Salvation is an extremely important subject for all those who live upon the face of the earth. Having a correct understanding of this subject will determine your eternal destiny. All Christians should have a good understanding of this subject so they can explain clearly to unbelievers their necessity of a Saviour and the steps required for their salvation. Whatever views you have on this subject, I encourage you to take the time to examine this study. My prayer is that after reading it you will have a deeper understanding of God’s plan of salvation and a great desire to share this knowledge with others.
Let me start out by stating that God’s goodness and love is the only thing that ever melts the heart of a sinner. “The goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance.” (Romans 2:4) “In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world…” to die for us. (1 John 4:9) John said, “Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us.” (1 John 3:1) If we behold the Father’s love by looking at the immense sacrifice that was made for us at Calvary, it will touch our hearts like nothing else can. Please take the time to behold that wonderful love. [For a study tract focusing on God’s love, please contact us and request the tract entitled “The Love of God.”]
Important Facts to Realize
The first thing we must understand about ourselves is that all of us have sinned. Paul wrote, “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) Not some of us have sinned, but all of us have sinned and therefore we have come short of the glory of God. Let us make sure we are clear on this point. Every individual who has ever lived on this earth has sinned, with only one exception, and that is our Lord Jesus Christ. No matter how good a person may have lived throughout his life, it is certain that everyone but Christ has sinned at least once. “There is none that doeth good, no, not one.” (Romans 3:12)
With this sad fact in mind, let us consider another important verse on this subject. Paul wrote, “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 6:23) God’s Word has made it clear that the wages of sin is death. If you sin, your penalty is death. This is not referring to physical death only. Certainly not! For everyone is subject to that type of death. The death referred to here is also called “the second death,” or “the lake of fire.” (See Revelation 2:11; 20:6, 14; & 21:8.)
Since all of us have sinned, we all deserve to perish in the lake of fire. That is just and fair. If we plead for justice, we are pleading for death, for that would be just and fair. This is the penalty of sin. For many people this is not a pleasant thing to consider. It demonstrates our helplessness. It reveals our absolute need for a Saviour.
Can We Somehow Make Up For Our Sins?
Knowing that the penalty of sin hangs over our heads, is there any way that we can become free from paying that penalty? Is there anything we can do that can pardon us from our sins? If we change our lives and obey God perfectly from this day forward will that pardon us from sins that we have committed in the past? Paul wrote, “by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.” (Romans 3:20) What a deplorable condition we are in. God has told us that we all have sinned, and that the penalty for that sin is death. Now we find that even if we never sin again, and keep the law of God perfectly from now on, we still could not be justified by doing it. In other words we would still have to pay the penalty of sin.
Let me use an example to illustrate. Suppose I were to visit a local store and make my purchases using credit. As the days go by, my debt keeps rising. I occasionally think of my increasing debt, but push the thought away without much consideration. Eventually I accumulate a debt of $500. One day I reconsider how I have been treating the storeowner and make a decision that from now on I will not make my purchases using credit—I will use cash only. I go into the store and inform the store owner of my intentions, letting him know that I have now amended my ways and will no longer make purchases using credit. I tell him that from now on I will only use cash to make all my purchases. Certainly the store owner would be happy that I made the change, yet there would be in his mind a wish to have some reconciliation for the debt that I had accumulated. In like manner deeds of the law in the future can never make up for even one transgression of the law in the past.
We are informed that salvation comes, “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His [God’s] mercy He saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost.” (Titus 3:5) God does not save us because we have done a certain amount of righteousness, but because He is merciful. Righteousness is a free gift, and not something we can earn.
We must understand that God’s righteousness does not come to us by the law. “If there had been a law given which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the law.” (Galatians 3:21) Paul makes a very good point in Galatians 2:21. “For if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.” If we could have become righteous by doing the deeds of the law, then there would have been no need for Christ to die for us. Surely Christ would have remained in heaven if there were no need for His death on the cross.
