Drippings from the Honeycomb
More to be desired are [the rules of the Lord] than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb. (Psalm 19:10)
Forgiveness is key to Christianity. However, when it comes to forgiveness, ourselves and God it can be somewhat confusing. Part of this confusion surrounds the different ways forgiveness is used in the Bible. This blog is meant to help clarify the forgiveness we desperately need from the God who stands ready to offer it.
There are two basic ways the Bible speaks about God’s forgiveness of our sin. The first is being forgiven (a once in a life time event), often called forensic or legal forgiveness. The second is receiving forgiveness (ongoing for the Christian), often known as relational forgiveness. These can be conveniently found in 1 John 1:9 and 1 John 2:1.
Being Forgiven (Forensic or Legal Forgiveness)
Most people are well aware that they have sinned and offended a holy God. Like the request in the Lord’s Prayer’s—“forgive us our sins”—many people know their sin needs forgiving. They may do this day in and day out, yet never with an assurance that they’ve received forgiveness, always feeling a need to keep asking for God’s forgiveness on a regular basis.
The issue here is that such a person needs to understand themselves and how forgiveness itself works.
People aren’t sinners because they sin, they sin because they are sinners. WE need forgiveness, not just our sins. This is what Jesus was driving at in Mk 7:21, “For from within, out of the heart of man, come…” OUR sinfulness has separated us from God, including His hearing our prayers (1 Pe 3:12b).
Asking for forgiveness for sin A or B from someone who is our enemy just doesn’t make sense. It would be like asking a bank we’ve never had a relationship with and had publically dragged through the mud for a small loan. God will not forgive us until we are reconciled to Him through the Gospel. Then He will forgive our sin because of what Jesus did on the Cross.
Must become this:
When we go through God’s appointed way for forgiveness in the Gospel and not simply offer up ‘hail Mary’ prayers we gain an assurance that our sins have been forgiven and that we are now in a right relationship with God. We are forgiven forensically (legally). We are no longer counted as sinners.
Having spoken about sin, this is what John goes on to say in the opening of his letter: “if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9).
We must believe in the GOSPEL.
Receiving forgiveness (Relational Forgiveness)
Upon faith in the Gospel we who were once God’s enemies are now adopted and considered His children (John 1:12)! We must trust in the promised forgiveness we have been given (1 Jn 2:12). Yet, as any parent knows, even your children still do wrong. Through the Gospel we have been declared forgiven in God’s sight, but that doesn’t mean that we no longer sin. We must understand this distinction. When we fail to live up to our new calling as a Christian through the help of the Spirit and sin, we needn’t despair—even here God offers forgiveness. At the Cross Jesus forgave us past, present and future. Now seated at the right hand of God, Jesus is our advocate before the Father. Appealing to His work on the Cross, the Father forgives our sin when we falter and we, already forgiven forensically, receive His relational forgiveness (Isa 59:1–2; Eph 4:30). John put it this way, “My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” (1 John 2:1). Our sin that relationally impeded our relationship with the Father is forgiven and the relationship is restored afresh. Given the context of the Lord’s Prayer being a sermon about the disciples life in the Kingdom, this is actually the sort of forgiveness in view in the phrase, “forgive us our sins.” It is speaking of relational forgiveness.
Those who do not have Jesus as their Saviour and Advocate have no assurance of forgiveness, but they needn’t wonder or keep praying futile prayers. When we trust in the Gospel we can have assurance of forgiveness—“but with you there is forgiveness” (Ps 130:4a). Oh what a blessing it is to know your sins are forgiven, both forensically and relationally!
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