Have you ever found yourself thinking that you need to stop sinning in order for God to forgive you, that repentance from sin is a prerequisite to his forgiveness. Perhaps you act sometimes as if God forgives only the deserving.
If you ever do find yourself thinking such things, I have good news for you. You’re wrong. God loves you more than that.
And if someone ever tries to tell you that God forgives only those who turn to him in repentance, you can say that you have good news for them. They’re wrong too. God loves them more than that.
The Bible says so.
God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8.)
That verse is packed with grace not only for what it says, but for what it doesn’t say.
- It doesn’t say Christ died for you because you were a sinner looking for forgiveness.
- It doesn’t say Christ died for you because you had already started to repent of your sin.
- It doesn’t say Christ died for you because you showed yourself worthy.
It says Christ died for you just as you are. And he did it while you were unable to clean yourself up for God, because you were dead.
When you were dead in your sins … God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins. (Colossians 2:13.)
The truth is, you are forgiven despite the fact you don’t deserve forgiveness. And according to that Colossians verse this forgiveness is not only past tense but applies to every future sin you are ever going to commit.
This is the gospel of grace.
The Gospel of Grace in Action
In one of the best-known forgiveness stories in the Bible, we see Jesus interacting with two very different types of people: a group who needed a reminder of their own unrighteousness and a woman who knew she wasn’t righteous at all.
At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.
But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.
At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”
“No one, sir,” she said.
“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.” (John 8:2-11.)
Note the change in Jesus’ posture when the self-righteous bring their accusations against the woman. He did not remain sitting, but stood up to them both literally and figuratively. He rose to become her advocate against her accusers.
Then he lowered himself again as they came to grips with their own lack of righteousness. But notice that Jesus stands once again, this time to speak to the woman. He is no longer her advocate but addresses her face to face, a friend who is also her Savior, the one who has saved her from death at the hands of those accusers.
And note the woman’s response when Jesus asks where her accusers are. She doesn’t wonder if Jesus should be counted among her accusers. She says that all her accusers are gone.
Jesus then says, “Neither do I condemn you.”
Jesus could easily have told her that her sins deserved punishment under the law, and the only way she could receive forgiveness was through repentance and sacrifice. After all, the New Covenant had not yet been created because Jesus had not yet become the ultimate and perfect sacrifice for everyone. (Titus 3:4-7.)
But Jesus did not say, “Change your life of sin and then you shall be forgiven.” He said, “Neither do I condemn you. Go now and leave your life of sin.”
This is possible because in God’s grace you are now righteous,
For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous. (Romans 5:19.)
and you are invited to live accordingly,
For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age. (Titus 2:11-12.)
God’s grace, forgiveness, love, mercy – all these come first. Only after God has done all that for you do you then through grace live for him.
This is the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Forgiveness comes first.
That’s how much God loves you.