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Bible Study Ten: Forgiveness and Justification

Many understand God’s forgiveness to mean that He will release us from the penalty of sin. And this is true. But there is more. God’s forgiveness is not only freedom from condemnation, it is freedom from the power of sin. King David understood this when he said, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.” Psalm 51:10.

The Bible clearly teaches that there are two aspects to forgiveness. As John wrote, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9

Notice that we do one thing, namely, confess our sins. God does two things, namely, He forgives us of our sins and cleanses us from all unrighteousness.

As we go through this study, we will find that there are two words synonymous with forgiveness, namely, the terms justification and revival. Forgiveness, justification, and revival represent both forgiveness of past sins and the new birth experience. The term revival means to live again or to come forth from death, meaning spiritual death.

This is why the penitent sinner in the Old Testament would not only confess his sins upon the head of the sacrificial lamb, but he would also forfeit that sinful part of his life that caused him to sin. In this way, when he left the courtyard of the sanctuary, he was not only forgiven, he was a changed man. He now had a new heart to live a new life. This is the true Biblical understanding of forgiveness.

1. How did Paul explain the first aspect of forgiveness, namely, the forgiveness of past sins? Romans 4:6

“Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth [credits] righteousness without works.” Romans 4:6

When a sinner comes to Christ and confesses his sins and accepts Jesus as his personal Savior, God will write his name in the book of life. Beside each confessed sin is the word “pardon” or “forgiven.” But there is more. According to Romans 4:6, God will “impute” the righteousness of His own Son to your account in heaven without works. Now the word “impute” is the same as the word “credit.” When you accept Jesus as your Savior, God will credit the life of His own Son to your account. Christ’s sinless life stands in the place of your sinful life, and you are accepted by God as if you had never sinned. More than that, you will be accounted righteous, without having performed any works. The guilty now stands before God as if he were innocent.

But now comes the second aspect of forgiveness or justification. We are not only to be accounted righteous, but made righteous.

2. What did Paul also say about justification or forgiveness? Romans 5:1

“Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Romans 5:1

The phrase “justified by faith” is the same as being forgiven of our sins. Therefore, we could say, when we are forgiven of our sins we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. What kind of peace are we talking about? It would be heavenly peace, a peace that comes from above. What would this peace be like? It would be a Christlike peace. If we are talking about receiving a Christlike peace, then it is that kind of peace where hatred does not exist; where evil surmising is not present; where envy does not exist. If we have this kind of peace then we are able to love God with all our heart, soul, and mind, and our neighbor as ourselves. If we have this kind of peace, then we are no longer at enmity with God.

3. What is the difference between peace with God and enmity with God? Romans 8:6, 7

“For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it, is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.” Romans 8:6, 7

The carnal mind represents the mind we are born with, namely, the natural mind. This carnal mind is said to be “death.” However, the spiritual mind is life and peace. This is the mind we receive when we are born-again. And only those who are born-again with this spiritual mind will see the kingdom of God. See John 3:3-8

Notice that the carnal mind is not simply at enmity with God, it is the enmity with God. The mind we are born with is carnal in nature, namely, self-centered. This carnal mind would never choose to fully submit itself to the law of God. Only when we are born again with a spiritual mind, would we choose to follow Christ in all things.

Even if the carnal mind had more information, it would not be a spiritual mind. What makes the mind a spiritual mind is the work of the Holy Spirit. He renews our mind and gives us spiritual eyesight, that we may see ourselves as we truly are, and see God as He is. Consider the following verses:

“Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 2:5

“And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God.” Romans 12:2

“And be renewed in the spirit of your mind.” Ephesians 4:23

4. When do we first receive the Holy Spirit to have a renewed mind or a spiritual mind? Acts 2:38

“Then Peter said unto them, ‘Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.” Acts 2:38

When we give our sins to Jesus, He takes them. It is He glory to take them, that we are no longer burdened by them. In return for our sins, He gives us the Holy Spirit. By receiving the Holy Spirit, we receive new motives and new desires. We are now able to live a new life. This is why forgiveness and justification are also known as a revival. A revival is a quickening from spiritual death to spiritual life. With this new life we are now to follow in the footsteps of Jesus. How did Jesus walk? He walked in full obedience to His Father’s will as expressed in the Ten Commandments.

5. Does the Bible teach that we are to keep God’s law even as a part of justification or forgiveness? Romans 2:13

“(For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified.” Romans 2:13

To “be justified” means to be forgiven. Paul teaches that those who are forgiven or justified are to be “doers of the law.” Paul also teaches “that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.” Romans 3:28. Some see this as a contradiction. But there are no contradictions in the Bible. Paul is simply explaining the two aspects of forgiveness.

When we first come to Christ, we come to Him just as we are. When we give our sins to Christ He forgives us without having to do any works. He forgives us of our sins and gives us the Holy Spirit. Now that we are both forgiven of our past sins and having the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, we are then to follow in the footsteps of Jesus, which is obedience to all of God’s commands. Therefore, the “doers of the law shall be justified.”

We cannot be doers of the law without first coming to Christ without the works of the law. You cannot earn salvation by the works of the law. However, once you are born again, you are not to return to your old life of sinning, but to begin living the new life in obedience to God.

God’s plan for us after we are justified is to be sanctified. But sanctification, which is the life-long process of becoming more and more like Jesus every day, cannot take place until we are both forgive of our past sins and born-again. Sanctification is the life long process of being reeducated through the Word of God. We come to Christ just as we are with all our false ideas and erroneous opinions. But through the process of sanctification, we are learning to have new thoughts, gaining new insights, and developing new behaviors.

If we have a limited understanding of forgiveness, we may never experience the blessings of sanctification. This is why it is so important to not only confess what we have done, but to confess in who we have become. It is clear that what we do is a result of what we are.

Some of life’s lessons we will learn sooner than others. But one thing we must do, we must test everything with the Word of God. The Bible is our safeguard against wrong ideas and opinions.

Before we were born-again, we held to erroneous ideas and theories. We had wrong feelings and attitudes. We committed a myriad of wrong actions as a result of wrong ideas, theories, feelings, and attitudes. But through the work of the Holy Spirit, we are able to identify those wrong ideas, theories, feelings, and habits.

According to 1 John 1:9, we can be both forgiven of these things, and cleansed of them. The beauty of each day of life, is the opportunity to think and feel more and more like Jesus. We have the opportunity to discard anything that is wrong, with that which is right. We can discard error and receive truth.

6. What should we pray? Psalm 139:23

“Search me O Lord, and know my heart, try me and see if there be any wicked way in me, and know my thoughts.” Psalm 139:23

How important is prayer? Often we serve the kingdom of darkness by neglecting to choose the kingdom of light. If we want to be like Jesus, then we must choose to cooperate with heavenly agencies. Prayer becomes an essential part of cooperating with God to do good, and not evil. But you say, “My will is weak.” This is true for all of us. However, if you are willing to be made willing to do His good and perfect will, then He will led you and sanctify you. Cooperate with God in bringing every thought captive to the obedience of Christ, and your mind will be fashioned more and more after the mind of Christ.