The Blessed Forgiveness of Sin
"I, even I, am he that blotteth out thy transgressions for mine own sake, and will not remember thy sins." -- Isaiah 43:25
I write from the perspective of one who has experienced the grace of God. God, in his infinite mercy and for reasons known only to himself has redeemed me, justified me, and saved me by his matchless grace through the blood and righteousness of his own dear Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. Though my sins are many, loathsome, and vile, the Lord God has blotted out all my sins, and forgiven me all my iniquities. He has put away my sins and purged my conscience of guilt by the blood of Christ.
This grace has come to me in spite of myself. I turned away from his gospel, and would have none of his reproofs. I cared not for the voice of his servant, nor for the instruction of his Word. The blessed Book of Life I would not read. My knees I refused to bend in prayer. My heart was set upon vanity. The actions of my life were so vile that I shall not share them with you, and my heart even more vile than my deeds. Yet, in the time of his love, by an act of almighty grace, the Lord God came to me and freely forgave me of all my sins. Now, I want all who read these lines to know the blessed forgiveness of sin in Christ.
The Lord our God, the one true and living God of heaven and earth, is a God who freely and abundantly forgives sin through the blood of his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. This is what God himself says, “I, even I, am he that blotteth out thy transgressions for mine own sake, and will not remember thy sins.”
Who are the people to whom God will be merciful, to whom the Lord God will grant forgiveness? In this passage our Lord clearly describes them. They are not good, righteous, and morally upright men and women. So long as a man thinks that he is good and righteous he will never obtain mercy from God. The characters to whom God says he will be merciful are sinners.
The grace and lovingkindness of Jehovah is reserved for sinners. There is not a word of grace in Holy Scripture for self-righteous Pharisees. Our Savior specifically said that he came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance. Until you see that your supposed righteousness is an abomination to God, you will never obtain the righteousness of God in Christ (Rom. 10:1-4). Every promise of the gospel is made to sinners (Matt. 11:28-30; Isa. 1:4-6, 18; 55:6-7). This is how God describes those people to whom he promises his mercy (Isa. 43:22-24).
They were a prayerless people. -- “Thou hast not called upon me.” Most likely they had said many prayers. They had repeated many forms of prayer. But no real prayer had ever come from their hearts to God. Their lips never breathed a living word to God. Yet, the Lord God says to these prayerless, graceless souls - “I, even I, am he that blotteth out thy transgressions.”
These men and women despised God and his worship. The Lord looked past their words and gestures to their hearts, and said, “Thou hast been weary of me, O Israel!” What a solemn charge! Yet, it is still true of multitudes! God has set before them the means of grace, and they are weary of his blessings. They are weary of reading his Word, gathering in his house, singing his praise, and hearing his gospel! Not only are these rich favors of heaven without attraction to them, they are wearisome things to them! Yet, even to such people, God says, “I, even I, am he that blotteth out thy transgressions.” What grace! He who is our God is one "who delighteth in mercy!"
Look at the character of these to whom God grants forgiveness again. There is no goodness in them. They are a thankless people. -- “Thou hast not brought me the small cattle of thy burnt offerings.” They had their herds and flocks multiplied many times over. Yet, they offered no tribute of thanks to God, who had so bountifully blessed them. They did not even offer one of their small, sickly calves to him. Men and women who do not give thanks to God are worse than brute beasts. All we have, we owe to his bountiful hand. Dares a man rob God of his lawful and just tribute? These people did. They were a thankless people. Yet, the Lord God was gracious still. He said to them, “I, even I, am he that blotteth out thy transgressions.”
Again, these people were an utterly useless people. -- “Neither hast thou filled me with the fat of thy sacrifices…but thou hast made me to serve with thy sins.” It is well said that man was created in his chief end to glorify God. God made the sun, the moon, the stars, the beasts of the field, and the fish of the sea to honor his name. But there are many men and women who never give a thought, much less an effort, to the honor of God. Most people live for themselves, only and altogether for themselves. They are of no service to mankind. They are of no service to God. That is the state of our fallen race. Yet, the Lord says to such useless sinners, “I, even I, am he that blotteth out thy transgressions.”
