Saturday, December 07, 2013

What is forgiven sin?

It is, or should be, obvious that Christ took on the penalty of all the sins of the world. “And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:2). The penalty is paid totally, and there is nothing that we can add or subtract to; God’s grace has been given to men and even the world dimly recognizes the all-important incarnation every Christmas season. But there arises an important question, at least in the discerning reader’s eye. It is obvious that the world continues as it always has, and things seem to be constantly going from bad to worse. Why is it that we do not see more change in the lives of these “forgiven” hordes?

The answer is simply that they are not forgiven until they begin believing God. God simply insists on one condition—that men begin believing God—that they believe Christ the son of God was sent to be their Savior. Creeds split over exactly what takes place in an individual when he receives Christ, as to how much of the individual’s will is involved. I would leave that argument to theologians, and stress rather what I think most would agree upon. I would show through the Scripture of the utter need of man to come to Christ, for come they must if they are to receive the work of Christ done in their behalf. “Christ’s death is sufficient for the whole world, but secured the redemption of the elect.”1 “In like manner these passages are characterized by such universal words as "all," "every man" and "the whole world." From this it must be believed that the death of Christ has already provided a great potential and provisional value for every guilty sinner, which is now awaiting his personal recognition.”2

However we are to define the elect, we must agree that all the elect must receive this forgiveness of sin. It is the only condition which God gives upon the sinner, and it is a sure thing that there is no other way to be saved other than believing God—that he sent his son into the world, that whosoever believes should not perish, but have everlasting life. Thus the problems of an sinful world have been solved in the death of Christ on the cross, except for those who refuse to believe.

What can be done for those who refuse to believe? As Chafer said, long ago, “If men go to perdition it will be because every possible mercy from God has been resisted.”3 I cannot conceive of a worse punishment than knowing that God has made a way to save your soul, that you have refused that provision, and that neither you nor a loving God can do anything to mediate your judgment. In society, people commonly believe God to be a merciful one, but they misunderstand his mercy, thinking that justice is a balance scale, and if their good works do not quite outweigh their bad works, God will somehow fudge the scale with his thumb. There is no merciful thumb of God; we have been weighed and found wanting, and there remains no salvation other than that which God has wrought. “One is either a justified covenant-keeper in Christ or a condemned covenant-breaker in Adam.”4 The choice cannot be put off, for in putting it off, is not one already making a choice?

We have indeed been weighed, our measure is taken, and the scripture declares none of us to be good, no not one! The importance of what God did through Christ on the cross cannot be overstated. The sins of the world were nailed to that cross in Christ, and forgiveness is offered to all, that those of us who are willing to look upon that cross, and believe God, will not experience unforgiveness; instead all is forgiven and their remains nothing left for us to do for our salvation but to be a receiver of his grace. “The conclusion from these revelations is that by the cross God has declared our sin, His own righteousness and His own unmeasured love. He has spoken to us through His Son. The reasonable requirement is that we believe that message. This is the only condition given in the Bible upon which one may enter into God's saving grace.”5

On the part of the new saint, confusion sometimes arises over their sin after the cross. I will hear them pray to God for forgiveness, asking God to do that which he has already done. It is never necessary for the believer to ask for forgiveness, for the Bible teaches that that forgiveness was totally given to us with our belief. In fact, Chafer has identified at least thirty-three distinct operations that happen to the believer when he believes God. One of those is God’s provision of complete forgiveness, where all of our sins, past, present, and future, have forever been judged in the condemnation of his son. Instead of asking for forgiveness, what the sinning saint is commanded to do is confess his sin. There is no additional penalty or time out or recompense that must be done at the time of confession, as some would teach. There is no repetition of formulaic prayer, neither any act of contrition or efficacious work that we must do to receive that forgiveness anew. Instead we confess our sin, agreeing with God that it indeed was sin, and we receive renewed fellowship with his Spirit.

There are certain sects of Christianity that teach that we must be saved all over again when we find ourselves in deep sin. But such false teachings seriously misunderstand the grace of God, who judged all sin upon the cross. If there were the least tincture of work to our salvation, if we had to do the smallest amount of work to insure the forgiveness of God, we would surely be in the most desperate of straits. I have found people who follow such errant doctrine have very limited understanding of their sin nature. Such people think their sin only comes seldom, and that somehow their own work will keep them secure against such future occurrences. They miss ever understanding the depth of the treachery of their own hearts, and they miss understanding the total wonderful picture of forgiveness that God has done for us in sending his son to die for us. It is simply his grace.

Unforgiven sin? For the believer, then, such a thing is unknown. For the unbeliever, relying on his own works? God is not able to forgive sin which is unpunished, and the unbeliever will face the penalty for all of his sins, unto the least and greatest sins. I can imagine no worse fate than to be as the rich man who died, and was tormented in the due penalty of his sin, and begged God to send someone back from the dead to tell the gospel, that his brothers might be saved. Jesus taught that not even then, when someone clearly defied death, and returned with the gospel, not even then, would people believe. There is no sacrifice left over for those who will not cast themselves on the free grace in believing what God has already freely done.

But even though the purchase on our part is through belief, and is thus free, we ought always to remember that it was by no means free to God. He purchased our redemption at the highest cost and with the greatest work he had ever done. He gave his all for us, and in giving his all, there is nothing more that conceivably could be done. Are we not valued by God most highly? Next time Satan would accuse you and try to make you feel worthless, remind him just how much God does value you. And, since he does value you and I so much, is it not time that we were about our Father’s business?

For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's.
1 Cor. 6:20

1. Horton, Michael S. (2011-10-11). For Calvinism (Kindle Locations 72-73). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.
2. Lewis Sperry Chafer (2008-07-24). Salvation (Kindle Locations 348-350). Taft Software, Inc.. Kindle Edition.
3. Lewis Sperry Chafer (2008-07-24). Salvation (Kindle Locations 426-427). Taft Software, Inc.. Kindle Edition.
4. Horton, Michael S. (2011-10-11). For Calvinism (Kindle Location 820). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.
5. Lewis Sperry Chafer (2008-07-24). Salvation (Kindle Locations 323-325). Taft Software, Inc.. Kindle Edition.
6. In turning to the Scriptures to discover what it has pleased God to reveal of His saving work in the individual at the instant he believes, it will be found that there are at least thirty-three distinct positions into which such an one is instantly brought by the sufficient operation of the infinite God.
Lewis Sperry Chafer (2008-07-24). Salvation (Kindle Locations 588-590). Taft Software, Inc.. Kindle Edition.

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