Is forgiveness available for any and all of my sin? I have committed ____ sin. Will God forgive me?
Believers and non-believers alike are often under the impression that the Christian God forgives, but only up to a point. There are certain sins that we think are "too sinful" or "too bad" to be forgiven by God. Sometimes this mindset comes from a misunderstanding of Scripture, and other times it comes from an internal feeling on the part of the sinner. In either case, the Bible makes it very clear to the believer that there is literally no sin, including any sin committed before or after acknowledging Jesus as Lord, that will destroy our relationship with Him and place us outside His loving grace (Romans 8:38–39).
The only sin that cannot be forgiven is the sin of unbelief—for obvious reasons. If you do not believe that you need to be forgiven, how can you receive forgiveness? If you do not believe that God exists, how can you have a relationship with Him? If you do not accept Jesus, who is the only way of salvation, as Savior, how can you be saved? Jesus mentioned the "unpardonable sin" which is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit (Mark 3:22–30; Matthew 12:22–32) and indicates continued unbelief. The sin is unpardonable not because of a lack in God's love or ability, but because the pardon is unwelcomed by the unbeliever.
Jesus' sacrifice is fully sufficient to cover any sin we commit. The doctrine of the atonement explains this. Hebrews 10:4–14 says, "For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said, 'Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired, but a body have you prepared for me; in burnt offerings and sin offerings you have taken no pleasure. Then I said, "Behold, I have come to do your will, O God, as it is written of me in the scroll of the book."' When he said above, 'You have neither desired nor taken pleasure in sacrifices and offerings and burnt offerings and sin offerings' (these are offered according to the law), then he added, 'Behold, I have come to do your will.' He does away with the first in order to establish the second. And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified." Second Corinthians 5:21 says, "For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God."
Sometimes, unbelievers resist relationship with God because they fear they will have to follow a list of laws as a kind of payment for the forgiveness God offers. Nothing could be further from the biblical doctrine of salvation. God desires truth in the inner man. He wants us to come into the light, and to be honest with Him and with ourselves (Psalm 51:6; 1 John 1:9). For all of us, this includes the acceptance of our inability to obey that list of laws, and the admittance of our inability to change ourselves, or even our inability to desire change in ourselves. It is simply impossible for us to earn God's forgiveness by anything we do (Romans 5:6–11; Ephesians 2:1–10). We do not serve a God that needs to be appeased with good works. Instead, God works to produce good things in us as we face the truth about ourselves, and depend on Him (Psalm 3:5–6; John 15:3–5; John 7:38; John 3:16–18; Ephesians 2:8–10). The forgiveness of salvation is completely apart from our works. Good works result from having been made new in Christ at salvation (2 Corinthians 5:17) and the continued work of the Holy Spirit in our hearts (Philippians 1:6; 2:12–13; Galatians 5:16–26).
Once we have been saved by God's grace through faith in Jesus it can be easy to be trapped by the lie that God requires proof of salvation in exchange for forgiveness or in order to remain forgiven. For example, if a person struggles habitually with some addictive sin, like alcoholism or lust, they can be tempted to believe that God forgives them while they are doing well, but that they need to restore His forgiveness each time they fall into sin in order to stay saved. If the sin is habitual and a continual struggle, this pattern can lead the person to start thinking "maybe I'm not really saved after all, because wouldn't I have victory over this sin if I were?" It is good to examine oneself and be sure you really have placed your faith in Jesus and that you are actively seeking to follow Him. But the truth is that every believer struggles against sin. Even after salvation, we still have the flesh, which wars against the new, sanctified spirit within us. Even the Apostle Paul dealt with this (Romans 7:14–25). It does not preclude God's forgiveness. Forgiveness is a state of being, not a thing we have to access each time we sin. Jesus' sacrifice for us on the cross was "once for all" (Romans 8:1; Hebrews 10:10).
The distinction to be made is that of justification and sanctification. When we are saved, we are completely forgiven for every sin—past, present, and future. We are declared completely righteous before God. However, during this lifetime, we are being functionally made righteous. We become more like Jesus, and we sin less. We do still ask God to forgive our sins (1 John 1:8–9), but this is about spiritual growth and recognizing how our sins hurt the heart of God. It is not that we lose and regain salvation with each sin. And God is "faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9).
There is no sin that cannot be forgiven in Jesus. His work on the cross is fully sufficient. The price has been paid. Accept His wonderful gift today.
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