Forgiveness of Sins
Now that we know that we cannot be pardoned for past sins by keeping the law, how can we be pardoned? Although “the wages of sin is death,” praise God that “the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 6:23) God knows that it would be perfectly just for Him to allow all of us to perish, yet He is “not willing that any should perish.” (2 Peter 3:9) God goes beyond justice and gives us mercy. He gives everyone better than they deserve. Even the wicked, who eventually perish in the lake of fire, God gives them less than their iniquities deserve. “Know therefore that God exacteth of thee less than thine iniquity deserveth.” (Job 11:6)
The penalty of sin, which is death, is sure and it cannot be changed or altered. However, God has made a way whereby we can be saved. The angel of the Lord spoke concerning Mary,“And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:21) God sent Jesus into this world to save His people from their sins. God is able to save us from the power of sin, the penalty of sin and the existence of sin. The power by giving us the power to overcome every temptation (1 Corinthians 10:13), the penalty by giving His Son do die in our place (2 Corinthians 5:21), and the existence by finally destroying sin completely (Revelation 21:4).
Peter wrote of this salvation when he said, “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.”(Acts 4:12) God has provided a way by which we all might be saved, and that way is Jesus Christ. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” (John 14:6)
Come to Christ Just As You Are
Does there have to be a change made in me before I can come to Christ? Jesus answered this question when He said, “him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.” (John 6:37) What if we are living in terrible sins? Wouldn’t that cause Jesus to reject us if we come to Him? Certainly not! He has promised that if we come to Him, He will, under no circumstance, cast us out. That is a precious promise. The key is if we come to Him. Not everyone will come to Him, but if they would, Jesus has promised that He will not cast them out.
Sadly, many people have the idea that they must cleanse themselves before coming to Christ. However, the Bible reveals that we cannot cleanse ourselves and that God cleanses us after we come to Christ. It is our duty to come to Him. We do this by acknowledging that we have sinned and that we deserve to die. Then we must believe that God gave His Son to die in our place so that we can be forgiven. We must be sorry for our sins and ask God to forgive us. Then we must turn away from our sins and forsake them. He has promised that if we do this, He will forgive us. Solomon wrote, “He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy.” (Proverbs 28:13) “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)
Dear friend, if you have not given your heart to Christ—if you have not come to Him asking for forgiveness of your sins, please do it now. He is full of love, urging you to come to Him and begin a relationship with Him right now. For you it is written, “now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.” (2 Corinthians 6:2)
In the sixteenth chapter of Ezekiel there is a wonderful illustration of how God cleanses a sinner. God, speaking through his prophet, said, “And when I passed by thee, and saw thee polluted in thine own blood, I said unto thee when thou wast in thy blood, Live; yea, I said unto thee when thou wast in thy blood, Live.” (Ezekiel 16:6)
Blood, in this context, is referring to sins. (See Isaiah 4:4. God is telling us that when He passed by us we were polluted in our own sin, and He then gave us eternal life (it could be none other because we already have physical life). After we are given this eternal life, then God cleanses us from our sins.
Continuing in Ezekiel, we read, “Now when I passed by thee, and looked upon thee, behold, thy time was the time of love… I sware unto thee, and entered into a covenant with thee, saith the Lord GOD, and thou becamest mine.” (Ezekiel 16:8) God considers us His and enters into a covenant with us, even when we are yet in our sins. After God calls us His very own people, then He proceeds to cleanse us. God continued, “Then washed I thee with water; yea, I throughly washed away thy blood [sins] from thee, and I anointed thee with oil.” (Ezekiel 16:9)
God passes by us and sees that we are polluted in our own sins, and with perfect love He accepts us, even though we are in our sins. Then God washes away the filth that pollutes us. He chooses to wash us with His water, which is His Word. “Christ… loved the church, and gave Himself for it; That He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word,” (Ephesians 5:25, 26)
Don’t Delay to Come to Christ
Don’t let yourself think that you have to be good before you come to God, because if you think this way you will always be trying to become “good” and the day will never come when you think you are good enough to come to Him. Jesus said, “him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.” (John 6:37) Christ will not turn anyone away who comes to Him with sincerity, no matter what condition he is in, or how sinful he appears. For Christ “is able …to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.” (Hebrews 7:25)
Does God wish for you to stay in a filthy condition even after you come to Him? Certainly not! He cleanses you and makes you a new creature.
There was a man by the name of Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews, who came to Jesus by night to talk with Him. This man was very highly respected as a church leader. Many people thought that if anyone was going to heaven, certainly this man was. Yet Jesus spoke to Nicodemus very boldly informing him of his condition. This man should have known the way of salvation. He should have understood how a person is saved, and should have been able to explain it clearly to others. From his dialogue with Jesus it was plain that he was ignorant about many of these things.
