Vol. 8, No. 4
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The title of this article was the caption under a picture in a comic strip. The scene depicts a young girl sitting at her desk with a pencil in her hand. She had made a mistake in spelling a word and had erased it. At this point she asks her teacher: "Where do mistakes go when you rub them out?" That is a very good question to be considered.
My thoughts immediately turned to the mistakes we all make in life. Some mistakes are not always sinful; however, all of our sins would indeed be mistakes. Sin is a transgression of God's law; sin is unrighteousness; sin is a failure to comply with the commands of God (1 John 3:4; 5:17; James 4:17). Sin is universal in scope: "There is none righteous, no, not one." "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:10, 23). When a person complies with the terms of pardon presented by Jesus Christ, forgiveness of sins can be obtained. "In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace" (Ephesians 1:7).
When sin appears as a debt, an unfilled obligation, then pardon is spoken of as a canceling. "I, even I, am He who blots out your transgressions for My own sake; And I will not remember your sins." "Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out." (Isaiah 43:25; Acts 3:19). Jesus cancelled out our debt of sin on Calvary when he shed his atoning blood for us. The first stanza and chorus of the beautiful hymn, "He Paid a Debt He Did Not Owe," greatly emphasizes this truth: "He paid a debt He did not owe, I owed a debt I could not pay. I needed someone to wash my sins away. And now I sing a brand new song: 'Amazing Grace.' Christ Jesus Paid the debt that I could never pay."
When Sin appears as an estrangement from God, then forgiveness is represented as reconciliation. Man's sins separated him from his God (Isaiah 59:1-2). But God has made it possible for fallen man to be reconciled to him through his son Jesus Christ (John 14:6). This was the message of reconciliation proclaimed by the inspired preachers in the first century. "Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation" (2 Corinthians 5:18-20). It is in the body of Jesus that both Jew and Gentile can enjoy friendship and fellowship once again with the Heavenly Father (Ephesians 2:11-16).
When sin appears as an indictment, forgiveness is spoken of as a justification. Paul expressed it in this manner: "Being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus" (Romans 3:24). To be justified is to be declared guiltless, to be absolved of a wrongdoing, to be acquitted, to make or to be declared right. The whole world has been indicted by the court of heaven as being under sin (Romans 3:19). To be set free from the guilt and bondage of sin, justification must be sought in Jesus Christ.
When sin appears as a disease, forgiveness is represented as a healing. In reference to the coming Messiah, Isaiah wrote, "But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed" (Isaiah 53:5). In the New Testament, we learn of the work of the Great Physician, "Who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness-by whose stripes you were healed" (1 Peter 2:24). There is a balm in Gilead; there is a physician there. Jesus Christ is the healer of the malady of sin (Jeremiah 8:22; Matthew 9:12-13).
Where do our sins go when they are forgiven? That is a most difficult question. However, the Word of God does offer us some understanding on this subject. Take for instance the passage found in Micah 7:19: "He will again have compassion on us, And will subdue our iniquities. You will cast all our sins Into the depths of the sea." Sin in this verse is regarded as a personal enemy, which by God's sovereign grace will be entirely subdued. As God destroyed Pharaoh and his army in the Red Sea, so shall he cast our sins into the depths of the sea of forgiveness and forgetfulness (Exodus 15:4, 10). If you will observe, the Lord will cast our sins into the "depths of the sea" and not near the shore where they can be washed back again. In Psalm 103:12, we learn, "As far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us." In reference to the new covenant that God would make with Israel and Judah, the promise was made, "For I will forgive their iniquity and their sin I will remember no more" (Jeremiah 31:31-34; Hebrews 8:12; 10:17). Thus we learn that God who has infinite intelligence possesses the attribute of forgetting sins that are forgiven. To some degree, we understand how this is possible. Loving parents have often forgotten as well as forgiven the mistakes and sins committed by their children. In perfection, our Heavenly Father forgives and forgets the sins of his penitent children (1 John 1:7, 9).
God will forgive and forget all sins committed by alien sinners who come to believe in Jesus Christ and that his son died for the sins of mankind on Calvary and arose from the dead for our justification (Romans 4:25). This is the good news that Paul and all the faithful Gospel preachers proclaimed to a world lost in sin (Mark 16:15; Romans 1:14-16; 1 Corinthians 15:1-3). A living, vibrant faith will motivate the sinner to repent and be baptized in obedience to the commands of Jesus Christ and his apostles (Mark l6: 16; Acts 2:38). The precious promises of the Lord will be granted to the penitent believer who is baptized in the name of Jesus Christ, namely, the forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38; 3:19).