Today's Broadcast

The Remission of Sins

A Message by R.C. Sproul

When God sets His holy gaze into the hearts of men, He sees sin and wickedness embedded deep in us. What can possibly remedy the effects of this plague on our souls? When the filth of sin has stained your soul, where do you go for cleansing? Dr. Sproul reminds us that we can only go to the blood of Christ, in "The Remission of Sins."

From the series: Justification By Faith Alone

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Further Study On This Topic

  1. devotional

    Washed, Sanctified, and Justified

  2. devotional

    The Remission of Sins

  3. article

    Peace by His Blood

Washed, Sanctified, and Justified

Some theological traditions endorse baptismal regeneration, the idea that all baptized people, by virtue of the rite of baptism, receive a new heart for God. This new heart can be lost through post-baptismal impenitence; nevertheless, these traditions teach that God always grants a new heart in baptism. Other theological traditions commit the opposite error of viewing Christian baptism merely as a public testimony of our commitment to Jesus. In this view of baptism, God is not really giving a promise and the Holy Spirit is not really moving to confirm our faith. Instead, baptism only displays our intention to serve Christ, our decision to rest in Jesus for salvation.

Scripture, Reformed theologians recognize, teaches neither of these extremes. The rite of baptism does not cause our regeneration; no baptized person has an automatic claim upon God’s grace merely because he was sprinkled, immersed, or otherwise washed with water in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. A new heart is the gift of God’s Spirit alone (John 3:3–5), and He does not regenerate every baptized member of the visible church. Yet this does not strip baptism of true power and significance. The Lord’s sure promise that He redeems all who turn from sin and rest in Christ alone is conveyed, without exception, to all who are baptized. “The promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself” (Acts 2:39). God really uses baptism to assure the elect, to sustain their faith, and to welcome them into His church. This is not baptismal regeneration, for the promise in baptism, like all of God’s Word, also has power to harden the hearts of those who reject it. We cannot fully explain how God uses baptism to bless His people. But the sacrament of baptism undoubtedly conveys real spiritual benefits to the elect.

Scripture is unafraid to speak of baptism in this manner, as the Heidelberg Catechism explains (Q&A 73). Today’s passage is one of many in which the Bible uses baptismal language almost synonymously with salvation. Scripture does this, the catechism says, because God wants to provide spiritual assurance in baptism of what He does in the hearts of all who believe. No one is saved by the mere washing of water, but all who are saved have experienced the grace of God in their baptism.

The Remission of Sins

Our focus on the doctrine of justification has made it necessary for us to use a specialized theological vocabulary. As we noted yesterday, this technicality is often necessary in order to make sure that we rightly understand the teaching of Scripture and are able to answer those who misuse and misunderstand the Bible.

At the same time, all good technical theology is also good practical theology. As we conclude our study of the doctrine of justification over the next two days, we will note how this doctrine answers some of the practical issues and questions of the Christian life.

John Calvin once said that the remission of sins was the heart of the doctrine of justification by faith alone. The word “remission” is made up of the word mission and the prefix re-. Mission is taken from the Latin word missio which means “to send.” The prefix re- means “away” or “again.” Thus, when we speak of the remission of sins we speak of the sending away of our sins.

In short, the doctrine of justification deals with the reality of our guilt. In justification, God declares us righteous based on the imputed righteousness of Christ. However, He also declares us not guilty of our sins because in justification, our sins are imputed to Jesus upon whom was poured the wrath of God. In Christ, our sins are sent away from us. Consequently, our guilt is removed, and we are made clean in the eyes of God.

This was the hope of every old-covenant believer. As today’s passage notes, the Lord promised that though the sins of His people be as scarlet, He would make them as white as snow. The use of the color scarlet indicates that even the vilest of sins would be forgiven, for just as God can make the darkest stain white, so too can He make the foulest sinner clean.

