. Without Christ, you can do nothing. With Christ, you need do nothing.
“But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God” (Hebrews 10:12).
If you really understood your salvation by grace in the Lord Jesus Christ, and what He did for you on that cross, you would never stop praising God for saving you.
One sacrifice for sins forever. Hallelujah for the blood of Jesus Christ that pays in full, saves us, and keeps us saved! This is how God can forgive sin.