Once more, the Lord describes the character of these men and women to whom he would be gracious as a people who wearied him. -- “Thou hast wearied me with thine iniquities.” They were religious people, very religious. But their religion was only a fig leaf by which they endeavored to cover their sin and hide from God. As they sat in the sanctuary of God, year after year, they wearied him with their sins. Yet, the Lord says to these sinners, “I, even I, am he that blotteth out thy transgressions.”
Do you understand the doctrine of Holy Scripture? The grace and mercy of God are for sinners. Christ died for sinners. The gospel is sent to sinners. God saves sinners. God forgives sinners. He who is the God of glory is the God who gives grace to needy sinners (Psa. 103:8-14).
What is mercy's great deed? It is the blessed forgiveness of sin. It is the glory of grace to forgive sin. It is the majesty of mercy to forgive sin. It is the character of God to forgive iniquity and transgression and sin (Ex. 34:5-7). This is an act of God alone. He alone can forgive sin. And his forgiveness is the only One whose forgiveness we need, desire and must have for the salvation of our souls and the peace of our troubled consciences (Psa. 130:3-4).
What a surprising thing this is! The God against whom we have sinned, whose name we have blasphemed, whose law we have broken, the God whose grace we have despised is a God who forgives sin. He says, “I, even I am he that blotteth out thy transgressions.” It is as constant as it is surprising. Certainly, it was done once, with finality, when Christ died as our Substitute. But it is experienced constantly as God speaks peace to the hearts of those who confess their sins (1 John 1:9). This forgiveness of sin is the complete, effectual, permanent forgiveness of all the sins of all who trust Christ. God charged our sins upon his Son Jesus Christ, and they shall never be charged upon us (Rom. 4:8).
The Scriptures declare that God is holy, just, righteous, and true. He has said, “The soul that sinneth, it shall die.” Therefore I am compelled to ask, how he can forgive sin? This much is certain: God cannot forgive sin unless he can do so in a way that is honoring to his law and satisfying to his justice. In order for a holy God to forgive sin four things must be done: (1.) The law of God must be honored and perfectly obeyed. (2.) The justice of God must be satisfied. (3.) The sinner must be punished. And (4.) the sin must be removed.
There is only one way for a holy and just God to forgive sin. He can only forgive sin through the obedience and sacrifice of an all-sufficient Substitute. The Lord Jesus Christ, God's own dear Son, is that Substitute. In him, and only in him is there forgiveness with God (Rom. 3:23-26; 1 John 1:7, 9). It is only in the crucified Christ that we can behold him, as he is, "a just God and a Savior" (Isa. 45:20-22).
Why does the Lord God forgive sin? Hear his own words and rejoice: --"For mine own sake.” The greatest honor and glory of God is his mercy, his holy, righteous, and just mercy in forgiving sin (Ps. 106:8). He declares, "I will establish my covenant with thee; and thou shalt know that I am the Lord: That thou mayest remember, and be confounded, and never open thy mouth any more because of thy shame, when I am pacified toward thee for all that thou hast done, saith the Lord GOD" (Ezek. 16:62-63).
What is the promise God makes to sinners whose sins are forgiven by him? It is just this: -- “I, even I, am he that blotteth out thy transgressions, and will not remember thy sins.” There are some things God cannot do. He cannot lie. God cannot break his covenant. He cannot forsake his people. He cannot be unjust. And the Holy, Lord God cannot remember the sins of his people. I do not mean that God is not aware of the fact that we have sinned. I mean that in so far as his law and justice are concerned, our sins do not exist; therefore, God cannot remember them. He will never remember our sins so as to treat us any the less graciously because of them. He will never remember our sins so as to bring them up and require payment for them while we live. God will not remember our sins when we stand before Him in judgment (Jer. 50:20). God will not remember our sins in the distribution of his heavenly crowns and gifts.