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)

Friday, March 16, 2012

God's Forgiveness Part 4: Getting into the Text

A Quick Review of the Doctrine of the “Forgiveness of Sins”

We have hashed out quite a bit in the previous articles. We won’t spend much time reviewing, but I do want to drive home a couple of quick points before we proceed.

A) Forgiveness of sins is a temporal, not eternal, issue. Our eternal well-being is not contingent upon a bestowal of forgiveness by God, but by the impartation of new life.

B) Forgiveness of sins is a relational, not judicial, issue. Justification and forgiveness are two separate considerations with differing purposes.

C) Forgiveness of sins is necessary for temporal fellowship with God. Our sins offend our Holy God and produce an estrangement to Him. Forgiveness allows fellowship to be restored (or to continue).

D) Forgiveness ‘lets go’ of offenses, releasing the personal debt of the offender to the one offended, and the offended party’s right to legitimate and commensurate retribution. In terms of the ledger governing a social relationship, forgiveness “squares” everything, but does not necessarily repair broken relationships nor institute new ones. (*Note: In the case of God’s forgiveness of Christians, forgiveness does repair the relationship!)

E) Forgiveness does not take away eternal condemnation. Sin is not the reason why people are condemned to hell (contrary to popular belief!). Forgiveness takes away God’s temporal wrath and retribution associated with our sins.

F) Forgiveness does not take away chastening nor natural consequences for sin. Divine discipline and forgiveness are not incompatible, while wrath and forgiveness are.

G) Forgiveness is never a once-for-all declaration or bestowal. At the moment of regeneration, all past sins are forgiven. Along with this comes the privilege of future forgiveness through the promise of 1 John 1:9.

H) Forgiveness of sins has as its basis the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ. Christ’s death on the cross has an eternal value. Through it, God is propitiated with regards to His righteous indignation caused by the universal sins of mankind. By initial faith in Christ, and subsequent confession to the Father, sins are forgiven by this basis and no other.

I) Forgiveness of sins is a divine blessing par excellence. I thank my God that I have this privilege! I thank the Lord Jesus Christ for His willing obedience to suffer the ultimate sacrifice for sins! You should, too!

Introduction to this Installment
As a whole, Christianity has blurred the lines between ‘justification’ and ‘forgiveness of sins’ -- so much so that they are often equated one with the other. Forgiveness has been seen as a one-time judicial declaration, remitting all past, present, and future sins. I greatly contend with these understandings!

In the remainder of this series, I will endeavor to show these 2 things: a) no passage in the whole of the Bible necessitates these views, but b) on the contrary, seen in its entirety, the passages relating to forgiveness will show conclusively that the “forgiveness of sins” is as described in the preceding outline above.


The Intended Course of this Study

In this and possibly future installments, I intend to consider every passage in the New Testament that deals with the subject at hand. If I should fail to cover your particular passage(s) of interest, please by all means bring them to my attention and I will adjust accordingly. I ask that you keep me accountable so that we might consider the entire body of New Testament data relevant to this topic. The starting point will be to examine each passage that includes the Greek words that translate into our English verb “forgive” and noun “forgiveness”. These words are aphiemi (forgiveness) and aphesis (to forgive). Furthermore, attention will be brought to those instances where the Greek, charizomai, is used with the meaning of “to forgive”. If after this exploration, more passages need to be reviewed by your request or questions, we shall do so. But it is my belief that the topic at hand shall be thoroughly fleshed out in the study of these important passages.

I am going to now set forth the procedures by which I will (and you must too!) conduct the following study. First, the relevant passages will be produced with a word on their contexts. Next, we will make critical observations from the text. After that, we will draw reasonable conclusions and inferences from the raw data. And from these we will build our complete and balanced doctrine of forgiveness.

This is where we must be very careful! We will not be allowed to make any statement or draw any conclusion that cannot be supported by the text! Each and every pronouncement must be supported by the text. We shall not go beyond the parameters and bounds set by the text itself. We will be determined to receive nothing from the text other than what may legitimately be ascertained from it!

This is where the rubber meets the road. Throughout history, students of the Bible have not followed these simple, yet indispensable principles, and have veered way off course. After this study, you will be scratching your head, pondering how in the world we ever believed such things about the forgiveness of sins!

