“Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins … Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant.” – Hebrews 9:22, 15
It is posited by many that God can either forgive sins or pay the debt for them, but that he cannot do both at the same time. The verses above speak utterly to the contrary though, particularly the statement, “Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.” This seems to indicate that God forgives sinners their infinite debt against Him precisely through a blood-shed sacrifice. And even more precisely in Hebrews, Christ is the long-awaited, final sacrifice of the Old Testament that has secured an eternal redemption by His blood because it is of infinite value and worth, offered on behalf of “those who are called” by the Father (John 6:44), in order that they “may receive the promised eternal inheritance.”
It is imperative to see that God doesn’t do either a sacrifice or just forgive without any reference to how His honor and holiness have been disdained, but rather that it is through this willing sacrifice, namely that of Christ’s on the cross, that He forgives us our debt. It is the only way to have peace with God now and for eternity. For those who believe, this should make us weep to consider what it cost Christ to be cut off from the land of the living so that God could have us as His own possession for eternity, when we were owed, deserved wrath forever. What awesome, free mercy is in the cross!
In the evangelical world, a majority of us want to think of God in merely “lovey dovey” terms alone without the uncomfortable truth of what we deserve and the horror of what it took for Christ on the cross to bear our wrath in Himself. Oh what cost to Christ, we cannnot even plum the depths of how it hurt deep within His being to be cut off from such an infinitely intertwined loving relationship with the Father from eternity!
God is holy, burning with justice and must make His glory and honor the highest priority in the universe, because, well, He’s God, and to say that anything else in the universe is of greater value would be a lie. Our sinning against Him makes a statement about how we value His name and honor: we spit in His face and consider His name worthless and attempt to establish our own name and honor above His. Pure vile. But He is an all-consuming fire that never burns out, that will consume His adversaries who will not repent of this evil (Hebrews 10:26-27), and we are decrepit, God-hating, sinful children of wrath by nature (prior to conversion by the Spirit), even when to ourselves and each other we may look morally decent (on our terms, not the Lord’s). The God of the Old Testament is the God of the New Testament though and He has not changed one ounce in His glorious justice. In the New Testament, the only difference is that Christ has fulfilled all that was spoken in the Old Testament concerning the coming, final sacrifice for sinners, through faith and trust in that work. The point is, we are owed wrath not mercy. To say God owes us anything is to put Him at our feet, but He will not remain there. In fact, the very meaning of mercy is, “not receiving something you deserve.” This is only granted by the Father. Beg Him for it on your knees if you have not been forgiven your debt against Him.
We offend God deeply with the ways in which we ignore Him in even our religious acts many times (let alone our blatantly God-hating acts). But how wonderful it is that through the eternally valuable sacrificial atonement of Christ alone we can stand in His presence without being obliterated by His sheer majesty. Considering this from Scripture should humble us and melt our hearts. And even more than that though, we can stand, by His life’s work for us, having not only our infinite debts paid, but also having obtained for ourselves the reward Christ is owed for His perfect work offered to the Father for us. It gets no better than this. And on top of that, we find the true, deep soul satisfaction we are all longing for!
Instead of the wrath that should have been ours, not only do we have that removed from us through faith in Christ, but even better, we gain His infinitely valuable reward, fellowship with God for eternity! There is no joy greater than to be in the presence of the very being through which all that we enjoy came into existence! How wonderful. It is as if those who trust Him as their righteousness-replacement have never committed an evil act because He forgave the guilt of their sin by taking its consequence in Himself and then counted them righteous through His perfect life rendered to the Father. This is the Gospel, the wonderful work of Christ to unite those who believe to Himself.
This is the catalyst for all real life-change, growth in grace, knowledge in holiness and righteousness, all of which is revealed in Scripture. We cannot forgive, we cannot live in holiness before God, that is honoring Him in all we do, until this sets in and affects our souls from the inside out. In every way that we sin, it reveals the truth of our hearts, that is, it reveals ways in which we have not grasped the Gospel deeply enough in all our thinking and doing, at the most fundamental levels. But so goes the life of the believer, the perpetual struggle to fight for joy in Christ against the flesh with the amazing reality of the Gospel. Ask the Lord to open your heart and send His Spirit to reveal Jesus to you and His work in His life, death, and resurrection. It is your only hope to change and progress in holiness at all.
I have no other point with this article than to just praise God for the forgiveness offered through the sacrifice of Christ. I implore you to consider the depths of your sin (that is, ways in which you have ignored or shaken your fist at the glory of God) and the depths of God’s love for sinners through the cross. Do not harden your hearts against this, but deeply consider these things. Do not think of God as having loved us by just loving us. Think of what it cost God to love you. Think about what you are owed. You were not owed mercy but wrath. God is in no way obligated to show anyone mercy. If you believe, it was only by the grace of God that you were rescued from this plight that befalls us all, namely hardness in sin and unbelief, resulting in eternal wrath under the condemnation of God. It took infinite forgiveness on the part of God through the sacrifice of Christ so that we could be reconciled to God! God had to become man, so that as a man He could do what Adam failed to do, and then as a result, we could be saved and experience glory and joy in the presence of God forever.