Question 56. What believest thou concerning “the forgiveness of sins?”
Answer. That God, for the sake of Christ’s satisfaction, will no more remember my sins, neither my corrupt nature, against which I have to struggle all my life long, but will graciously impute to me the righteousness of Christ, that I may never be condemned before the tribunal of God.
Ursinus’s exposition of the Heidelberg Catechism:
I. WHAT THE FORGIVENESS OF SINS IS
The forgiveness of sins consists in the purpose of God, not to punish the sins of the faithful on account of the satisfaction of Christ. Or, it is the pardon of deserved punishment, and the bestowment and imputation of the righteousness of another, even Christ. It is more fully defined in this manner: To be the will of God which does not impute any sin to the faithful and elect; but remits unto them both the guilt and punishment of sin, loves them just as much as if they had not sinned, delivers them from all the punishment of sin, and freely grants them eternal life in view of the merits and intercession of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, our mediator But although God remits unto us our sins for the sake of the merits of his Son, yet he still afflicts us in this life, not, indeed, that he may punish us, but that he may chastise us as a father. Neither must we suppose, because God does not punish our sins, that they are not displeasing to him, for the sins even of the most holy greatly offend him, although he does not punish them for their sins, for the reason that he has punished them in his Son. For God does not so remit sins as if he did not regard them as sins, or were not displeased therewith; but because he does not impute them unto us, nor punish them in us, and because he accounts us righteous on account of the satisfaction of another, which we apprehend by faith. It is, therefore, the same thing to have the remission of sins, and to be righteous. Obj. The law does not only demand that we avoid sin, but also that we do good. Therefore it is not sufficient that sin be pardoned, but it is also necessary that perfect obedience be rendered to the law that we may be just. Ans. Even the omission of doing good is sin; for he that can do good and does it not, is a sinner, and accursed. (James 4:17.) This forgiveness is granted unto us, because Christ has sufficiently satisfied for all our sins. Hence we have in Christ perfect remission of all our sins in such a way, that we are accounted righteous in the sight of God by his merits alone.*
I know Christians often say “I know what I believe but struggle to communicate it.” Well, hear you go. This was one of the reasons it was penned. Soli Deo Gloria!
For His Glory,
*Ursinus, Z., & Williard, G. W. (1888). The Commentary of Dr. Zacharias Ursinus on the Heidelberg Catechism (305–306). Cincinnati, OH: Elm Street Printing Company.