But with You…
These words are Gospel, powerful words of consolation to the soul that is wearied with his own sins. He knows that he is without an alibi, without a friend, without someone to be his advocate. Man is alienated in his own sins, naked before the Law of God. However, with God there is forgiveness; God possesses forgiveness and grants it to whom He wills; and those who receive are those who have been chosen in Christ from before the foundations of the world. Mercy is not found outside of Christ. Forgiveness, similarly, is found only in Christ. Therefore, forgiveness is only with God – i.e. the Triune and Only God revealed in Scripture. And we are assured that this forgiveness is not an illusion by the words “there is,” which indicate that God truly possesses forgiveness and truly grants forgiveness to those who otherwise could not stand before Him.
The question that remains, therefore, is how this mercy is found. Does this mercy extend to every person who lives? Or does this mercy extend only to God’s elect? The psalmist clarifies this issue in the concluding verse where he states “…He will redeem all Israel from his iniquities,” but we are getting ahead of ourselves. For now, we can say at least this: The psalmist states that there is indeed forgiveness of sins so that God may be feared. And the import of his words is this: God’s forgiveness of man’s sins is not the forgiveness of the god of contemporary culture who ignores how wretched we are and, in spite of his own contrary nature, allows us to continue living as law-breaking rebels; rather, God’s forgiveness of man’s sins is to this end, viz. that Christ would be formed in the one who receives the forgiveness of sins. As I’ve already stated, the last verse of this psalm makes this evident, but for now it would suffice to simply understand that while no man is counted righteous before God on the basis of his fear of God, not every man is granted the forgiveness of sins, for this forgiveness of sins is given so that God may be feared. Our brother Paul puts it this way in Ephesians 2:8-10:
“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”
So we see that God’s forgiveness is given for the sake of His honor, not for the sake of His dishonor. The Baptist, therefore, told the Pharisees and Sadducees to “Bear fruit in keeping with repentance.” John understood that the forgiveness of sins is for the purposes of God and not for the sake of those who, like Pharaoh, can only admit to a particular sin, and solely for the sake of earthly gain. Forgiveness of sins is granted to those, therefore, that God has “created in Christ Jesus for good works,” and it is these who bear fruit in keeping with repentance. This fruit bearing is evidence of their being forgiven for God’s purposes. Don’t get me wrong, we don’t turn to God so that we can work. If that were so, then even our believing would be unbelief of the basest type: The type that understands faith to be a meritorious work and salvation to be a reward for the exercise of this faculty of faith (i.e. Arminianism). No, what I am saying is simply this: We turn to God for forgiveness of sins, because He has chosen us to serve Him in the newness of the Spirit. We are granted relief from His wrath so that we may be sons, members of the Body of His Beloved Son, joined to the fellowship of our already passed brothers and sisters in the faith.