In my previous post, I talked about several components of God’s promise to Israel regarding the outpouring of His Spirit. Because of that outpouring . . .
- He would write His law on their hearts,
- Israel would experience an internal renewal of their heart and spirit, and
- This renewal (or refreshing) would bring about a new realization of justice and peace to their nation.
In this post, I want to talk about another aspect of the outpouring promises of the Old Testament prophets: the forgiveness of their sins.
In the passage from Ezekiel’s prophecy, which I quoted in my previous post, I didn’t mention the forgiveness of sins as I was saving that for this post. But, even though Ezekiel does not use the word “forgive” or “forgiveness,” the concept is present in verse 25 of that prophecy.
I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you (Ezekiel 36:25, RSV).
In a parallel text from the prophet Jeremiah, we find a clear connection between the writing of God’s law on the heart (a work of the Spirit) and the forgiveness of sins.
Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the covenant which I made with their fathers when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant which they broke, though I was their husband, says the LORD. But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it upon their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each man teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the LORD; for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more (Jeremiah 31:31–34, RSV).
As we have seen in the passages cited in my previous post, the prophet links God’s promise to write His law on the heart with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Here in Jeremiah’s version of that promise, we find the added component of forgiveness.
The apostles understood that the outpouring of the Spirit also meant that forgiveness from God was now available to the inhabitants of Jerusalem and not only to them, but to all people.
And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself” (Acts 2:38–39).
The outpouring of the Spirit was an opportunity for Israel to repent and be forgiven of their rejection of the Son and of all the blasphemies they had hurled against Him.
While on the cross, Jesus prayed for the Father to forgive his executioners and give them a second chance.
And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34a).
The reason God offers them a second chance is they had acted in ignorance.
It is noteworthy that the Law provided forgiveness for those who sinned unintentionally (Numbers 15:27-31).
Peter confirms that this second opportunity for Israel is motivated by the fact that they had acted in ignorance.
And now, brothers, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did also your rulers (Acts 3:17).
Peter spoke these words during his speech from Solomon’s colonnade–after the healing of the Lame man.
He points out they had denied the Holy and righteous one and killed the author of life (Acts 3:13-14). But they had acted in ignorance. Like Jesus said on the cross, “They know not what they are doing.”
But now God is giving them a second chance to respond appropriately through faith and repentance.
Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus, whom heaven must receive until the time for restoring all the things about which God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets long ago (Acts 3:19–21).
The times of refreshing would come only if they repent and acknowledge the risen Christ as their king.
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