2016 Perspective - The Power of Forgiveness

  • Mervyn Eloff
  • Feb 29, 2016
  • Series: Perspective

“For He has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son He loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” Colossians 1:13-14  

One of the great joys and privileges of being a Christian is to know without a shadow of a doubt that our sins have indeed been fully and completely forgiven by God. The Bible teaches and our own experience confirms that “there is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). None of us is by nature free from sin and each of us have in fact sinned against others and against God. And both our sinfulness and our sins stand as a massive barrier between us and a relationship with the God who is Holy Love. So how can we possibly be brought into right relationship with God and have the freedom to approach Him day by day as a heavenly Father? The answer that the Bible gives is both unequivocal and wonderful. We can only know God if our sins have been forgiven and that is precisely what God in love has done for us in the death of His Son Jesus upon the cross. At the cross the love and holiness of God meet. Though we are sinners by nature, we do indeed stand forgiven at the cross.

When we think and speak about forgiveness, we most often think about being set free from the penalty and the guilt of our sins with the result that we stand acquitted before the throne of God both now and on the Day of Judgement. And this is indeed a glorious reality for every believer in Jesus Christ. In the words of David in Psalm 32 it is indeed a blessed thing to know that the LORD does not count our sins against us because He has forgiven the guilt of our sin (see Psalm 32:2,5). It is this full and free forgiveness in Christ which cleanses our consciences and enables us to draw near to God with a sincere heart and in full assurance of faith (Hebrews 10:22). And it is this full and free forgiveness which is ours in Christ which enables us to come daily to God in repentance and faith, not destroyed by our failures, but encouraged by His all sufficient grace.

In Colossians 1:14 however, Paul reminds us of a second aspect of God’s forgiveness, namely that forgiveness is indeed a great liberating power. The word that Paul uses to describe this new freedom from the spiritual forces of darkness which dominated our lives outside of Christ is the word redemption. It is the word that was used to speak about the liberation of a slave on payment of the ransom price. It is a word that in Old Testament terms reminds us of the wonderful and powerful work of liberation that God undertook when He delivered Israel out of bondage in Egypt and brought them into the Promised Land to live under His good and kind rule. Thus by using this word to describe what has happened to us in Jesus Christ, Paul is reminding us that we used to be slaves but now are free; we used to be compelled to serve the darkness, but now are free to serve Jesus the King of God’s Kingdom of light. Furthermore, and this is the key point of the passage, this freedom is ours because Jesus paid the price for our freedom in blood. At the cross, love ran red, and both the penalty and the power of sin were dealt with once and for all. At the cross and though Christ, we not only stand forgiven but also empowered to live new lives for God.

It is important to understand that what Paul is talking about is more than just the motivating power of a grateful heart. We should indeed be thankful to God for what He has done and it is true that gratitude to someone does motivate us in the way we act toward that person. But in Colossians 1:14, Paul is saying far more. At the cross, actual spiritual power was at work, power which dealt not only with the legal and moral consequences of sin, but with sin itself. Though believers still have a sinful nature, we truly do have a new power, by virtue of what Christ has done for us, to say ‘no’ to sin and ‘yes’ to what is pleasing to God. The call to live a new life in service of God rather than in service of self is carried out not merely in our own strength, but by the power of Christ, now at work within us by the Holy Spirit, who comes to dwell within us at the very moment that we trust in Christ and find that our sins have indeed been forgiven in His Name.