Will God overlook your sins?
“For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom 6:23)
It is a commonly held belief that God will forgive all your sins if, on the Day of Judgment, your good deeds outweigh your bad deeds. But is this true? Would we expect a Judge to pardon a thief if the defense attorney demonstrates, in addition to burglary, his client also volunteers at a soup kitchen, teaches English for free to new immigrants, and cares for his disabled mother? While it is commendable the thief does all of these good works, it does not change the fact he has broken the law, is guilty of burglary and needs to satisfy the demands of the law that are against him. A Judge who over overlooks a crime because of good deeds is an unjust Judge and guilty of failing to do his duty to enforce the law.
God is Most Just
The living and true God, who has revealed Himself through special revelation, the Holy Bible, has many divine attributes. The Westminster Larger Catechism question No. 7 describes God as follows: “What is God? God is a Spirit, in and of himself infinite in being, glory, blessedness, and perfection; all-sufficient, eternal, unchangeable, incomprehensible, every where present, almighty, knowing all things, most wise, most holy, most just, most merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth.”
Most people will acknowledge that God has all of these divine attributes, but very few consider the sobering implications of God being most just. The prophet Isaiah declares “the LORD is our judge, the LORD is our lawgiver…” (Isa. 33:22). God, as our lawgiver and judge, cannot simply forgive a law breaker, He must up-hold His own law or He would be unjust and acting contrary to His own perfect nature. Moses writes, “He is the Rock, his work is perfect: for all his ways are judgment: a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is he.“(Deut. 32:4) God warns all mankind that there will be a day of judgment when all mankind will be judged according to God’s Moral Law (the Ten Commandments). King David sings, “...the LORD shall endure for ever: he hath prepared his throne for judgment. And he shall judge the world in righteousness, he shall minister judgment to the people in uprightness.” (Psa. 9:7, 8) Paul the Apostle of Jesus Christ warns, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.” (2 Cor. 5:10)
My transgressions are not that bad
There are some who comfort themselves by believing their sins are not that bad and so God’s judgment will not be harsh. But again is this true? What does God, who is most holy and righteous, think about our transgressions of His Moral Law? The Prophet Isaiah declares, “…we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.” (Isaiah 64:6) The Psalmist writes, “They are all gone aside, they are all together become filthy: there is none that doeth good, no, not one.” (Psalm 14:3)
On the Day of Judgment God will judge our heart. Jesus warns, “But I say unto you, that whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.”(Mat.5:28) God will judge our words. Jesus warns, “But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment. (Mat. 12:36) God will judge our actions. Paul writes, “Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.” (1 Cor. 6:9) “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.” (Gal. 6:7) “Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revelings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.” (Gal. 5:19-21)
God requires perfect righteousness
It is often a surprise to people to learn the standard of morality God holds mankind to is very high. He requires moral perfection. God commands His people “be ye holy: for I am the LORD your God.” (Lev 20:7) Paul wrote “Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord…” (Heb 12:14) Jesus commanded “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” (Mat 5:48)
The sum of the matter
All mankind falls short of God’s holy standard of moral perfection. Everyone stands guilty before a Most Holy, Most Righteous and Most Just God for all have broken His Holy Law in thought, word and deed. Everyone will be found guilty on the Day of Judgment.
The Good News (The Gospel)
"To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just,
and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus." (Romans 3:26)
Now we come to the good news. God, Most Merciful, has provided a way He can, as a Most Just God, forgive the Law breaker and yet satisfy the demands of His Holy Law. We find this way of salvation promised by God through the Prophets Jeremiah and Ezekiel.
Jeremiah 31:31 “Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: 32 Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the LORD: 33 But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34 And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the LORD: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the LORD: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”
Ezekiel 36:25 “Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you. 26 A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them. 28 And ye shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers; and ye shall be my people, and I will be your God.”
The new covenant that the prophets talk about is commonly called the Covenant of Grace, in which God promises to forgive our sins, give us a new heart, write his law upon our hearts, give us His Holy Spirit to indwell us and enable us to keep His Law and thus we become His people and He our God. The promises of the covenant of grace would be accomplished through the person and work of Jesus the Christ.
