How has sin affected our relationship with God?
"Behold, the LORD's hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; nor His ear heavy, that it cannot hear. But your iniquities have separated you from your God; and your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He will not hear" (Isaiah 59:1-2).
What is the solution to our alienation from God?
"Seek the LORD while He may be found, call upon Him while He is near. Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the LORD, and He will have mercy on him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon" (Isaiah 55:6-7).
How can we be reconciled to God?
"Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. And not only that, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation" (Romans 5:9-11; compare 2 Corinthians 5:18-20).
Does God expect us to strive to be blameless after our reconciliation to Him?
"And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight; if indeed you continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast, and are not moved away from the hope of the gospel which you heard ..." (Colossians 1:21-23).
Those reconciled to God through faith in Christ's sacrifice must continue living "in the faith"—that is, in harmony with the fundamental beliefs taught from all of God's Word (Matthew 4:4).
What sins are covered by Christ's blood?
"They [believers] are now justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a sacrifice of atonement by his blood, effective through faith. He did this to show his righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over the sins previously committed" (Romans 3:24-25, NRSV).
At our baptism God forgives our past sins—"sins previously committed"—that we have repented of and stopped practicing. But His grace and mercy never give us permission to continue sinning. Notice how Paul began his explanation of baptism: "What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?" (Romans 6:1-2).
Christ died to pay for our sins and lead us to repentance. He never intended that we misconstrue grace and forgiveness as permission to ignore the core teachings that God revealed through the Scriptures before He was even born. Instead He taught, as we have already read, that "man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God" (Luke 4:4).
Why do we need God's grace?
"For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them" (Ephesians 2:8-10).
Nothing we do can earn us forgiveness and salvation. Both are gifts from God. "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God" (John 3:16-18).
Is faith in God's grace through Christ's sacrifice necessary for forgiveness?
"... You were ... buried with Him in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead. And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses" (Colossians 2:11-13).
"Therefore we also pray always for you that our God would count you worthy of this calling, and fulfill all the good pleasure of His goodness and the work of faith with power, that the name of our Lord Jesus Christ may be glorified in you, and you in Him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ" (2 Thessalonians 1:11-12).
Should our faith in God's forgiveness affect our conscience?
"Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh, and having a High Priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water" (Hebrews 10:19-22).
Once our "old man" is buried through baptism, God wants us to put behind us all feelings of guilt over past sins. He wants us to approach our future with confidence that our sins have been forgiven by Him. We are to begin a new life without fretting over the past.
Paul describes the attitude of a clear conscience God wants for us. "Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Therefore let us, as many as are mature, have this mind ..." (Philippians 3:13-15).