How do we truly know when we are forgiven?

By Eugene P. Vedder, Jr.

As we look at the Gospels we find some things that the Lord Jesus said and did are told us in one gospel while other events are in two, three or all four books. Depending on how the Lord Jesus is presented in a particular gospel, added facts may be given in one that are not mentioned in another. Similarly, additional facts and teachings may be given us in other books of the Bible as well. God has scattered vital teaching throughout His Word, yet there is a lovely harmony throughout the Bible. It is helpful and important that we acquaint ourselves with all of God’s Word.

The account of a paralyzed man being brought to the Lord Jesus by four of his friends is given us in Matthew 9, Mark 2 and Luke 5. Because of the crowd, the four had to open the roof of the house the Lord was in to let their friend down before Him. To their surprise and the shock of the scribes who were present, rather than the Lord immediately healing the man, He said to him, “Son, your sins are forgiven you.” After asking which was easier, to forgive sins or heal a paralytic, He pointed out to the bystanders that He, the Son of Man, had power on earth to forgive sins, and then proceeded to heal the man. His power has not diminished during the past 2,000 years; it never can nor ever will. His power in heaven is equally limitless.

We might like to wonder if the healed man had some questions as he walked home, such as: “Did I understand Him correctly when He said, ‘Son, your sins are forgiven you’? He didn’t add any conditions, did He?” or, “Well, I really can’t believe that it is that simple, and that I don’t have to pay or do anything at all.” But questions like these would indicate the man doubted the word of the Lord Jesus Christ, God’s Son, who had likewise healed his paralysis by just speaking a word.

An unbeliever is called on to repent and believe the Word that is brought to him. Throughout the book of Acts we see both groups and individuals coming to salvation through faith in Christ. Depending on the circumstances and condition of the hearer’s heart, the message is varied. The Jews who had heard Peter’s message in Acts 2 obviously believed what he had preached and asked what they should do. They were told to repent and be baptized, which separated them from the mass of Jews who had rejected Christ and called for His blood to be upon themselves and their children. In Acts 16 we see the jailor at Philippi, trembling and on the verge of suicide, told to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and be saved. Repentance was not mentioned for it was clearly there.

When it comes to a believer today, all his sins were future when Christ died for them. Thus all the sins of the person who has been saved have been atoned for and forgiven according to God’s Word. He is saved. He has eternal life. He is a child of God. He cannot lose his salvation, for he is safe in the hands of the Lord Jesus and of God the Father.

But in 1 John 1:9 we believers are told, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (NKJV). Notice, it doesn’t even say that we need to ask for forgiveness. The Lord guarantees us forgiveness if we confess our sins. Do we believe what He says in His Word? If we look closely at 1 John 1:9, we see that it doesn’t say we will feel forgiven, but He tells us that He forgives us our sins and cleanses us from all unrighteousness when we confess our sins to Him. Do we believe Him? Is He trustworthy? We truly know we are forgiven because we can count on what He says.

People’s feelings change constantly and are not to be depended on. However, the Lord Jesus is faithful. He cannot lie. May we rejoice in the knowledge of this and walk with our Lord, keeping short accounts with Him from day to day!

You are saved by Christ’s work, you are assured by God’s Word, and your joy is maintained by the Holy Spirit who indwells you. But every saved person still has the old, sin nature that he was born with. The Holy Spirit resists the old nature but is grieved by every thought, word or deed that springs from it. When you walk “worthy of the Lord,” the Holy Spirit produces in you His blessed fruit: “love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Gal. 5:22 NKJV). While Christ’s work and your salvation stand firm together – because He cannot fail – your walk and your enjoyment stand or fall together because the one depends on the other.”

—George Cutting