The person and work of Jesus Christ
God tells us through the prophet Isaiah (hundreds of years before the birth of Christ) that He will fulfill his covenant promises through the person and work of Jesus Christ.
Isaiah 52:13 “Behold, my servant shall deal prudently, he shall be exalted and extolled, and be very high. 14 As many were astonished at thee; his visage was so marred more than any man, and his form more than the sons of men: 15 So shall he sprinkle many nations; the kings shall shut their mouths at him: for that which had not been told them shall they see; and that which they had not heard shall they consider.”
Isaiah 53 2 “….he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him. 3 He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not. 4 Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. 5 But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. 6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all. 7 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth. 8 He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken. 9 And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth. 10 Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand. 11 He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities. 12 Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he hath poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.”
Isaiah 9:6 “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. 7 Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.”
As promised, the second person of the triune God, the eternal Son (see: The Trinity Explained and The Divinity Of Christ), was sent into this World to take to himself a human nature, to live a perfect life under God’s Holy Law and to sacrifice that perfect life to satisfy the demands of God’s Holy Law that are against us. God placed our iniquity (lawbreaking) upon Christ, so that the Law’s demands would be satisfied and God could justly give us a new nature (heart), forgive our transgressions, indwell us with His Holy Spirit and enable us to walk in His statutes.
Paul the Apostle of Christ explains this wondrous work of God’s grace.
” ….God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation.” (Corinthians 5:19)
Justification by faith alone
The next question is how do we partake of the Covenant of Grace? How is Christ’s perfect obedience and perfect sacrifice applied to each of us, so that God will forgive us? Is there a cost we must pay, are their rituals we must perform, is there an organization we must join?
The amazing truth is all the benefits of the covenant of grace are ours for free, by the grace of God; the only thing God requires of us is faith in Jesus Christ. “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast. “(Ephesians 2:8)
The Westminster Confession of Faith puts it this way:
WCF 7.3 ...the Lord was pleased to make a second, commonly called the Covenant of Grace, whereby He freely offers unto sinners life and salvation by Jesus Christ, requiring of them faith in Him, that they may be saved; and promising to give unto all those that are ordained unto eternal life His Holy Spirit, to make them willing, and able to believe.
The Westminster Shorter Catechism asks:
WSC 33 What is justification? A. Justification is an act of God's free grace, wherein he pardons all our sins, and accepts us as righteous in his sight, only for the righteousness of Christ imputed to us, and received by faith alone.
Paul the Apostle explains:
“Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.” (Galatians 2:16) “And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith“ (Philippians 3:9)
The Westminster Confession of Faith explains saving faith:
WCF 14.2 By this faith, a Christian believeth to be true whatsoever is revealed in the Word, for the authority of God Himself speaking therein; and acteth differently upon that which each particular passage thereof containeth; yielding obedience to the commands, trembling at the threatenings, and embracing the promises of God for this life and that which is to come. But the principal acts of saving faith are accepting, receiving, and resting upon Christ alone for justification (forgiveness), sanctification, and eternal life, by virtue of the covenant of grace.
A suggested prayer
Most holy, righteous and just God, My Creator, I truly believe what your Word says about my guilt as a willful transgressor of your Holy Law and my inability and unwillingness to please you. Please forgive me, not for my own sake but for the sake of the one you sent to die in my place to satisfy the demands of your Holy Law that are against me. I believe that in Jesus Christ all your Covenant promises are fulfilled and applied to me. I accept, receive and rest in Christ alone for my pardon from my lawbreaking, my acceptance by you as righteous in your sight, my day by day transformation into an obedient child of God, and finally that you will make me fit to dwell with you for all eternity. I commit my life to you. By your Spirit and grace it will be a life of prayer, of bible study and obedience. Work in me to “will and to do your good pleasure.” (Philippians 2:3). This I pray in the name Jesus Christ, who is my Savior, my Lord and my God (John 20:28).