06 Apr Words of Grace – John Stott “The Assurance of Forgiveness”
“If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.” 1 Corinthians 15:17
The second significance of the resurrection is that it assures us of God’s forgiveness. I have read the statement of the head of a large English mental hospital: “I could dismiss half my patients tomorrow if they could be assured of forgiveness.” For all of us have a skeleton or two in some dark cupboardmemories of things we have thought, said, or done, of which in our better moments we are thoroughly ashamed. Our conscience nags, condemns, even torments us.
Several times during his public ministry Jesus spoke words of forgiveness and peace, and in the upper room he referred to the communion cup as his “blood of the covenant . . . poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins” (Matt. 26:28). Thus he linked our forgiveness with his death.
That is what Jesus said. But how can we know that he was correct, that he achieved by his death what he said he would achieve, and that God has accepted his death in our place as a full, perfect, and sufficient sacrifice for our sins? The answer is that, if he had remained dead, we would never have known. Rather, without the resurrection we would have to conclude that his death was a failure. The apostle Paul saw this logic clearly. The terrible consequences of no resurrection, he wrote, would be that the apostles are false witnesses, believers are unforgiven, and the Christian dead have perished. But in fact, Paul continued, Christ was raised from the dead, and by raising him, God has assured us that he approved of his sin-bearing death, that he did not die in vain, and that those who trust in him receive a full and free forgiveness. The resurrection validates the cross.
For further reading: 1 Corinthians 15:12-20
John Stott, Through the Bible, Through the Year: Daily Reflections from Genesis to Revelation (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2006), p. 281.