Ye Must Be Born Again
Nicodemus came to Jesus and said, “Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him.” (John 3:2) Jesus immediately replied, “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God… Ye must be born again.” (John 3:3, 7) What a stern reply. Jesus made no attempt to address this man’s comment about His miracles, but immediately spoke to his need of being born again. Now Jesus was not speaking to just anyone off the street. He was speaking to a member of the church, and not just a member but a leader of that church, saying that he needed to be born again.
Jesus said that unless a man is born again he could not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Jesus explained what it means to be born again. He said, “Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” (John 3:5) So we must be born of water and of the Spirit to enter into the kingdom of God. What does it mean to be born of water? In certain places the Bible uses water to represent the Word of God. (See Ephesians 5:25, 26; Isaiah 55:10, 11) Peter wrote, “Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever.” (1 Peter 1:23)
To be born of water is to be born by the Word of God—to allow God’s Word to become a part of you and guide your thoughts and actions. (See James 1:21.) But what does it mean to be born of the Spirit?
Paul described the born again experience in this way, “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.”(2 Corinthians 5:17) Paul wrote that a man must be in Christ for him to have the born again experience. What does it mean to be in Christ? Paul also wrote, “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” (Romans 8:1) Paul described those who are in Christ as those “who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” This is a description of someone who is born of the Spirit. They no longer walk after the flesh, but after the Spirit. To walk after someone is to follow after that person. Those who are born of the Spirit follow the guidance of God’s Spirit rather than following their own earthly ambitions.
One who is born of the Spirit says, along with Christ, “not my will, but thine, be done.” (Luke 22:42) A person who is born of the Spirit has yielded their will to God. For such persons, the Bible declares, “there is… now no condemnation.”
What about those people who “walk after the flesh”? Paul wrote, “they that are in the flesh cannot please God.” (Romans 8:8) He also wrote, “Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?” (Romans 6:16) If we walk after the flesh and not after the Spirit we will perish. “For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.” (Romans 8:13, 14)
Obtaining God’s Forgiveness of Sins
Jesus made it clear that we must be born again in order to enter into the kingdom of heaven. This new birth experience is a result of genuine repentance. An amazing thing happens when we repent of our sins. All of our life history, with all the sin and guilt, is accounted to Christ as if He had done it Himself. “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” (Isaiah 53:6)
All of Christ’s life history, with His righteousness and love towards God, is accounted to us as truly as if we had done it ourselves. To the repentant and believing sinner full remission of sin is given. “Being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in His blood, to declare His righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God.” (Romans 3:24, 25) Through the death of His Son God has made provision for the forgiveness of every sin of every sinner who ever lived or ever will live in this world. Through faith in the blood of Christ God gives us Christ’s righteousness in place of the sins that we have committed in the past. At this point we can stand before God as if we have never sinned. Praise the Lord for such a wonderful gift.
Does God Forgive Us of Future Sins
Before They Are Committed?
The Bible makes it plain that if we confess our sins God forgives us of sins that we have committed in the past. But does the Bible anywhere indicate that we can be forgiven of sins in the future—sins we have not yet committed? In other words, if I confess all my sins today will God forgive me today for sins that I may commit tomorrow or the next day? Can I ask God to forgive me for a sin that I am about to commit? This certainly sounds strange when we think about it. Is this what the Bible teaches?
The Old Testament sanctuary service gives an illustration of how God deals with sin. In the book of Numbers we read, “And if any soul sin through ignorance, then he shall bring a she goat of the first year for a sin offering. And the priest shall make an atonement for the soul that sinneth ignorantly, when he sinneth by ignorance before the LORD, to make an atonement for him; and it shall be forgiven him.” (Numbers 15:27, 28) In the earthly sanctuary service a person was not forgiven until he confessed his sin and brought a sin offering to the sanctuary. In reference to this God said, “the priest shall make an atonement for him as concerning his sin, and it shall be forgiven him.” (Leviticus 4:26)
For these faithful believers their sins were only forgiven after they repented of them and manifested their faith in the sacrifice of Christ by bringing an offering for their sin. Although Christ’s sacrifice was “once for all” (Hebrews 10:10) the repentant sinner was required to confess his sin, and manifest his faith in the sacrifice of Christ by bringing a sin offering for each of his subsequent sins. If he sinned one day he was to bring a sin offering and confess his sins. If he sinned the next day he was to repeat the process in order to be forgiven. There was no provision made for the repentant sinner to confess his sins one time, which would release him from all his future sins. Furthermore, his confessions were for specific sins and it would be impossible to be specific in confession for sins that have not yet been committed—unless they had been planned beforehand.
