The idea of “forgiven and cleansed” has a prominent place in the sacrificial system of the Old Testament. The book of Leviticus is the manual for forgiveness and cleansing under the old covenant. Regarding forgiveness, here are just two of the many verses on the topic. “He shall then prepare a burnt offering according to the ordinance. So the priest shall make atonement on his behalf for his sin which he has committed, and it will be forgiven him” (Leviticus 5:10). “The priest shall also make atonement for him with the ram of the guilt offering before the LORD for his sin which he has committed, and the sin which he has committed will be forgiven him” (Leviticus 19:22).
Likewise regarding cleansing, “The priest shall next offer the sin offering and make atonement for the one to be cleansed from his uncleanness. Then afterward, he shall slaughter the burnt offering” (Leviticus 14:19). “Next he shall slaughter the lamb of the guilt offering; and the priest is to take some of the blood of the guilt offering and put it on the lobe of the right ear of the one to be cleansed and on the thumb of his right hand and on the big toe of his right foot” (Leviticus 14:25). Animal sacrifices provided a temporary forgiveness and cleansing under the old covenant system.
But what about us today? Is confession and forgiveness an over and over process for us? What if all of your sins – past, present, and future – have been forgiven the minute you believed the gospel message of Jesus Christ?
Hidden within the pages of the Old Testament is a promise of something better; the promise of a new covenant. And the promise of this new covenant, this new arrangement between God and His people, has been completely fulfilled in Jesus. And this is what it looks like … When we believe the gospel of Jesus Christ, we are immediately and forever forgiven and cleansed by the blood of Jesus. The minute we believed, Christ’s forgiveness and cleansing – accomplished on the cross – was imputed to us.
The book of Hebrews outlines this revolutionary news that through Jesus’ blood, we are forgiven and cleansed, once and for all, when we believed the gospel. “Jesus does not need daily, like those [Old Testament] high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins and then for the sins of the people, because this Jesus did once for all when He offered up Himself” (Hebrews 7:27). Jesus offered up Himself, not over and over like the Old Testament sacrifices, but once for all. And not for His sins, but for ours.
“By this we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. Every priest stands daily ministering and offering time after time the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins; but He, having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time onward until His enemies be made a footstool for His feet. For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified” (Hebrews 10:10-14).
Sacrificed for our sins and proclaiming us forgiven, perfected, sanctified, and cleansed. “How much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?” (Hebrews 9:14).
Finally, we come to the incredible promise of I John 1:9. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” This verse was written to address those who are walking in darkness (I John 1:6); those who have yet to believe the gospel. And the promise of I John 1:9 is this: If we confess our sins, if we agree with God that here, prior to our conversion, we are sinners, and we need a savior, and that savior is Jesus … then Jesus will come to us, He will forgive us of all our sins, and He will cleanse us from all unrighteousness. The blood of Jesus eternally forgives and internally cleanses from all sin.
This post is a summary of chapter 10 in Brad Robertson’s book Forgiven and Cleansed. If this message is new to you – that your sins are forgiven forever and that you are forever clean before the Lord, or you struggle to believe this about yourself, I highly recommend you read Brad’s book. It will be an encouragement and a blessing to you.