“Thy sins are forgiven. Thy faith hath saved thee: go in peace.” —LUKE 7:48-50.
At the table Jesus gathers His friends, and the Father waits only for His children to distribute to them the children’s bread. The table is not the place for me to be converted or to ask the expiation of my sins. No: these blessings I must seek in solitude: in the inner chamber Jesus will suffer Himself to be found with eagerness and certainty. The table is the place for His redeemed to confess their Lord, for His believers to have their faith strengthened, for His friends to renew their covenant. On this account our Directory mentions to us as the second element of self-examination before we go to the table, the question whether we really believe in the forgiveness of sins. “In the next place, let everyone examine his heart as to whether be also believes this sure promise of God that all his sins are forgiven for Christ’s sake.” It is through faith in the forgiveness of sins that the soul obtains confidence to draw near to the Lord, and thereby also obtains the blessing of a strengthened faith.
Reader, you are to go to the Lord’s Supper: do you believe in the forgiveness of your sins? You know what this means. Forgiveness is not the taking away of the sinfulness of the heart or sanctification: no, but only the beginning of the way by which it is to be reached. Forgiveness is the free declaration by which God acquits you of the evil you have hitherto done, and no longer reckons the guilt of it to you. Forgiveness comes first in order: then forthwith begins sanctification and renewal. For the present this is the question before you: Do you believe in the forgiveness of your sins—that your sins are blotted out?
You know what faith is. You know that it is a feeling, an experience of something that keeps man intently occupied with his own condition. You know that it is a going out of ourselves to find a resting place in God and His word, so that faith in the forgiveness of sins is the certitude that your sins are forgiven, and that on no other ground except that God has said He has done so. Consequently, faith that your sins are forgiven is nothing but the confidence that you, as a poor sinner resting in His word, have come to Him, and that your sins have been blotted out of His book. You know it, because God has promised it.
Reader, do you thus believe in the forgiveness of sins—”that your sins are blotted out for Christ’s sake”? Are you one of those concerning whom the Directory says: “Let everyone examine his heart whether he has believed the sure promise of God that all his sins are forgiven, and that the perfect righteousness of Christ is bestowed upon him and reckoned to him as his own”? Yea, as completely as if he himself in his own person had atoned for all his sins and fulfilled all righteousness.
Blessed are ye who believe this. You have confidence to draw near to the Lord’s Table. Believing in the truth of the word, “He abundantly pardons,” believing in the power of Jesus Christ really to cleanse the conscience, believing with a personal appreciation that the promise of forgiveness is also for you, you know that your guilt is blotted out—that your sins are remembered no more.
Christian, come to the table in this faith. Let your song of praise be: “Bless the Lord, O my soul, who forgiveth all thine iniquities.” Ask for the Holy Spirit, that He may make faith in forgiveness within you more certain, more powerful, more joyful. You will then experience at the table what a life of love and blessing and growing power God has prepared for all on whom He first bestows the forgiveness of sins.
Lord God, I find myself on the way to Thy table. I desire also to receive there what Jesus gives when He says: “This cup is the New Covenant in my blood which is poured out for you for the forgiveness of sins.” Lord, I desire this day to acknowledge in a new act of faith my participation in the forgiveness of sins, and thus to meet with Thee at the Supper as Thine own in the joy of redemption.
For this end, wilt Thou grant unto me a sight of the work of Jesus as all-sufficient and perfectly fulfilled, so that there is nothing for me now to do save to receive it and rejoice in it? Renew in me by the Holy Spirit the living assurance of my part in Jesus. And help me, Lord, with a clearer faith than ever before to appropriate the whole redemption of Thy Son with all Thy rich and glorious promises.
Lord, I beseech Thee, let no doubt rob me of this blessing. When I look to myself, there is nothing but fear, and condemnation. When I have to question my heart and what I feel there, I have no hope. But I look to Thy word. It makes me cry out: “Who is a God like unto Thee that forgiveth iniquity?” (Mic. 7:18). That word points me to the Cross of Thy dear Son, who died for the ungodly, and says to me: “The blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth from all sin.” “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive all our sins.” That word teaches me to say: “With Thee is forgiveness.” Lord, on that word I depend: With Thee is forgiveness. I have confessed my sin before Thee: I lay my whole sinfulness bare before Thee, and I believe that through the virtue of the blood of Jesus, Thou forgivest my sin.
My God, grant me grace to hold fast by this truth, and with every fresh sin to flee always straight to the blood of Christ. Grant that I may sit down at Thy table with the blessed joy of a firm faith in the great promise of the New Covenant: “I will be gracious to your iniquities, and your sins and transgressions will I remember no more.”
Lord God, this Thou hast said, and that will I believe. Amen.