Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life. (John 4:13-14)

Monday, July 04, 2011

God's Forgiveness Part 1: Introduction

An Introduction to the Current Study of God’s Forgiveness of Sins in the New Testament

The Method of the Study
Throughout my 8 years of undergraduate studies at a Bible College (it took me 8 years of part time school to get a BA in Biblical Studies) I was introduced to many helpful methodical approaches to studying the Bible. One approach that I have found useful in my own study is the observation, extrapolation, and application method. You start out with a text of Scripture and write down as many observations concerning it as you can, without making any inferences or interpretations of the text. One is to simply make declarative statements concerning the data in the text itself. Next, based on the wealth of information contained in those observations, one would make inferences and extrapolations, but only as far as the text could legitimately allow. This second step is basic interpretation. In class, we were not allowed to make any inference that couldn’t be supported from the text at hand. We did this in order to stay “in bounds” with the text. If there was not enough information within the text itself for a particular pronouncement, we were not allowed to make it.

Certainly, as all students of the Bible know, all the information concerning issues present in a particular text may not be present in the text being considered. So in order to grow in understanding of the issues, the other texts would need to be studied in the same way, with the observations and extrapolations. The information gleaned from all the relevant texts could be used to make greater extrapolations and interpretations, and thus the issue could be considered using all the relevent biblical data and legitimate conclusions could be made – and at the same time the rules of the study prevent improper use of the text, the inclusion of secondary assumptions not found in the text, and erroneous interpretation (and by extension improper application).

The Dangers of Imprecise Observation and Interpretation
This type of exercise is very helpful when studying any issue. I used this very same process to come to the conclusions that I did concerning God’s forgiveness of sins in the New Testament. I have found, as in my study of forgiveness of sins, that I and others have been guilty of making inferences that can't legitimately be supported by reasoned observation and extrapolation and then asserting them as biblical fact. Futhermore, I note that I and others have fallen into the error of "implicit faith," by which we have, without the application of focused study or critical thinking, regarded and taught as truth a wide range of tenets springing from various theological traditions, and not from our own personal study.

We must be on guard about this! Too often I find that we go too far in our theological pronouncements, going beyond what may be legitimately extrapolated from the scriptural data. We must commit ourselves anew to stay "in bounds" with care and precision, going back to the relevant texts, determining to receive nothing more from the text than what can legitimately be ascertained from it. This point, in my estimation, cannot be overemphasized! The imprecise handling of the biblical texts can have a snowballing effect, as illegitimate inferences can be used to make more, which then in turn can be used to make greater ones and so on.

Reader, is it possible that you have not been careful enough with the handling of Scripture? To admit so, as I do, can be humbling, indeed. Some authors, I have read, have been very obstinate to confess their shortcomings, because they have been “published” and their pride and reputation are on the line. One of the many things that I have admired about Zane Hodges is that he continued to test his beliefs against a proper consideration of the Scriptures. Zane’s prayerful and methodical approach to the study of Scripture produced clarity, modifications, and even changes in his beliefs, and he was not afraid to announce them. Fidelity to the Scriptures is far more important than any other consideration. I hope that you will judge this true as well, no matter where you eventually will be in relation to this current study of God’s forgiveness of sins in the New Testament.

A Preliminary Consideration

Many people in my family have expressed frustration when purchasing a birthday or Christmas gift for me. Beside the consistent suggestion of books, I have had a hard time determining material things or services that I want. Last October I got on a scale and found that I was the heaviest that I had ever been in my life. This had quite an impact on me. I needed to get focused on the temporal body that God was using in His service! At Costco, I saw that they had a 2 year membership to 24 Hour Fitness for only $12.50 a month. It was rather expensive, I think like $299, but it was something I could actually find useful besides books, so I suggested it. I knew that there was no budget for such a high priced gift, so I did not even consider it a possiblity – I just threw it into the mix. To my surprise, I did receive the gift for Christmas last year. My wife and my inlaws both contributed in order to purchase the membership (I would like to note for my readers that since this time I have lost more than 25 pounds).

Imagine for a moment that I went in with my gift certificate, was signed up, and given a membership good for 2 complete years from that point on, giving me unlimited access and use of their entire facility (not so hard to imagine since this is the case). Yet what if I were to return for my second visit to find that I must actually pay a fee everytime I entered the gym? I think that you would agree that I ought to be rightly perplexed! Rationally, logically, and reasonably, how could I be financially responsible to the gym for each visit if my 2 year membership accorded me unlimited entry and use of the facility by virtue of its contract? Of course this is an absurdity; it is utterly and obviously senseless and illogical, contrary to reason and all common sense. But this is the type of situation that I am asked to believe is the case with God and His forgiveness of sins!

