Forgiveness is a very prominent biblical topic. Our prayer this week is simply, “Lord, forgive me.” As always, our goal is to understand this petition according to the biblical teaching. Prior to examining the idea of forgiveness, I want us to consider the concept of salvation. What is salvation or being one of the saved all about? Is this just a state of being, or is there something practical that we are saved from? Hold this thought as we continue this lesson.
The Bible clearly illustrates the need for forgiveness. We cannot truly appreciate this fact until we realize the problem which warrants forgiveness. Let’s face it; aspirin would lose its appeal in the absence of real pain. Forgiveness, likewise, loses its appeal when sin is relegated only to a psychological problem or hypothetical concept. The biblical picture of sin is intriguing. It is shown to be deceitful (Hebrews 3.13), pleasurable (Hebrews 11.25), and controlling (Hebrews 12.1). It is defined, in part, as lawlessness (1 John 3.4). We know that it develops from one’s desires and can bring forth death (James 1.15). It is also expressed in ways that point to a universal problem (Romans 3.9; 1 John 1.8). Yes, we must understand the problem in order to appreciate the solution.
The proper source is always required in every endeavor. The Bible illustrates the relationship between sin and God. If you remove God and His teaching, then sin, as presented in the Bible, ceases to exist. In many ways the biblical story begins with man’s initial sin against God and climaxes in God’s triumph over sin. God is the only source for forgiveness from sin. I am always amazed at John’s testimony of Jesus in John 1.29. “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (emphasis rb). He didn’t refer to His unmatched love and compassion. He didn’t refer to His unparalleled teaching ability. Instead, John focused on the fact that He could take away sin.
The path to forgiveness has been debated for the past two thousand years, and I see no end in sight. Despite this, there is one example that I wish to consider. There was a certain man named Naaman who was a leper (2 Kings 5.1-19). There are a lot of parallels, biblically, between physical healing and forgiveness (Mark 2.1-12). Naaman learned that a prophet in Israel could heal him. Apparently he believed this was possible because he made the trip to Samaria. Elisha, the prophet of God, sent Naaman a message about how to be healed. He was to dip in the Jordan River seven times, and he would be healed. Instead of following these instructions, Naaman became furious. Thankfully, one of his servants convinced him to obey this simple message. When he followed the instructions, he was healed. I have two questions for you to consider: (1) Did the fact that Naaman had to act and obey the prophet’s commands nullify God’s grace? (2) Did the fact that Naaman had to physically do something nullify the reality that he was healed by faith? For some reason many see actions and conditions as incompatible with grace and faith. Yet biblically, they always work together. This healing was completely by God’s grace and through faith. Yet, there were conditions attached. The fact that the New Testament attaches conditions such as confession (Romans 10.8-10), repentance (Acts 17.30), and baptism (Acts 2.38) to salvation (i.e. forgiveness from sins) does not at all negate the fact that it is only by grace and faith (Ephesians 2.8-9) that we are saved – forgiven.
There is a path to God for forgiveness no matter where you may stand. The lesson in Acts 8 about a man named Simon that illustrates this fact. Simon realized his need for forgiveness and turned to God in faith and was baptized (Acts 8.13). Yet, he still struggled with a certain sin. Who among us could say different? When that sin became apparent, Peter’s instructions changed. It was not a message that involved baptism, but rather prayer (Acts 8.22).
Jesus died to save us from our sins so that we could be forgiven. Let’s not push sin aside or pretend it does not exist. Instead, let’s recognize the real consequences of that sin (Romans 6.23) so that we can appreciate our forgiveness even more. Let’s seek God’s forgiveness – His way.
Lord, forgive me.