In the last post, I introduced our revival theme Forgiveness: Receive It and Pass It On. Today, I want to take a biblical look at the first level of forgiveness, which is captured in the phrase “Forgiveness: Receive It.”
This level is the vertical God to man aspect of forgiveness. Beginning in Genesis 3 where Adam falls into sin, God begins working His plan of forgiveness. We often call this God’s “Plan of Redemption,” but it could just as easily be called God’s “Plan of Forgiveness.” God didn’t have to initiate this plan, but He wanted to because of the great love with which He loved us (Ephesians 2:4).
However, as we move forward form Genesis 3, it becomes clear God could not just forgive sins. Because of God’s justice, sin must be punished. To just forgive would impugn the righteousness of God and make light of sin. Therefore, God began to prepare the way for forgiveness through substitutionary atonement. Someone else would pay for our sins.
The way God prepared us for this path to forgiveness was through the Old Covenant sacrificial with Israel. The book of Leviticus, which details the Law of God and the sacrificial system for Israel, talks about forgiveness more than any other Old Testament book (Leviticus 4:20, 26, 31, 35; 5:10, 13, 16, 18; 6:7; 19:22). That’s amazing to me!
We’ll let the first reference stand as our example. Leviticus 4:20 says, He shall also do with the bull just as he did with the bull of the sin offering; thus he shall do with it. So the priest shall make atonement for them, and they will be forgiven. There it is! Something was sacrificed as a substitute for the sinner. The bull died instead of the sinner. But, there was one major problem: the bulls and goats and lambs who were sacrificed annually never actually took away sin. We learn this clearly from Hebrews 10:1-4:
- For the Law, since it has only a shadow of the good things to come and not the very form of things, can never, by the same sacrifices which they offer continually year by year, make perfect those who draw near. Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered, because the worshipers, having once been cleansed, would no longer have had consciousness of sins? But in those sacrifices there is a reminder of sins year by year. For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.
So, again, the bulls and goats and lambs who were sacrificed annually never actually took away sin. But, here’s the crucial point: they were never supposed to. God was simply preparing us for the once for all sacrifice in Jesus Christ, which is the crux of God’s plan of forgiveness. Jesus Christ came to provide once and for all for our deepest need, which is forgiveness.
What sweet word that is: forgiven! It means that all God’s wrath toward me has been quenched. I bear it no more because it’s paid for by Jesus Christ!
Yet, there are many in our community and even some who attend our church who have never heard those words from God because they’ve never trusted in Jesus Christ our Savior. Unless one places his or her faith in Jesus Christ, making Him their Savior and Lord, there is no forgiveness. Grace through faith in Jesus is the only way to be forgiven.
People need to hear this! If they leave this life unforgiven, they will pay the penalty of their sins forevermore in Hell, but if they leave this life forgiven, they will enjoy heaven forevermore, which was paid for by Jesus. Oh, I pray that every person will receive the forgiveness provided for them through Jesus Christ! As our theme verse for revival states: If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).
In the next post, we’ll look at the second level of forgiveness: Pass It On.