1). Christ died for the sins of ALL.
Who can be forgiven? 2 Corinthians 5:19 is an important verse in answering this question. I will focus on the statement “God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself.” This statement does not tell us that everyone has been judicially forgiven, but it does tell us that everyone can be forgiven. Before Christ’s work on the cross, there was no permanent sacrifice for sin. Animal sacrifices were required to be continually offered for transgressions (Heb. 10:11). A person could commit a sin of ignorance one day and have his sin covered with the proper sacrifice (Lev. 4:1-12), but the next day commit another sin of ignorance and need to bring another offering to the priest to cover his new sin.
Praise the Lord that 2 Corinthians 5:19 tells us that God gave His Son as the sacrifice to pay for the trespasses of the world (Rom. 3:22-26). Like the scapegoat of the Old Testament, the sins of the world were laid upon Jesus Christ, who offered His life and shed His blood as the sacrifice for the sins of the world (Heb. 10:12; 1 John 2:2). It is not good Bible interpretation to place limits on the words “the world” when God intended it to mean “everyone.” John 3:16’s “God so loved the world,” Roman 10:13’s “whosoever shall call upon” and 2 Corinthians 5:19’s “the world” are there to show you that Christ paid for the sins of everyone in order that forgiveness could be made available to all.
God made this possible in that He made Christ “to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Cor. 5:19). Since Christ died for the sins of the world, it is possible for ALL to be forgiven.
2). Christ died for ALL of our sins.
How is forgiveness imputed to individuals? Forgiveness has been imputed to individuals in different ways at different times. For instance, the atonement of sins under the Law required the transfer of a person’s sins onto an unblemished animal that would forfeit its life on behalf of the offerer (Lev.4:4). Even before the Law, Abel knew to offer an animal sacrifice to the Lord (Gen. 4:12). For this current Age of Grace, Christ told the Apostle Paul that forgiveness is imputed, or accounted, to the person who lays aside his own works and trusts solely in the faithful redemption work of Christ (Rom. 3:22).
Just because Jesus paid for the sins of all does not mean that everyone has been declared forgiven; payment for a debt and the forgiveness of that debt are two separate transactions. An individual must trust that Jesus paid it all to have that forgiveness written on their account (Rom. 10:1-4). Upon a person’s moment of faith in Jesus Christ, ALL of that person’s sins are forgiven. There is no confession required to be forgiven. Today, God has set His promises with Israel aside until after the Rapture of the Church, the Body of Christ (Rom. 11:25-27). He did this so that He could directly have mercy upon all nations (Rom. 11:32) through the redemption provided through Jesus Christ.
What happens today is that God takes a person who is dead in trespasses and sins and imparts eternal life to them the moment they believe in the death, burial and resurrection of Christ (Eph. 2:4-5). At that moment, God has “forgiven you all trespasses” (Colossians 2:13). Read Colossians 2:13 and notice, it does not say “some trespasses.” It does not say “all the ones you committed so far.” It does not say, “just the small sins.” It says we are forgiven of “all trespasses.” If Christ paid for all of your sins as He shed His blood for you on the cross, you are assured you have total forgiveness if you have trusted in the Lord Jesus Christ (Col. 2:10).
3). We are to forgive because we are ALREADY forgiven.
Why should we forgive others? Many of us can quote the Lord’s prayer, recorded in what theologians have labeled “The Sermon on the Mount.” We quote this prayer without realizing the prayer implores God to forgive us to the same extent that we forgive others (Matt. 6:12). We do not forgive others today in order to be forgiven by God. I’ll remind you that Christ has paid for ALL of our sins on the cross and ALL of our sins have been forgiven if we have trusted in Christ’s work. We cannot get anymore forgiven than completely forgiven.
So, what compels us to forgive others then? Ephesians 4:32 tells us to forgive others in the same way “God for Christ’s sake has forgiven you.” Do you understand how God has forgiven you? When we were undeserving of His grace, God responded to our faith by taking the total forgiveness earned by Jesus Christ and extending it to us. When we believe this gospel, our slate is wiped clean forever, despite the times we transgress His will for our lives. When you truly understand how graciously we have been blessed, our appreciation will extend to others, including forgiving others as God has forgiven us.
Prayerfully meditate on the gracious forgiveness God has given to us through the faithful work of Jesus Christ. May we all be willing to forgive others to the extent we have ALREADY been forgiven, which is total forgiveness of all sins.
BEREAN BIBLE INSTITUTE
P. O. Box 587
Slinger, WI 53086