The words "the forgiveness of sins" in the Apostles' Creed are so important for Christian believers to understand and live out that they cannot reflect the authenticity of their faith, and that of the Church, without it, said Pastor Matt Chandler of The Village Church in Texas, who is teaching his congregation the meaning and relevance of the statement of faith through a series of sermons.
As humans, we love others to get punished, and also love to watch them get punished, said Chandler in his message, "The Forgiveness of Sins."
"We live in a world where outrage is all the rage… We live in a punishment-obsessed world," he said, and added, "But for the people of God, this should not be so."
The Apostle's Creed is so designed that we first look at the doctrine and then its application in our lives, Chandler explained, and then said the forgiveness of sins is about the latter.
It has two points. One, that "God forgives." And two, that "the communion of saints becomes the platform on which the forgiveness of God is made visible to the world around us."
After Aaron built a golden calf in the absence of Moses and for the Israelites to worship, and when the people began to drink alcohol and possibly indulge in sexual acts, God could have destroyed them, but He didn't, the pastor told the congregation.
He read out Exodus 34:5-9, "Then the Lord came down in the cloud and stood there with him and proclaimed his name, the Lord. And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, 'The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation.' Moses bowed to the ground at once and worshipped. 'Lord,' he said, 'if I have found favour in your eyes, then let the Lord go with us. Although this is a stiff-necked people, forgive our wickedness and our sin, and take us as your inheritance.'"
The pastor then asked the congregation to ask themselves if they really believe that God is compassionate, gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness.
"Forgiveness is the ultimate expression of the Godhead in all He is," Chandler said, and defined
forgiveness as "releasing someone from their wrongs fully, freely and forever."
"What does God forgive us of?" he asked, and then answered through verse 7 in the passage: wickedness or iniquity, rebellion or transgression, and sin.
Iniquity is a premeditated choice that carries with it some continuing disregard for repentance, Pastor Chandler explained. We don't stumble into a murder or adultery; we commit these things because of our premeditated choice wherein we refuse to listen to our conscience or the Holy Spirit.
"God forgives this. You haven't gone too far," he said, explaining that it's a lie when we think we've gone too deep into a sin and cannot turn away from it. It's not too late, and God's forgiveness if available right now, he stressed.
Transgression, he explained, is a presumptuous sin, an arrogant sin. You decide in the moment you'd do it, it's when you give yourself to your appetites. You know it's a sin, but you don't care.
God forgives this, too, Chandler said. You've not gone too far; it's not too late, he repeated.