Cross and Forgiveness

Forgiveness is rooted in the heart of God, which ultimately finds expression in the saving work of Christ. This saving work encompasses the life, death, resurrection, exaltation, and intercession of Christ. In the next two posts, we will explore different facets of this saving work and their specific contribution to forgiveness. In this post, we will focus on the significance of the cross for forgiveness.

Hebrews contains one of the clearest statements on the link between the cross of Christ and our forgiveness.  Check this verse out. “Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins” (Hebrews 9:22). The sacrificial system pointed the way to the only possible means of forgiveness: substitution and sacrifice. In God’s economy, where there is no blood there is no forgiveness.

The author of Hebrews presses home this thought in one other place “I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.” Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin” (Hebrews 10:17-18). You can be certain that the presence of forgiveness means that a satisfactory sacrifice has been made. This is a wonderful text. It indicates that the cross of Christ was the definitive sin offering. The Father is completely satisfied with the Son’s death. Nothing, nothing at all can be added to it and nothing further can be done to secure his favor—it is complete.

When Jesus celebrated the Passover and initiated the Lord’s Supper he pointed to the connection of forgiveness and his death. “Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, ‘Take, eat; this is my body.’  And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink of it, all of you,  for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins'” (Matthew 26:26-29). Central to the new covenant is the forgiveness of sin. This text explains that the new covenant was inaugurated through the shed blood of Christ.

All these texts communicate that forgiveness is rooted in and flows out of the cross of Christ. This next passage is an example of forgiveness from the cross. In my view, it captures the heart of God and his intention for being hung upon the tree. “And when they came to the place that is called The Skull, there they crucified him, and the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. And Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do'”(Luke 23:33-34). From the cross, Jesus articulates the very reason he is there! What does this communicate about the heart of God and forgiveness? He is extending forgiveness toward sinful acts, directly against him, that are still in progress—they have not even been completed. This is an aggressive extension of liberating grace—a gift he is dying to give.

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