We are told by most evangelicals, often in the context of evangelism, that when we believe in Christ that we are forgiven for all our sins – past, present, and future. Yet, in the context of Christian living, we are told that we must be forgiven by God for all of our future sins, lest we remain unforgiven and out of fellowship with God. May I propose that this, too, is absurd (illogical, and contrary to reason)? How is it that we are responsible to God to be forgiven for every future sin if we have have already been forgiven of every future sin? This is like being asked to pay a fee upon each future visit to a gym when in fact each future visit has been paid for by purchasing and successfully applying for a membership. This is literally against all reason.

I recollect the first time that my mind was presented with this apparant affront to logic. It immediately was recognized as such. In light of the dissonance that such tension created, I asked a more mature Christian about how these considerations could be compatible. The answer was such, that in my immature Christian experience, I was able to compartmentalize this information, regarding both to be true, even in the light of a weakly attested harmonization. Yet now, in light of my growth in the grace and knowlege of our Lord Jesus Christ, such attempts at harmony do not satisfy my critical thinking processes. I thus am comfortable saying now that we are presented with two contradictory notions. Both cannot be true at the same time. Logically speaking, there are only 3 choices: the first is right while the other is wrong, the other is right while the first is wrong, or they are both wrong. It is impossible to be God fogiven of one sin and God unforgiven of the same sin at the same time.

Cornelius Van Til and Gordon Clark
In the 1940s a theological controversy came to being within the Reformed tradition. Essentially, one side (Van Til) believed that there were true propositions in the Bible that are contradictory to human logic which can never be harmonized, because God is incomprehensible and man can never know all the same truth as God can for God does not operate in the sphere of logic. The other side (Clark), stated that the truth may only appear that way, and either we must search the Bible for more information that will facilitate harmony, or realize that we will not be able to know the information this side of eternity – but they should both be considered as true, and able to be harmonized, logically understood, when more information is introduced. Examples of such Reformed “truths” that were at the heart of the controversy where “sovereignty and responsiblity,” and “the sincere offer of the gospel”.

In such a controversy, I would side with Gordon Clark. But I don’t leave it there. If there are two doctrinal pronouncements that contradict each other, my first reaction would be to test each one individually, to see if its articulation, based upon a methodical study of Scripture, must be modified or changed. I would posit that either one or both were in error before deciding that there is not enough information. In the process of systematizing my doctrinal thoughts, I have not found two sets of doctrinal pronouncements that are actually to be held in tension and/or paradox, but have found enough information, or have been persuaded to modify or change a position, in order for all held Christian beliefs to be in harmony with one another.

In the issue at hand, God’s forgiveness of sins, I have used these principles in coming to new held beliefs. During the course of my Christian journey, I have heard a large range of teachings and positions. One, in particular, is interesting to note here. I can’t remember which Christian group teaches this, but they were struck by the apparant contradiction of the necessity to be forgiven of what has already been forgiven, and have come to the opposite conclusion that I have. They teach that since one is forgiven of all their sins, past and future, there is no need to confess one’s sins for forgiveness, and so they consider 1 John 1:9 as an eternal salvation text, conditioning eternal forgiveness of sins on confession. I believe that they have discarded the wrong doctrine, but I note them because they were impressed as I am over the contradictory nature of the current articulations concerning God’s forgiveness of sins.

A Plea
In the following article(s) I will be reviewing the pertinent texts concerning God’s forgiveness of sins in the New Testament. I invite you to join with me in this study, to test and challenge your convictions in this area. Even if you do not come to the same conclusions as I do, you can guard against “implicit faith,” having confirmed your beliefs with a precise and methodical study of the Scriptures.

Your Free Grace Host,
Antonio G. da Rosa


Blogger Jonathan Perreault said...

Hello Antonio,

This should be an interesting study. At the outset I would urge caution in regards to your gym membership scenario. I believe this is going beyond Scripture, the very thing you are trying not to do.

But since you brought it up, let me respond to your scenario with one that I think illustrates divine forgiveness more accurately. Would it not be true that even though your gym membership is paid in full, you would still be scolded for something you broke while working out because you weren't following the rules of the gym? Let's say for example that the gym has a "Do Not Drop Weights" policy, as many gyms do. If you broke this rule and carelessly dropped a weight onto the rack, or onto one of the machines, and it caused a mirror to break, or a machine to get damaged, is it so hard to imagine that even though your gym membership was paid in full for two years there would still be a cost for the damages you incurred? Fortunate for you, all the machines have a "Forever Guarantee" from the manufacturer, and so the owner of the gym does not charge you for the damages. But are you not required to at least acknowledge what you did in order to stay in the "good graces" of the club? But no matter what, your membership would not be in jeopardy because that would be a breach of the contract.

In seeking to understand divine forgiveness, I think it is also helpful to recognize the difference between the Christian's position in Christ verses his condition in this world. Divine forgiveness can be spoken of in these two senses. Positionally speaking every Christian has complete forgiveness (Col. 2:13). But conditionally speaking, every Christian still needs forgiveness from sin (1 Jn. 1:9).

