"Be it known unto you therefore, men and brethren, that through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins" (Acts 13:38). Consider three profound things in this verse.
Notice the word "sins". Who cares about this anymore? With the sliding moral standards of the world today, what would qualify as sins? What exactly is sin? We no longer receive teaching on this from the places we used to. Even churches have turned to other things. The average person growing up in Canada today has a great void in his education.
There is a simple answer to the question. Sin is violation of the law of God. Even those kinds of sins that wrong another human being, are first of all sins against God. To leave this world as a guilty sinner and stand before the God of all Holiness for judgment is a prospect that is horrible beyond description. "Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels" (Matthew 25:41b). Why are truths so clearly taught in God's Word never heard by us in such an information age?
The second profound consideration is "forgiveness". The same God who hates and judges sin invites us to come to Him and receive forgiveness. The fact of our having sinned cannot be changed - but the consequences can be. God can forgive. This is a wonderful word. Forgiveness is an estate in which God has taken away the individual's sins and entered into a new relationship. The slate is clean. "As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us" (Psalm 103:12). The conscience is made clean and good. God freely walks and talks in fellowship with the forgiven man.
Thirdly, notice the way. "Through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins", speaks of the salvation offered through Jesus Christ. God's plan was to send someone capable of suffering for the sins of countless sinners. The only One who could do this was the Son of God who was miraculously virgin born, as the world has recently celebrated. And God has, in His mercy, given the world yet another year to hear the message and receive the gift of forgiveness by trusting Jesus Christ as personal Saviour. His death paid for our sins so we could be forgiven and have everlasting life.
"And the revolters are profound to make slaughter, though I have been a rebuker of them all" (Hosea 5:2).
A prominent feature of the Old Testament was the repeated offering of animal sacrifices. These were, in effect, object lessons and symbols given to highlight truths God wanted remembered as Israel worshipped Him. The prophet Hosea notes that they were very active in going through these forms of worship. They were "profound to make slaughter".
The outward ordinances of worship are good in their place. They are intended to be an acting out of certain truths believed and serve as a reminder and testimony of spiritual truth. The animal sacrifices signified that the worshipper recognized he had sins that needed to be atoned for and that God would one day provide a sacrifice which could take away those sins. From our perspective today, we know that this provision has been fulfilled in the death of Jesus Christ, God's Son on the cross.
However, the people in Hosea's day were living wicked lives that God had to be "a rebuker of" - while they religiously carried on the appointed rounds of Moses' law.. Hosea makes many references to their strange attempts to blend together a life of sin and the worship of the Lord. The people fastidiously brought the animals needed for the offerings, but had no exercise of heart about their sin to go with it. "They shall go with their flocks and with their herds to seek the LORD; but they shall not find him; he hath withdrawn himself from them" (Hosea 5:6). To put it into today's terms - they went to church, but God wasn't there.
Hosea went on to write, "They sacrifice flesh for the sacrifices of mine offerings, and eat it; but the LORD accepteth them not" (Hosea 8:13a). This is a mirror of the way things are today in much that calls itself Christian. The apostles told us that this would take place. "Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away" (II Timothy 3:5). The forms of Christianity are all about us, but they are often part of a larger program that denies the power of Jesus Christ to change sinful lives.
"Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool" (Isaiah 1:18).
The call to reason arises out of the fact that when God created us He made thinking part of our being. Honest reflection on God's truth leads us to faith and the salvation which is in Jesus Christ.
The order of the day seems to be for nobody to think, but to believe anything. When this is done on a large scale, the strangest notions become incorporated into the common consensus. Then, as we would learn from the old children's story, anyone who would dare suggest the emperor is a naked fool is immediately suspect for daring to be different.
We must decide whether we will simply buy into what is "popular wisdom" or whether we will be careful enough to have our thinking secured by truth and a course of decision making that is not ruled by the tyranny of the mob. This is most important in regard to matters having to do with our soul and its relationship with God. If we are wrong here simply because we find it easier to yield to "group-think" it will not change our individual accountability before God or the eternal consequences.
As our text in Isaiah suggests, God is confident that His plan for salvation from sin will ring true to the honest and reflective mind. There is a sin problem that must be dealt with in a way that justice is upheld. What honest person could really deny that mankind has a problem with self-centredness, abuse of others, and offences toward God?
God's plan to take away that sin is the only one that makes sense. If we are to escape punishment, then someone else must pay the price we cannot. This can only be done by one who is able, willing, and without personal debt. God tells us that this one is His Only Begotten Son, and that the price was paid when He shed His life-blood on the cross. Who else then could rescue us than the resurrected Lord and Saviour? And how else could the benefit accrue to us than as a gift, since by the nature of the problem we have fallen short of our obligations and cannot pay?