We all mess up. As humans, we all make mistakes—in school, at work, when learning a skill.
When we stumble in spiritual areas, that is called “sin”—the “transgression” of God’s spiritual law (1 John 3:4). We all have sinned (Romans 3:23; 5:12).
As clearly as the Bible defines sin, it also says we can be forgiven of our sins. The Bible uses a variety of word-pictures to illustrate this: Sins can be covered, washed away, removed from one horizon to another, and turned in color from red to white.
How can this happen? The answer is astoundingly beautiful. It is simple and understandable, even for a youth. It shows how perfect, uncompromising and legally firm God is about His law, yet it also shows how loving, caring and committed He is to including us in His Family.
If we view forgiveness as simply us apologizing and God saying, “It’s OK,” then we incorrectly see God as a Being who “OKs” our sin and therefore compromises with His law. But did you know that when God forgives us, He has a legal reason He can do so? This does not dilute or destroy God’s law in any way; it upholds it.
This is all profoundly embodied in the first holy day season of the year—the Passover season. This is a time when we reflect on the sacrifice of Jesus Christ—which is commonly referred to as the price that He paid. The more we understand why Jesus Christ had to die, the more it teaches us how God can forgive us—what the cost, or price, of our forgiveness really is.
The Penalty …
When a law is broken, a penalty is incurred.
If man’s traffic laws were perfectly enforced, every time I failed to stop at a stop sign, I would be sent a bill where I would have to pay a monetary penalty for that violation.
God’s law is perfect, and it is perfectly enforced. When we break this spiritual law (Romans 7:14), we exact a penalty. The penalty is that we must die for our sin—die in the sense of a death that we are not resurrected from, or in other words, eternal death. Romans 6:23 explains that for us. If it were like a traffic ticket, we’d see that the price on the citation is our death.
The exact wording in Romans 6:23 is: “[T]he wages of sin is death.” Here, the Apostle Paul doesn’t say the “penalty,” but the “wages.” When you perform certain tasks for an employer, you earn wages. Well, when we sin, we earn this kind of “paycheck.” If we could look at that paycheck, we would see that we are required to die for our sins.
Back to the traffic-ticket analogy. If perfectly enforced, no judge would waive the fine of my ticket for any reason whatsoever. That would undercut the importance of the traffic laws. But what if someone offered to pay my traffic ticket for me? Then I wouldn’t have to pay it, and the law would still be upheld.
That is essentially what Christ’s sacrifice is about! He died. The Bible makes it clear that His death pays the penalty of our sins. Or, to use the metaphor of Romans 6:23, Christ accepts that “wage” so that we are not compensated by dying forever.
When Romans 5:8 says “Christ died for us,” that’s what it means. He died so we don’t have to experience eternal death.
… Legally Cleared!
Jesus Christ was the God Being known as the Word, and He existed eternally with the Being now known as God the Father. Colossians 1:22 says that Christ came in a body of flesh. The same verse says that He, “through death,” can present us “holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight.”
God had also designated that “the life of the flesh is in the blood,” and “it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul” (Leviticus 17:11). Fittingly, Jesus died by shedding His blood.
Read Hebrews 9:13-14: “For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh: How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?”
The sacrifices instituted in ancient Israel taught a carnal nation that breaking the law has a price. Even the high priest had to shed an animal’s blood to atone for his sins.
Those converted men and women in Old Testament times knew that God wasn’t really concerned with animal sacrifices. Verse 12 reads: “Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us.”
They looked forward to that ultimate sacrifice—as David and Isaiah prophesied about in numerous passages. This sacrifice was God in the flesh spilling His own blood: “[T]hat by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance” (verse 15). Christ’s death pays the penalty of our spiritual sins and makes “eternal inheritance” possible. Verse 22 reinforces that: “[W]ithout shedding of blood is no remission.”
In Matthew 26:28, Christ said, “[M]y blood … is shed for many for the remission of sins.”
Our sins can be remitted because someone died in our stead. The Being who died in our stead was the Creator of all life. Had He sinned, His death would have paid for His sin. But since He did not sin (1 Peter 2:22)—and since, as Creator, His life was worth more than the sum total of all human life—His death would legally cover the penalty of sin for all mankind, specifically for any who would claim that shed blood and the process involved.
