3 And he said to them, “Into what then were you baptized?” So they said, “Into John’s baptism.” 4 Then Paul said, “John indeed baptized with a baptism of repentance, saying to the people that they should believe on Him who would come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus.” 5 When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus (Acts 19:3–5, NKJV).
Paul asked these disciples of John a simple, probing, and informative question: “Into what then were you baptized?” Their answer (“into John’s baptism”) gave Paul the opening to explain the prerequisite and outcome of John’s baptism and help them become Christ’s disciples. First, repentance was necessary to receive John’s baptism, without which his baptism “for the remission of sins” was useless (Luke 3:3, 7-8; Matt. 3:5-8). Second, John’s preaching and baptism prepared people to believe on the Messiah (whom Paul tells them is Christ Jesus, Acts 19:4; Luke 3:3-6). John’s baptism served its purpose and ran its course. Convinced that Jesus is the Christ (in whom John prepared them to put their faith), John’s disciples became disciples of Jesus by being “baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus” (by His authority, Acts 19:5). They were not disciples of Jesus before and until they were baptized in His name. Christ’s baptism remains how believers become disciples of Jesus. Faith that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, prepares the sinner to repent and be baptized in His name to be saved and become His disciple (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:36-41; 10:48; Gal. 3:26-27).
13 He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, 14 in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins. (Colossians 1:13–14, NKJV)
The letter to the Colossians displays and describes the preeminence of Jesus Christ. Colossians 1:13-20 details His primacy and our incentives to entirely submit our hearts and lives to Him. Today’s passage unequivocally states that Jesus has a kingdom and, therefore, a King (v. 13). It also views Jesus as the Redeemer whose death gives forgiveness of sins (v. 14). The kingdom of God (also called the kingdom of heaven, Matt. 13:11; Mk. 4:11) exists today. Therefore, Jesus is now reigning as King (Heb. 1:8-9). The Son’s kingdom is the church He built, the kingdom of heaven (Matt. 16:18-19; Heb. 12:28). Sinners escape the “power of darkness” (sin and death) by entering “the kingdom of the Son.” This transfer from the spiritual realm of darkness to the Son’s kingdom happens when the Redeemer’s blood is applied to the sinner, forgiving his or her sins (Col. 1:14). The blood of Jesus is the ransom price paid to deliver sinners (1 Tim. 2:6). Redemption is only in Christ (v. 14; Acts 4:12). The gospel calls sinners to Christ for forgiveness through His blood. When sinners believe in Jesus Christ, repent, and are baptized into Christ, the blood of Jesus washes away their sins (Acts 2:37-41; 22:16; Rom. 6:3-4; Gal. 3:26-27). Jesus, the King, and Redeemer, continues to save sinners. He is worthy of our undying praise and devotion (Rev. 5:8-14).
8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us. (1 John 1:8–10, NKJV)
To confess means to acknowledge, “to say the same thing as another, i.e. to agree with, assent…to concede” (Thayer, 446). Confessing our sins requires that we agree with God that we have transgressed His truth; we have sinned. God’s assurance of forgiveness to Christians “if we confess our sins” is bookended with “if we say that we have no sin” (v. 8) and “If we say that we have not sinned” (v. 10). We must acknowledge our sins to ourselves before we can and ever will properly confess them to God (Psa. 32:3-4). We must come to ourselves like the prodigal (Lk. 15:17). God’s word describes this process as godly sorrow producing repentance that leads to salvation (2 Cor. 7:10). With contrite hearts, we admit our sins to ourselves, and with repentance toward God, we confess our sins to Him (Lk. 15:18-19). With such a confession of sins, we fall before the throne of grace seeking mercy, and God keeps His word to cleanse our defilement (1 Jno. 1:9; Psa. 32:5; 51:3-4, 7-12, 17). John says four things happen when we deny our sin: 1) We deceive ourselves, 2) The truth is not in us, 3) We make God a liar, and 4) His word is not in us. God is faithful to forgive us when we trust Him and confess our sins to Him.
