By Jessica Brodie, Crosswalk.com
It’s an icky, awful feeling when we realize the truth: Deep down, every single one of us has sinned, no matter who we are or how close we walk with the Lord. It doesn’t matter if we were raised in the church or have a seminary degree, whether we read the Bible every day or lead a small prayer group, our imperfect human nature leads us to sin even when we try our hardest not to.
In our darker moments, we might read Scripture promising that our sins are “wiped clean” or “washed away” and secretly suspect it doesn’t apply to us, or we think maybe our version of sinning is just too unforgivable for God to overlook.
That begs the question: What does the Bible say about sin? Does God forgive all our sins?
The short answer is yes — but effort is required on our part, too.
What Is Sin?
The Bible tells us sin is anything we do that is against God’s nature or that violates a command of God. It’s when we — deliberately or accidentally — go against God’s will and God’s way, and it causes a separation between us and God.
We first find the word “sin” in Genesis 4:7. The Hebrew word, hattat, translates also to iniquity or wrong. Sin also means transgression, an act that goes against a rule or law. It’s a wicked or immoral act or thought that is not in alignment with the way of the Lord.
We know God hates sin. In that very first verse, Genesis 4:7, God tells us, “If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.” We must resist and overcome sin — it is not a desirable thing in the eyes of God, our Lord tells us.
God is completely separate from sin. We know He is perfect, holy, and true. In Deuteronomy 32:3-4, Moses sings, “Oh, praise the greatness of our God! He is the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he.”
Therefore, when we do not act in the way of God, that transgression or iniquity becomes a separation between us and our heavenly Father.
As Isaiah 59:2 explains, “Your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear.”
God told his people how to walk with him and live well. In Exodus 19:20-25, he provided Ten Commandments telling us how to live and what we should and should not do, such as lie, steal, murder, or put other gods before our God. He also provided a host of other guidelines for how we should live in alignment with his will. He told us how we could atone for our sins when we went astray, thereby reconnecting the separation, and in many ways, his early Jewish temple had a number of physical representations of sin, separation, and connection.
In the Jewish temple, the veil served as the barrier to the Holy of Holies, and only the high priest could pass through the veil yearly to atone for the people’s sins.
God hates sin, for it come between us and him, and this is not good.
Does God Forgive ALL Our Sins?
But the good news is that God will forgive our sins. In the early days, people sacrificed animals and did other rituals to make up for their wrongdoings, but these things had to be done over and over again, and they never fully made up for the wrong done. But when God sent his son, Jesus, and Jesus died on the cross for us, the Bible tells us we were saved.
As it says in John 3:16-17, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.”
All of us sin. From the first betrayal by Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:6-7) to the way we live today, we know we all “fall short” of God’s glory (Romans 3:23). Only because of Jesus are we saved.
After his death and resurrection, Jesus reminded his disciples what was written: that the Messiah would “suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things” (Luke 24:46-48).
Because of that, we are not just advised but commanded to forgive others. For Jesus told us clearly that just as God forgives us our sins, we must in turn forgive others.
As he said in Matthew 6:14-15, “For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”
By sins, he doesn’t mean some sins — he means all sin. Anyone who forgives others, and repents of his or her own sin, asking God for forgiveness, will be saved. This applies to past, present, and future sins.
As Jesus said in Matthew 7:7-8, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.”
What about Habitual Sins?
Even habitual sins are forgiven as long as the person seeking forgiveness repents authentically. “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).
There is no limit to how many times we are willing to forgive someone who seeks forgiveness, just as there is no limit to how many times God will forgive us.
Jesus clarified this when his disciple Peter asked, “‘Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?’ Jesus answered, ‘I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times’” (Matthew 18:21-22).
Does This Mean I Can Do Whatever I Want, because God Will Forgive Me?
But just because we can have faith that God will forgive us if we seek forgiveness doesn’t mean we can live any way we like. First, those of us who are Christians are considered “followers of Christ.” This means we model our lives after Jesus. We try hard to follow his commandments and obey his teachings, knowing we can never be perfect but striving for holiness. This is also called sanctification.
Jesus tells us the greatest commandment is to love the Lord with all we are and to love our neighbor as ourself (Matthew 22:37-40). He also said, “If you love me, keep my commands” (John 14:15), adding that whoever loves him and keeps his commands will be loved by God, as well (v. 21).
But we are not to be haughty with that, and we are to keep that striving for sanctification in our hearts and minds always. For as we are warned in Hebrews 10:26-29, “If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much more severely do you think someone deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified them, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace?”
We don’t know the day we will die, just as we don’t know when Jesus will return. But if we assume we will always be forgiven or will always have the chance to ask for forgiveness at some future date, yet we die suddenly and unexpectedly before we can repent and ask once more for that forgiveness, we don’t have that full assurance.
Is There a Sin God Won’t Forgive?
There is one sin that Jesus says is “unforgiveable,” and that is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.
Jesus says, “And so I tell you, every kind of sin and slander can be forgiven, but blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come” (Matthew 12:31-32).
Jesus said this just after the Pharisees had accused him of working his miracles not by the Spirit but by a demon, Beelzebub. This was, Jesus said, unforgivable (Mark 3:28-30).
Related article: What Is Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit and Is This Sin Unforgivable?
What Did God Do to Forgive Us Our Sins?
God sent his only begotten son, Jesus — part of the triune God, the holy trinity — to die as the sacrifice for our sins. Jesus paid the price of our sin debt. All we must do to be forgiven and achieve salvation is believe, repent, and forgive others in the same way we have been forgiven.
As it says in 1 John 1:9-10, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us.”
What a gift we have been given!
If today you find yourself doubting that God’s forgiveness applies to you, thinking maybe your past was too evil and wicked to apply, remember: no one is too far gone for the king of the universe.
As God reminds us through his prophet Isaiah, “I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more” (Isaiah 43:25).
Praise be to God.
Photo credit: ©Getty Images/Made Suta/EyeEm
Jessica Brodie is an award-winning Christian novelist, journalist, editor, blogger, and writing coach and the recipient of the 2018 American Christian Fiction Writers Genesis Award for her novel, The Memory Garden. She is also the editor of the South Carolina United Methodist Advocate, the oldest newspaper in Methodism. Her newest release is an Advent daily devotional for those seeking true closeness with God, which you can find at https://www.jessicabrodie.