By: Matt Owens
A person cannot be saved without having his or her sins forgiven by God. In order to find out who is saved and how, we must first learn 3 things:
1. Whose sins are forgiven.
2. What forgives their sins.
3. When are sins forgiven.
In the religious world, we hear a variety of conflicting opinions on how one’s sins are forgiven. Some groups say if one does enough good works he will be saved. Some say all people will be saved no matter what they have done because God is a God of love and he will not punish anyone. Still others say God has arbitrarily chosen a few select people to be saved and the rest will be lost because, at their birth, they inherited Adam’s sin. According to them, there is nothing the ‘unchosen’ can do to be saved and there is nothing the chosen can do to not be saved. However, the Bible teaches us that all of these views are wrong.
Whose Sins Are Forgiven?
Anyone who is ‘in Jesus” has their sins forgiven. Luke 24:47 “and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.” Ephesians 1:7 “In him we have the redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace.” Colossians 1:14 “in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”
What Forgives Their Sins?
All people who are in Jesus do in fact have the forgiveness of sins. It is only through Jesus that one can be saved. Acts 13:38 “Therefore, my friends, I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you.” If being saved is the same as having your sins forgiven, then you must be in Jesus to be saved. Acts 4:12 “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.” If salvation is found only in Jesus then one must be in Jesus to be saved or to have his or her sins forgiven. Jesus is the source of eternal salvation for all people who by their own choice obey Him.
Mankind’s sins are forgiven by the blood of Jesus which pays the penalty that we deserved for our own sins. Hebrews 9:22 “In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.” Jesus with his disciples made it very plain that His own blood was going to be shed so that many people would have the forgiveness of sins. Matthew 26:28 “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for the many for the forgiveness of sins.” Ephesians 1:7 “we have the redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins.” This blood also cleanses our consciences. Hebrews 9:14 “How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!” Therefore, the method of how God forgives sins is through the blood of Jesus that was shed at the cross. Hebrews 5:9, “and once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.”
When Are Sins Forgiven?
The answer to this question can be easily understood if we just look at the verses in the Bible that mention “forgiveness of sins.” Acts 10:43 “All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.” One has to believe that Jesus, God in the flesh (John 1:1-14) came to earth, died on a cross, was then buried and three days later was resurrected (I Corinthians 15:1-5). A person must repent of their sins in order to have sins forgiven. Luke 24:47 “and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.”
It seems from the New Testament that the final step to having your sins forgiven is when you are baptized into Jesus via a body of water. Mark 1:4 “And so John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.” Luke 3:3 “He went in to all the country around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.” Peter, guided by the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost, told all the Jews that day in Acts 2:38, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”
If one is honest and unbiased, it seems fairly easy to see that a person’s sins are forgiven when they believe the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ, who was God in the flesh. Because of their belief in that, they will repent of their sins and are then baptized into Jesus via a body of water. Many people will say that your sins are forgiven at the very moment you believe the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. But, can you leave out repenting of your sins? If no, then can you leave out baptism? Many say yes. But it seems if all these verses are tied in together, then you cannot cut out baptism no more than you can cut out repentance or belief. Therefore, let us do what the Bible teaches and instead cut out the opinions of men.