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Accepting God's Forgiveness


"Churches can slip into some strange ideas about how someone can enjoy God's total forgiveness for sin. On this web page Pastor Simon takes a close look at how, according to teachings we find in the Bible, someone can obtain God's forgiveness for sin in their life."


A visitor to my web site asked, "I have recently joined a new church and consequently a house group. Most of the people in my group have spoken to somebody giving a list of all their sins in life so they can have total forgiveness. I am unsure about this. Is it important that I discuss these things with another person?"

In my reply, I began with the following statement aimed are setting her thinking moving in the right direction. I suggested she should ask herself the fundamental faith question, "What does the Bible tell me about how I receive forgiveness of sins in my life?"


Firstly, the Bible speaks of our redemption and the forgiveness of our sins as one and the same act. In other words, in receiving the redeemer we receive redemption and, as an essential (integral) part of that, we receive the forgiveness of our sins. You will find that declared in Paul's letter to the Colossians,

He has...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 - NKJV


In order to reconcile us to Himself the Father forgives us our sins the moment we accept Christ as our personal saviour. He forgives on the basis of our faith in Jesus. Indeed, the apostle Paul in the Holy Spirit tells us,

God has done this to demonstrate his righteousness both by the wiping out of the sins of the past and by showing in the present time that he is a just God and that he justifies every man who has faith in Jesus.

Romans 3:25-26 - J.B. Phillips' translation


This is why the Bible declares,

Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Romans 5:1 - NKJV


You see then that the one who comes to Jesus has their sins of the past forgiven and utterly wipe away at the very moment he or she confesses Him as Saviour and Risen Lord. (Rom.10:9-10)


Secondly, the Bible is very clearly about how the sins of the present are forgiven. It tells us that if we sin as Christians we have an Advocate with the Father, namely, Jesus Christ. The apostle John tells us,

My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.

1 John 2:1 - NKJV


What's more the Bible tells us the way in which we have sins - any and all of our sins - during our Christian life forgiven. John's first epistle tells when we sin to confess to our Heavenly Father our sin and He will in His faithfulness forgive us. This counsel and promise is given in the first chapter of that epistle,

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

I John 1:9 - NKJV


The context of that scripture above shows us that when it says "If we confess our sins" it is referring to "If we confess our sins to the Father".


Now, there is a scripture that says,

Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed.

James 5:16 - NKJV


However, the context of that scripture is very important to rightly discerning the meaning of that scripture. The context is about relationships in the church and how our relationships together can be used in prayer and in the power of the Holy Spirit to bring God's healing into our lives. Therefore when it says, "Confess your trespasses to one another" it is speaking of trespasses committed against one another. This brings healing on the scene because it sets our prayer free to have effect.

This counsel then of James in his epistle is a reminder of Jesus' teaching on prayer. Jesus said,

Whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses.

Mark 11:24 - NKJV


Another scripture that causes some confusion among believers is found in the Gospel of John. It is the scripture that the Catholics wrongly use to validate the confessional, that is, the confessing of sins to the priest. You will find it in the 20th chapter,

If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.

John 20:23 - NKJV


Again this scripture is about relationships between people and it is about seeing to the state of your own heart. In this way, it is closely connected to the previous scripture, namely, Mark 11:24. The key phrase to this scripture is "if you retain the sins of any, they are retained". Grasp that phrase and your grasp the scripture. This is phrase is telling us that if you "retain the sins of any" then they are indeed retained. You have retained them and therefore you are still stuck with them in your heart where they will trouble you.

In other words, the scripture is saying forgive someone their sins otherwise you will retain it and have the wound that sin committed against you on your heart continuing to give you problems.


Let me return to my web site visitors message. She wrote, "Most of the people in my group have spoken to somebody giving a list of all their sins in life so they can have total forgiveness."

This gives me serious concern. Who knows if that person can handle the knowledge of some sin a member of the grounp might list. Therefore, I would strongly counsel against this notion her church was encouraging.

This notion is strongly like the Catholic notion of confessing sins to a priest. Many would say that Catholics priests have greatly suffered and been troubled by this practice.


Who wants to be having to deal with the knowledge and sight of someone else's sins? The sight of sins is unpalatable even to our Heavenly Father. He didn't want to behold them so He cast them all behind His back. He threw them behind Him into a sea of forgetfulness. (See Isaiah 38:17 below)

Now, our Heavenly Father was strong enough to do that (cast the sin of man behind His back) but I doubt that humans are truly capable of it fully.

You have lovingly delivered my soul from the pit of corruption, For You have cast all my sins behind Your back.

Isaiah 38:17 - NKJV


In conclusion, I recommend you do not follow this practice. Perhaps also you might want to pass on this teaching for the consideration of those in the church who are encouraging this practice.

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