What About Forgiveness

W. Terry Varner
June 5, 2016

The Scriptures teach that God loved man who was lost in sin. God sent Jesus to redeem sinful man. “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8). Our obedience to the gospel enables us to escape the terrible wrath of God. “Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him” (Rom. 5:9). The Scriptures teach a simple, plain, and promising message that all who obey Jesus can and will receive remission of sins (cf7 Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; Rom. 6:3-7; Gal. 3:27). Those forgiven of their sins have the tremendous promise that God will “be merciful to their unrighteousness and their sins . . . I will remember no more” (Heb. 8:12). David describes God’s forgiveness as: “As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions [sins] from us” (Ps. 103:12).

Pardoning or Paroling? The question, “What is the difference between pardoning and paroling an individual?” It is wonderful that God has promised absolute pardon to every obedient soul. A prisoner is paroled when he is either at the completion of a sentence or for good behavior, released. A prisoner is pardoned when the offense is forgiven or excused.

One who is a Christian has been pardoned of his past sins and not paroled. Consider Saul of Tarsus, later named Paul (cf. Acts 13:9), “made havoc of the church” (Acts 8:3). Later, Saul obeyed the gospel (cf. Acts 9, 16, 22). His early Christian life is filled with serving Jesus by preaching the pristine gospel. In doing so, Saul, who earlier persecuted the church, was greatly persecuted as a Christian. At one point, Saul came to Jerusalem, which had earlier been his headquarters as a persecutor of the church, and desired to join himself to the Christians who worshipped and lived in Jerusalem. At first, they refused to have anything to do with Saul. They apparently doubted he was a genuine in his Christianity. It took the intervention of Barnabas to get the Jerusalem brethren to accept that Saul (cf. Acts 9:26-30) had become a Christian and was pardoned by God.

A Modern-Day Application. Though Saul was a Christian, apparently the Jerusalem Christians reasoned, “Saul is not our brother but our enemy. We doubt his sincerity.” However, we will reason that the gospel in Paul’s time had the power to forgive him of his sins of persecuting the Christians. Allow us to make an important modern-day application of the power of the gospel. The gospel has the power to reach those in the deepest of sin—drug abusers (pushers and practioners), homosexuals, thieves, adulterers, murderers, etc.

When such are converted, and some who are converted are such, we must be careful not to treat them as those Christians in Jerusalem treated Saul. BUT—one argues they might not be sincere. However, a sincere and genuine person will exemplify godly sorrow for their sin (cf. 2 Cor. 7:10) and “Christ will be magnified in my [their] body, whether by life or by death” (Philip. 1:20). Likewise, never forget that they who practiced these sins can be and were forgiven in Saul’s time. He said so in 1 Corinthians 6:10-11. So it is possible today.

A Carefulness. Let us be careful that we exercise “righteous judgment” (John 7:24). Remember God forgives a person of his sins when he obeys the gospel. To look upon the Christian who has practiced these sins with disgust, bitterness, feelings of distrust, etc., is to invite God’s wrath on us. As Christ forgives us, we are to forgive others theirs sins when they obey and repent (cf. Col. 3:13). Forgiveness means to pardon, not parole! Christians are to “let brotherly love continue” (Heb. 13:1) and strive to help each other in our Christian walk with God.