1 There was a certain man in Caesarea called Cornelius, a centurion of what was called the Italian Regiment, 2 a devout man and one who feared God with all his household, who gave alms generously to the people, and prayed to God always. (Acts 10:1–2, NKJV)
People devoted to their families, jobs, and country are assets to any society. Those who respect God, pray, and are generous bring honor to themselves by blessing others. Cornelius, the centurion, was such a man. Just in his dealings with his fellow man, he had a good reputation among those who easily could be his adversaries (Acts 10:22). Many would say such people will surely go to heaven. Yet, for all his good traits, Cornelius was lost. His morality could not save him. His prayers did not save him. An angel appearing to him did not save him (Acts 10:3-4). The angel told him to send for Peter, who would tell him what he “must do” (Acts 10:6). Peter preached the gospel to him so he could be saved (Acts 11:14; 15:7-9). Peter told this moral, devout, prayerful, charitable person to “fear God and work righteousness” to be accepted (saved) by God (Acts 10:34-35). Peter commanded Cornelius “to be baptized in the name of the Lord” after hearing and believing the gospel (Acts 10:48). Good, moral people continue to need salvation from sin (Rom. 3:23). Their salvation is in Christ through His gospel, nothing else (Acts 4:12; Rom. 1:16; 6:17-18).
25 And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses. 26 But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses. (Mark 11:25–26, NKJV)
Christ teaches us to have a willing heart to forgive those who sin against us. We do not wait until the offender says, “Forgive me” before being ready to forgive. We are to probe our hearts and remove any malice toward one who has sinned against us. True, God grants forgiveness when the sinner petitions Him for relief according to His will (Rom. 10:13; Acts 2:37-38; 22:16). Still, Jesus, Stephen, and Paul illustrate the willing heart of forgiveness before sinners repented of their sinful deeds (Lk. 23:34; Acts 7:59-60; 2 Tim. 4:16). God’s readiness to forgive is our model: “For You, Lord, are good, and ready to forgive, and abundant in mercy to all those who call upon You. Give ear, O LORD, to my prayer; And attend to the voice of my supplications. In the day of my trouble I will call upon You, for You will answer me” (Psa. 86:5-7). God is ready to forgive. Likewise, we must have hearts of forgiveness (Col. 3:12-13). The provision Christ states is unmistakable. If we are holding something against a person, we must forgive to be forgiven.
15 So I said, ‘Who are You, Lord?’ And He said, ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. 16 But rise and stand on your feet; for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to make you a minister and a witness both of the things which you have seen and of the things which I will yet reveal to you.’” (Acts 26:15–16, NKJV)
Saul was traveling from Jerusalem to Damascus with authority to seize Christians in the synagogues when Jesus appeared to him (Acts 9:1-6, 13-14). Saul will go from being faithless to being faithful, from a persecutor to a preacher, from an antagonist to an apostle. His conversion is a touchstone of God’s mercy, grace, and longsuffering. It serves as “a pattern to those who are going to believe on Him (Christ, JRP) for everlasting life” (1 Tim. 1:12-16). Therefore, it is essential to expose and reject the assumption that Jesus saved Saul on the road to Damascus. That was not the purpose for which Christ appeared to Saul. Jesus plainly stated why He appeared to Saul: to make him “a minister and a witness” of Christ (Acts 26:16; 22:14-15; 9:15). Jesus appeared to Saul to appoint him as an apostle (1 Cor. 15:8-11). Saul was a believer after this miraculous event. And he was repentant toward God, as demonstrated by his praying and fasting (Acts 9:9, 11). But in Damascus, three days later, his sins still needed to be washed away. Ananias said to Saul, “And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord” (Acts 22:16). If Jesus saved Saul on the road, what sins needed washing away? Since Saul still needed cleansing from his sins, it is apparent he was not saved on the road. To follow the pattern of Saul’s conversion includes being baptized to wash away sins (by Christ’s blood, Rom. 6:3). Why are you waiting?
13 They brought him who formerly was blind to the Pharisees. 14 Now it was a Sabbath when Jesus made the clay and opened his eyes. 15 Then the Pharisees also asked him again how he had received his sight. He said to them, “He put clay on my eyes, and I washed, and I see.” (John 9:13–15, NKJV)
The healed man had already told the Pharisees how he received his sight (Jno. 9:10-11). Their interest in Jesus and His miracle was not to believe in Him; it was to accuse Him as a Sabbath-breaker (Jno. 9:16). Let’s draw our attention to the particulars of this event. 1) The man said Jesus did something (“put clay on my eyes”), then 2) Jesus told him to do something (“I washed”), and then 3) The man received his sight (“I see”), John 9:6-7. A similar sequence occurs when God saves sinners. 1) Jesus did something (died for our sins and arose from death). 2) Jesus tells us to do something (“arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins” (Acts 22:16). 3) When we believe and do what He tells us to do, we are saved (Mk. 16:15-16). Like the faithless Pharisees, many religious leaders reject and deny this God-revealed sequence of salvation. Yet, like the blind man’s healing, receiving God’s gift of salvation blends God’s grace and our faith (Eph. 2:8). The blind man did not merit his gift of sight when he obeyed Jesus. Neither do we merit our gift of salvation when we obey Him (Eph. 2:8-9; Heb. 5:9; Rom. 6:3-5, 17). But unless we have the faith to obey, we remain blind, lost in sin. So, will we choose to have faith like the blind man and obey Jesus? Or will we join the Pharisees and faithlessly resist Jesus and His salvation?