I think a good illustration of this is when Jesus says to His disciples that they have all been given a complete bath (except for Judas Iscariot), but they still needed to wash their feet (see John 13:10). Jesus makes a distinction between a complete bath (perfect tense, passive voice) and a spot washing of the feet (aorist tense, middle/reflexive voice). The Greek text is very instructive, and you may want to do a study on this. I realize that Jesus doesn't mention "forgiveness," but I would argue that cleansing involves the same basic idea.


July 05, 2011 4:13 PM  
Blogger Rightly Divided said...


The “group” to which you were referring is the mid acts dispensational perspective which asserts that Paul never teaches that those in the Body of Christ are to confess their sins. Paul teaches that all trespasses are forgiven. (Col 2:13). Asking forgiveness of sins is for the Kingdom Church of the synoptic Gospel age (Matt- acts 9) and the tribulation saints (Heb- Rev). Forgiveness of sins is dependent upon forgiving others. Matt 6:15; 11:26.
The mid acts do not approach this issue the way you are. You are saying forgiveness of sins is not soteriological in nature, but solely fellowship. They are saying those in the body of Christ have all of their sins forgiven BECAUSE they are saved; and therefore, do not need to ask for forgiveness since 1 John 1:9 is not scripture directed to the body of Christ (Rom- Phil alone contain doctrine for the church which is his body)

My take on this issue is that Paul helps us to understand what forgiveness of sins is, namely (even) “Redemption”. Colossians 1:14 In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins: We are redeemed when we are justified (soteriologically) Romans 3:24 Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: While there is a future redemption for our body (Rom 8:23; Eph 1:14) the blood which gives us the forgiveness of sins (Eph 1:7) also gives us eternal redemption. Hebrews 9:12 Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us. (which makes forgiveness of sins and redemption tied in with the blood and regeneration).

1 John 1:9 says to confess our sins---nothing in there about asking for forgiveness for our sins. I don’t see any reason to “ask forgiveness” for sins once you are saved. Confessing sin ( `omologeo) is simply agreeing with God that what we did is sin. We acknowledge the sins that he has already forgiven us for, for conscience sake. (Heb 9:14; 10:2, 22).
BTW Examining ourselves prior to observing the Lord’s supper (1 Cor 11:28) is not asking for forgiveness.
So the point is, all of my sins are forgiven at salvation, I confess my sins by agreeing with God what I did was wrong for conscience sake and fellowship’s sake. I am in fellowship with God to the extent I am in agreement with him on any given issue (can two walk together except they be agreed?)

I will stop, I have many other issues to elaborate on such as the dispensational aspect of forgiveness prior to the cross, the fact that the blood cleanseth us from ALL sins and he redeems us from ALL iniquity (exegeting both of these verses) etc.

Jeff Ayers

July 06, 2011 10:49 PM  
Blogger Antonio said...

Hi Jonathan,

Thanks again for your participation. It is very helpful to me to interact with others.

I am having a problem with your re-articulation of my illustration. Let me tell you why. I corresponded forgiveness to the entrance and access to a gym. If one's obligation has been remitted by membership for entrance and access into the gym, how can it later be required? This is the conundrum of being forgiven of future sins but still having the responsiblity to seek forgiveness of future sins via confession (1 Jn 1:9).

I am afraid that you changed the illustration in such a way that it does not represent my point. I likened forgiveness to a membership that grants entrance and access -- to enter the gym and use the facilities. This membership remits all obligations or responsibility for payment for that purpose: entrance, access, and use. Therefore it is absurd and improper to require that payment be made for each future visit if the membership already took care of that responsibility!

I believe your illustration provides for me a conundrum that I can't work out in my mind. We are talking about God's forgiveness, which is just that, God's forgiveness. You are asking me to believe in what my mind finds impossible: being God forgiven and God unforgiven at the exact same time.

You likened future necessary personal forgivness to a liablity for damaging equipment. Liablity for damage to equipment was not in the purview. If you add this further element, then you state by implication that original forgiveness is in someway lacking, which is just another way of saying, essentially, that a person just is not forgiven of his future sins, because he still must seek forgiveness through confession. You therefore created in my mind the exact contradiction that I had originally posed in my opening post, namely:

It is impossible to present a cogent illustration describing someone as forgiven for all past and future sins and yet is responsible to be forgiven of all future sins at the same time.

I could go with an illustration like this:

Let us say that there was a gym that required that one pay for each visit individually. Let us say that you were going to that gym for a year now, quite frequently. You didn't have the money to pay for each of those visits over the past year, so you put them all on a credit card. Your mom loves you very much and knows how important going to the gym is to you, and she wanted to do something very special for you. So she had your credit card transferred over to hers and put her credit account in your name at the gym for all future visits to the gym. This credit card of hers was paid automatically out of the abundance of her very large savings account.

So essentially, she not only ACTUALLY took care of every one of your visits up to that date, but guaranteed the payment of any and all future visits, as each time you went, the fee was charged to her credit account and then paid -- according to the number of future times you would visit.

