When speaking spiritually, all of us experience guilt: “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). Of course, sin produces guilt, since sin is “transgression of the law” (1 John 3:4).
However, more than a simple pronouncement, guilt can be a terrible feeling. Notice some characteristics about this feeling of guilt. First, guilt produces shame. Following their first sin, Adam and Eve “heard the voice of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God amongst the trees of the garden” (Gen. 3:8). Their guilt produced shame. The sins of Ezra and Israel produced the same feeling:
And at the evening sacrifice I arose up from my heaviness; and having rent my garment and my mantle, I fell upon my knees, and spread out my hands unto the Lord my God, And said, O my God, I am ashamed and blush to lift up my face to thee, my God: for our iniquities are increased over our head, and our trespass is grown up unto the heavens. (Ezra 9:5-6)
Second, guilt produces misery. David wrote,
For mine iniquities are gone over mine head: as an heavy burden they are too heavy for me…For innumerable evils have compassed me about: mine iniquities have taken hold upon me, so that I am not able to look up; they are more than the hairs of mine head: therefore my heart faileth me…For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me. (Ps. 38:4; 40:12; 51:3)
Third, guilt arises from the innermost conscience that is within all of us. When Jesus said to the accusers of an adulteress,
He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her…And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst. (John 8:7-9)
Thus, guilt produces a conviction of sin that indicates unrest, burden of soul, misery, sting and terror. Many experience these everyday. Such ones cannot live with themselves. Many in such circumstances who do not know Jesus Christ and his forgiveness will even take their own lives to end the powerful feeling of guilt (cf. Matt. 27:3-5).
Nevertheless, we do not have to experience such feelings for long. The answer to guilt is the forgiveness of God. Consider the wonderful ways God explains his forgiving nature:
“As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us” (Ps. 103:12).
“…though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool” (Isa. 1:18).
- “…for thou hast cast all my sins behind thy back” (Isa. 38:17).
“I, even I, am he that blotteth out thy transgressions for mine own sake, and will not remember thy sins” (Isa. 43:25).
- “…for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more” (Jer. 31:34).
• “He will turn again, he will have compassion upon us; he will subdue our iniquities; and thou wilt cast all their sins into the depths of the sea” (Mic. 7:19).
Therefore, one can experience forgiveness of sins and removal of guilt whenever one acknowledges such sin before God in the way that He has prescribed (cf. Acts 2:38; 1 John 1:8-10).