Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.” And they divided His garments and cast lots. (Luke 23:34, NKJV)
God “desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4). Question: Did God forgive the murderers of Jesus in their unbelief? No, for without faith in Jesus as the Son of God, they would die in their sins (John 8:24). Did God forgive the murderers of Jesus in their ignorance? No, they killed Jesus “in ignorance,” and their failure to know the truth prevented their salvation (Acts 3:17). You don’t have to know everything to be forgiven, but you do have to know some things. When did not forgive the murderers of Jesus? The answer is in Acts 2:36-41, where about 3,000 believed the gospel message “that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ” (v. 36). The murderers asked, “Brethren, what shall we do?” (v. 37), and were told to “Repent, and let everyone of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (v. 38). The sinners who received his word were baptized and added together to form the church (v. 41, 47). God’s desire to forgive sinners combines with repentant faith that is baptized. Then, sins are forgiven. If not, when were the murderers of Jesus forgiven?
30 “Now we are sure that You know all things, and have no need that anyone should question You. By this we believe that You came forth from God.” 31 Jesus answered them, “Do you now believe? 32 Indeed the hour is coming, yes, has now come, that you will be scattered, each to his own, and will leave Me alone. And yet I am not alone, because the Father is with Me.” (John 16:30–32, NKJV)
This confession by the apostles, that Jesus came from God, was the last confession of faith they made before His death. However, within hours, they would act counter to the faith they confessed. Fearful unbelief would grip them and cause them to scatter, leaving Jesus alone and arrested in Gethsemane. We do well to take a lesson from this, as we confess our faith in Jesus. Like them, our faith can falter. When it does, we must return to the Lord like they did. Otherwise, our soul will be lost in unbelief. When Peter’s faith faltered, and he denied knowing Jesus three times, he returned to Christ (which he did, see Luke 22:32; John 21:15-19). A failing faith is not a saving faith. Yes, the sheep scattered when the Shepherd was struck, but they returned to Him after His resurrection (Matthew 26:31-32; Mark 16:9-14). Their faith grew. “Once believe, always believe” is just as dangerous and false as “once saved, always saved.” Faith unto the saving of the soul does not abandon the Lord; It endures with Him to the end (Hebrews 10:36-39).