March 26, 1941
Shall we read Hebrews 10:14: “For by one offering He hath perfected forever them that are sanctified. Also 1 John 1:8: “If we say we have no sin we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.” Again, Hebrews 10:12: “But this Man after He had offered one sacrifice for sins, forever sat down at the right hand of God.”
As no doubt most of you very well know, the Epistle to the Hebrews is one of contrast and not comparison. For instance, no priest ever sat down in the continuation of his service as long as he lived. He never could take a seat. He could not say to you, “Take a chair,” because he could not take one himself.
In this Epistle we begin with the first chapter: “When He had by Himself made purification for sins, (He) sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” I want to speak to you this evening on a very elementary subject. That is “The Forgiveness of Sins; Divine forgiveness in two aspects.” There are at least seven aspects of Divine forgiveness in the New Testament. If you mix them all up together, you will have what they commonly call an Irish Stew and you cannot tell “t’other from which.” What I mean by that is, if you ask ordinary Christians, “Are your sins forgiven? Are they gone forever? If the Lord came this moment are you perfectly sure you would reach the Father’s house instantly?” the great majority would hesitate because they mix up these different aspects of the Divine forgiveness altogether in this stew which I am referring to, and they cannot tell one from the other.
The two aspects I want to speak on tonight are “God’s forgiveness to the sinner the moment he believes the Gospel,”—we shall call that eternal forgiveness, while the other one is the “Father’s forgiveness to the child who is in the family.” God’s forgiveness once and forever the moment we trust the finished work of Christ, and then the Father’s forgiveness based upon confession.
We have been reading a verse just now from Heb. 10:12, telling us that “This Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins, forever sat down at the right hand of God.” You say: “What? Has He sat down forever?” Yes, in connection with your sins He has, and that is the point in view. He sits down in Chapter 1 because of who He is. He sits down in Chapter 10 because of what He has done.
You know how this marvelous epistle begins. It begins with God. “God who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in times past unto the fathers, by the prophets hath in these last days spoken unto us by His Son, whom He hath appointed Heir of all things, by whom also He made the worlds; who being the brightness of His glory,” etc. It begins with the word “God,” “When He had by Himself,” not by His blood, not by His work on the cross, but by Himself. It is the glory of His Person that is in view in chapter One. He is God the Son who speaks in the last days and nobody can talk after Him. He then takes His seat on high and sits down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, in virtue of who He is. Would you go and sit down in this country or any other country where there are what we might call English people, alongside King George when he is enthroned in majesty, and much more is the glory of our Blessed Lord Jesus Christ. When He had by Himself made purification for our sins He sat down at the right hand of God.
That is our vision, dear friends, filled with Christ, for that is what this epistle is about. Everyone has to clear out to make room for Him. He procured a more excellent name than the angels. Moses has to go, Aaron has to go, and the angels have to go. Everyone has to make room for Christ. You say: “When is He going?” He is never going. He is the same yesterday, today and forever. That is in Chapter 13. He has turned out everybody, but He is forever. The Lord Jesus the same yesterday, today and forever.
I believe, dear friends, that is how the thing works morally; that is, as you get a bigger vision of Christ, as the Holy Ghost illuminates the eyes of your heart to that Blessed One, things have to go. Everything, I repeat, goes in Hebrews. Anyone who knows their Bible knows that He has obtained a more excellent name than angels. Moses, the mediator of the old covenant, Joshua, the man beloved of the Lord, all these names have to evaporate to make room for that of the Blessed One.
Then, I repeat, in Chapter 13, when all these things have been dispensed with, He comes in to stay. Get a larger view of Christ then, dear friends, and things will have to go. He sits down in Chapter 10 because of what He has done. He sits down in Chapter I because of Who He is. “When He had by Himself.”
Beloved friends, you believe in the inspiration of the Bible, I am sure. If there is a change in the punctuations of our Authorized Version, our translation of the Word, you want to know why it is changed. “When He had by Himself purged our sins,” He goes and sits down in virtue of who He is, at the right hand of God. Now in Chapter 10 we read, “This Man after He had offered one sacrifice for sins, forever sat down.” Yes; have you got it? That is the punctuation. He has sat down forever in connection with your sins and will never rise up any more to put them away. If the window were open and you were to get up now to shut it, you would never get up any more to shut the window because you have already shut it. You might get up to shut the door. The Lord Jesus may come tonight to take you to the Father’s house, to meet Him in the air. He will come again surely, but, beloved friends, He will never rise up any more from where He is to put your sins away because He has done that forever. He has offered one sacrifice for sins and has forever sat down in relation to that one thing. Do you know it? “Do I know what?” That your sins are gone forever in virtue of the Glorified Christ sitting at the right hand of the Majesty on high. He sits there because He has put them away forever. He will get up to do something else but He will never rise any more to put your sins away.
You have heard perhaps that “A Crowned Christ and a clean conscience are moral correlatives in the economy of grace.” If He has sat down there forever because He has put my sins away, then I am clean here. He is crowned there. I am clean here. Let me repeat it: “A Crowned Christ and a clean conscience are moral correlatives in the economy of grace.” Do you know it, dear hearer? As you look through the opened heavens that Blessed One is sitting there. Sitting in heaven means that the work is done. “He has sat down” occurs about eight times in Hebrews, and Now of the things which we have spoken, this is the sum: We have such an High Priest who is set on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the Heavens.
Sin does two things. It defiles the conscience and it is an offence against God. Of course, it does many other things, but sin at least does these two. It defiles the conscience; for that I need cleansing. It is an offence against God; for that I need forgiveness. Please do not mix up words. Do not mix up things. Differentiate them! To be cleansed is one thing; to be forgiven is another thing.
When my little boy is going along the road there, he slips into a mud puddle. When he comes to the house, I look at him. Perhaps he thinks I am going to punish him, but first I find out what happened. He slipped into a mud puddle. He merely slipped in. He could not help it. But when I look at him with all that mud upon him he seems inclined to tell me an untruth. He says, “You know little so-and-so; he pushed me in,” and he tells me a lie. If he had slipped into the mud accidentally, he would not need forgiveness, he would need cleansing. He has done nothing morally wrong. He could not help slipping. But if he said, “Somebody pushed me in,” and it was untrue, he needs forgiveness.
Differentiate between these two verses in Hebrew 10. Differentiate between cleansing and forgiveness. The verse for cleansing is verse 14: “For by one offering He hath perfected forever them that are sanctified/’ Does it take your breath away? Are you perfected forever? “Why! Did I ever say I was?” But you see, the Bible says you are anyway. Perfected forever! That means God does not see a spot upon you, and never will. If He did, you would be damned. If I have got one sin upon me tonight, I am bound for the lake of fire.
“By one offering He hath perfected forever.” That is, in the sight of God, through the value of the blood of Christ, I am perfected forever, not a spot on me. You never need the blood but once. You do not need to be cleansed in the blood of Christ, but once. It is not only one Sacrifice on the cross but it is one purging, that is, one application. “That the worshippers once purged should have no more conscience of sins.” The moment the precious blood of Christ was applied to you by the Holy Ghost, you were what the Bible calls “perfected forever”; not a spot on you, and there never will be.
Of course, every Christian knows that Christ will never die any more, but every Christian does not know that one application of the blood puts away your sins forever. That is exactly what is said here, “By one offering He has perfected forever them that are sanctified, “and the worshippers once purged should have had no more conscience of sins,” that is, no more cleansing. You say, “It is all a dream; you imagine it,” but when the blood of Christ touches you, it is not only a dream but a doctrine— divine teaching. The moment it is applied by the Spirit of God I am perfected forever, not a spot on me, and there never will be; that is, there is no more cleansing. “The blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.” That has nothing whatever to do with any tenses. It is the blood, the abstract value of the blood, which cleanses from sin. Whether you believe it or not, that is what the blood does. The moment you trust, you are cleansed forever. God never sees a spot on you.
But I must not linger too long on this, but there is a tremendous lot of bad doctrine around as to what the blood does. It is the eternal abstract value. If you do not trust it for yourself, it will be no good for you. The moment you do, you are perfected forever. You will never need any more, to be washed in the blood, though you will need the washing of the water by the Word all along the pilgrim pathway.
The other thing I want to call your attention to is in verse 17: “Their sins and iniquities will I remember no more.” That is forgiveness forever. Verse 14 shows I am cleansed once for all by the precious blood, no spot on me, but in verse 17 is forgiveness. “Their sins and iniquities will I remember no more.” But you say, “How am I to know that?” This is how you are to know it: “Whereof the Holy Ghost also is a witness to us” (verse 15). “To us,” not “in us,” this time. Why is the Holy Ghost a witness to me in the Book I hold in my hand? This is a quotation from Jeremiah. “Whereof the Holy Ghost is a witness to us.” When you trust the blood you are cleansed once for all, and the Holy Ghost comes into you when you trust the blood.