It is as simple as that! I am going to lay everything out on the table and we are going to investigate all. For those of you who have not yet been convinced of my view concerning forgiveness, I have one task for you: show me how any of these passages necessitates your view. In other words, show me how the passage at hand must be understood in your particular way. If at the end of the study, we recognize that not even one passage clearly teaches that the forgiveness of sins is an eternal, positional, and/or judicial pronouncement dealing with all past, present and future sins, then this view must be abandoned. As I have said before, so now I say again: no passage in the whole of the Bible teaches this!

And so now on with the show…

APHIEMI: to Forgive
Matthew 6:12
And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.

Luke 11:4
And forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who is indebted to us.

Context:
Jesus is teaching His regenerate disciples how to pray.

Observations:
Jesus teaches that when His disciples pray they ought to beseech God for forgiveness.
The terms “sins” and “debts” are substituted one for the other.
Divine forgiveness is entreated upon a premise of our forgiveness of our every debtor.

Interpretations:
Seeking forgiveness from God is a prescribed facet of prayer for disciples of Jesus Christ.
Divine forgiveness is conditioned upon our forgiveness of our every debtor.
In this context, the terms “sins” and “debts” are used in a functional equivalence.
“Sin” and “debt” are therefore related and can be a key to understanding forgiveness.
Sin incurs a debt to the sinner.
Forgiveness of sins is the “letting go” of debt.

Since beseeching forgiveness is prescribed as a facet of prayer, and prayer should be a daily activity (Lk 18:1), and forgiveness is the releasing of a debt accrued by sin, we can infer that sin debt will accumulate (Ro 2:5) until it is either forgiven or taken care of in some other way.

We furthermore can infer that forgiveness takes care of ones presently held sin debt completely, but only that debt. There is no credit given toward any future debts. Beseeching of forgiveness is prescribed whenever we pray (See Lk 11:2, “When you pray, say…”), and therefore does not extend to future sin debt.

The forgiveness spoken of here cannot be a judicial, positional, once-for-all declaration of sins forgiven, past present and future. This is a temporal moment consideration of any sin debt accrued up to the point of prayer.

--------------------

Mark 11:25-26
And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses. But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses.

Matthew 6:4-15
For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

Context:
Jesus is prescribing a principle of prayer to His disciples.

Observations:
The prescription being given should be done “whenever” someone prays.
When one prays, they should forgive “anything against anyone”.
“Trespasses” are the object of forgiveness in these passages.
Divine forgiveness of trespasses is conditioned upon forgiving everyone of theirs.
Disciples are to forgive in order that they may be forgiven.
God will not forgive a disciple’s trespasses if he doesn’t forgive others of theirs.
A “trespass” causes the one ‘trespassed’ to have ‘something’ against the ‘trespasser’.
This ‘something’ is ‘let go’ when one forgives.

Interpretations:
“Trespass,” “sins,” and “debt” are all related.

The 'something' the offended party has against the 'trespasser' is the desire for righteous retribution.

Forgiveness is conditional.

Forgiveness can be withheld the regenerate disciple, therefore forgiveness, in this context, does not have any sense of a once-for-all forgiveness, i.e. positional, judicial, or eternal forgiveness. Forgiveness, here, has a temporal significance that deals with trespasses up to the point of one’s prayer.

--------------------

Mark 2:3-12
Then they came to Him, bringing a paralytic who was carried by four men. And when they could not come near Him because of the crowd, they uncovered the roof where He was. So when they had broken through, they let down the bed on which the paralytic was lying. When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, "Son, your sins are forgiven you." And some of the scribes were sitting there and reasoning in their hearts, "Why does this Man speak blasphemies like this? Who can forgive sins but God alone?" But immediately, when Jesus perceived in His spirit that they reasoned thus within themselves, He said to them, "Why do you reason about these things in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, 'Your sins are forgiven you,' or to say, 'Arise, take up your bed and walk'? But that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins" — He said to the paralytic, "I say to you, arise, take up your bed, and go to your house." Immediately he arose, took up the bed, and went out in the presence of them all, so that all were amazed and glorified God, saying, "We never saw anything like this!"
(see also Luke 5:18-26; Matthew 9:2-8)

Context:
Jesus is preaching in a house to a crowd.

Observations:
The faith of the men (the ones carrying the paralytic, and the paralytic, himself) prompted Jesus to “forgive” the sins possessed by the paralytic.

The “sins” claimed to be forgiven were particularly those that were the paralytic’s own present possession ("your sins" or "the sins of you").

