God hates sin. It is the opposite of how He thinks and acts; it causes suffering and death. Yet our merciful God is willing to forgive all our sins!
“Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits: who forgives all your iniquities, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from destruction, who crowns you with lovingkindness and tender mercies” (Psalm 103:2-4).
There is no one who doesn’t make mistakes—little ones or big ones. We all sin. God is disappointed when we do, but not shocked. He knew that we would sin when He gave man the freedom to choose, sometimes called free will.
God’s goal in creating mankind was to have a family of sons and daughters like Himself. “Like Himself” means having the character to choose what is right instead of what is wrong.
It takes time, effort and God’s help to achieve that kind of character. We must overcome the weakness of our human nature, the influence of Satan and the many sinful habits that we often slip into.
So, in life’s journey, we will at times fail to live up to the standards given in God’s Word. God in His mercy knew this would be the case, and so He provided a way that we could be forgiven of those sins.
We all sin
There is only one human who has not sinned—Jesus Christ. The rest of us, you and me, have sinned—and will sin—many times!
King Solomon wrote, “For there is not a just man on earth who does good [all the time] and does not sin” (Ecclesiastes 7:20).
The apostle Paul echoed the same truth: “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).
Sins are actions contrary to God’s laws. They bring the penalty of death (Romans 6:23). We all are, or have been, under that penalty, living on death row. The only way to have that penalty removed is through God’s forgiveness.
It is His desire that we should not have to suffer such a terrible price.
“The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).
He wants us to come to understand that wonderful, encouraging truth. He “desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4).
When we come to a time in our lives when we see sin is wrong, want to stop and perhaps wonder how we can clean up our lives, we soon realize it is impossible for us to do so on our own.
“Who can say, ‘I have made my heart clean, I am pure from my sin’?” (Proverbs 20:9).
We cannot do it by ourselves, but God is more than willing to help us. He did not plan for us to fail. He is a God of love and mercy, who both desires that we bury the past and provides a way by which that can be accomplished.
From the beginning, God’s plan included a way for our sins to be forgiven.
When God created mankind, He anticipated that people would sin and would need a Redeemer from those sins. So, from the very beginning, His plan included sending His Son to give His life that we may have forgiveness.
“He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins” (Colossians 1:13-14).
What is forgiveness?
Paul wrote, “The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23)—and not just the temporary death that comes to all, but eternal death. Earlier, he had stated that “through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned” (Romans 5:12).
There is no sin so great that God will not forgive—if we repent of it and seek His forgiveness.This truth is mentioned a number of times in the Old Testament also. For example, Ezekiel 18:4 says, “Behold, all souls are Mine; the soul of the father as well as the soul of the son is Mine; the soul who sins shall die.”
Then the prophet Ezekiel was inspired to add:
“But if a wicked man turns from all his sins which he has committed, keeps all My statutes, and does what is lawful and right, he shall surely live; he shall not die. None of the transgressions which he has committed shall be remembered against him; because of the righteousness which he has done, he shall live” (verses 21-22).
God makes possible redemption, which is explained more fully in other passages that make it clear forgiveness is nothing we can earn.
“For we will surely die and become like water spilled on the ground, which cannot be gathered up again. Yet God does not take away a life; but He devises means, so that His banished ones are not expelled from Him” (2 Samuel 14:14).
God has provided a means, a way.
Whenever we sin, we incur a debt. But God has provided a way that the penalty, or debt, can be paid by someone else—His Son, Jesus.
“In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace” (Ephesians 1:7).
Notice what the prophet Isaiah wrote centuries earlier:
“‘Come now, and let us reason together,’ says the LORD, ‘Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall be as wool’” (Isaiah 1:18).
And again, “I, even I, am He who blots out your transgressions for My own sake; and I will not remember your sins” (Isaiah 43:25).
How do we receive forgiveness?
What should we do when we sin? How can we receive God’s forgiveness?
One of the first steps is to admit and confess our sins to God.
“If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us” (1 John 1:8-10).
In his first sermon Peter added more details of the steps we should take: “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38).
Repentance is turning from what is wrong to what is right, as defined by the laws of God.
“Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the LORD, and He will have mercy on him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon” (Isaiah 55:7).
Christ told the woman caught in adultery, “Go and sin no more” (John 8:11).
Every sin can be forgiven
Sometimes we think our sins are so bad that God wouldn’t be willing to forgive us.
However, there is no sin so great that God will not forgive—if we repent of it and seek His forgiveness.
“Therefore let it be known to you, brethren, that through this Man is preached to you the forgiveness of sins; and by Him everyone who believes is justified from all things” (Acts 13:38-39).
Jesus Christ’s sacrifice is great enough to cover any sin we might commit and come to regret. His sacrifice can cover the sins of all mankind.
“For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works” (Titus 2:11-14).
Corinth was an extremely sinful city. Many who became followers of Christ had earlier been living very sinful lives, participating in all kinds of perversity.
“And such were some of you,” Paul wrote. “But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Corinthians 6:11).
Paul said they had now been forgiven. Those men and women had been cleansed by the blood of Jesus Christ.
That same cleansing is available to us all. Whatever the sin—secret or open, greater or lesser, done deliberately or in ignorance, of omission or commission—any wrong we have done can be totally blotted out through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.
What if we sin again after forgiveness?
What if we mess up again after asking for forgiveness? Can we be forgiven again?
Actually, it’s not a matter of “what if,” for we all will, from time to time, slip up and sin again. Even while trying not to, we all slip up at times. But as long as we keep trying—wanting to change, being sorry for our mistakes—God is very willing to forgive.
God is merciful and will continue to forgive as long as we keep trying. Those mistakes should occur less and less often as we grow spiritually and use His Spirit to help us master the pulls of sin.
The book of Proverbs mentions that a righteous person may fall seven times. That implies he gets up every time.
“For a righteous man may fall seven times and rise again, but the wicked shall fall by calamity” (Proverbs 24:16).
“My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world” (1 John 2:1-2).
There are hundreds of scriptures proclaiming God’s desire and willingness to forgive. For example:
- Jesus Christ “loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood” (Revelation 1:5).
- “Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered . . . I acknowledged my sin to You, and my iniquity I have not hidden. I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the LORD,’ and You forgave the iniquity of my sin. Selah” (Psalm 32:1, 5).
- “You have forgiven the iniquity of Your people; You have covered all their sin” (Psalm 85:2).
- “And the LORD passed before him and proclaimed, ‘The LORD, the LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth’” (Exodus 34:6).
God is a merciful God. His mercy extends to a thousand generations. He expects us to show mercy to others who have wronged us.
In an example of how we should pray to God for forgiveness, Jesus stated: “And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors” (Matthew 6:12). We must forgive others if we expect God to forgive us. (That doesn’t mean we must continue to associate with them if they continue to do us wrong.)
When Peter asked Christ how many times he should forgive others, Christ said seven times 70, or 490 times (Matthew 18:21-22). Couldn’t we expect much more from God?
It is His desire that we learn from our mistakes, which bring only problems, pain and emptiness into our lives. He wants us to see that sin brings no real lasting joy or fulfillment. He deeply desires that we come to see there is a better way—the way of our Creator.
Learn more about God’s forgiveness and the steps involved in conversion in our booklet Change Your Life.