Confession, Repentance, and Forgiveness (Part 4 of 5)

Forgiveness Under the Old and New Covenants

Let’s review what the New Testament says about our sins, even new or besetting sins.  “When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us ALL our transgressions, having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross” (Colossians 2:13-14).  All means all; past, present and future.  All of the guilt for your sins, all of the payment for your sins, all of the forgiveness for your sins needed to wipe the slate clean happened at the cross, and was applied to you the minute you believed.

The beauty of complete forgiveness is best understood in comparing the two covenants; the old and the new.  Let’s look at one passage in particular that makes a specific comparison between the two regarding the forgiveness of sin.  The writer of the book of Hebrews explains a clear distinction between the necessity of over and over forgiveness required under the old covenant and the once for all time forgiveness offered by Jesus and accomplished by His blood under the new covenant.

“For the Law, since it has only a shadow of the good things to come and not the very form of things, can never, by the same sacrifices which they offer continually year by year, make perfect those who draw near.  Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered, because the worshipers, having once been cleansed, would no longer have had consciousness of sins?  But in those sacrifices, there is a reminder of sins year by year.  For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins” (Hebrews 10:1-4).

Repeated sacrifices under the old covenant were necessary because the sacrifices only covered, did not take away, the worshippers’ sins.  The blood of bulls and goats could not take the sins away for good.  So repeated sacrifice and forgiveness was required.  Because the author is highlighting the contrast between the two covenants in this chapter, the phrase “the sacrifices can never make perfect those who offer them” under the old covenant suggests that something under the new covenant will make us “perfect” in terms of our guilt and forgiveness.  And this “perfect” is exactly what is coming under the new covenant.

Jumping to the new covenant as we continue in Hebrews chapter 10, “Then Jesus said, ‘Behold, I have come to do Your will.’  He takes away the first in order to establish the second” (Hebrews 10:9).  When Christ came, He took away the old covenant, “the first”, and established the new covenant, “the second”.  And what was established under the new covenant?

“By God’s will, we have been sanctified [past tense] 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 Jesus, 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).

Please hear these words, “by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified.”  That’s us!  There is no nuancing our way out of the straightforward reading of this promise.  Christ’s death was sufficient to perfect you, to eternally cleanse you, from your sin.  So much so that later in this same passage we read, “And their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.  Now where there is forgiveness of these things, there is no longer any offering for sin [required].” (Hebrews 10:17-18).  God is not making a playlist of your sins.  God is not remembering your sins.  Why?  Because you have been completely forgiven.  No further offering; no confession, repentance, and seeking forgiveness is required to clear your sin debt with God.

So if repeated confession, repentance, and seeking forgiveness from God is not the pattern of addressing sin in the New Testament, what are we to do when we sin?  I can think of two places where that exact question comes up in the letters of the New Testament.  We will look at those next time.