In “Part 1”, we looked at the idea of forgiveness through the lens of the parable of the ungrateful debtor of Matthew 18:23-35. We saw that God’s judgment of us is not a one-time thing according to Jesus- the belief commonly referred to as “once saved, always saved” in Christian circles.
Now let’s take a closer look at the second idea in Jesus’ pleading with the Father: “…for they know not…” Could it be possible that they were being forgiven of sins they weren’t even aware they were committing?
The Bible makes it clear to us about sin and its consequences.
For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. -Romans 6:23
In studying the services of the tabernacle, we can learn amazing truths about the love of God and the way He deals with our sins.
Turn to Hebrews 9:7. Here we see the allusion to the sanctuary offerings and services of the Day of Atonement. Let’s examine the second half of the verse where the high priest offers another sacrifice after the people have been bringing their sacrifices into the sanctuary daily for forgiveness. It says, “which he offered for himself, and for the errors of the people.” The word used here for “errors” = “sins committed in ignorance.”
So if you were an Israelite and were guilty of sinning, and you knew it, you were told to bring an animal to sacrifice in the tabernacle. You placed your hands over the head of the animal, and symbolically transferred blame onto the animal. You then killed the animal for your sin. Fair? Hardly. But sin isn’t fair. This animal was to symbolize the death of Christ for your sin. Did you walk away forgiven? Absolutely.
When were you to offer a sacrifice for sin? They were told repeatedly, “when it is known.” (Lev 4:14, 23, 28) Hidden here lies a beautiful truth about the judgment and character of God! We’re only held liable for sins we’re aware of. But what about the “sins of ignorance” discussed in Hebrews 9? Aren’t the wages of those sins “death” as well? God had a plan in place for those sins too.
Let’s fast forward to the Day of Atonement- the most sacred day of the religious calendar for Israel. This ceremony is discussed in great detail in Lev 16. Here we see a “bullock” being offered for the sins of the high priest and for the “sins of ignorance” of the people. So even the sins they weren’t aware of, which still required death, were covered by Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross to come!
Now, back to our original question: were the people who put Jesus on the cross forgiven for that act? According to the Bible- yes. Were they forgiven for all time? No.
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This should give us hope. Let us pray that God will continually make us aware of our sins, so that we can lay them down at the foot of the cross. And let us walk away with that blessed assurance that even those sins we might not be aware of are covered by His blood as well!