If justification is a onetime declaration by God, intimately connected with the forgiveness of sins through the work of Christ, then it follows that all of the believer’s sins have been forgiven in Christ.
This remission of all sins is not limited to past sins only, but to all sins—past, present, and future. If it were not so, then justification would have to be repeated over and over again, and the imputation of the righteousness of Christ would be lowered to the level of the animal sacrifices of the old covenant.
All our transgressions were laid upon Christ and were, therefore, nailed to the cross (Colossians 2:13–14).
At the time of the death of Christ, all the sins of all believers were yet future. So if we believe that any of our sins were laid upon Christ, even if we limit this to our past sins, we are asserting that future sins were laid upon Christ in the past. Therefore the idea that future sins can be said to be forgiven in the death of Christ is basic to the whole presentation of the efficacy of His saving work.
Paul presents an important truth relevant to this matter in his quotation of David’s words from Psalm 31: Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; blessed is the one against whom the Lord will never count sin. (Romans 4:7– 8). This suggests to us that it is best to think of the forgiveness of future sins in the sense of non-imputation of those sins.
The sins which are pardoned in justification include all sins, past, present, and future. It does indeed seem to be a dilemma that sins should be forgiven before they are committed. Forgiveness involves remission of penalty. But how can a penalty be remitted before it is incurred? This is only an apparent difficulty arising out of the inadequacy of human language. The righteousness of Christ is a perpetual donation. It is a robe which hides, or as the Bible expresses it, covers from the eye of justice the sin of the believer.
They are sins; they deserve the wrath and curse of God, but the necessity for the infliction of that curse no longer exists. The believer feels the constant necessity for confession and prayer for pardon, but the ground of pardon is present for him to offer and plead. So that it would perhaps be a more correct statement to say that in justification the believer receives the promise that God will not deal with him according to his transgressions, rather than to say that sins are forgiven before they are committed.
In Romans 6:14, where believers “are not under law but under grace.” That is, God deals with the elect graciously, not imputing their sins to them (2 Corinthians 5:19; Romans 4:8) but instead looking to the death of Christ as sufficient grounds upon which to forgive.
Those who are no longer under the condemnation of the law, who stand robed in the righteousness of Jesus Christ, are given a title to eternal life. This gift is not based upon anything the redeemed have done or will do. They do nothing to deserve it. Instead, Christ is the one who has merited eternal life, and since His righteousness is imputed to those who are justified, then they too merit eternal life, and they cannot possibly fail to receive it.
The recognition of this truth is in no way a warrant or license to sin. The heart that knows the price paid for its redemption does not seek to add to the cost. Indeed, when God removes our heart of stone and gives us a heart of flesh (Ezekiel 36:26), the result is that we desire to walk in His ways and commandments (Ezekiel 36:27). It is our love for Christ that prompts our new natures to seek Him and walk in paths of righteousness.
So humble yourselves under the mighty power of God, and at the right time he will lift you up in honor (1 Peter 5:6, NLT).
Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death (Romans 8:1-2).
Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need (Hebrews 4:16, NKJV).
And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. (John 14:13).
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