Certain Christian writers in the past have commented on this subject. I do not cite these authors as proof of a point but rather as evidence that other Christians share the same conclusion on this subject. One Bible Commentary states, “Before sin is forgiven, it must be repented of.” (C. H. Spurgeon, Treasury of David on Psalm 32:1) One Baptist theologian wrote, “The blood of Christ is not applied to the sin until after the forgiveness is sought. This is only logical. If it were applied automatically, we would have no need to go before the Lord with our confessions.” (Stanley Derickson, Notes on Theology, page 874, Copyright 1992) If God were to forgive me today of every sin I might commit in the future there would be no need for me to confess any sin that I might commit in the future. Yet John wrote, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9) Forgiveness of our sins is conditional on whether we confess them or not.
This is logical and it agrees with the words of the New Testament. Paul wrote, “And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.” (Ephesians 4:32)
We have been instructed to forgive others in the same way that God forgives us. How did Jesus say we are to forgive others? Jesus said, “Take heed to yourselves: If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him. And if he trespass against thee seven times in a day, and seven times in a day turn again to thee, saying, I repent; thou shalt forgive him.” (Luke 17:3, 4) Jesus said that when a person repents we are to forgive him. If he comes to us seven times in a day and says, “I repent,” we are commanded to forgive him. Since we have been instructed to forgive others in the same way that God forgives us, it is only reasonable to conclude that when we sincerely come to God in repentance He forgives us in the same way.
In the Lord’s Prayer Jesus gave us an example of how to pray. Jesus instructed us to ask the Father to, “forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.” (Matthew 6:12) We are to ask God to forgive us in the same way that we forgive others. My friends, that is very serious. That means if I do not forgive others then God will not forgive me. This is precisely what Jesus said right after He gave us the Lord’s Prayer. He said, “if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” (Matthew 6:14, 15) That is very serious, and it should make us seriously consider in what way we forgive others.
Jesus said to His 12 disciples, “And when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have ought against any: that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses. But if ye do not forgive, neither will your Father which is in heaven forgive your trespasses.” (Mark 11:25, 26) Notice that Jesus is speaking to Christians—Christians who have already begun their walk with God. Christ’s words here could not be true if God forgave us of all of our future sins at the time of our first confession of sins, for at any time, even after we have confessed our sins of the past, we could cherish bitterness toward someone and refuse to forgive that person. Jesus said if we do this God will not forgive us of our sins. But if God had already forgiven us of all future sins, how could it be true that He would refrain from forgiving us of our sins?
Once Saved, Always Saved?
If we believe God forgives us of all future sins at the point of conversion, we are saying that once a person is saved he will always be saved and cannot lose that salvation no matter what happens. However the sad history of Saul is an example proving that this is not true. Saul was truly converted. The Bible says that the Lord “gave him another heart,” and he was“turned into another man.” (1 Samuel 10:6, 9) Yet the Bible records that after a life that included rejecting God, “Saul died for his transgression which he committed against the LORD, even against the word of the LORD, which he kept not, and also for asking counsel of one that had a familiar spirit, to enquire of it.” (1 Chronicles 10:13)
Again I would like to cite a few Christian authors on this subject. One Bible commentary states, “A Christian looks upon Christ as one who has taken away his past sin (1 Peter 2:24), and who will forgive his present sin (1 John 1:9).” (J. W. Mcgarvey, LL.D., and Philip Y. Pendleton, A.B., The Four Fold Gospel Commentary on John 1:29, emphasis supplied) Another Bible Commentary states, “We may rely on God’s mercy for pardon as to the past, but not for indulgence to sin in future.” (Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary on Malachi 1:6) If God has already forgiven me of all my future sins as well as my past, then it would not matter what lifestyle I would choose to live. If this were true adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, would all be acceptable. But Paul said, “they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.” (Galatians 5:19-21)
When we come to Christ He tells us, “sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee.” (John 5:14) Jesus says to you and me today, “go, and sin no more.” (John 8:11) John wrote,“My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not.” (1 John 2:1) Paul wrote, “Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but the keeping of the commandments of God.” (1 Corinthians 7:19)
God’s Forgiveness of All Sins
Some use the following verses as proof of their assertion that future as well as past sins are forgiven at the time of initial repentance: “Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits: Who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases.” (Psalms 103:2, 3) Some assume that the word “all” in this verse must include future as well as past sins. However even a superficial examination of the word “all” in the Bible will reveal that this is not necessarily the case. For example notice how this word is used in the following verses: “He spake, and the locusts came, and caterpillers, and that without number, And did eat up all the herbs in their land, and devoured the fruit of their ground.” (Psalms 105:34, 35) Certainly nobody would assume that the locusts and caterpillars ate, not only all the herbs that existed at that time, but also all the herbs that ever existed in the land of Egypt in the future. It would not have been possible at one time for the locusts to eat all the herbs that ever would exist in the future.
