IN REGARD to how the Word “forgive” is used in the Text, today I draw your attention to a comparison of the Word “forgive” and the phrase “our sins.” I John 1.9. In this comparison, there are at least three things. I. The Word “forgive” is only used once. II. The phrase “our sins” is used three times. III. Why this is so.
I. In the Text, the Word “forgive” is only used once. The Word “forgive” is a precious Word. We may be thankful the Word is used in Scripture. If the Word “forgive” was not used in Scripture, there would be no hope for any of us. Who does not admire how JESUS used the Word in Mark 2.10? It is a Verse of pure beauty. In the Verse, JESUS says: “The Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins.” Even what the sad scribes said on this occasion (supposing the idea is rightly straightened out) agrees with what JESUS said. They said: “Who can forgive sins but God only?” Yet as dear as the Word “forgive” is and although it is quite used through Scripture, in the Text, the Word is only found once.
II. The phrase “our sins” is used three times. I'm going to read the Text to you again. This time look for the phrase “our sins.” See if you can locate its three appearances. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” There are three parts in the Text. The thought contained in the phrase “our sins” is present in all three parts. In Fact, all three parts always end with this phrase. The phrase is in the first part. “If we confess our sins.” The phrase is in the second part. “He is faithful and just to forgive our sins.” And in the third part, if you look for it, you'll find the phrase. Except this time the phrase expands into the Words “ all unrighteousness.”
III. Why this is so. It might be well asked, why is it that the Word “forgive” only appears once in the Text? Right beside this, why does the phrase “our sins” appear three times? Is not the Word “forgive” sweeter? Is not the Word “forgive” more important? For Eternal Life is found in “our sins.” Eternal Life is found in the Forgiveness. I would here give five reflections.
1. Let GOD be GOD. It may be, perhaps the favorite Word of many is the Word “forgive.” Yet no one can deny the phrase “our sins” keeps showing itself. There is no part of the Text where the phrase is not. This shows this phrase is important to GOD. Surely, GOD also speaks to us by merely repeating this phrase. My suggestion is Psalm 27.14. “Wait on the Lord.” Luke 9.44. “Let these sayings sink down” inside you. Psalm 46.10 says: “Be still.” Keep these Words in mind. Roll them over again in your heart. And you will “know that He is God.” GOD will unfold the meaning of His Word.
2. This is the Divine Order. In the Text, which is first? The Word “forgive” does not come first. The phrase “our sins” comes first. This is the Divine Order. GOD does not first forgive and then you confess your sins. You confess your sins first. Then GOD forgives. This order is spelled out all across Scripture. For this reason, it is right that the phrase “our sins” comes first.
3. The human race is slow to see its sins. There is good reason why the phrase “our sins” appears three times in the Text. One reason is the human race is slow to see its sins. We are good at seeing our supposed good points. But when it comes to seeing our sins, we cannot do this on our own. This takes the special Work of GOD. No one can truly see or feel sin until GOD opens the eyes. Jeremiah 17.9 says: “The heart is deceitful above all things.” In John 16.8, JESUS said when THE SPIRIT comes into the heart, He will reprove sin.
4. There is urgency wrapped up in this thing. Why would GOD repeat Himself in the phrase “our sins?” Certainly, GOD is not redundant. Nor does GOD repeat Himself because He is at a loss for Words. Comparing Scripture with Scripture, it may be safely supposed that GOD repeats Himself in these Words because this is like Luke 22.46. In Luke 22.46, it was the time for Prayer. But how did JESUS find the Disciples? He found them sleeping. Therefore JESUS said: “Why sleep ye? Rise and pray.” And when it comes to GOD'S repeating the phrase “our sins,” I showed before that the human race is slow to see its sins. Since this is true and since it is urgent to see your sins, it is no wonder GOD would so speak the phrase “our sins.” Three times GOD says your sins, your sins, your sins! Here is a gracious GOD trying to awake the sleeping soul out of spiritual slumber to get the soul to come to Him for the confession and the Forgiveness of sins.
5. The Word “forgive” is a sovereign Word. I grant, no one can deny there is power in the phrase “our sins.” I John 3.4 says sin is transgression against GOD'S Law. Isaiah 48.22 says sin brings inward unrest. Romans 6.23 says the wages of sin is eternal death. There are many who smile at these things these days. They think they are old-fashioned concepts. But it will be found out in the end that GOD does not lie. Yet suppose the Text did not speak the phrase “our sins” three times. Suppose the Text spoke the phrase “our sins” five or ten times. Still, the presence of the single Word “forgive” is able to take these sins away. The principle the Centurion laid down in Matthew 8.8 is true. If GOD but “speaks the word only,” one Divine Forgiveness is more than sufficient for man's need. In Romans 5.20, the Apostle Paul said that in Forgiveness “where sin abounded, grace much more abounds.” Therefore one forgiving Word from GOD can take all the sin away. Amen.
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