Christianity is unique among world religions in that it presents peace and reconciliation with the Creator of mankind through grace, mercy, and sacrifice at God’s expense. This is in opposition to meriting goodness from the higher power based on our natural goodness or abilities, earning it through obedience and good works, or merely praying that the Lord will be nice. The richness of our heritage includes presenting this Gospel message to the Lord’s people and allowing it to have the most prominent place in worship, preaching, Bible study, chapel, Sunday School lessons, and the like.
Understanding God's Forgiveness
One of the challenges in helping people to understand God’s forgiveness is recognizing where they might be confused. It’s important that all people realize that any single sin, no matter how seemingly insignificant or severe, is enough that we would spend eternity in hell. Consider James 2:10,
“For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it.”
If people struggle with this, remind them that while a single sin may be trivial when compared to the sins of others, God does not compare us to others; He compares us to Himself. We must be perfect as He is. Even more vital is the correct understanding of Jesus’ perfect work of atonement. In other words, what Jesus did on the cross was enough. Stress the fact that Jesus was sinless. Consider Hebrews 4:15
“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.”
Jesus has no sin of His own for which to suffer. Therefore, He was able to give Himself fully for us. Next, accentuate Jesus’ godly nature. Yes, Jesus is a man. Yet, He is also fully God. The blood shed for sin was blood from God and man come together. The same One who created the world bled for you. The One who opened the Red Sea and closed it upon the Egyptians bled for you and me. Blood of the Almighty is more than enough for the whole world, more than enough for even the most wicked sin.
Forgiveness in Christ
At the same time, some may need to be reminded that, while there is full forgiveness in Christ, there is such only in the Christ. Acts 4:12 bears this out:
“And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”
More specifically, in Christ there is forgiveness for all and any sin. Outside of Christ, even the slightest infraction means everlasting torment in hell. For older students, this may be a sticking point. The point regarding comparison can be helpful here as well. It’s human nature to point to the sins of others in order to minimize our own. We wonder, How could a liar and a murderer both spend eternity in hell simply because they died without Jesus? Again, stress that God compares us to Himself, not each other. It’s His standard we need to meet.
The "Unforgiveable" Sin
The fatal error of looking for salvation outside of Jesus relates quite closely to the “unforgiveable” sin. In reality, there is no particular sin that is unforgiveable, say, murder, rape, false teaching, and so forth. Rather, the only thing unforgiveable is dying without Jesus. Mark 1:15 speaks to this point.
“The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”
The two essential elements are repentance and trust in the Gospel. The sinner recognizes his need for forgiveness and sees he has it in Jesus Christ. Christ’s work on the cross can and does cover every sin, no matter how severe, no matter how often committed. Yet, this forgiveness comes only through faith in Christ.