Forgiveness of Sin Through God
|By: Dr. John Ankerberg, Dr. John G. Weldon; ©2013|
|Many different religions teach many different things about forgiveness of sins, salvation and the death of Christ on the cross. Regardless, the Bible alone tells us the truth. As other articles on this website prove, no other Scripture has ever objectively demonstrated that it is divinely inspired and therefore worthy of our attention. Therefore the Bible alone tells us the truth about forgiveness of sin, salvation and the atonement of Christ.|
The Bible, Religion, the Forgiveness of Sin Through God’s Grace and the Atonement of Christ
It is an historic fact that only the Bible has been demonstrated to be the revealed Word of God through objective and even compelling evidence. Some of this evidence includes historical and textual data, legal proofs and hundreds of specific prophecies given hundreds of years in advance. The Bible also contains medical and scientific prevision that can only be explained on the basis of divine inspiration. Its autographic inerrancy (despite the characteristics and history of the Bible) is something impossible as a merely human document. Finally, Jesus Christ as God incarnate was an infallible authority and He clearly taught that the Bible (His Old Testament) was word for word the inerrant Word of God; further in His teachings He also pre-authenticated the New Testament. It logically follows that, as the only divine Revelation given to man, the Bible alone has the final authority when it comes to spiritual issues and to any other areas it may speak on (history, science, etc.).
In the world of religion generally (world religions, new religions, cults, religious humanism, etc.) there are many different and un-biblical views about how forgiveness with God is secured and the exact nature of Christ’s atoning death on the cross.
Consider a few examples of un-biblical or anti-biblical approaches. In the major non-Christian world religions (e.g., Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism) the atonement is rejected outright on the basis of a given religions’ fundamental presuppositions. Thus, in the case of Islam and contrary to historical fact, Christ never died on the cross to begin with – so no atonement for sin was ever possible. Thus, Islam teaches salvation purely through human effort, assuming Allah decides to be merciful in any given case, something no Muslim can ever know. In Hinduism, sin is entirely an illusion without reality or existence whatsoever – so again, there is no reason for a propitiatory atonement to forgive what doesn’t exist. In much Hinduism salvation is achieved by recognizing (through meditation, yoga, etc.) that one is already God inwardly – and over innumerable lifetimes, one absolves oneself of individual karma and finally merges back into the impersonal deity. In Buddhism, man’s basic problem is desire which leads to suffering, not sin which requires divine forgiveness. Also, Buddhism is either atheistic (early Buddhism) or polytheistic (later Buddhism) and in either case based strictly upon personal merit and good works, somehow achieved by transversing a virtually impossibly difficult spiritual path over seemingly endless lifetimes – so again there is no need at all for Christ’s sacrificial death on the cross because salvation is entirely self achieved. Judaism, of course, rejects that Jesus Christ is her Messiah, despite powerful prophecies in the Old Testament that can apply only to Jesus Christ and no other person historically, and despite the historic/historical fact of Jesus physical resurrection from the dead as proof of His claim to be the Jewish Messiah – so Judaism, unfortunately, also rejects Jesus and His atonement for sin by definition.
We find a similar rejection of the atonement outside the field of world religions. Much liberal theology and humanistic religion teach that the death of Jesus Christ on the Cross was merely ethical, not atoning; as if Christ’s death were principally an illustration of sacrificial and selfless living to show us that we need to live good, altruistic lives no matter what the cost, even to the point of sacrificing our own. Or, as modern Gnostic groups teach (e.g. much Hinduism; Christian Science), the death of Christ was intended to illustrate the alleged contamination of illusory materiality (avoiding the “evil” of the material world) – or escaping other supposedly illusory human problems (e.g., sin, illness, death) through so-called spiritual “enlightenment”. In this teaching, Christ died to illustrate the illusion of death, sin, moral separation from God, etc. Or, as theological Universalism teaches, the death of Christ opened an automatic, inevitable door to Heaven or the next life for everyone, irrespective of their beliefs and actions. In some forms of so-called Christian reincarnation, Christ’s death helped open the door to subsequent future lives, erasing some or most of our supposed karma. Some false sects of Christianity that blend aspects of the Christian faith with occultism believe that Christ infused His subtle body’s “desire over the earth”, infusing divine benevolence toward all people, again irrespective of their beliefs and deeds, supposedly securing spiritual progress for all. Finally, God’s grace expressed in the atonement is never God’s means to enable us to earn our own salvation by grace plus good works, as Roman Catholicism, Mormonism, Jehovah’s Witnesses and other un-biblical religions teach. In all these teachings and more, there is no biblical support whatsoever.
