In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace;
The forgiveness of sins is an article in the creed, but I want it to be a substantive in your lives. Most men say that they believe it, but their belief is often nominal, and a nominal faith, like nominal wealth, only makes the absence of the reality the more deplorable. In two instances there is clearly no faith in forgiven sin.
1. Those who have never felt that they are sinful. How can he who does not believe in the existence of sin believe in the forgiveness of it? His whole confession on that matter belongs to the region of fiction. If sin is not a terrible fact to you, pardon will never be more than a notion.
2. Those who know the guilt of sin, but are not yet able to believe in the Lord Jesus for the remission of their transgressions. They need to be admonished as Luther was by the godly old monk. When he was greatly distressed under conviction of his guilt, the aged man said, "Didst thou not say this morning in the creed, 'I believe in the forgiveness of sins'?" Oh, be not theoretical believers. You believe in sin, believe also in its pardon. Let the one be as much a truth as the other.
I. From the text we learn THE MEASURE OF FORGIVENESS.
1. Observe, then, that the measure of forgiveness is the riches of God's grace, and this statement leads us to observe that it is not the character or person of the offender which is the measure of mercy, but the character of the offended One. Is there not rich consolation in this undoubted fact? The pardon to be hoped for is not to be measured by you and what you are, but by God and what He is. One man will forgive a grievous wrong, while another will not overlook a wry word. Take an instance from English history: John had most villainously treated his brother Richard in his absence. Was it likely that when he of the lion's heart came home he would pass over his brother's grievous offence? If you look at John, villain that he was, it was most unlikely that he should be forgiven; but then, if you consider the brave, high-souled Richard, the very flower of chivalry, you expect a generous deed. Base as John was, he was likely to be forgiven, because Richard was so free of heart, and accordingly pardon was right royally given by the great-hearted monarch. Had John been only half as guilty, if his brother Richard had been like himself he would have made him lay his neck on the block. If John had been Richard and Richard had been John, no matter how small the offence, there would have been no likelihood of pardon at all. So is it in all matters of transgression and pardon. You must take the offence somewhat into account, it is true, but not one half so much as the character of the person who has been offended. Let us establish this fact, and then see what light it throws upon the probability of pardon to any of you who are seeking it. With whom are you dealing? You have offended — who is He whom you have offended? Is it one whose anger is quickly aroused? No, the Lord is long suffering, and exceedingly patient. Forty years long was He grieved with one generation; and many a time did He pity them and remove His wrath from them.
2. Since the forgiveness of sins is "according to the riches of His grace," then it is not according to our conceptions of God's mercy, but according to that mercy itself, and the riches of it. God's love is not to be measured by a mercer's yard, nor His mercy to be weighed in the balances of the merchant.
3. If, again, the measure of mercy is "according to the riches of His grace," then no limit to pardon can be set by the amount of human sin which can be forgiven. Sin is no trifle, and yet pardon is no impossibility.
4. Another comfortable conclusion follows from this, that no limit is set to the time in which a man has sinned, so as to bound the reach of grace by the lapse of years. Our text does not say that there is forgiveness of sins according to such and such a time of life, but "according to the riches of His grace."
5. Let me draw another inference. If pardon be "according to the riches of His grace," it is not according to the bitterness of the sorrow which has been felt by the sinner. There is a notion abroad that we must pass through a period of keen remorse before we can expect to be accepted with God.
6. And let me say that the measure of God's forgiveness is not even the strength of a man's faith. The measure of God's forgiveness is "according to the riches of His grace." You, dear soul, are to come and trust in what Jesus Christ did when He bled away His life for sinners, and then your pardon shall be measured out to you, not according to the greatness and strength of your confidence, but according to the immeasurable mercy of the heart of God. You may have faith but as a grain of mustard seed, your faith may only dare to touch the garment's hem of the great Saviour, you may get no further than to say, "He hath said, 'Him that cometh to Me I will in no wise cast out,' and I do come to Him: if I perish, I will perish trusting Him," and yet that faith will save you. Thy sins which are many are all forgiven thee if thou believest in Jesus; for the measure of thy forgiveness is not thy faith, nor thy tears of repentance, nor thy bitter regrets, nor thy sin, nor thy conception of God's goodness, nor thy character, either past or present or future; but the forgiveness which is granted from the Lord is "according to the riches of His grace."
II. THE MANNER OF FORGIVENESS.
1. Absolute freeness. "According to the riches of His free favour," for that is the meaning of the word "grace." God forgives none because of payment made by them in any form. If we could bring Him mountains of gold and silver, they would be nothing worth to Him. Forgiveness, like love, is unpurchaseable by us. God's pardons are absolutely free.
2. Royal ease. When you and I give away money to the poor, we have to pause, and see how much is left in our purse; we have to calculate our incomes to see whether we may not be spending too much in charity; but those who have great riches can give and not calculate: even so God when He grants forgiveness gives it "according to the riches of His grace." He never has to think whether He will have grace enough left; He will be none the richer if He withholds it, none the poorer if He bestows it. There is a magnificent ease about the benefactions of God: He scatters the largesse of His mercy right and left with unstinted liberality. The Roman conquerors, traversing the Via Sacra in triumph, were accustomed to scatter gold and silver with both hands as they rode along, and the eager crowd gathered up the shower of gifts. Our Lord, when He ascended on high and led captivity captive, scattered gifts among men with royal splendour and munificence.
3. Unquestionable fulness. The blood of Jesus makes us whiter than snow, and absolute innocence cannot be more white than that.
4. Irreversible certainty. "No condemnation."
5. Unfailing renewal. Daily forgiveness for daily sin, a flesh spring rising for fresh thirst.
III. THE MANIFESTATION OF THIS PARDON.
1. Forgiveness of sin comes to us entirely through Jesus Christ our Saviour; and if we go to Jesus Christ, fixing our eyes especially upon His atoning sacrifice, we have pardon by virtue of His blood. Pardon by any other means is impossible, but by Jesus Christ it is certain. Everything else fails, but faith in Christ never fails.
2. This pardon is a possession. "We have" it. No longer is the weight and burden of sin lying on your conscience and heart: your load is lifted; you are forgiven. If your child has been offending you, and you are angry with him, he feels ill at ease in your presence. At last you say, "My boy, it is all gone now; do not offend again. You are quite forgiven; come here, and let me kiss you." Does he reply, "Father, I am afraid"? If so, it is evident that he does not understand that you have forgiven him: and even if he receives your kiss, but still remains unhappy in your presence, it is clear that he does not believe in you or in the sincerity of your forgiveness. As soon as the light dawns on his mind "Father has quite put all my fault away," then he is merry in his play and easy in his conversation with you. Now, be with God like a child at home. Do not act towards Him as if still He frowned upon you.
(C. H. Spurgeon.)
Parallel VersesKJV: In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace;