Propitiation and Forgiveness
I've been asked to comment on two related Bible topics, one about propitiation for sins and the other about confession of sins. Both topics come from John's first epistle (1 John). The verses are,
And he is the propitiation for our sins
1 John 2:2
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins
1 John 1:9
The question is, if Jesus has satisfied God for our sins (propitiation), then why do we have to confess them? Aren't they already taken care of? To answer these questions, I want to focus on three aspects of God:
1. God is Just
2. God is a Gentleman
3. God is Loving
First, I'll give you a brief summary about myself. I call myself a Christian because I believe Jesus Christ is the Messiah sent by God to save mankind from the penalty of their sins and to make peace between man and God. The Bible says,
And this is the testimony [of the apostles]: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.
1 John 5:11-12
No one who denies the Son has the Father; whoever acknowledges the Son has the Father also.
1 John 2:23
Jesus answered: "...Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you are not just my own. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves.
God is Just
God is just, otherwise he could not judge the world. Every good deed and every bad deed will receive a just reward from God.
Regarding the penalty for sin, the Bible says,
Behold, all souls are mine; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine: the soul that sins, it shall die
For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God
For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord
God is a Bookkeeper
(This topic is still part of the "God is Just" topic)
If God punishes sins and rewards good, then he must keep track of the good and the evil.
And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.
The problem is this: if we have all sinned and the wages of sin is death, and if God is a just judge to see that all sin is paid, then how shall we be saved? God made a way for us to be saved by himself paying the penalty of our sins. Salvation is open for all who wants it at any time. Anybody who wants to be forgiven of his sins and find peace with God may now do so through the means that God prepared for us.
But God commended his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him.
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.
Christ died on our behalf. He, who did no sin, died anyway on behalf of and in place of those who did sin. Therefore, anybody who comes to God must approach God only through Jesus. Jesus said,
I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture."
God is a Gentleman
God does not force you to believe or to serve him. He invites you to come to him.
Come unto me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and you shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.
The beginning of God's relationship with Adam and Eve sets the tone of how God wants to deal with mankind:
Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the LORD God among the trees of the garden. But the LORD God called to the man, “Where are you?”
That sets the tone. God had created man and was developing a friendship with them. He was visiting them and was going to walk around the garden with them. He's like a father spending time with his family. God views himself as a loving Father
A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows,
is God in his holy dwelling.
As a father has compassion on his children,
so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him
I will be a Father to you,
and you will be my sons and daughters, says the
2 Corinthians 6:18
God does not force us to believe in him or to serve him. However he begs us to do so and warns us of the consequences if we don't,
Say unto them, As I live, says the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel?
God is Loving
Although God is just, returning to each person the reward for his deeds, he is also loving. God doesn't want anyone to bear the brunt for his sins, because that brunt is death – spiritual dealth, to be exiled from God. If you don't want to live with God, then God will not force you to live with him. But if you do come to God, relating to God on a Father/Child basis, then God will pay the price of your sins himself. It's like a teenage boy breaking the law but his father pays the price of the fine for him, because the boy has no means to pay it himself.
But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away.
Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the PROPITIATION for our sins
1 John 4:10
"Propiation" means "satisfaction." Jesus is the "satisfaction" for our sins. God the Judge deems our sins paid for – satisfied – when we approach him through faith in Jesus.
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast
Because we have this grace from God, which is salvation through Jesus Christ, we also have access to God through Jesus.
Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need
As in every family situation, the children "sin." That is, they do things for which they need to be disciplined. This sin does not remove them from the family; it is only an infraction within the family.
My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline,
and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those he loves,
and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son. Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live!
Therefore, the Bible warns us against pretending that Christians do not sin.
If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us
If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives
1 John 1:8 and 10
And we have this promise from God, that he will forgive us our sins when we confess them.
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.
1 John 1:9
Jesus Christ is the propitiation for our sins. He satisfies God; it is through Jesus that we are both forgiven of our sins and have the right to approach God. If we do not yet know God on a personal basis, we come to God through Jesus and ask for forgiveness of sins. Thereby our forgiveness is established. If we sin after we have come to God, we ask for forgiveness in Jesus name and God forgives us again.
How do we come to God in Jesus name? We say so. When we pray, we say, "Lord God, I come to you in Jesus name." We don't have to prove it any other way. God knows our hearts, and the document of our authorization is written in the Bible and in the blood of Jesus.