Since the gym only charged per visit, it couldn't charge the account in advance, because it certainly is not known how many times in the future you would visit the gym, so they were charged on the individual basis.

This is precisely what I am arguing about in relation to forgiveness.

It simply is contradictory and absurd to pronounce that someone is forgiven of all their future sins because of faith in Jesus and to furthermore pronounce that they are responsible to confess their future sins IN ORDER THAT THEY be forgiven of those sins. Like this opening post said: It is impossible to be God forgiven and God unforgiven of the same sin at the same time. It is absurdity.

July 08, 2011 3:21 PM  
Blogger Antonio said...

I like how you mentioned "good graces." In your illustration, one would not stay in good graces if they did not acknowledge their carelessness. But this good graces is exactly what forgiveness is! If one is forgiven of all their future sins at the point of faith in Christ, there would be no need to confess their sins to stay in the good graces of God! Their sins would already be forgiven!

We cannot mince words. The purpose of confession in 1 John 1:9 is for the forgiveness of the sin we confess. Why wouldn't the Apostle use some other terminology? Certainly the acknowledgement of our sins is to stay in God's good graces. But how is that granted? It is granted in the form of FORGIVENESS.

I know I am beating a dead horse! But if it is granted in the form of forgiveness, then it is impossible to say that this sin was already forgiven at the point of the reception of eternal life. I am afraid that either I am mad, and have some warped sense of critical thinking and logic, having been arrested by the incongruity in these two theological pronouncements or others have yet to deal with the substantial import of them.

The contradiction was explained to me as a positional versus "conditional" (as you put it) forgiveness of sins when I asked a more mature Christian (as I mentioned briefly in the opening post). Yet in the absence of a single text that clearly sets forth a doctrine of all future sins being forgiven, and the absurd notion that someone can be forgiven and unforgiven of the same sin by God at the same time, I have since abandoned this theological stance and consider it untenable.

You mention John 13:10. As you may have presumed by now, I take it as an illustration of my position. When a person comes to faith in Christ, he is completely clean, having each and every one of the sins in his life forgiven -- any and all that he has ever committed, completely clean. But what happened when a completely clean person went out in the world of Jesus' time? Having wore sandals, this completely clean person nevertheless becomes slightly soiled (slightly in comparison to the soil that was removed from him when he was thoroughly cleansed!). Though all his past dirt was cleansed perfectly, in time he has now accumulated more dirt that needs to be cleansed. The original cleansing did not cleanse the future dirt because the future dirt was not there yet! But the PROVISION still remains... the provision that cleansed the sinner at initial salvation guarantees all future cleansing when it is sought. I am under the impression that this verse better illustrates my theology then yours.

This is my last correspondence on these things. I will give you the last word. If you bring up any other data or info, I will respond, but on these matters at hand, I will give you the last word.

I thank you for your participation in this matter, as I know that iron sharpens iron, even a knucklehead like me.

with regards,

Antonio da Rosa

July 08, 2011 3:21 PM  
Blogger Antonio said...


I was very pleased to hear from you, and it is a pleasure to make your acquaintance.

I have read somewhat about Mid-Acts Dispensationalism, and some articles from Cornelius Stamm (which were very thought provoking indeed). I do remember now that line of reasoning from them. But I still feel as though there is another group out there who considers the confession of sins to be a condition for eternal salvation because of their belief that all who are saved already are forgiven of all sin, past and future. I don't think that you were denying the possibility of that group. There are certainly many sects out there with a wide range of beliefs! Nevertheless, I thank you for again bringing that to my attention and to that of the readership here. I only brought up such for purposes of illustration.

Having said that, it does nothing to the incongruency surrounding these twin theological pronouncements:

1) When someone believes in Christ for eternal life he is forgiven of all past and future sins

2) When the believer sins he is responsible to confess them for the purpose of forgiveness

In everyone I have talked to lately, they do not seem to feel the weight of this apparant contradiction. But when spoken of to a child, they see it right away. The only answer that I have is that Christianity as so long deemed these pronouncements as both true that their seeming inconsistency slips into the oblivion of weak harmonizations -- the same as the "sovereignty vs responsiblity" debate.

I am examining your line of argumentation concerning redemption. Your argument is both non-sequitur and a pettitio principii (a begging of the question).

Non-sequitur: because the forgiveness of sins is a subset of the eternal redemption accomplished by Jesus Christ through His blood, it does not follow that upon initial salvation someone is forgiven of not only his past sins but of his future as well. This does not say that it isn't true, but rather only cannot be concluded from the premise -- it does not follow.

I can dream up an illustration showing some form of membership, lets say, to Sea World, for a lifetime, but only allows one to use the tram 5 times, and the rest will have to be paid from one's own pocket. Because the redemption through Christ's blood is eternal, of which forgiveness of sins is a subset, does not necessarily mean that the forgiveness includes a sense that at initial salvation all future sins are forgiven. Certainly one may draw an inference, but this is different than concluding certainly that it is true.