But this is a witness “to you,” you say. Well, here it is quoted from Jeremiah. “Their sins and iniquities will I remember no more forever.” I want to ask you, “Do you believe that?” It is the simplest thing in Christianity. It is your beginning there. I am cleansed once for all in the atoning blood, perfected forever. Am I forgiven forever? Do not look inside to see if you are “perfected forever.” Is the Holy Ghost a witness to you in the Book?
“Their sins and iniquities will I remember no more.” Dear hearer, are you sure of all this, absolutely sure? You cannot have any doubt if you take God at His word.
Some years ago, when in the Rocky Mountains, I went to see a dear man I had often heard about, Dr. Sydney Smith. At one time he was a clergyman in Ireland, and then came to the States to study medicine. He was a very fine gospel preacher. I knew he was living somewhere in the Rockies, and went to see him. I had not been in his house very long when his wife said, “Sing him, ‘No more’.” I said, “You have not sung me anything yet.” But I was not long in suspense. He went over to his harmonium and began to sing a hymn he had composed:
“I will give you a piece of good news today,
My sins are remembered no more,
For Jesus has taken them all away,
My sins are remembered no more.
No more, no more, no more, no more,
My sins are remembered no more;
For Jesus has taken them all away,
My sins are remembered no more.”
Then I knew what she meant when she said “Sing him, ‘No more’.”
Now, beloved friends, the Spirit of God in this one chapter tells us that we are perfected forever, cleansed once for all and that our sins and iniquities are remembered no more. Are we all perfectly sure of that? You ought to know it by the Scriptures themselves. I trust if you have never known it before you will know it tonight. Divine forgiveness and Divine cleansing are made sure to you by the blessed Scriptures themselves.
Shall we turn now to 1 John 1:8, 9: “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
I hope, dear friend, you confess your sins if you are a believer. Do not ask forgiveness for all your sins at once. If you want to be a backslider, lump it all together when you go to bed at night and ask God to forgive you. You have confessed nothing yet. Very early in the morning you had a bit of a tiff with the milkman; then about 11 o’clock you told somebody else—well, it was not a lie, but it was not exactly the truth; and so it goes on. Other things happen. Then you go to bed at night and you ask the Lord to forgive you. If you want to be a backslider, that is the way to do it. I say it reverently: The Lord might say, “When are you going to confess anything? You have confessed nothing yet.” That small row you had with the milkman, that something else you did throughout the day, after all you have confessed nothing yet.
I urge every Christian here tonight to confess to God what you have done. Tell Him what it was the milkman did that made you angry at half-past seven, and the other one at 11, and someone else at 5 o’clock. If you want to get to be a backslider and drift away on the rocks, keep from confessing. I am speaking now to the believer, who commits sin. You say, “Is it possible for a believer to commit sin? Why, you told us just now he has no sin upon him.” No, but he has sin in him. If you tell me you never have any wicked thoughts, you are lying. Why, they come into your mind and you cannot help it. They pass through your heart. You do not want them to, but they come. You have sin in you but not on you. What is more, dear friend, that sinful nature will never change.
The Lord said to Moses, “Put your hand into your bosom.” He put it in and brought it out leprous, because under those ribs of his there was a moral nature that can do nothing but sin, the sinful Adam nature. It will be there as long as you live. It is not your master, for “Sin shall not have dominion over you,” but it is in you. You know very well it is in you. I cannot help a bird flying over my head, but I can help letting it make a nest in my hair. I cannot help sin coming along, but I can help nurturing it, cherishing it, dwelling upon it. But you say: “We have no sins; there are no sins on us; they are gone forever.” Yes, but you have the sinful nature in you, my dear brother and sister. You know it is true. The sinful, vile nature will never change. From it emanates all kinds of wicked things. “Out of the heart of man proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders.” You do not have to ask it. It comes without asking.
Supposing I do commit sin, what will it do? It will break my communion. It will not break my relationship with God, but it will break my communion with Him. How am I going to be put right? Confess it. “If we confess our sins He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins.” Do you do it? I urge you, beloved in the Lord, very earnestly to cultivate the habit of confessing right out to God what you have done. Tell Him that you have prevaricated with the milkman; tell Him you told a sort of half lie. That will keep your conscience alive. But remember, dear friends, that sin was put away by the blood of Christ. If you commit it now it breaks your communion with God your Father. If you are to be put right with Him in restoration, you must confess it. “If we confess our sins.” “I said, I will confess my transgression unto the Lord; Thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin.” “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” If you leave out the last part of the verse you leave out the best part. If I confess to the Lord, He forgives me. I urge you to do it. Cultivate honest dealings with God.