Two thousand years ago, the hope of Israel was fulfilled when Jesus bore the sins of His people on the cross. On that day, the wrath of God was poured out upon Him so that those who are in Christ might be cleansed. If you are in Christ you are no longer guilty of any transgression, and you have been forgiven of even the most heinous of sins.

Peace by His Blood

Anthony Carter

In April of 1992, after four Los Angeles Police Officers were acquitted of any criminal act in the apprehension, beating, and arrest of Rodney Ki ng, the city of Los Angeles burst into some of the worst riots in its history. After three days of fatalities, injuries, looting, and vandalism, King appeared before the microphones and cameras and asked the now-famous question: “Can’t we all get along?” It seems an innocuous question, the kind I have asked my children a time or two. And yet, in the midst of race and class riots in the streets, it was a profound question of peace and tolerance.

“Can’t we all get along?” is the question the religious world is fond of asking. The vast majority of the religious world wants us to believe that all beliefs and assertions of truth are equally true and valid for the purposes of knowing God and loving our fellow humanity. No matter how contradictory these beliefs and convictions may be, the world believes that this is the way to peace. In a world of religious pluralism, the world’s answer to King’s question is, “Yes, Mr. King, we can all get along if we would live and let live and find that peace comes only by accepting everyone’s opinion as equally valid, no matter how contradictory or divergent these opinions may be.”

To be accurate, the Bible reminds us that as Christians we are to be at peace with all people, if possible (Rom. 12:18). We are to be known as easy to get along with, pursuers of peace and equanimity with our neighbors. The church should not be known for violence or hate-mongering, but as a people of peace, indeed peacemakers (Matt. 5:9). Nevertheless, this peace is not to be had at the expense of the truth. In fact, the Christian knows that there is no real peace without truth, and the truth is that real, lasting peace comes only by and through the blood of Jesus.

In Colossians 1:19–20, we are told that the divine revelation of God in Christ was done so that He might “reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.” The peace that reconciles — that brings all things into true unity and says, “Yes, we can get along” — is the peace that comes by way of the blood of Jesus shed on the cross. The blood of Christ not only says we can get along with each other; more importantly, it says we can get along with God.

Our world is fond of talking about peace. We hold peace summits and rallies. We establish peace accords and treaties. We even hand out peace prizes. Since 1901, the Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded to 118 recipients such as Theodore Roosevelt, Albert Schweitzer, the Red Cross, Desmond Tutu, Mother Teresa, and Barack Obama, to name a few. Yet, for all of its summits, accords, and prizes, the world ha s not accomplished peace. Wars and rumors of wars continue. This is because there is no peace so long as sin remains.

Peace is the absence of hostility and the establishment of prosperity and tranquility. It is what the Bible calls shalom — a wholeness and integrity of life established in righteous relationship with God and others. Peace is what was lost in the garden of Eden because of sin. And peace is what is established once again in Christ Jesus through His blood. The only way to bring an end to hostility and enmity in the world is to bring an end to the source of hostility and enmity, namely, sin.

As Christ came to bring an end to our sin (1 John 3:5), so Christ came to bring peace. When Christ was born, He came as God to “give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace” (Luke 1:79). And on the night of our Savior’s birth, the angels proclaimed, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased” (Luke 2:14). And yet, the peace was not without a cost. Christ brought peace to us, but with a price — His own blood (Col. 1:20).

Why does the blood of Christ make peace? Because without it there is no forgiveness of sin. Without the forgiveness of sin, hostility and enmity remain. The difference between the world and the church is not that one wants peace and the other does not. We all desire peace. The difference is that the church wants the One who has brought peace through His blood and the world does not. The difference is the blood of Jesus, which cleanses us from sin and establishes our peace with God.

The world around us is every day echoing the words of Rodney King: “Can’t we all get along?” The church’s answer to this question is the gospel of peace. We can get along in and through Jesus Christ, who by His blood is our peace and provides for us the only way to get along with God and each other.

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