Some would say that God owes us forgiveness because He is a God of love. They say that God doesn’t mind going out of His way, in order to be extra nice to us. This is blasphemy because it was the cost of our sin that interrupted the eternal fellowship between the Father and the Son.
At the heart of forgiveness, lies the cross of Christ. Without the cross, forgiveness is impossible. Forgiveness is at the foundation of Christ’s suffering and death on the cross. As a person understands how God has forgiven him, he will experience the grace of God and the truth of Christianity. The Bible states in Ephesians 1:7, “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace.” And in Ephesians 2:14, “For He Himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in His flesh the dividing wall of hostility.”
Forgiveness is not meant to be free and easy. It is hard. It is costly. It is painful. However, God’s forgiveness for Christians is real and empowers us in order to change us for our good and His glory.
How does God do this? Through the price He paid for us on the cross—Because God not only gave us the cross but also the resurrection.
When Jesus was praying in Gethsemane to be released from this death. It was not the physical torture He was concerned about, but the spiritual separation from God. No human analogy could ever explain that type of suffering. Not only did He pay it all on the cross, but He continues to suffer with and for those who have received Him as Savior. This is true love and forgiveness. The cross was the tool that Jesus used to complete His ministry on this earth. The cross is central to Christianity.
Without preaching the cross, there is no Christ, and if there is no Christ there is no forgiveness. I Corinthians 15:17, 19 says, “And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins. If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied.
The cross is the only way that people can be saved. The cross represents Christ paying it all. It was God's holy love that brought Christ to the cross. The cross is where Christ brought the full penalty of our disobedience upon Himself. He bore the judgment we deserve in order to give us the freedom that we as sinners do not deserve. The cross is where the mercy and justice of God was eternally satisfied. God cannot tolerate sin and His holy character causes Him to judge sin with a righteous anger. His judgment of sin is the reason Christ went to the cross. God had to either inflict punishment or assume it. He decided to do both. See Philippians 2:6-8.
Christ's death on the cross represents God's justice and love being simultaneously revealed. Christ received the judgment and we as sinners received the pardon. Through the substitution of Christ, we receive eternal life. Through our salvation we have been restored to fellowship with the true living God. The cross allows sinners to be justified by faith. We are not justified by our faith but by God's grace and by Christ's blood. Faith is the means we are united by Christ. In Christ we become the righteousness of God. See 2 Corinthians 5:21.
We should not regard the cross as the defeat and the resurrection as the victory. The cross is where the victory was won and the resurrection demonstrated that victory. We have died with Christ and risen with Him. We can no longer live for ourselves but for Him who died and rose again on our behalf. See 2 Corinthians 5:15.
The cross reminds Christians of His sacrificial love and out of our love for Him, we preach the gospel because to those who are being saved, the cross is the power of God.
1 Corinthians 1:17-18 (ESV)
17 For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.
18 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
What Christ did at Calvary is the only thing that can remove from our hands the sword of bitterness, revenge, vengeance, resentment, and unforgiveness.
The final words of Jesus from the cross separates Christianity from all other religions. In Luke 23:34 Jesus said, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing. These words demonstrate that Christianity is all about God’s GRACE and not good works. It is all about God coming down to forgive men, instead of men trying to earn their way into heaven. Praise God it is not up to our good works, because we fail miserably compared to a perfect holy righteous God.
Forgiveness is more than a way to be free from the bondage and pain we feel in our hearts. As a Christian, the ultimate goal of forgiveness, like the ultimate goal of our lives, is to bring glory and honor to God.
Our choices create our character, but they also can make a difference in others’ lives.
If you are a Christian, your willingness to forgive may even make a difference in how you share the message of the Gospel with others. Everyone in your sphere of influence needs a demonstration of the grace of God and the power of Christ’s resurrection. The world is watching!
Your choice to forgive is a powerful witness to your family, your friends, and your neighbors. It is a witness to the truth that Jesus Christ died for sinners and that He was raised from the dead and we shall be before His throne—sinners made saints, enemies reconciled to God, clothed in His righteousness—to adore and serve Him day and night for all eternity.
Is this not the amazing eternal power of forgiveness that separates Christianity from all other religions?
Are you searching for the truth of Forgiveness? Read the book of Colossians and let the Peacemaker speak for Himself.
Dr. Bruce Beck
Bruce is a graduate of Clayton College State University with a Bachelor of Business Administration with Marketing.