We are told in Ps. 32:1, 2: “Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered… and in whose spirit there is no guile.” Guile means dealing with God; hypocrisy is dealing with men. Be real with God. Be honest with Him. Tell it out to Him. Keep nothing covered up. “If we confess our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive.” Nothing can break our relationship, but a very little bit of a thing can break our blessed communion with Him. I trust you enjoy communion with Him, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the Beloved Son. Have quick reckonings with Him. Do not wait till the end of the day to confess your sins. You can tell it all out right away, and “He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
You will find in Numbers 19 that when a man became defiled, he had to be sprinkled with the water of separation. The ashes of a red heifer were obtained and put in a clean place by themselves, and clean water put in. The man was then sprinkled with that water on the third day, and seventh day, and when thus cleansed he could re-join the congregation of his people. There are two stages in restoration. We do not jump into it. There is the third day and the seventh day; he was sprinkled with water, the water that came from those ashes. The red heifer had been reduced to ashes, and clean water was put with them to sprinkle the man who got denied in the wilderness.
There are two stages, beloved friends, in our recovery. The first is that in which we are all broken down, and the second is when His arms are round our necks, hugging us to His bosom, restoring us to communion.
Have I said enough on the forgiveness of sins for one who is in the family of God? This forgiveness is judicial, forgiveness in virtue of the blood of Christ. I do not mind repeating myself; the moment you put your trust in that precious blood you are cleansed forever. God sees no spot on you. You are perfected forever. That does not mean you are perfect. It is the efficacy of the blood that perfects us in the sight of God. He does not see a spot on us and never will. As His children, we are in a new relationship. God is our Father. We are His children—and you won’t mind me saying it; though perhaps you will not like it—a saved sinner is a phenomenon. I am not a saved sinner; I am a saint. Every believer is a saint. We have passed out of the region of being sinners. Then what are we? We are “the beloved of God, called saints,” or saints by calling. We are in the family of God. We are made the righteousness of God in Him. Did you ever see a black, white man? Did you ever see a fat, thin man? Did you ever see a millionaire and a poor man in one person. There is no use saying such things. They are contradictions. If you are cleansed by the atoning blood, if you have received the witness of the Holy Ghost to you, you are in the family of God. Everything is new. You are no longer in the old relationship. You are one of His children. As far as I remember, I do not see anywhere in the Bible the expression “child of God,” It is children always, because we are in the family. We are God’s children; we belong to the family of God.
“Behold what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us that we should be called the children of God.” It takes more to be a son than to be a child. Turn to Galatians 4:3 and see if it does not: “Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world.” The new birth makes you a child; redemption makes you a son. “To redeem them that were under the law that we might receive sonship, and because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father.” You never saw over a store “Smith & Child.” It is always “Smith & Son.” “Son” means to be grown-up, mature.
Unconverted hearer, you have been bought if you are not redeemed. When you trust the blood of Christ, you are redeemed and brought back. You are then in the family of God. You are one of the sons of the Father, and because you are a son He has sent “the Spirit of His Son into your heart crying, Abba, Father.” But, beloved friends, there is children and sonship. “Son” in Scripture means mature, grown-up, of full age, whereas in Galatians you are said to be just like a slave if you are under law; “Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage.” Then God sent forth His Son and He redeemed us. When we trust that Son, the Spirit of the Son comes into us and we cry, “Abba, Father.” We have the blessed consciousness that that relationship exists.
If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Ah, beloved friends, get hold of that second part. If I sin, I tell the Lord about it (I should, at any rate), go right into it with Him. He forgives me and He does more than that. He removes every shade of distance. “Cleansing us from all unrighteousness” means He puts me at ease with Him. I am back into the old place; I am where I was before I lost communion.
I remember my dear father when I was first converted. He said to me one Sunday evening, “You are not going to meeting tonight. You are always going to meetings. You must stop at home with me.” I was only a youth. I sat there, got very uneasy on my chair, twiddled my neck-tie, looked at the ceiling, and not a word passed between us. The atmosphere was frozen. At last my father broke the silence and said: “I think you had better go to that meeting.” I remember I ran all the way, I think it was two miles, and I heard a sermon about a man I never heard of before. His name was Mephibosheth.
I want to get close to you, beloved, if I can. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us and to cleanse us” from everything that creates distance between our hearts and Him, from all unrighteousness. I once heard a brother say, “If you have never known nearness you will never feel distance.” When our Blessed Lord was here, one man leaned on His bosom and only one. Peter did not, nor Andrew, nor Philip, nor Bartholomew, but one man placed his head there. No wonder he wrote John’s Gospel. The Gospel of John, to put it briefly, is the revelation of the Father in the Son and the Son in the Father’s bosom. Here is a man who leaned on the Son’s bosom. “There was leaning on Jesus’ bosom one of His disciples whom Jesus loved.” I want to ask you a brotherly question. In all your life did you ever get there? We have been to His feet and received forgiveness; we have stood at His side to serve Him. Have we felt the palpitation of that Heart, the love of which passeth knowledge? “There was leaning on Jesus’ bosom one of His disciples whom Jesus loved.” That is the blessed man who wrote the Gospel of John. “Faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us” from everything that creates distance. When that brother said “If you have never known nearness, you will never feel distance,” it went through me like a dagger. Numb spiritually! We are spiritually numb because we have never known nearness.
A man is coming down the street. He passes by and takes no notice of me. Why should he? He does not know me. Another man is coming down. He is a pretty good friend of mine. Somehow, when I draw near, he looks in a shop-window. He stares and stares in the window but does not see me. Then my wife comes along, and she completely ignores me. You ask, “Do you feel it?” If I am not made of wood I feel it. Because I have known nearness and intimacy I feel keenly their loss.
What is cleansing from all unrighteousness? What is unrighteousness? It is what is not suitable—not enjoying relationship! That is unrighteousness. Look at my father and myself that night. He did not speak. I did not speak. He said nothing. I said nothing. It is possible, beloved in the Lord, for you to be spiritually numb, not dead, but numb; divine convictions in you have become more or less numb. The reason we do not feel it is because we have never known nearness. If I have never been to that Blessed Bosom, I shall not miss it, and I can treat sin in a very light way because I am spiritually numb.
He does two things then. “He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins” and “to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” In the 13th chapter of John’s Gospel the Lord poured water in a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet. The chapter begins with these words, “When Jesus knew that His hour was come that He should depart out of this world unto the Father… He poureth water into a basin, and began to wash the disciples’ feet.” Peter says, “You shalt never wash my feet.” The Lord said, “If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with Me.” “You will have no real communion with Me. I want you to have communion with Me when I get there. I am going to cleanse your feet along the way, removing the dust you pick up along the road.” Then Peter went too far the other way and he said: “If that is the case, wash me all over.” Then the Lord said, “He that is bathed, needs not save to wash his feet.” But he needs feet-washing. We have all had the bath, the new birth, the washing of regeneration, but we need our feet washed all along the road. If He does not do that, we will not have any part with Him in communion. Those two go together.
“If I have never known nearness, I will never feel distance.” Let us hasten back then, beloved, to that Blessed Bosom. Let Him wash our feet to remove anything that hinders, that brings distance, that brings shadow, that brings any unrighteousness. “He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness,” to remove any shadow of distance. First, there is the bath all over, then the basin for the feet, and then you lean on the Bosom—The bath, the basin, the bosom!
I will put the questions to myself: Do I know what that means? Do I know the heart of Christ? Do I know the love of Christ? Do I cherish it? Do I ever really get there and put my head on His bosom?
There are other things, but these are two aspects of forgiveness. If you are unconverted, dear hearer, as you sit on that seat, and you trust the precious blood of Christ, the blood shed on Calvary, you are perfected forever by the one Offering. You are brought into the family of God. Now if we sin after that in relation with God, our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, we must go and confess it. Tell it all out. “He is faithful and just to forgive us,” and not that only, but also “to cleanse us from all unrighteousness,” from every distance.
I used to leave that last part out but, thank God, I do not now. At any rate, I know He forgives me if I confess, but I know He does more than that. If I let Him, He will remove every shadow of distance. Have you not known blessed intimacy with Him? Have you not felt the pulsation of that heart of love? If you have known it and have lost it and want to get back, take the divine way to get back. Let Him have His own way with you.
“There was leaning on Jesus’ bosom, one of His disciples whom Jesus loved.” Doesn’t He love everybody like that? He loves everybody in a general way, of course, but this is a particular kind. There was one of the disciples whom Jesus loved leaning on His bosom. I urge you, dear friends, cultivate the blessed thought, “I would like to be there in unclouded communion with Himself.”