I, rather, infer that through Christ's blood we have the forgiveness of sins, meaning, forgiveness of all past sins and the provision being made for all future sins to be forgiven. Neither my inference nor yours can be concluded deductively from the texts. But certainly logic (and the preponderance of other New Testament data concerning forgiveness of sins) mitigates against your position.

That jusification is shown to be eternal, and shown to be a subset of the same redemption that forgiveness of sins stems from does not necessitate the view that the believer, upon initial salvation, has all of his future sins forgiven at that point. Again, this is non-sequitur.

The act of a deed of charity may have many distinguishable and related benefits which may include a variety of provisions each with their unique intents, senses, and purposes.

July 08, 2011 4:38 PM  
Blogger Antonio said...

Begging the Question: You are arguing a conclusion that has already been assumed in the premise, namely, since the redemption from which forgiveness springs is eternal, the forgiveness of sins, as its subset, must actually forgive all sins yet future. By doing this you have assumed that which you have not yet proved. Nothing in all of the language of any of the texts that you propose necessitates one to conclusively come to the conclusion that you have.

So redemption, forgiveness or sins, and justificaction are all related. Certainly I know that you aren't proposing that they are all the same thing! But on another note, why must you import values and/or senses and/or intents of one or more into that of another? Such importation is illegitimate and not necessitated.

I never spoke about the need of "asking" for forgivenes. That is distinctly beside the point anyway. The point is that a believer is to seek forgiveness for sins that he has been told has already been forgiven when he believed in Christ!

You wrote:
I confess my sins by agreeing with God what I did was wrong for conscience sake and fellowship’s sake.
I agree. But let me take it a step further, a step which can be legitimately taken from the text of 1 John 1:9. I will modify your statement as follows:

"I confess my sins by agreeing with God what I did was wrong so that I may be forgiven for these sins and consequently my conscience may be cleansed and I may have fellowship with God."

Remember, it is for FORGIVENESS that one confesses his sin in 1 John 1:9.

It is quite superfluous, redundant, and even absurd to suggest that one must confess his sins to be forgiven of a sin that he has already been forgiven of.

Thanks for your participation. I welcome your comments.

Oh, as pertaining the blood of Jesus cleansing us from all sin, this is a provision for only those who "walk in the light as He is in the light". Deduction: the blood only has a cleansing effect while one is walking in an open and honest relationship with God, confessing his sin as they come to his consciousness. In such a case, fellowship is never broken. But if one has a sin come to his consciousness and does not confess, or sins presumptiously, his fellowship is broken with God, which can only be repaired by forgiveness through confession.

grace and peace,


July 08, 2011 4:39 PM  
Blogger Jonathan Perreault said...

Hi Antonio,

Yes, I admit I did change your illustration, as I thought you would see my point that way. As I mentioned earlier though, I think the sooner a person focuses on the text of Scripture, the better that person will be. I think Paul was asking the right question when he said, "What do the Scriptures say?" (Rom. 4:3; Gal. 4:30).

As far as position in Christ vs. condition in this world, I know Miles Stanford at www.inchrist.org (I think it is) and Middletown Bible Church have a lot of good resources on this subject that you might find helpful.

Personally, I don't think it is a contradiction to say that Christians are completely forgiven in one sense and still need forgiveness in another sense. If the senses were the same, then I think that would be a contradiction.

As far as all our sins being forgiven (at the cross), I believe that Colossians 2:13 is pretty clear on that. Another passage is Hebrews 10:10-14 which says that we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus once for all (v. 10), and these sanctified people are "perfected for all time" (v. 14).



July 08, 2011 7:26 PM  
Blogger Antonio said...

Hi Jonathan.

I really appreciate you continuing in dialogue here.

This opening article was merely an attempt at an introduction to the logical problems that I have with two current theological articulations, namely, one is forgiven of all past and future sins when she is born again, and one must seek forgiveness and be forgiven for each one of her future sins. I used this introductory article to highlight my confusion.

I certainly intend, the Lord willing, to go through all the passages that contain the Greek words "aphiemi" and "aphesis" and any others that may be pertinent also (cleansing, etc.). It is all about the text! I hope you will stick around as we examine the texts, because I have found in the past that your mind has picked up subtle yet important facts about scriptures that elude me!

Let me ask you a question concerning your understanding of forgiveness of sins.

What would be the purpose for God, and in what sense, for forgiving all the future sins of a new believer (and it being a type of forgiveness that still obligates one to seek future forgiveness for future sins)? What is God's purpose for, in some sense, forgiving future, yet uncommitted sins? I can see the purpose for forgiving all past sins, in order for the convert to be completely clean and in immediate fellowship with God.