Jesus claimed to be able to have the power, while He was on earth, to forgive sins.

There is nothing in the text that must cause us to understand this situation to exemplify eternal salvation, nor to refer to a once-for-all forgiveness of past, present, and future sins.

Interpretations:
The claim that Jesus could forgive sins while “one earth” was affirmed by His miraculous healing of the paralytic.

The basis upon which Jesus could forgive sins must be the close proximity of His ministry to His crucifixion. Apparently, Christ's future death was not effectual as an atonement for Old Testament people (before John the Baptist) with regards to forgiveness, for they, rather, had to perform animal sacrifice for atonement.

Faith that a man is able to heal you is a different conviction than faith that a man is able to give you eternal life. Nowhere in the text are we met with the idea of eternal salvation. Believing that Jesus is able to heal you is not the prescribed thoroughfare of eternal life. In light of these facts, it must remain a plausable idea that unregenerate people could be nevertheless forgiven of their sins. Later in this study we will be met with a passage that conclusively shows this to be the case.

It is highly awkward and would be manifestly odd to make the statement, “Your sins are forgiven you” referring not only to the sins that the paralyzed man had already committed (which in fact it does), but to his yet uncommitted acts of sin in the future. There is no indicator, whatsoever, that such an understanding was meant. To paraphrase what Jesus said, we might offer, “Son, the sins which are yours, the one’s that you possess, whereby you have incurred a debt, are forgiven you.”

Furthermore, no one in Israel would have had any point of reference with which to understand Jesus’ pronouncement of forgiveness as one that included future sin. Sins were forgiven in the Old Testament through the application of sacrifices that covered past sins alone. We must make no reservations about the following statement: the paralytic would be under the impression that his past sins are forgiven and that any future sins would need an additional remedy.

At the very least, it will have to be admitted by everyone that the understanding that forgiveness, in this context, does not necessarily have to be referring to an eternal, positional, judicial, and once-for-all declaration of forgiveness. Nothing in the whole of the text necessitates that we must take that view. On the contrary, everything we have seen up to now points to the suggestion that the forgiveness referred to here is only for sins already committed in the past.

--------------------

Matthew 18:21-22
Then Peter came to Him and said, "Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?" Jesus said to him, "I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.

Context:
Jesus had been talking to His disciples concerning how they ought to deal with situations where one of their ‘brothers’ sins against them. This prompted Peter to ask this question of Jesus.

Observations:
Peter wanted to know what was the required number of times that he ought to forgive a brother before he didn’t have to forgive him anymore.

Jesus uses a figure of speech to answer Peter which taught him that there ought to be no limit.

This question of Peter not only prompted Christ’s answer, but a parable to illustrate as well (as we shall see in the next section).

Interpretations:
There is no indication of future forgiveness in this context. Otherwise, Peter would have spoken differently, maybe something like, “How many times shall my brother sin against me before his credit (my willful declaration of future forgiveness) runs out?” No, he spoke thus, “How many times shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him at that point?” No other understanding makes sense of this passage.

--------------------

Matthew 18:23-35
Therefore the kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. And when he had begun to settle accounts, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. But as he was not able to pay, his master commanded that he be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and that payment be made. The servant therefore fell down before him, saying, “Master, have patience with me, and I will pay you all.” Then the master of that servant was moved with compassion, released him, and forgave him the debt. But that servant went out and found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii; and he laid hands on him and took him by the throat, saying, “Pay me what you owe!” So his fellow servant fell down at his feet and begged him, saying, “Have patience with me, and I will pay you all.” And he would not, but went and threw him into prison till he should pay the debt. So when his fellow servants saw what had been done, they were very grieved, and came and told their master all that had been done. Then his master, after he had called him, said to him, “You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you begged me. Should you not also have had compassion on your fellow servant, just as I had pity on you?” And his master was angry, and delivered him to the torturers until he should pay all that was due to him. So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses.

Context:
Jesus had been discussing how a disciple ought to deal with a sinning brother. One of the principles that Jesus taught was that the brother ought to be forgiven each time he sinned against a disciple. Jesus used this parable to illustrate His teaching, and warn against non-compliance.

Observations:
A servant was in debt to a king.
The servant owed the king an exact monetary amount.
The servant could not pay his debt.
The king forgave the servant of his debt.
The servant had a peer who was in debt to him.
The peer owed the servant an exact monetary amount.
The peer could not pay.
The servant had the peer imprisoned to pay the debt.
The king heard and was angry.
The king required the debt of the servant.
The debt must be paid through the infliction of torture.

