19 JULY 365 Days with Calvin

Needing Forgiveness

Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained. John 20:23

suggested further reading: Matthew 9:1–8

The principal design of preaching the gospel is that men may be reconciled to God. That is accomplished by the unconditional pardon of sins. It is what Paul informs us when he calls the gospel “the ministry of reconciliation” (2 Cor. 5:18).

Many other things undoubtedly are contained in the gospel, but the principal object that God intends to accomplish is to receive men into favor by not imputing their sins to them. If, therefore, we wish to show that we are faithful ministers of the gospel, we must give most earnest attention to this subject, for the chief difference between the gospel and heathen philosophy is that the gospel says the salvation of people consists of the forgiveness of sins through free grace.

This forgiveness is the source of the other blessings that God bestows, such as enlightening and regenerating us by his Spirit, forming us anew to his image, and arming us with unshaken firmness against the world and Satan. Thus the whole doctrine of godliness and the spiritual building of the church rest on the foundation that God, having acquitted us from all sins, adopts us as his children by free grace.

While Christ directs the apostles to forgive sins, he does not convey to them what is peculiar to himself in forgiving sins. He does not surrender this honor, which belongs peculiarly to himself, to the apostles, but directs them in his name to proclaim the forgiveness of sins so that through their agency he may reconcile men to God. In short, it is Christ alone who forgives sins through his apostles and ministers.

for meditation: Real life begins with the forgiveness of sins. If sin still corrupts our relationship with God, no other spiritual blessings can follow. The gospel contains many blessings in so many areas of life, but all of those come back to this fundamental point: the forgiveness of sins. Are your sins forgiven? If so, is this the basis for all your joy in life?[1]


[1] Calvin, J., & Beeke, J. R. (2008). 365 Days with Calvin (p. 219). Leominster; Grand Rapids, MI: Day One Publications; Reformation Heritage Books.

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