The Bible’s Remarkable Picture of Total Forgiveness
Key Scripture: God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of His blood—to be received by faith (Romans 3:25).
Introduction: When James Garfield lay mortally wounded in the White House, Alexander Graham Bell began working on a metal detector to locate the bullet. He went to Garfield’s bedside twice, but errors doomed his project to failure. While feverously preparing for a third attempt, news came that his wife, Mabel, was giving birth in Boston. Bell raced there, but little Edward was born prematurely and died. Bell blamed himself, and for the rest of his life he was haunted by feelings he had failed to save the President and his absence had led to the death of his own son.
Almost everyone experiences layers of guilt, embarrassment, shame, and self-loathing. Sometimes we do things that are truly wrong. Other times we make mistakes. Sometimes things happen to us over which we had little control. Whatever their origin, past moments can torment us for years.
That’s why the Lord gave us the book of Romans. Romans is the theological epicenter of Scripture and it explains for us doctrinally what we’ve read in the Gospels. The prologue is Romans 1:1-17, and the theme of the book is verses 16-17.
1. No One (Romans 1:18 – 3:20) – The body of the book begins in Romans 1:18, where the Lord points out the utter hopeless of our condition before Him. The immoral are condemned (1:18-32); those who think they are moral are condemned (2:1-16); the Jews are condemned (2:17-3:8); the Gentiles and all the world are condemned (3:9-20). No one is good, and the whole world is accountable before God.
2 But Now (3:21-31) – But now we come to Romans 3:21-31, a matchless paragraph in the Bible. This is the spinning core of the doctrine of the Bible. Another way of being declared righteous in God’s sight has been revealed to us—not in keeping the law but through faith in Christ. Verse 22 says: This righteousness is given through faith in Christ Jesus to all who believe. Verse 25 says: God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of His blood—to be received by faith.
The word atonement comes from the English terms “at-one-ment.” The atonement is that act by which God forgives our sins on the basis of the blood of Christ reunites us with Him. When Paul wrote Romans 3:25, he was referring back to something in the book of Leviticus. Leviticus 16 describes the Day of Atonement. On that day, the High Priest stood before the Tabernacle, and two goats were brought to him. One was selected and sacrificed as a sin offering.
- Leviticus 16:15 says, “He shall then slaughter the goat for the sin offering for the people and take its blood behind the curtain.”
This goat prefigured what would happen on Calvary. This is what Paul referred to in Romans 3:25: God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. But what of the other goat?
- Leviticus 16:20-21 says, “He shall bring forward the live goat. He is to lay both hands on the head of the live goat and confess over it all the wickedness and rebellion of the Israelites – all their sins – and put them on the goat’s head. He shall send the goat away into the wilderness in the care of someone appointed to the task. The goat will carry on itself all their sins to a remote place.”
Symbolically, all the sins, which had just been expunged by the shedding of the blood of the first goat, were transferred to the head of the second goat, which was led from the Tabernacle, through the crowd, to the edges of the encampment, into the wilderness, to a remote place, and never seen again. This goat symbolized the removal of forgiven sin. The people could literally watch their sins, as it were, leave the camp and disappear over the horizon, gone for good.
That goat was gone, and it symbolized the fact that once the blood of Christ forgives us, our sins are gone. God provided a graphic visual symbol of what happens to us because of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Conclusion: You can adopt this biblical image, unusual as it is, whenever you are plagued by the shame of confessed sin.
- When the devil reminds you of unkind words you spoke in the past, say: “I’ve confessed that sin, Christ died for it, and that goat is gone.”
- When the devil reminds you of that stupid thing you once, say: “I’ve confessed that sin, Christ died for it, and that goat is gone.”
- When the devil reminds you of a period of moral failure or wasted money or broken relationships, say, “I’ve confessed all that, and that sin has been atoned for, and that goat is gone.”
- When the devil reminds you of a mistake you’ve made and over which you feel humiliated, say, “That’s under the blood and that goat is gone.
You are not treating your sins lightly when you do this. You’re not shrugging them off. You are treating them biblically, seriously, and by faith. Those two goats represent two different aspects of the work of atonement. Christ died for our sins; and then He took our sins far, far away from us and we will never see them again.
This is the power of the cross. It’s the power of the Gospel. And we are not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God unto salvation for everyone who believes.