Forgiveness: What is the “gotcha” passage?
There are many people who believe that even though Jesus Christ paid the full penalty for the sins of the entire world, forgiveness of personal sins is still needed. They refuse to accept the fact that man’s “sin problem” was removed, having been taken off the table of God’s justice at the cross of Christ. Regarding all that, here are some important questions everyone needs to consider and answer.
Isn’t it true that you must believe that Christ died for your sins to be saved? Of course! Here’s just one of many passages of Scripture that tells us that.
I Corinthians 15:1-4
1 Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand;
2 By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain.
3 For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures;
4 And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures: [Emphasis added]
Don’t you have to believe He took your place in being judged for your sins to be saved?
II Corinthians 5:21
21 For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him. [Emphasis added]
Didn’t He do this before you believed anything about it to be saved?
3 Grace be to you and peace from God the Father, and from our Lord Jesus Christ,
4 Who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father: [Emphasis added]
Didn’t Christ do this work for the entire world and not just believers?
I John 2:2
2 And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world. [Emphasis added]
Religion has certainly done quite a job in covering up the meaning of Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection. In other words, religion has covered up the fact that Scripture teaches the universal forgiveness of all mankind. But please note that I didn’t say Christ provided universal salvation. I said universal forgiveness! They are not at all the same.
Here’s still another question. Have you noticed that nowhere in the apostle Paul’s thirteen letters does he tell us how to get our sins forgiven? The reason for that is that they already are! This is precisely what Christ accomplished on the cross before He rose from the dead. We’ve already looked at I Corinthians 15:3-4 on this, but now let’s look at another verse.
II Corinthians 5:19
19 To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing [or charging] their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation. [Emphasis added]
Isn’t “the world” speaking of all mankind? Therefore, salvation is not getting your sins forgiven, it’s believing they already are! Question: Which non-imputed sin can God still forgive? Answer: There is none!
The “gotcha” verse some people like to bring up about all this is this next one we’ll study. We’ll also look at the verse preceding it to get the context.
17 Delivering thee from the people, and from the Gentiles, unto whom now I send thee,
18 To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me. [Emphasis added]
The “Limited Forgivers” love to bring up this verse, but they have a blind spot concerning forgiveness. Paul speaks of coming “from darkness to light.” Question: Did the light need their belief to be light? It seems obvious to me that the light was light whether they believed it or not. Likewise, the forgiveness of sins that Christ provided at the cross was complete forgiveness of sins whether they believed it or not. But believing it was required for salvation. Isn’t that a part of the gospel message of I Corinthians 15:3-4? Doesn’t one have to believe Christ died for one’s sins, was buried, and raised for one’s justification to be saved? Does the Acts passage say that God may give forgiveness of sins, or does it speak of their need to receive forgiveness of sins? Salvation is about receiving [or accepting] by faith what God has already provided!
The record shows that the apostle Paul was preaching the gospel of I Corinthians 15 as early as the time frame of Acts 13. Why is the word “receive” so hard to understand? Again, doesn’t one have to understand it and be receptive of that information about what Christ accomplished to be saved? If “received” in I Corinthians 15 is not talking about making forgiveness a reality, why would we think it means that in Acts 26? I Corinthians 15 is talking about an already accomplished fact. Christ died for our sins. He paid the debt in full. Forgiveness was provided then, not when or if someone decides to believe it or “receive” it. Again, the forgiveness of sins was provided even if no one believed it.
When Paul tells people the gospel, his hope is to turn them “from darkness to light.” Their belief could not create the light. The light was already there. He just wanted them to see what He’d provided for them. Just as the light didn’t need their belief to be light, forgiveness didn’t need their belief to be forgiveness. They were forgiven whether they believed it or not. But by accepting it [or receiving it] they could be saved, not forgiven. Again, they already had that.
God stopped imputing man’s sins to him the moment He imputed them to Christ and He died for them. By no means did Paul preach limited forgiveness, meaning it was limited to only those who believed. Notice Paul’s clear statement about all this.
I Corinthians 15:1
1 Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; [Emphasis added]
Doesn’t this statement sound like what’s stated in Acts 26:18b? –“that they may receive forgiveness of sins,
Compare “received” to “receive” and ask yourself this question. Would the resurrection not be true if they had not “received” it? Did this need anyone’s belief to make it a true accomplishment? Then neither does forgiveness! If you think forgiveness must be believed to make it so, then by your own admission or “logic” you are saying that the resurrection must be believed to make it so. One more time—would the resurrection not be true if people refused to believe it? What’s true about the resurrection is true about the forgiveness Christ provided.
Now let me ask you a very important question. Have you truly believed the gospel? In other words, have you truly believed Christ paid the full penalty for your sins when He died on the cross for you? If you really believe that, you must conclude that you’re believing that your sins were forgiven WHEN Christ died for you. If you don’t believe that, can you be saved? Have you actually believed that gospel message for salvation? If you haven’t, don’t you think it’s time for you to believe your sins were forgiven at the cross so you could now be justified and receive Christ’s righteousness for salvation?
The fact that the forgiveness of your sins was provided by Christ at the cross is the heart of the good news message of that which is commonly called the gospel. Why not believe He died and rose for you so that you can now receive the righteousness of God by only believing in it. If you haven’t done that, why not do it now?