Luke 1:77 “…to give his people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins.”
This same verse came up in our readings just two weeks ago, and I wrote about how John the Baptist’s commission has now been given to every believer. No human being can give another eternal salvation, because we aren’t God. However, we can tell others about the salvation that God has already provided through His Son, who gave His own life so that we may be forgiven of our sins. That forgiveness originates with God, but we are called to be agents of it as well. After His resurrection Jesus told His disciples something absolutely shocking: “If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.” (John 20:23) To be honest, I still don’t know entirely how that works and is to be applied, but it brings up something else Jesus said much earlier in His ministry: “For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” (Matthew 6:14-15) Forgiveness is central to the message of salvation no matter how you look at it. We have to be careful to recognize and communicate that forgiveness is not the same as excusing. God never says that it’s OK to sin! If that were the case, there would have been no need for Jesus to be born as a human being, live and grow and then die, both as a representative human being and as the eternal Son of God, taking the penalty for our sins. Forgiveness isn’t cheap! Even on the human scale it sometimes takes a huge expenditure of emotional energy to forgive, both those who have hurt us and sometimes even ourselves. However, when we understand that Jesus has already paid the ultimate price for forgiveness, both for us and for those who have hurt us, then it becomes possible both to receive that forgiveness and to forgive others. After all, nothing someone could do to us is worse than what we have done to our Creator, denying Him in countless ways and refusing to obey what He has laid out for us. It is when we understand God’s forgiveness toward us that we are then able to give others “the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins.”
This is of course central to my ministry, since I am a pastor in Japan. It is particularly difficult here, because Japanese culture and language lack a clear understanding of either sin or forgiveness. The idea of retribution is enshrined in Japanese folklore, with people who sacrificed everything, including their own families, to exact vengeance on an enemy being held up as great heroes. The story known as “The 47 Samurai” in English is titled “The Storehouse of Faithfulness” in Japanese. I hone in on the necessity of forgiveness every time I do marriage counseling, stating clearly that a marriage that lacks forgiveness is not a happy marriage. I remember a tv show a few years ago in which a housewife was proudly showing the camera a notebook in which she kept a record of all the things her husband did that she couldn’t forgive. How utterly pathetic! I am not only to teach but also to model the forgiveness that God has provided through Christ, so that as many as will may repent and believe for their salvation. (Mark 1:15)
Father, thank You for this reminder. I pray that in the events of the next two weeks I may deliver and model the message of salvation effectively, for people’s salvation and Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!