This is why, as 1 John 1:7 reads, “[T]he blood of Jesus Christ … cleanseth us from all sin.” Coming under that shed blood means we don’t have to receive what Romans 6:23 says our sins have otherwise earned—eternal death. And, as Romans 6:23 continues to show, we can instead be gifted eternal life.
When we sin, we ask God for forgiveness, come under Christ’s shed blood, and continue on in repentance (a godly change of mind and action) that results in resurrection to spirit life.
On the Physical Level
The process of forgiveness when dealing with spiritual sin might still seem a little hazy. None of you reading this have died forever as a result of sinning spiritually. You are still alive. So how do we learn about how the process of sinning and then being legally cleared of paying the penalty for our sins?
Since we are physical beings, God gives us a direct physical counterpart to teach us about this profound process.
In addition to His spiritual law, we know that God set in motion physical laws—from gravity to those governing our physical bodies and our health. These laws teach us how unbreakable God’s spiritual law is.
When a physical law is broken in our bodies, we experience a physical penalty. A simple example: If we shout for a prolonged period of time, our vocal cords will inflame and make phonation difficult (what we call being “hoarse”). Some other common examples: If we deprive ourselves of sleep, this will damage our bodies in a number of ways. If too many pounds of pressure are put on a particular bone, it will literally break.
These effects are penalties for physical laws being broken.
The Bible is clear, however, that similar to how spiritual sin (the transgression of God’s spiritual law) is forgiven, the physical penalties we experience can be removed or canceled! How? Just because God magically makes them disappear? No! Laws were broken, and God doesn’t compromise with His law. The physical penalties can only be removed, canceled and remitted if someone already paid the penalty for us—just as it is with the spiritual penalty.
Herbert W. Armstrong explained this beautifully in his booklet The Plain Truth About Healing. In this quote, you will see how forgiveness works on both the spiritual and physical levels: “Once a law is transgressed a penalty is incurred. Once a penalty is incurred it must be paid. God never suspends the penalty. … The penalty for transgression is … eternal death, the absence of eternal life. … The penalty—death—must be paid! God will not compromise a thousandth of an inch on that!
“Then how do we get free from that penalty? How may we avoid paying it? By the fact that Christ paid it for us. Christ never committed sin. He never brought that penalty on Himself. But, being the actual Maker of all mankind (Ephesians 3:9; Colossians 1:13-16), His life was greater than the sum total of all other human lives. … He paid the death penalty for all mankind—conditioned on our repentance and faith; He paid the penalty for us, in our stead.
“We may be healed by the same principle.
“God made man of the dust of the ground (Genesis 2:7). We are composed of matter. He designed our bodies so that they function according to definite physical laws. … Those laws, when transgressed, exact a penalty.
“When a person is sick or has contracted a disease, he is simply paying the penalty of transgressed physical law in his body. … God, the great Lawgiver, demands that the penalty must be paid! God never compromises that principle! No healing without the penalty having been paid! …
“Healing does not mean that God suspends the penalty so that no penalty is paid. Instead, Jesus has already paid it for us. Therefore God may legally remove the penalty from the human sufferer. But it is nonetheless a miracle!”
How Our Physical Penalties Were Paid
To clear us legally from the penalty of spiritual sin, Jesus Christ shed His blood. How did Christ pay the penalty of physical sin?
“But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5). This is reiterated in the New Testament (1 Peter 2:24).
Christ’s beating and scourging that preceded His crucifixion and exsanguination (the pouring out of His blood) are what pay the penalty for the physical laws that are broken in our bodies. His body was ripped open so much that even His bones were visible (Psalm 22:17). After this grisly ordeal, He didn’t even look like a human being (Isaiah 52:14).
This is what the penalty of our physical sins cost God!
Was paying the penalty for physical sin an afterthought in Christ’s sacrifice? Think about it: Wouldn’t shedding His blood have been enough—to remove eternal death from our wages? Apparently not! It was so important that Christ teach us about God’s law, its penalties and the removal of those penalties, that He suffered on a physical level to teach us about physical sin!
Through the process of physical sin, physical penalty and physical healing, we learn how God can forgive sin. We learn how those penalties are paid. Then, when it comes to the spiritual, we clearly can understand how it works.