Indeed, every religion on earth displays the truth conveyed by the great German reformer Martin Luther, that in the end there are really only two religions in the world: 1) the religion of works and 2) the religion of grace.
What then does the Bible, God’s personal word to us, teach about forgiveness of sins solely by God’s grace through individual faith in Christ’s atoning death on the cross? The Bible is clear that salvation is possible only through personal faith in the atonement of Christ for us (John 14:6; Acts 4:12) because Christ alone and no other paid the divine penalty due our sin on our behalf. Only Christianity has an historic incarnation and an atoning sacrifice for sin. Thus, as the only means to salvation and eternal life, God’s grace is most clearly exemplified in the sacrificial, propitiatory (Romans 3:25; Hebrews 2:17; 1 John 2:2) death of Jesus Christ for our sin. Salvation is possible because of the divine act of grace whereby God accepts the offering of Jesus Christ as a substitute for the punishment of sin that was due each of us. In this way God can be both just (Christ having justly paid the penalty for our sin on the cross of Calvary) and the justifier of sinners, declaring true believers in Christ eternally righteous, despite their sin. (Romans 3:26).
The following are only a few biblical Scriptures demonstrating this:
I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. (John 10:11)
This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. (Matthew 26:28)
In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace. (Ephesians 1:7)
This is what is written [in the Old Testament]: the Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. (Luke 24:46)
The Son of man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. (Matthew 20:28)
God … [sent] his own Son … to be a sin offering. (Romans 8.3)
For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice . . . so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus. (Romans 3:23-26)
But we see Jesus, who … suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone. (Hebrews 2:9)
Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! (John 1:29)
For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance; that Christ died for our sins according to the [Old Testament] scriptures. (1 Corinthians 15:3)
He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness. (1 Peter 2:24)
But demonstrates his own love for us in this: while we were still sinners Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)
But now he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself. (Hebrews 9:25)
He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world. (1 John 2:2)
But you know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins. And in him is no sin. (1 John 3:5)
This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. (1 John 4:10)
Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood. (Acts 20:28)
But when this priest [Jesus] had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God … because by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy. . .. Then he adds, “Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more.” And where these have been forgiven, there is no longer any sacrifice for sin. (Hebrews 10:10-17)
For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver and gold that you were redeemed . . . but with the precious blood of Christ. (1 Peter 1:18)
The Bible is clear, regardless of what any other religion or prophet may claim: Jesus Christ alone is the way to God, salvation and Heaven because He alone died for our sins and physically rose from the dead as proof of this. No one else ever claimed to do this (Moses, Mohammed, Buddha, Krishna, etc.); nor did anyone else ever fulfill specific prophecies that are hundreds of years old in this regard (e.g. Psalm 22; Isaiah 53). Only by placing our personal faith in Jesus Christ’s atoning death for our sins is it possible for us to be fully forgiven and permanently redeemed from the penalty of our sins, set free spiritually, and to forever secure eternal life (now) as a wholly gracious gift from God (See: John 3:36; 5:24; 6:47; 1 John 5:13). Otherwise, apart from Christ, we must stand before God Himself and pay in our own person the penalty that infinite holiness requires for our sins. This penalty is eternal separation from God in Hell, something that everyone there will freely acknowledge constitutes perfect justice (and regardless of what the living might think about it now)
Why miss everything you have ever wanted – and that forever?