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Free Books » Bonar, Horatius » Light & Truth: Acts and the Larger Epistles

Chapter 29 - Acts 13:38, 39 - Forgiveness through the One Name Light & Truth: Acts and the Larger Epistles by Bonar, Horatius


The apostle had been relating a piece of history,—simple in itself, but of vast importance as to results,—certain facts in the history of David and of David's Son. On these facts he grounds his proclamation of good news; good news to Israel; good news to the sons of men; the tidings of pardoning love.

I. There is a message. It is a special one; a true one; a divine one; sent by God himself. "Be it known unto you." Take this as a matter absolutely certain, and which you ought to know, and which, therefore, I now tell you. It is like "Behold" and "Hear." God has a message for us! Glad tidings of great joy.

II. This message is concerning forgiveness. This is the first thing which a sinner needs; and it is the first which God presents him with. God knows that we are under condemnation, under wrath, under the curse; and that till these are removed, nothing can be done. So He begins His dealings with the sinner by presenting him with a pardon. He comes proposing to reverse the condemnation to cancel the curse, to lift off the wrath. It is this that the apostle brings out so fully in connection with the blood and the covenant, when he says, "Now where remission of sin is, there is no more offering for sin." To a condemned world this message comes. Be it known to you, O condemned man, that there is forgiveness for thee! Forgiveness to every one who needs it, this is our message. To us as condemned, as accursed, as lost, as worthless, as helpless, the tidings come; tidings of God's forgiving love, and of the forgiveness which that love presents to us.

III. This forgiveness is through the man Christ Jesus. Only in connection with "this man" can forgiveness reach us. In any other way it is one of the impossibilities of the universe. It is impossible with God, with angels, with men. Apart from "this man" there is only condemnation and doom to the sinner.

(1.) "This man" was sent to provide it. It was a possible thing; but only in one way, and through one channel. It must come in righteousness; it must not only be gracious, but righteous and lawful; safe for us, and honourable for God. This man came to make it so, to reconcile the righteousness with the grace, to present us with a holy pardon.

(2.) "This man" has provided it. It is now done. That which was possible before has become righteous now. Jesus Christ, of the seed of David, has done the work, by bearing our sins in His own body on the tree. The wrath and curse have been born pardon and righteousness are now one.

(3.) "This man" has it for us. It is in his hands. He is the vessel of pardon. Its fullness is in Him. He is exalted a Prince and a Saviour to give it. "Come unto me," he says to the condemned and the weary. We now know (1) where, and (2) how, and (3) when pardon is to be had by the sinner.

(4.) In preaching "this man," we preach forgiveness. We have much to say concerning "this man"; much to make known respecting His person and work; and all that we have to tell, brings out the fullness deposited in Him, and the completeness of the forgiveness which God presents to the sinner, to the ungodliest, through Him, and through Him alone; for "when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly." In all that we say of Christ, we make known God's free pardon; for there is not one single particle of the divine testimony concerning Him, that does not, more or less directly, reveal the forgiveness that there is with God. Forgiveness! Forgiveness through Jesus Christ, the Son of David, who died, and was buried, and rose again. This is God's message to man. Heaven cries aloud to earth, Forgiveness! The cross cries aloud, Forgiveness! Forgiveness to the guiltiest, to the most hardened rebel, to the oldest criminal, to the mast stout-hearted sinner—forgiveness complete, immediate, free, and everlasting!

IV. This forgiveness comes to us in believing. Concerning "this man," God has given a testimony, and to that testimony he has annexed a promise, to the effect that every one, whoever he be, that believes the testimony shall get the pardon. It is not a mere testimony, without a promise—that would simply relieve the burdened sinner to the extent of shewing him that pardon was possible or likely. It is a testimony followed up by a promise of salvation to the man who credits the testimony; and this is the true "appropriation,"—the accepting of the promise along with the crediting of the testimony. Thus testimony and promise must go together. He that takes the one without the other, is not only shutting himself out from blessing, but he is separating what God has linked together. He that says, I believe the testimony concerning Jesus, but I am not sure of being a pardoned man, is taking the testimony but rejecting the promise, or at least saying, that it is not true to him until he is conscious of having undergone certain spiritual changes, and experienced certain religious feelings.

Thus we are pardoned; and thus we know that we are pardoned; not by reflecting on, or being satisfied with, the quality of our faith, but with the certainty of the promise.

The promise goes beyond "pardon," and proclaims "justification" as the portion of every man who believes. For while pardon delivers a criminal from his sentence, it does not necessarily restore him to favor, or present him with a complete standing before his sovereign and his fellow men. But when "justified" as well as "pardoned," we are taken up to the level of the unfallen and sinless; nay, we are treated according to the character and deservings of Him through whom the justification comes. We are made to stand where He stands, and to receive the righteous favor which He receives. Yes; we are justified from all things. Our whole man is justified, our whole person is accepted; and everything, great or small, that was against us is taken out of the way.

All this simply in believing! Our justification begins and is carried on entirely through this. Not working, nor feeling, nor striving, nor wrestling, but simple believing. It is our believing that introduces us into the condition of justified men; it is this believing that God acknowledges; it is this believing that the conscience responds to; for that which we believe is the one justifying thing, the one thing which is well-pleasing to God, and which pacifies the conscience.

We have to do with a propitiation completed on the cross. In crediting God's testimony to that propitiation, we have pardon; and in accepting the promise annexed to the testimony, we know that we have it; because God is true.