It seems, at the outset, that Christ's blood as the provision insuring that all future sins are forgiveable apart from Jewish prozeltization (sp?), ritual, and obedience to social ordinances, is a preferred notion as opposed to some sense of being forgiven of all future sins (at the same time as being un-forgiven, because forgiveness must be obtained to stay in fellowship with God). It just seems far simpler and easier on the thought processes.

Through Christ's redemptive work, God forgives all past sin, and through the same provision, insures the forgiveness of all future sins when confessed. This just seems more simple and logical!

Let's say that you were to tell a new believer that all his sins were forgiven in the past and all his future sins were forgiven, on account of Christ's eternal redemption. Then later on, as this new believer read the Bible, she read 1 John 1:9, and saw the information there, and became confused and sought your counsel. She said, "Jonathan, you told me that I was forgiven of all my future sins, but 1 John 1:9 is telling me that I have to confess all my sins, since salvation, in order for them to be forgiven. Why must I seek forgiveness for something for which I was told has already been forgiven?"

What would your answer be? When she asked what is the purpose of this "type" and "sense" of perfect future forgiveness of all sins, what would you say?

July 09, 2011 11:00 AM  
Blogger Antonio said...

Was not the "past" sins of this new Christian forgiven in the temporal sense? Certainly they were, or else the believer could not immediately, upon being born again, be in fellowship with God. Therefore, in order to be consistent, we may infer, finding no scriptural data to the contrary, that this same benefit springing from the eternal redemption that is in Christ, must be a temporal "indulgence," ACTUALLY forgiving all future sin in every sense -- not some mystical union, positional, and seemingly without use, forgiveness of all future sins.

In other words, when one believed in Jesus for eternal life, all his past sins were actually forgiven according to the redemption that is in Jesus Christ. Why would it not be postulated, therefore, that the future forgiveness of all sins followed in the same manner, in other words, was actually forgiven in the same sense as those in the past? This seems to follow. But if this would be the inferred case, why then the need for future forgiveness of sins through confession?

The disconnect comes when theologians postulate that this one benefit of Christ's redemption "the forgiveness of sins" forgives all future sins and all past sins, but does so differently -- past sins are forgiven actually, but future sins are forgiven in some ethereal, "in Christo," positional way, betraying a differing of purposes between past sins and future sins.

It is just so much easier to understand the "forgiveness of sins" as actually forgiving all past sins, and giving provision for all future sins to be forgiven.

One last consideration. If this same new believer were to ask you, "If I am forgiven (positionally, in Christ) of all my future sins in some sense that still obligates me to seek future forgiveness of all my sins, what is the use and purpose of this "in Christo" forgiveness?", what would you say?

Certainly there is no sinning in heaven, so an eternal forgiveness of sins would be unnecessary! Any such demands and obligations of God upon man entering into eternity are sufficiently met in the sphere of the doctrines of one's having His kind of life, eternal life, and the justification resulting from that life (Romans 5:18).

These are just some thoughts that have been swirling around in my head.

Blessings and grace,


July 09, 2011 11:00 AM  
Blogger Jonathan Perreault said...

Hi Antonio,

Those are good questions. I'll just repeat your questions and then offer my answers. Hope you find them helpful!

Question: "Let's say that you were to tell a new believer that all his sins were forgiven in the past and all his future sins were forgiven, on account of Christ's eternal redemption. Then later on, as this new believer read the Bible, she read 1 John 1:9, and saw the information there, and became confused and sought your counsel. She said, 'Jonathan, you told me that I was forgiven of all my future sins, but 1 John 1:9 is telling me that I have to confess all my sins, since salvation, in order for them to be forgiven. Why must I seek forgiveness for something for which I was told has already been forgiven?' What would your answer be? When she asked what is the purpose of this "type" and "sense" of perfect future forgiveness of all sins, what would you say?"

Answer: I would explain to her some of the basic distinctions in Scripture, such as the three tenses of salvation (justification, sanctification, and glorification), the two senses of forgiveness (judicial and parental), and the difference between the Christian’s standing (in Christ) and state (in this world). As to this latter distinction, there are many Bible verses that distinguish between the believer’s standing/position in Christ (e.g. Eph. 1-3) and state/condition in this world (e.g. Eph. 4-6). Paul is his epistles is ever highlighting this distinction (1 Cor. 1; Col. 3, etc.).

Question: One last consideration. If this same new believer were to ask you, "If I am forgiven (positionally, in Christ) of all my future sins in some sense that still obligates me to seek future forgiveness of all my sins, what is the use and purpose of this "in Christo" forgiveness?", what would you say?

Answer: There are probably many purposes. I would say that one purpose is to magnify God's grace (see Eph. 1:7, 2:7).

I would also add that judicial forgiveness (for salvation) allows God to extend parental forgiveness (for fellowship) when we confess our sins in our Christian walk: "If we [God's children] confess our sins He is faithful and JUST to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness [in terms of fellowship]" (1 Jn. 1:9).