The physical forgiveness is so important, in fact, that God has established a special process for asking Him for it. We do it through God’s chosen representatives on Earth—calling on the elders of the Church (James 5:14). These agents of God’s government on Earth call on God to legally remove the penalty through the laying on of hands and the physical symbol of oil. Verse 15 says of the one being anointed, “[A]nd if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him.” This is similar to the principle found in Psalm 103:3, which says that God is the one, “[w]ho forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases.”
The anointing calls on the stripes of Jesus Christ, and God forgives the sins. The minister asks God to allow the suffering to stop—according to God’s timing—because Christ already suffered it. God will “raise him up,” James writes—either through removing the physical penalty in this life or by granting a new, incorruptible spirit body in the next.
The many healings Jesus performed during His earthly ministry help teach us about how God forgives. In the case of a physical healing, there is a physical result—fruits of that forgiveness.
In Matthew 9, Jesus said to the man healed of palsy, “Son, be of good cheer; thy sins be forgiven thee” (verse 2). This caused much concern among the religious leaders there, to which Christ replied: “For whether is easier, to say, Thy sins be forgiven thee; or to say, Arise, and walk? But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins, (then saith he to the sick of the palsy,) Arise, take up thy bed, and go unto thine house” (verses 5-6).
Psalm 107:17-20 also confirm that physical afflictions are the result of “transgression” and “iniquities,” and that God heals by forgiving those.
“For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life” (Romans 5:10).
The death of Jesus Christ makes the forgiveness of spiritual sin possible, and therefore, we can have a relationship with God as well. But we are ultimately saved by Christ’s life. That means, because He was resurrected after His death, we can be too. That is what we call “salvation,” but it also relates to the components of physical law and physical healing—because that is when we are granted a spiritual body, which is the ultimate healing! That is the “gift” of eternal life, as Romans 6:23 discusses.
“My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous” (1 John 2:1).
Knowing what it cost for our sins to be forgiven should motivate us to strive to “sin not.” What a gruesome price was paid so that we could be forgiven both of physical and spiritual sin: Christ was beaten and crucified! We must do our part to avoid breaking both the physical and spiritual laws that exact these serious penalties.
But we will still mess up. Thankfully, God has put a beautiful system in place, and it has to do with the fact that Christ was resurrected! As John writes, “we have an advocate with the Father.” That Advocate is the living Jesus Christ!
As editor in chief Gerald Flurry writes in The Last Hour, “This gives us a deep insight into the character of the Father and the Son. They have gone to extreme lengths to see that we receive justice. Our Father is perfect and demands perfect justice. God is ‘no respecter of persons.’ … We must strive diligently to understand our Advocate and our perfect Father. We are here to let God build that same character in us. Soon we will be in God’s Family living like the Father and Son have lived for all eternity!”
Verse 2 of 1 John 2 reads: “And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.” Jesus Christ paid not only for our sins, but He paid for the whole world’s sins.
What price could you put on this? God in the flesh suffered torturous beating and exsanguination to pay the penalty for us—to take the wages of our sins upon Himself. Because He lived a perfect life, He could be resurrected from that death and healed of that scourging—and that process didn’t pay for His sins but ours.
Revelation 12:11 says God’s people overcome “by the blood of the Lamb.” Again, this sacrifice should motivate us. As Mr. Flurry writes in How to Be an Overcomer: “How can we possibly fight and overcome sin if we don’t deeply understand the mind-splitting price that had to be paid for it?”
Because of the blood of the Lamb, we don’t have to die forever. So we keep striving. We keep coming under that shed blood, calling on our Father through the name of our Advocate, Jesus Christ. This is the only way we can even have an opportunity to keep striving and growing. Mr. Flurry writes elsewhere in How to Be an Overcomer about Revelation 12:11: “When we sin again as we strive to become perfect, we must repent again! Then God will forgive us; the blood of Christ wipes out those sins if we repent. … There is great power in this. We can conquer anything when we focus on that blood and on Christ’s example of how to avoid sin and prevail in righteousness. … Revelation 12:11 shows us how to obtain that power. God’s people … conquer the devil with this understanding.”
How awesome to understand how God forgives—to understand the price that was paid so that forgiveness can be granted legally! This helps us understand what God the Father and Jesus Christ went through to make possible our physical healing and our future eternal life!