Author: Ron Graham
—How many times will God forgive?
Many people are troubled by the fact that they must keeping asking God for forgiveness, and they worry that God will grow weary of their repeatedly coming back. However God is not like that.
Jesus says, "Ask, and it shall be given you, seek and you shall find, knock and it shall be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it shall be opened" (Mtt7:7-8).
In the Greek, the verbs ask, seek, and knock, are written in such a way as to indicate, "keep on asking... keep on seeking... keep on knocking".
In this lovely statement Jesus does not specify what "it" is that we are to keep on asking for and seeking. But surely we do not imagine that "it" excludes forgiveness of sins, the very thing that Jesus shed his blood to accomplish (Matthew 26:28)?
Christ’s Blood for All
"This is my blood of the new covenant, shed for many for the forgiveness of sins" (Matthew 26:28). Jesus died not just for a portion of humanity, but for the many.
"Christ himself is the atonement for our sins, and not for ours alone, but for those of the entire world" (1John 2:1-2).
Three Simple Facts
In this lesson I would like you to consider three simple facts about the way God reckons sin in his system of mercy and justice.
These facts help each of us to be confident that God will not turn us away when we "come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need" (Hebrews 4:14-16).
1 God Does Not Count the Times
Peter asked Jesus how many times should he forgive his brother. Peter thought maybe seven times might be a fair limit. But Jesus said "seventy times seven" (Matthew 18:21-22).
Of course Jesus didn't mean literally 490 times, but rather that the number of times are not to be counted.
This is our Lord's principle of forgiveness, and we may be certain that he did not bind it only upon Peter, but also upon himself.
There is no limit
There is no limit on how many times you may ask forgiveness from God, even for the same repeated sin.
This should not, of course, encourage us to keep on sinning. However it should encourage us to keep on repenting, struggling with our sin clothed with the full armour of God (Ephesians 6:10-18), and bringing our sin to the Saviour.
David prayed, when he asked forgiveness, "Have mercy upon me O God, according to your loving kindness, according to the multitude of your tender mercies. Blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin" (Psalms 51:1-13).
In the greatness of God’s compassion, there is a "multitude of tender mercies" and no upper limit on the number of times you can approach him for forgiveness.
2 God Does Not Grade Our Sins
John tells us that "if we confess our sins God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1John 1:9). The word "all" is very important in that verse and also in verse 7.
Whether our sins are small or great; whether few or many; whether done once or oft-repeated; the blood of Christ can cleanse them all —every single one.
There are no categories
God does not have a sin categorising system where for example...
- very small or occasional sin is simply overlooked or disregarded,
- moderate and not-too-frequent sin is forgiven when requested,
- excessive or oft-repeated misbehaviour is refused forgiveness.
That may be human justice, but it is not the way God's justice system works. God does not grade sin according to its severity or frequency. "God is not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance" (2Peter 3:9).
That includes all sinners, those who sin little, and those who sin much.
3 God Keeps No Record of Our Wrongs
Paul tells us that love "thinks no evil" and the Greek here can be translated a little more strongly as "reckons not evil" (1Corinthians 13:4-5).
Since this is God's principle of love he practises it himself. When he forgives our wrongs he keeps no record of them.
There is no remembrance
When Jesus saves us, our "names are written in the Lamb’s book of life" (Revelation 21:27, Philippians 4:3). Do we suppose that against our names God has recorded all our sins? No, rather...
- they are "blotted out" (Acts 3:19, Psalms 51:1),
- and God will "remember no more" the sins he has forgiven (Hebrews 8:12, Jeremiah 31:31-34).
Jesus says, "He who comes to me I will not at all cast out" (Jn 6:37).
Our problem in coming to the Lord to obtain forgiveness is not that we have too much sin for him to forgive, but that we have too little faith that he will forgive it. That's because we tend to measure God's mercy and justice by a human measure.
God does not do things by human standards and limitations. He has his own way. So let us listen again and again to his promises and just take him at his word. And when his word shows us that we are forgiven, let us trust his word, not our own feelings.
When we do that, our feelings will begin to change, and instead of guilt we will have "the peace of God which transcends all understanding" (Philippians 4:6-9).
Not only will we have confidence that God has forgiven us, but we will also be able to forgive ourselves.