How Can God Forgive Sinners
“Can you imagine the devil? What did the devil do? He sinned, and what happened? Perfect justice was laid out before him, and there was no need for an explanation. God is just, he sinned; justice has been done.
But then there's Adam; sins. Can you imagine the accuser of God?
'O, God, what is this? I sin, and justice! This one, this ball of dirt, rails against You, You give him a promise? What's happened to Your justice?
O, and Abraham! He's your friend now? Where's Your holiness, God?
O, and Israel, Your people! How many times have they committed idolatry against You? How many times should they have died?
And David! A man after Your own heart? What's happened to the justice of God?'” Paul Washer
How Can God Forgive Sinners?
What does God's justice demand? Justice demands that the man who sins dies (eternal damnation) “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23)
We live in a culture that drinks sin it was like water. No one care about God, or His law. I mean God forgives, right? So people can just live however way they want and in the end God will just overlook their sins and allows them into heaven (see justification by death). I mean after all, God is merciful, right? How can a 'loving God' send anyone to hell? Well, God is love for sure, but He loves His glory more. Also, though the Bible tells us that God is love (1 John 4:8), it also tells us that He is just (Psa 7:11), wrathful (John 3:36), He hates (Psa 5:5) and He is holy (Isa 6:3).
We cannot put God's attributes against each other. God's love doesn't overshadow His hatred, nor does His mercy overshadow His wrath but rather, they all work together. God loves all that is good, so He hates all that is evil. If you love babies? Then you must hate abortion. So no attribute can overshadow another. If God was only love, the He should also love sin, but that's not what Scripture teaches us.
So God's justice cannot be overlooked, it demands that sin should be punished for it to be satisfied. Man must sufferer the wrath of God's for justice to be satisfied. If God is to forgive man, then none of His attributes must be overlooked in the process. So how can this be done? How can God forgive sin and satisfy His wrath at the same time?
Before we answer this question, let's look at the argument that an only loving God who just forgives sin and overlooks His justice and wrath. Consider the following incident:
“Lets say you were to go home tonight and find your family had been slaughtered. You see the assassin standing before the last one of your family members, standing with a little bit of life in their body. He breaks their neck, drops them to the floor and laughs. He runs out the door, you run out the other door, catch him by surprise and knock him out. You bind his hands. The police come to get this person who has murdered your family and they lock him away. In due time, they present him before a judge. The judge looks down at the man who has murdered your entire family and says, “I am a very loving judge. I pardon you. Go free.'What would your response be?”
If God is to forgive men of their sins, One has to voluntarily die for them. And since man sinned, a man must die. But this man should be sinless, in order for Him to be a sacrifice for someone else. If He has sinned just once, He will suffer for Himself alone. But this man must also be infinite, because only an infinite being can suffer the eternal (infinite) wrath of God in time. And He must be God, since salvation is of the Lord (cf. Jon 2:9). So we need a sinless, infinite God-Man (see hypostatic union) who will volunteer to die for man. And this God-Man is the eternal Son of God, Jesus Christ.
“God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)
So what did Jesus do?
“Surely He has borne our griefs And carried our sorrows; Yet we esteemed Him stricken, Smitten by God, and afflicted. 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. All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, every one, to his own way; And the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” (Isaiah 53:4-6)
He stood in our place, and lived the perfect life we should have lived. And He died the death we should have died. He lived a perfect life of obedience to God's law so that the righteous requirements of God law may be fulfilled in us. His perfect righteousness becomes imputed to us when we believe in Him (see the doctrine of imputation). And on the cross, God imputed/laid on Him our sins. On the cross He suffered the eternal wrath of God that we should have suffered in hell, He drank the cup of wrath that was filled for us to drink.
So instead of overlooking sin, God's wrath is poured out on His Son and His justice is satisfied. He didn't overshadow any attribute but He displayed all of them on the cross. We see God's hatred for sin by looking at the cross. We see God's love for man by looking at the cross. We see God's justice by looking at the cross. We see God's holiness by looking at the cross. We see God's sovereignty by looking at the cross.
So going back to satan's accusations to God, Paul Washer continues:
“Two-thousand years ago, God gave His answer.
'Do you want to know how I can spare man from the beginning, even with their father, Adam? Do you want to know how I can call Abraham My friend? Do you want to know how I can call David a son?
Because there is My Son now, dying for them all.'”
“Therefore let it be known to you, brethren, that through this Man is preached to you the forgiveness of sins;” (Acts 13:38)
Forgiveness of sins is only through Jesus Christ. Firstly because only He is a God-Man, secondly because only He was sinless and died for others and lastly because He is the Only mediator and way to God (cf. Joh 14:6, 1 Tim 2:5). There is no forgiveness of sins after death (cf. Heb 9:27)
How do we receive forgiveness?
Repentance and faith is the only way to receive forgiveness. Turning from our sins to God. Believing in His perfect life, substitutional death and His resurrection. Turn to Christ and acknowledge Him as Lord. We can't make amendment for our sin. All we must do is believe that He has died for our sins and repent from them. Jesus alone can save.
“Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord,” (Acts 3:19)
Too much of a sinner?
Do you feel like you're too much of a sinner for God to forgive?
“This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief.” (1 Timothy 1:15)
The Bible is full of murders, thieves, adulterers etc who received forgiveness from God. Even the very chief of sinners was forgiven. God is “able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him” (Heb 7:25). He will forgive and remove all the guilt and make you a new creation with new desires and affections. Just listen to these promises that God makes to those who trust in Him:
“”Come now, and let us reason together,” Says the LORD, “Though your sins are like scarlet, They shall be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, They shall be as wool.” (Isaiah 1:18)
“Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, And cleanse me from my sin.” (Psalms 51:2)
“Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.” (Psalms 51:7)
“Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, Whose sin is covered.” (Psalms 32:1)
“He has not dealt with us according to our sins, Nor punished us according to our iniquities. For as the heavens are high above the earth, So great is His mercy toward those who fear Him; As far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us.” (Psalms 103:10-12)
“In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace” (Ephesians 1:7)
“He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins.” (Colossians 1:13-14)
“And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.” (Colossians 2:13-14)
What must our attitude be?
“Christ did not die to forgive sinners who go on treasuring anything above seeing and savoring God. And people who would be happy in heaven if Christ were not there, will not be there. The gospel is not a way to get people to heaven; it is a way to get people to God. It's a way of overcoming every obstacle to everlasting joy in God. If we don't want God above all things, we have not been converted by the gospel.” John Piper
Our attitude shouldn't be that of licentious to sin, but that of praise and thanksgiving to God for forgiving our sins and taking the punishment on Himself. “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?” (Romans 6:1-2)
The only reason God is able to forgive sinners is because His Son lived and died for them. And through repentance and faith in His Son, God forgives us.
Soli Deo Gloria