God forgives us of all our sins, that is for sure. When we confess our sins God forgives us of all of our sins and we can stand before God as though we had never sinned. Notice what Thomas Watson wrote in 1692 addressing God’s complete forgiveness of our sins.
“When God pardons a sinner, he forgives all sins. ‘I will pardon all their iniquities.’ Jeremiah 33:8. ‘Having forgiven you all trespasses.’ Colossians 2:13. The mercy-seat, which was a type of forgiveness, covered the whole ark, to show that God covers all our transgressions. He does not leave one sin upon the score; he does not take his pen and for fourscore sins write down fifty, but blots out all sin. ‘Who forgiveth all thine iniquities.’ Psalm 103:3. When I say, God forgives all sins, I understand it of sins past, for sins to come are not forgiven till they are repented of. Indeed God has decreed to pardon them; and when he forgives one sin, he will in time forgive all; but sins future are not actually pardoned till they are repented of. It is absurd to think sin should be forgiven before it is committed.
“If all sins past and to come are at once forgiven, then what need to pray for the pardon of sin? It is a vain thing to pray for the pardon of that which is already forgiven. The opinion that sins to come, as well as past, are forgiven, takes away and makes void Christ’s intercession. He is an advocate to intercede for daily sins. 1 John 2:1. But if sin be forgiven before it be committed, what need is there of his daily intercession? What need have I of an advocate, if sin be pardoned before it be committed? So that, though God forgives all sins past to a believer, yet sins to come are not forgiven till repentance be renewed.” (Thomas Watson, The Lord’s Prayer, page 278, first published in 1692, emphasis supplied)
This brings up an excellent point. If a man’s future sins were forgiven at the time of his first confession of sins, then there would be no need for Christ to intercede for them. Let us take a few moments to examine some very interesting points that Paul made in his epistles regarding our need for Christ’s intercession.
The Importance of the Intercession of Christ
Paul wrote concerning Christ that He “was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification.” (Romans 4:25) This is very interesting. It says that Christ died for our sins and was raised again for our justification. The Greek word that was translated “justification” means to declare righteous or to render innocent. (See Thayer’s Greek Lexicon.) To be justified is to be pardoned or forgiven of sins in the past. A man who has been justified stands before God as if he had never sinned.
Paul is saying here that Christ died for our sins and He was raised again so that we could be forgiven of our sins. That is very interesting. It brings up a question that we will address shortly. If Christ had died, and was not raised from the dead, could we be forgiven of our sins? If not, why? Why was it necessary for Christ to be raised from the dead in order for us to be forgiven? I understand that Christ’s resurrection was important as an assurance that God will one day resurrect those who are asleep in Christ. But Paul was talking about something more here. Paul said that our forgiveness of sins is dependent upon Christ’s resurrection.
Notice what Paul says in the following verses: “Now if Christ be preached that he rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen: And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain.” (1 Corinthians 15:12-14) These are strong words. Paul said that if Christ was not raised from the dead our faith would be in vain—it would be worthless. But Paul doesn’t stop here. He goes on, “Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that he raised up Christ: whom he raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not. For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised: And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins.” (1 Corinthians 15:15-17)
Paul said that if Christ was not raised from the dead not only is our faith in vain, but we are yet in our sins. Paul said that if Christ were not raised from the dead there would be no way that we could be forgiven of our sins. Why is this true? Didn’t everything happen at the cross? What more needed to happen after the death of Christ?
Let me clarify a point: Christ was the ultimate sacrifice. The sacrifice on Calvary was a complete and perfect sacrifice—Christ, the sinless one, dying for the sinner. The death of Christ is an absolute necessity in the plan of God to redeem mankind. However the Bible teaches that there is more to the plan of salvation than just the death of Christ. This is not to in any way minimize that death. It is as essential to the plan of salvation as the heart is to the body. However, the heart alone, without support from other organs, is unable to give the body life.