There is some sense that God the Father will require the debt of His children, incurred by their sins, to be paid through the suffering of consequences if they will not forgive their brothers sincerely and completely.

Interpretations:
The debts described in this parable were exact monetary amounts. A debt can only be assessed at any particular moment in time. At the time of this story, the servant’s debt to the king was ten thousand talents. No future, unrealized debt was in view.

The debt of the peer to the servant is analogous to the debt of the servant to the king. In whatever way the debt of the peer related to the servant must also be true of the debt of the servant to the king.

A purview of this parable is divine forgiveness in addition to peer forgiveness. Since there is an equivalence between the two situations (servant to king, and peer to servant), we must conclude that the divine forgiveness described here concerns all the debt, but only the debt, accrued up to the time of its accounting. As a result, this parable cannot be discussing any kind of eternal, judicial, positional, or once-and-for-all declaration of forgiveness of sins, past, present, and future.

Sin incurs debt to the sinner.
Forgiveness is the removal of the debt.

In this context, the debt incurred by sins can be relieved in only one of two ways: 1) forgiveness of it, or 2) the suffering of consequences as payment for it.

The edict of torture by the king and its suffering by the servant is analogous to God’s wrath and righteous retribution against the unrepentant sins of His children.

If a disciple fails to forgive his brother, he is liable to God’s wrath, the suffering of which will be ‘payment’ for his debt.

Jesus here gives us a choice: let your sins be forgiven through the condition of forgiving all others of their debts, or pay your own sin debt in the crucible of God's wrath.


Another Word about this Parable

Many people have had a hard time with this passage, as it has a very graphic description about someone being delivered to the “torturers,”; and this being a comparison to what God will do to a disciple of Christ if they do not forgive! Because of this reference, some have considered that this passage speaks of losing one’s salvation, and the torture pictures hell. Others try to tie this in with passages from 1 John, and say that anyone who doesn’t forgive a brother is probably not a brother at all, but liable to condemnation in hell.

There is a knee-jerk reaction to the imagery contained in this parable. I question that the reference to being delivered to the “torturers” means hell. Jesus was telling His disciples that such would be the case with them (eternally secure disciples) if they didn’t forgive. Thus it becomes apparent that truly regenerate people can suffer such consequences as has been illustrated in this passage.

What can we say concerning the parabolic metaphor of being delivered to the torturers? Well the key to understanding this is the idea that sin incurs debt and forgiveness lets debt go. It is apparent that the king doesn’t forgive the servant because the servant doesn’t forgive his peer. If there is no forgiveness, the debt remains. Being delivered to the torturers can be nothing other than the servant paying debt by it.

Notice the wording in this phrase, “delivered him to the torturers until he should pay all that was due to him”. What can we make of this? There are only two things possible here. 1) Being delivered to the torturers corresponds to going to prison. Here in America, inmates have the opportunity to make money each day by doing work. Yet this does not make good sense of the text. It doesn’t say that he was relegated to hard duty in a prison, but that he was delivered to torturers. Thus the next option is manifestly correct. 2) The suffering of torture is is payment of the debt.

Since this is the case, we now can get a better grasp of this parable. Disciples of Christ ought to forgive their brother each and every single time he offends them. If they do not, God will deliver them to some form of consequences as recompense, thereby the offense being removed by payment of the debt, and the account squared. No other option can be defended.

The whole idea of sin incurring a debt is very important, as we shall see as we move on. Debt cannot be incurred until an action warrants it. People do not accrue debt for actions that are yet future, and un-realized. A person thinking about financing a car isn’t in debt for it. Not until he signs the paperwork does he possess the debt. As we shall see as we move on, the “forgiveness of sins” deals with the debt accrued through realized activities of sin.

Certainly God shows mercy and His wrath against His children is often mitigated. But the picture here is not a pleasant one. In any sense, a consequence for the disobedience of a disciple compared with being delivered to torturers is not pretty. This parable aptly illustrates the point that there are only two ways that an offense can be rectified: forgiveness or vengeance.

Here we will stop for today. But you are going to want to stay tuned for the next installment, as we will be addressing the perennial problem of the Blasphemy Against the Holy Spirit and solving that problem once and for all!!


Stay Tuned!

13 Comments:

Blogger Trent said...

Looking good! Its been a long time Antonio. :) If you come to TX make sure you say hello!