For more information see:

Two Aspects of Forgiveness by Middletown Bible Church

The Believer’s Standing and State by Middletown Bible Church

The Believer’s Standing and State by C. I. Scofield (Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth, p. 51)

In Christ,


July 10, 2011 1:45 PM  
Blogger Danny said...

Hi Antonio. I'm glad you're starting to question the wisdom of traditional view of forgiveness. As you pointed out, it doesn't make sense to say that all future sins are forgiven judicially but not parentally/experientially until confessed. However, to maintain your fellowship view of forgiveness, you say future sins have nothing to do with justification or eternal life and therefore must be dealth with through confession in order to stay in fellowship in the here-and-now. I'm linking you to a 2-part article that makes some observations that no one else has made concerning fellowship and forgiveness. It took me a while to come around, but I'm convinced that habitual confession is NOT what 1 John 1:9 teaches.


July 10, 2011 5:50 PM  
Blogger Ken White said...

Hi Antonio,

Ken here weighing in one more time. I still am not convinced that your conclusion about forgiveness is right, in fact I don't think it is, for the reasons I mentioned before, but I want you to know upfront as I write a few more disagreeing thoughts that it is a friendly disagreement. I hope it is a sharpening thing for both of us.

It seems to me that there is one major underlying premise to your argument, and that is that it is absurb/illogical for there to be a sense in which a believer is forgiven and unforgiven for the same sins. However, I disagree with your premise. I don't think it is any more illogical to talk about judicial and familial forgiveness than to talk about any other distinction between positional and conditional truth or two senses in which a word is used, and it seems to me that the New Testament is full of such uses. For example, we are in one sense justified completely, and yet we will also answer for our sins before the judgment seat of Christ. That isn't illogical, it just deals with two different issues. Positionally we are sanctified, conditionally still sin. In one sense we are justified by faith alone (before God), but in another sense we are justified by works (before men. In one sense we have eternal life as a free gift, but in another sense eternal life is spoken of as something given as a reward. I don't see that it is any less logical to say that in one sense we are forgiven, and yet in another sense we need to be continually forgiven.

In answer to your question (though it was to Jonathan) about what the purpuse of the eternal type of forgiveness would be, if the way I understand it is correct, the "positional" type of forgiveness is basically a synonym for justification, which seems to fit with the way it is used in Acts 10:43, where it seems like what Cornelius and family believed in Jesus for was "remission of sins." This seems very parallel to Paul in Acts 13:39 presenting justification as that which Jesus offers to those who believe. In the judicial realm, my sins are forgiven and God sees me as righteous. In family realm, My sins still grieve God and need to be confessed.

Anwyay, I know you understand my position since it is probably exactly the same way you used to see it, but I just think you need to give more thought to the whole issue of words or concepts being used in two different senses.

July 12, 2011 9:27 PM  
Blogger Jonathan Perreault said...

Hi Antonio,

I have been thinking along precisely the same lines as Ken...

I don't think saying that there are two types of forgiveness - and in one sense we are forgiven and in another sense we still need forgiveness - is any more illogical or unbiblical than saying thereare two or three types of salvation: we are saved from the penalty of sin but we are still being saved (or we still need salvation) from the power of sin in our daily lives. (And of course the third sense of salvation is when we are saved from the very presence of sin when we get our glorified bodies.)

Concerning the two senses of forgiveness, I find something in the Old Testament instructive (cf. Rom. 15:4). In Exodus we find that the priests serving the LORD not only had a bronze altar on which to make atonment for sin but also a bronze laver or basin (of water) with which to cleanse their hands and feet of daily dirt and defilement. (Similar to the idea of the feet washing in Jn. 13:10.)

The altar and the laver. The complete bath and the foot washing. Salvation and sanctification. Forgiveness for the complete debt and forgiveness for the daily defilement. I think these are key biblical distinctions.

July 13, 2011 6:49 AM  
Blogger Jonathan Perreault said...

Just to clarify....when I said "salvation and sanctification" (see above), I specifically meant justification and sanctification.


July 13, 2011 7:02 AM  
Blogger Antonio said...


Thanks for your answers. I read those articles and they were helpful in formulating and systematizing some of my thoughts. I have to say that even after I read them, I am completely confident in my position, and fully intend to defend it with Scripture. I appreciate your further input as well, dovetailing off of Ken. I am excited that you are here and trekking along, and also for your commitment to stay the course and hear me out.

July 13, 2011 8:53 AM  
Blogger Antonio said...


As always, I appreciate your enthusiasm. You have been around for a long time, and your presence has always been a joy for me. You have been around through thick and thin, and have shared reason, love, and goodwill.

I must say, though, at the same time, that I sometimes get disheartened by the way I have perceived that you seem to be tossed to and fro by various winds of doctrine -- from some of the emails I have got from you, and here in this case. The operative words are "percieved" and "seem". Please don't take offense. If these things are issues that you have thoroughly engaged yourself, and are confident through your study of the Scriptures, then my apologies.

