“For by grace you are saved through faith, and this not of yourselves; it is the gift of God.” (Ephesians 2:8)
Salvation is God’s gift to us… received by our faith in Jesus… and in what He did for us.
We can’t earn it. We don’t deserve it. We can never be good enough to gain it as a reward. It is a free gift. As the apostle told us: “the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23b)
Jesus came to be the means of our forgiveness. The Bible tells us that through Jesus’ Own blood we can be forgiven. For “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.” (Hebrews 9:22) The relationship between blood sacrifice and forgiveness of sins has a long history in the pages of the Bible.
Jesus came to be our blood sacrifice. To atone for OUR sins. Personally. As it is written:
This means that Jesus willingly received our sins… then willingly suffered a bloody and gruesome death for our sins – the innocent for the guilty… the blameless for the condemned. And because of the perfection of His sacrifice, God has accepted Christ’s atoning sacrifice on our behalf.
Let’s understand this… We deserved wrath. We deserved punishment. We deserved eternal separation from God. But because Jesus took our place… God has poured out His wrath (and the punishment we deserved) upon our willing Substitute.
Upon a simple act (personally accepting what Jesus did for us) God accepts Jesus’ sacrifice for us, individually, and… forgives us of all our sins.
But we need to understand what forgiveness means.
In the Bible, the idea behind forgiveness, is two-fold: 1) releasing someone from an obligation or debt; and 2) removing all record of that debt.
Suppose you went to court and were found guilty of a relatively minor crime. The judge fined you $5,000 dollars and ordered you to pay. But then, a friend of yours steps forward and pays the whole amount on the spot. The judge receives the payment and closes the case. The fine has been paid. There is no more debt because the price has been paid. You are under no more obligation to pay for your mistake because the payment has been made. You are free from your guilt… and your debt.
This is at the heart of God’s forgiveness to us. We were guilty of hundreds of crimes, we were deserving of a death sentence… but Jesus stepped forward to pay the price for us. He paid it in full. All we have to do is acknowledge what Jesus did for us – and thank Him properly (with the pledge of our thankful service, the rest of our lives!).
But there is a second part of Biblical forgiveness that is just as crucial.
Our debt has not only been graciously paid… but God chooses to “blot out” our sin record forever.
Many people struggle with residual guilt for their past sins. Since they reason that God is incapable of forgetting something, they tend to believe that He keeps a copy of their “offenses” on file for reference at any particular point (to “hold over their heads” when they struggle with temptations or doubt).
But, when we receive what Jesus has done for us, God does something amazing in return… He chooses never to remember our sins again. This was promised in the Old Testament. God says: “I alone – will blot out your sins for My Own sake and will never think of them again.” And as the foundation of the New Covenant: “I will forgive their wickedness, and I will never again remember their sins.” (Isaiah 43:25; Jeremiah 31:34) The fullness of God’s promise came through Jesus.
God’s promise (and He cannot lie) is that, for those who receive Jesus and what He has done, He will never remember our sins again. He will never call them to Mind ever again.
This is forgiveness: “You were dead because of your sins… Then God made you alive with Christ, for He forgave all our sins. He canceled the record of the charges against us and took it away by nailing it to the cross.” (Col. 2:13-14).
That’s where the record of our sins stayed. On the cross where our Savior bought our forgiveness with His Own blood.
Salvation includes the provision for our forgiveness… so we may rightly say: “For by grace you are forgiven through faith, and this not of yourselves; it is the gift of God.”