A Work Done After the Death of the Sacrifice
If in the earthly sanctuary service the sinner brought the sacrifice and merely killed it, would that be of any benefit to the sinner? Certainly not! The sin that had been symbolically transferred to the sacrifice by confession had to be transferred by the priest to the sanctuary before the sinner could be forgiven. In like manner, we must have the ministration of our High Priest in the heavenly sanctuary so that we can be forgiven. We need the ministration of Christ on our behalf as much as we needed the death of Christ for our sins. One without the other would be of no avail. “For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.” (1 Timothy 2:5) “Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.” (Hebrews 7:25)
His death on the cross was vitally important, for without that He would have nothing to offer on our behalf. Paul wrote, “Now of the things which we have spoken this is the sum: We have such an high priest, who is set on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens; A minister of the sanctuary, and of the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, and not man. For every high priest is ordained to offer gifts and sacrifices: wherefore it is of necessity that this man have somewhat also to offer.” (Hebrews 8:1-3) At Christ’s resurrection He, for the first time, entered upon His work as our High Priest: a minister of the sanctuary in heaven. He could not have been our high priest until after He had something to offer—after His death on the cross.
The earthly high priest was ordained “to offer gifts and sacrifices.” To whom did he offer the gifts and sacrifices? To God! Christ has been ordained as our High Priest, and He must have something to offer—the merits of His perfect and complete sacrifice. Paul wrote, “In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace.” (Ephesians 1:7) Paul said that we have forgiveness of sins through His blood. Yet we just read how Paul said that if Christ had only died than we could not be forgiven of our sins. The only way we could have forgiveness of our sins “through his blood” is by Christ offering the merits of his perfect sacrifice—His blood—as our High Priest.
The Work of our High Priest Today
This all seems new to many people. Many have never given much thought regarding the necessity of Christ being our High Priest, “a minister of the sanctuary, and of the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, and not man.”
Notice what Paul said in the following verse: “Wherefore in all things it behoved him [Christ] to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people.” (Hebrews 2:17) This verse sheds much light on this subject. It says that Christ had to become a man before He could be a merciful and faithful High Priest. The Greek word that was translated “behoved” means to be under obligation. (See Strong’s Greek Lexicon.) Before Christ could be our High Priest He had to become a man and die for our sins so that He would have something to offer as a minister in the heavenly sanctuary.
Notice what Paul said that Christ would do after He became our High Priest. He said that Christ had to be a High Priest “to make reconciliation for the sins of the people.” Christ is our High Priest today making reconciliation for our sins. Paul did not say He made reconciliation [past tense] for the sins of the people but that He is making reconciliation [present tense] for the sins of the people. The Greek term to ilaskesqai that was translated “make reconciliation” is in the present tense in Greek. This agrees with Paul’s words in the book of Hebrews where he said Christ “ever liveth to make intercession” for us. (Hebrews 7:25) Praise the Lord that He has not only provided His Son as our perfect sacrifice, but also appointed Him to be our High Priest to minister for us, making reconciliation for our sins today. There is a work going on right now in heaven that we must not overlook.
Let us recap some of the things we have learned in this study.
- We all have sinned and are worthy of eternal death.
- Of ourselves we can do nothing to make up for even one sin we have committed in the past.
- Keeping the law of God from this time forward will not pardon us from any sin that we have committed in the past.
- God sent His Son to die for our sins so that we don’t have to.
- If we trust in His sacrifice for us and confess and forsake our sins He will forgive us of sins we have committed in the past.
- Future sins are not forgiven until after we have committed and confessed them.
- Once we have confessed our sins God expects us not to sin in the future.
- It is possible that a person can be truly born again, and then turn away from the Lord and be lost.
- Christ’s death on the cross was extremely important, yet if Christ had not been raised again to be our High Priest we could not be forgiven of our sins.
- Christ is now a minister of the heavenly sanctuary making reconciliation for our sins.
I pray that this study has been a blessing to you. It certainly has been a blessing to me. Most of all I pray that you will accept God’s merciful provision for your salvation. “What shall I render unto the LORD for all his benefits toward me? I will take the cup of salvation, and call upon the name of the LORD.” (Psalms 116:12, 13) Keep trusting in the Lord and follow Him to the end. Jesus said, “he that endureth to the end shall be saved.” (Matthew 10:22)