Thursday, March 8, 2012

Once for all

In Romans 3 Paul declares that God has presented Christ as payment for man’s sin, and that we are made righteous in God’s sight by faith in His blood, entirely apart from works (Rom 3:21-26). However, in this same passage he also says that this forgiveness concerns the sins previously committed (v 25). What does Paul mean by this?

Some believe this verse means that God forgave us up to the point when we trusted Him in faith and thereafter we must ask for forgiveness in order to have a "fresh sprinkling" of His blood to cover our sins. This is not true, however. Our sins have been forgiven past, present and future (Heb 10:10, 14), and when God looks at us now, He sees Christ's righteousness (1 Cor 1:30; Rom 5:17; Phil 3:9).

In Romans 3:25 Paul is not saying that only our past sins have been forgiven, he is looking back to past ages, saying that people who lived under the Law (like Noah, Abraham, Moses, and David, etc…) were actually saved by the redemption Christ brought, although His death was still future in their day. In other words, Christ died, not only for the sins we commit, but also for those “previously committed.” The believers of past ages simply believed what God told them then, and He counted them righteous (Gen 15:6) on the basis of Christ’s coming payment of sin. Hebrews 9:15 says the same thing; Christ’s death redeemed the sins committed under the first covenant.

The fact is, when we don't believe we're eternally forgiven, we become sin-focused instead of Christ-focused, and the more we think about sin, the more we sin (Rom 7:7-13). If only all believers could have the assurance that we are forever forgiven, what tremendous freedom we would experience from unnecessary guilt...

The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming — not the realities themselves. For this reason it can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship. If it could, would they not have stopped being offered? For the worshipers would have been cleansed once for all, and would no longer have felt guilty for their sins. But those sacrifices are an annual reminder of sins, because it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. Therefore, when Christ came into the world, he said: "Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me; with burnt offerings and sin offerings you were not pleased. Then I said, 'Here I am — it is written about me in the scroll — I have come to do your will, O God.'" First he said, "Sacrifices and offerings, burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not desire, nor were you pleased with them" (although the law required them to be made). Then he said, "Here I am, I have come to do your will." He sets aside the first to establish the second. And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God. Since that time he waits for his enemies to be made his footstool, because by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy (Heb 10:1-14).

...and from sin itself, for grace teaches us to say no to sin:

For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say "No" to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age (Titus 2:11-12).

Some time ago I came upon a publication that included this quote. I think it states rather well our standing in Christ today:

When the Israelite who hears that Christ's sacrifice has taken away his sin continues to go on the Day of Atonement to offer animal sacrifices, what is he saying about the blood of Christ? When the Catholic continues to rely on his priest for forgiveness, what is he saying about the Spirit of grace? When the Protestant continues to send up prayers of confession to bring about forgiveness, what is he saying about the blood of the covenant? The Christian world tells the Israelites, "You no longer have to offer animal sacrifices." The Protestants are saying to the Catholics, "You don't have to confess to a priest, you can go directly to God." And God in heaven is saying to all of us, "IT IS FINISHED."

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