Truth is not only
violated by falsehood;
it may be equally
outraged by silence.
Directly after I had been baptized as a Mormon child, it was explained to me that all my past sins had been washed away. At the same time I was warned that I would have to answer to God for every single sin I committed from that moment on. That was scary stuff. (The normal age for Mormon baptism by immersion is eight, at which time they consider children to be accountable for their sins.)
However, when the Bible talks about forgiveness of sins committed in the past (and it only does so in two places), it is in the context of the sins of believers from the previous dispensation, i.e. the Old Covenant, who had already passed away prior to Christ’s crucifixion.
Because the New Covenant had to be ratified by Christ’s shed blood, it only came into being after His death. Prior to that, the Old Covenant had prevailed. Christ’s sacrificial, substitutionary death was the fulfilment of what was pictured in the Old Covenant sacrifices to cover sin. And so His atonement didn’t only ratify the New Covenant of forgiveness by grace through faith, it also covered the sins of Old Testament believers, who had been trusting in the promised Messiah.
I have used the New Living Bible translation for the first scripture quoted hereunder (although it is a paraphrase), because it will give readers an excellent understanding of the meaning of Romans 3:25-26, that they might otherwise miss. However, the second quote, Hebrews 9:15, is from the KJV:
“…People are made right with God when they
believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood.
This sacrifice shows that God was being fair when he held
back and did not punish those who sinned in times past, for
he was looking ahead and including them in what he would do
in this present time. God did this to demonstrate his
righteousness, for he himself is fair and just, and he
declares sinners to be right in his sight when they believe
in Jesus.” (Romans 3:25-26, Holy Bible, New Living
Translation ®, copyright © 1996, 2004 by Tyndale Charitable
Trust. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers. All
“And for this cause He is the mediator of the new testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance.” (Hebrews 9:15, KJV)
Hebrews 9:15 quoted directly above, reveals that the Old Testament believers who were looking forward in faith to the coming Messiah, were provided for in Christ’s substitutionary atonement. And that’s what the Bible was referring to when it talked about forgiveness of, or redemption from the sins that are past.
As far as New Covenant believers are concerned, His atonement covered all our sins, even those we will commit and confess in the future:
“And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses; Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross.” (Colossians 2:13-14, KJV)
At the time when Christ died for the forgiveness of my sins, I hadn’t yet been born. So I hadn’t yet committed any sins. Nevertheless, His substitutionary, sacrificial death all those many years ago, covered all my sins, the moment I trusted in Him as my saviour and sin bearer.
The following article deals with what happens if we sin after salvation:
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Copyright © 2013 by Yvonne Gibbs. All rights reserved.