3 If You, Lord, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? 4 But there is forgiveness with You, that You may be feared. (Psalm 130:3–4, NKJV)
We rejoice in the truth that God forgives and does not mark (retain) our sins (cf. Psa. 6:1; 38:1). God’s lovingkindness does not free us from accountability for our sin; We are answerable for our sin, its consequences, and punishment. The way of the transgressor is hard, and the wages of sin is death (Prov. 13:15; Rom. 6:23). Today’s psalm praises God’s forgiveness, His mercy, and redemption of Israel “from all our iniquities” (Psa. 130:8). When God’s people cry to Him with repentant supplications, He hears and forgives (Psa. 130:1-2). He does not withhold forgiveness; neither should (Matt. 6:14-15; 18:32-35). God does not vindictively keep an account of evil (1 Cor. 13:5). His forgiveness generates reverential fear for His wonderful pardon (Psa. 130:4). God’s responsive mercy assures our hearts to patiently trust His purposes and hope in His word (Psa. 130:5-6). Christians trust God’s unfailing love, generous mercy, and abundant redemption. He forgives us when we repent and confess our sins (Acts 8:22-24; 1 Jno. 1:9).
11 Let the heavens rejoice, and let the earth be glad; Let the sea roar, and all its fullness; 12 Let the field be joyful, and all that is in it. Then all the trees of the woods will rejoice before the Lord. 13 For He is coming, for He is coming to judge the earth. He shall judge the world with righteousness, and the peoples with His truth. (Psalm 96:11–13, NKJV)
Throughout history, the Lord God has come in judgment against sin. The most notable being the flood in the days of Noah, which is a type of the fiery day of the Lord yet to come (2 Pet. 3:5-10). The Bible records God coming in judgment against cities and nations (Jude 5, 7). He stirred up nation against nation to render His punishments against their sins (Isa. 13:1, 17-22; Isa. 14-24). God’s creation in heaven and on earth rejoice when God applies His justice against evil. Righteousness and truth are His standards of judgment (Rom. 2:1-5). We dare not minimize and forget that God reigns and blesses good while calling evil to account. Jesus promised a day of judgment for all who reject Him and His word (John 12:48). If you cannot rejoice in God’s righteous judgments of truth, then it is time to repent and honor God (Rom. 2:4-5). James’ exhortation still rings true, “You also be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. Do not grumble against one another, brethren, lest you be condemned. Behold, the Judge is standing at the door!” (Jas. 5:8-9).
21 So Jesus said to them again, “Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” 22 And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” (John 20:21–23, NKJV)
Following His resurrection, Jesus Christ commissioned His apostles to “go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mk. 16:15). According to John’s account of this assignment, Jesus sent them into the world even as the Father had sent Him (Jno. 17:18; Heb. 3:1). The Father gave the Son the word of everlasting life to speak (Jno. 12:48-50). His apostles, who were sent into the world with the good news of God’s salvation, were guided by the Holy Spirit “into all truth” (Jno. 16:13). The word which the Holy Spirit revealed to them contained why, how, and when sins are forgiven and retained. The forgiveness and the retention of sins is not arbitrary, but available to all (Acts 10:34-35). A freewill decision to believe and obey must be made upon hearing the good news that Jesus is Christ. Those who repent and are baptized for the remission of sins are forgiven (Acts 2:36-41; 3:19). Those who do not believe and obey the gospel call to be saved remain lost in their sins. The gospel saves the lost, yet, many will not believe it and obey it, therefore, their sins are retained. The decision to believe and obey the gospel to be forgiven continues to be the most important decision a person will ever make (Acts 2:21, 37-38, 40-41). Will your sins be forgiven, or retained?