God made a promise to Abraham: “I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name great, and you shall be a blessing.” (Genesis 12:2).
What exactly was the blessing the Lord promised Abraham? Was it that he would be rich in cattle and in lands and houses? If that was God’s intention, what would happen to the lands and houses after Abraham died? Abraham would have to relinquish them so they would stop being blessings to him.
What difference would it make if God made Abraham’s name great after he died if Abraham does not have eternal life? What does it matter if Lagos is named after you, or if you are known as the father of the Nigerian nation, if you end up in hell? Jesus asks: “What shall it profit a man if he shall gain the whole world and lose his own soul?” (Matthew 8:36).
Blessing of forgiveness
There has to be a more fundamental blessing that God had in mind for Abraham than silver, gold, cattle, lands, or property. What is that blessing? The blessing the Lord had in mind for Abraham was to make him sinless by forgiving him his sins.
Peter reveals this to the Jews after the Pentecost:
“You are sons of the prophets, and of the covenant which God made with our fathers, saying to Abraham, ‘And in your seed, all the families of the earth shall be blessed.’ To you first, God, having raised up his servant Jesus, sent him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from your iniquities.” (Acts 3:25-26).
God said to Abraham, in effect, the greatest way I can bless you is by delivering you from your sins. The best way I can bless you is by breaking the power of sin over your life. The best way I can bless you is by making you sinless. Thus: “When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared to Abram and said to him, “I am Almighty God; walk before me and be blameless.” (Genesis 17:1).
Salvation from sin
Many of the Old Testament Jews had their own concept of blessing. They were convinced the Messiah would come to establish an opulent society on earth. They believed when the Messiah comes, he would shower them with wealth, prosperity, and unending happiness. They thought he would give them all the world’s resources and positions of power. Many Christians are also schooled in these misconceptions.
However, Jesus confounded all vain expectations. As far as God is concerned, the greatest blessing he can give a man is deliverance from the grip of sin through the ministry of Jesus Christ. Therefore, the angel said to Joseph: “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit.
And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:20-21).
So let me repeat my earlier submission here. What is the greatest thing God has ever done and will ever do for man? The greatest thing God has ever done for us is to forgive us our sins.
God’s greatest work
God spoke creation into existence. Within seven days, he created the heavens, the earth, and all living beings. But salvation was entirely different. Salvation could not be established by merely saying: “Let there be salvation.”
God had to wait for over four thousand years. And then he had to come down to earth personally in human form through the womb of a woman. Then he had to be crucified, to die and then be raised from the dead. Without a doubt, salvation is the greatest and most complex work of God known to man.
Therefore, David does not say “blessed is the man who is made the king of Israel.” He says: “Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man to whom the LORD does not impute iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit.” (Psalm 32:1-2).
Let me be even more categorical here. There is only one way by which God truly blesses a man: by forgiving him his sins. Without the forgiveness of sins, all other so-called blessings are baseless and practically useless.
You want to see a man who is blessed, don’t ask what kind of house he has. Don’t ask for his wife and children. Don’t ask him what kind of job he has. Don’t ask him how much he has in his bank account. Don’t even ask him about his health. Ask him if his sins are forgiven. If his sins are not forgiven, every other thing is a waste of time.
Key of the kingdom
It is the forgiveness of sins that ushers a man into the things of God. It is the forgiveness of sins that brings the precious Holy Spirit. It is the forgiveness of sins that reconciles man back to God. It is the forgiveness of sins that makes it possible for a man to inherit eternal life.
If a man has all the wealth in the world but his sins are not forgiven, he is a poor man indeed. All his wealth is going to end with his death, and then he faces an afterlife of poverty, pain, and anguish.
Every blessing has its foundation in the forgiveness of sins. Therefore, everything a believer does should have its mainspring in the fact that his sins are forgiven. It must be the basis and foundation of all action in the life of a believer. It is tragic that this truth is little understood even among Christians.
The Bible reveals that God is love. But what does this mean in practical terms? For God so loved that he gave. (John 3:16). The first thing he gave was Jesus. The second thing he gave was forgiveness. The third thing he gave was eternal life.
Forgive to live
If the greatest thing God does for us is to forgive us our sins through Christ Jesus, then the greatest thing we can do for others is to forgive them their sins. It is more difficult to forgive than to give. It is so much easier to give money than to forgive others. We can give under duress. We can give even though we don’t want to. But we cannot forgive by force. We can only forgive from the heart. And we cannot truly give unless we forgive.
Jesus says the extent of our love of God is a function of our appreciation of the forgiveness of our sins. Indeed, the extent of our understanding of the Christian faith is determined by our understanding of the centrality of the forgiveness of sins. Simon, the Pharisee did not understand this, therefore he despised the woman who anointed Jesus’ feet with precious ointment and washed his feet with her hair.
Jesus said to him: “Her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much. But to whom little is forgiven, the same loves little.” And he said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” (Luke 7:47-48).