I read those 2 articles (and the one they said was foundational to them), and I found many errors of reasoning and logic coupled with the very poor exposition of 1 John 1, among other problems, such as the hyper-dispy tendency to prefer the "church epistles". During the course of my series on forgiveness, I won't be responding specifically to that writer's claims, but I will certainly be presenting evidence which will challenge the foundations of his arguments.

It was good to have read them though, and consider them. I am always trying to improve my understanding of Scripture, and reading those articles was helpful. I am trying to be a good "Berean" as I encourage others to be the same.

Thanks again, and I hope to see you participate in the coming days!

July 13, 2011 9:07 AM  
Blogger Antonio said...


Your graciousness and uprightness precedes you! Diane has had (and continues to have, by the way) many wonderful things to say about you, and I am confident of your integrity. Please consider, for this and any issue we may disagree on, to be the loyal opposition. Its about grace and truth!

I sincerely appreciate, very much, your presence and contribution here. You are warmly welcomed and your input is desired. One thing that I have found in dialogue in theological matters is it keeps driving me back to the text to either strengthen, modify, or change my position. I will not hesistate to do any of those things in the light of a reasoned appeal to Scripture.

I believe, when done right, that this type of dialogue glorifies the Father, and that He uses it to be glorified as the participants prayerfully and diligently seek wisdom from Him in order to come to the spiritual truths that are in turn used for His glory when they are put into practice.

I have been taught and understand the position and points that you are making. I have employed these reasonings myself in discussions concerning this topic. Studying, as I have, the doctrine of soteriology has been an exciting process.

An interest of mine is how all the divergent considerations relate and interact with each other. Furthermore, my own personal studies have produced firm convictions in certain areas that created tension and dissonance with other held beliefs -- beliefs which I admit that I hadn't pursued much focused study upon. Strong, bedrock convictions produced through my ardent study have led me to this exercise, for my prior understanding of forgiveness was put into tension by them.

In light of such an appraisal, the doctrine of forgiveness became a focus of study for me. As Gordon Clark once wrote, biblical tension (as the one created between my strong, studied convictions and my thoughts on forgiveness) is nothing more than a "charley-horse between the ears that can be eliminated by rational massage"; may I further suggest a rational massage produced by study of the Scriptures.

July 13, 2011 9:49 AM  
Blogger Antonio said...

to continue, Ken,

I may, at some point, elaborate on my studies and the strong convictions that created tension with my prior understanding of forgiveness (in all probability virtually the same one as you now have). At this point, though, it would not be prudent, for I do not wish to travel down two paths of reasoning at once. The study on forgiveness of sins stands perfectly on its own, and it is to this which I will invest my time at this juncture.

I want to challenge the way you think, Ken. I want to get to the foundations upon which you currently rest your understanding of forgiveness and test them.

Articulation of doctrine is extremely important. You bring up good points with your illustrations. It is evident that through precise wording, clear reasoning, and careful dividing of the word of truth one may correctly navigate through spiritual realities that cause confusion when texts illustrating them use the same word yet in different senses.

But I will labor to show that this just isn't the case in regards to the prevalent view of the forgiveness of sins.

The Greek word, "aphiemi" has several senses. It can be used in the sense of "send forth," "let go," "leave," and "permit". But when it is used in those contexts that demand an understanding of "to forgive" the sense is always the same -- it is the letting go of an offense or debt.

In such a case, as the sense being the same, it is absurd to declare that God requires that one be forgiven of a sin that He has already forgiven, or let go.

You have attempted to soften or harmonize your two ideas on forgiveness by stating that "eternal" forgiveness is the same thing as justification, and you used Acts 13:39 as a proof. I ask that you look at this text more critically, using the method described in the OP. I entreat you to do more study, both in this text, and in the rest of Scripture in order that you might justify such a grand and sweeping pronouncement as you made.

We are in the midst of a traditional understanding being questioned. The tendency will be to rely upon tradition, the teachings handed down to us (and not critically observed in Scripture), and use it as our presupposition when arguing for it. Minds will try to rationalize beliefs, looking for Scriptures which could back them up. Such is circular and dangerous. I ask everyone to be on guard for these things.

I could be here in this comment thread and take each question and comment as a case by case consideration. That will not be a wise use of my time. This series is far from over. Questions and objections will be answered and addressed in the course of this series.

I invite each of you to continue to comment as you wish, but I reserve the right to address questions and comments in my own time as I attempt to make my arguments.

Thanks for hanging in there, and your participation.


July 13, 2011 11:06 AM  
Blogger Matthew Celestis said...

I like Gordon Clark's stand for logical consistency. He had some unhelpful ideas, but overall his approach was right.

July 15, 2011 1:35 AM  
Blogger Antonio said...

Hey Matt,

Thanks for trekkin along with this article series. I think along the lines as you do about him. I am a huge fan of logical consistency and therefore the hermeneutical doctrine of the Law of Non-Contradiction!

Your blog buddy,


July 15, 2011 10:00 PM  

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