March 17, 2012 2:13 PM  
Blogger Antonio said...

Trent,

So good to hear from you, man! I did hear you were living in Texas. Are you making it out to the GES conference?

Did you have a chance to read my series to date?

Antonio

March 19, 2012 4:27 PM  
Blogger Diane said...

Antonio,

I spent part of my afternoon carefully and slowly studying Part 4 of your paper on God's Forgiveness. I am very excited to see how all the pieces are coming together scripturally~!!!

I loved that you said this...

"I ask that you keep me accountable so that we might consider the entire body of New Testament data relevant to this topic."

Here's something else that you said that I marked...

"We will not be allowed to make any statement or draw any conclusion THAT CANNOT BE SUPPORTED BY THE TEXT!" (emphasis in caps mine.)

And I appreciated this comment very much...

"For those of you who have not yet been convinced of my view concerning forgiveness, I have one task for you: SHOW ME how any of these passages NECESSITATES your view. In other words, show me how the passage at hand *MUST* be understood in your particular way." (emphasis in caps mine.)

I have your paper all marked up in different colors like I usually do when I'm studying a subject. That means that I'm REALLY captivated by it. I'm being a Berean and checking everything out to see if I, myself, can see it the way you see it. So far I do, and it fits perfectly with what I've been learning concerning the free gift of eternal life.

Antonio, I hope you're considering making this into a book. Posting it on your blog is great, but just think how many people may read it and exam it if it's in book form. Just a thought and a hope.
:-)

Thank you for putting so many hours into your study on forgiveness. Now it's up to all of us out here in BEREAN LAND to do our homework and see if what you are seeing is true.

May God be glorified in the discussion.

Your free-grace friend,
Diane
:-)

March 21, 2012 4:05 PM  
Blogger Diane said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

March 21, 2012 4:06 PM  
Blogger Jonathan Perreault said...

Hi Antonio,

I e-mailed you my critiques of your articles (parts 3 and 4). I would have submitted it as a comment in the comment thread but I thought it might be too long.

By His Grace,

Jonathan

March 21, 2012 4:08 PM  
Blogger Mark Metternich said...

Awesome read! God loves us unconditionally and accepts us completely. This is where we start, proceed and finish. This changes our heart (via Holy Spirit) and catches us up into a life that takes us far above the law!

July 09, 2012 12:56 AM  
Blogger Mark Metternich said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

July 09, 2012 12:57 AM  
Blogger Mark Metternich said...

Also it is CRITICAL to remember that Jesus said the Spirit will guide us into all truth (JN 16:12-14). Not the theologians. The theologians will confuse the hel* out of us. The brain can only take us for far. It introduces us to the relationship which (He) can be trusted more than the brain.

July 10, 2012 11:20 AM  
Blogger Diane said...

Hi Antonio,

Just wanted to let you know that I miss your writings. We're talking about this subject of forgiveness of sins and how it differs from the free gift of eternal life in my ladies discipleship class now. Hope you write some more good thought provoking articles on this subject in the near future.
Praying for you friend.

Diane
:-)

November 29, 2012 8:37 PM  
Blogger J Sawyer said...

Wow. I just reread the 4 parts. This is such a tour de force. Fantastic study.

Antonio, I hope when life permits you continue this series. Important and edifying.

Keep in mind that the blaspheme of the Holy Spirit still needs articulating!!

My two cents is that this series should be made into an ebook.

God bless you in all you are up to these days!

Jodie :)

February 03, 2013 1:29 PM  
Blogger Deja Eva said...

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December 23, 2013 12:10 AM  
Blogger Deja Eva said...

The beauty of these blogging engines and CMS platforms is the lack of limitations and ease of manipulation that allows developers to implement rich content and skin the site in such a way that with very little effort one would never notice what it is making the site tick all without limiting content and effectiveness.
Driving Games High Jump

December 23, 2013 12:11 AM  
Blogger Blair Hendricks said...

So if a person states that they believe Jesus did die for their sins,
but that they must also do some level (not defined) good works to be forgiven,
then would the free grace folks say this person is saved? I know this view says that however someone lives their life after faith won't invalidate their salvation status,
but is the free grace system accepting enough to allow the wrong belief in the need for doing works also in addition to believing Christ died for sins? This subject is confusing to me when looked at from this point. Any clarification on how to answer this? thank you

January 09, 2016 12:05 PM  

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