When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions, having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.—Colossians 2:13–14.I meet many people who are confused regarding what God’s thoughts and feelings toward them truly are. I find that much of this confusion is the result of a common misunderstanding regarding God’s forgiveness.
As in the above texts, the Bible states that God, through the cross, has forgiven every man, woman, and child of every sin he or she ever has or ever could commit. God is not harboring any ill feelings toward any of his children, faithful or wayward.
And yet, I hear many say, wait Herb, what about repentance, confession, and faith. Aren’t these necessary? Yes, absolutely! But here is the rub. The Bible speaks of two very different—related, but different—truths. They are different, but in English we have only one word to describe them both. That word is Forgiveness.
What are these two truths? First, that every person has a conscience. Thus, when they sin, they set in motion the effects of shame and guilt, the full weight of which, if they were left to bear it alone, would crush out their life. The Bible calls this cleansing of the shame and guilt transpiring in us forgiveness or, in the Greek, apheimi. And this change in us takes place through repentance, confession, and faith.
But the second truth is that God, in His heart, is not harboring any ill feelings toward any member of the human race. He has taken all our “debt,” “all” our “transgressions,” and nailed them to His cross. From His perspective, because of the cross, all charges have been dropped for every person who has ever lived or ever will live. The Bible calls this glorious good news of what is truly in God’s heart toward every person, repentant or rebellious, by the same word—Forgiveness or, in the Greek, Charizomai.
One experience takes place through faith and repentance; the other, called by the same word, has taken place in God’s heart toward all regardless of whether they repent or not.
The question arises, “Well, if God has forgiven everyone, then why will some be lost?” That is the million-dollar question.
“There is not the slightest reason why every man that has ever lived should not be saved unto eternal life, except that they would not have it. So many spurn the gift offered so freely” (Waggoner on Romans, p. 102).
“”What! Do you mean to teach universal salvation?” We mean to teach just what the Word of God teaches—that “the grace of God hath appeared, bringing salvation to all men.” Titus 2:11, R.V. “God has wrought out salvation for every man, and has given it to him; but the majority spurn it, and throw it away. The Judgment will reveal the fact that full and complete salvation was given to every man, and that the lost have deliberately thrown away their birthright possession” (Waggoner, Glad Tidings, p. 23).
“The common idea is that when God forgives sin the change is in Himself, and not in the man. It is thought that God simply ceases to hold anything against the one who has sinned. But this is to imply that God had a hardness against the man, which is not the case. God is not a man; He does not cherish enmity, nor harbor a feeling of revenge. It is not because God has an angry feeling in His heart against a sinner that he asks forgiveness, but because the sinner has something in his heart. God is all right, the man is all wrong; therefore God forgives the man, that he also may be all right” (Waggoner, The Power of Forgiveness).
Meditate on these themes this week and see whether God’s great forgiveness not only sets you free, but also awakens in you that same Forgiveness toward others as well.
“Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.” Ephesians 4:32
Have a great week!