Friday, August 2, 2013
Forgiveness for the born again believer in the Lord Jesus Christ bears a different meaning and effect than for the unbeliever first receiving God's saving grace.
"And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath He quickened together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses" (Colossians 2:13).
The Apostle Paul clearly references the Colossians' initial reception of salvation, declaring a one time forgiveness for "all trespasses," as confirmed by his usage of theaorist verb tense in original language of the New Testament (indicating a punctiliar, one time bestowal of pardon). When we trust in the Lord Jesus, God so justifies and enrobes us in Christ's righteousness that forgiveness, as pertaining to our fundamental relationship with God, need never be accessed again. Paul confirms this in his epistle to the Romans: "Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin" (Romans 4:8).
Conversely, in his first epistle, the Apostle John addresses the ongoing forgiveness required by believers for the maintaining of our fellowship and experience of God's presence, peace, and joy.
"If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (I John 1:9).
John, clearly writing to and about born again believers, concerns himself not with the settled issue of our eternal family union with our Heavenly Father, but rather with the realized access of such freely given grace and relationship. "If we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin" (I John 1:7). Note the Apostle's clear meaning: he addresses "fellowship," not "relationship." Indeed, if we sin, born again believers require the forgiveness of a Father with whom we live in a family bond, as opposed to the unbeliever's need for pardon and deliverance from the justice of a judge. Of course, in the twinkling moment when a rebel sinner becomes a trusting son or daughter in Christ, he or she enters into the family forgiveness environment, as it were, of Divine and fatherly mercy.
This is a vital issue of Biblical understanding for believers. After the new birth, we never again require justifying mercy and forgiveness. We do, however, need the clean and clear conscience provided by restorative mercy and forgiveness. The effects of Christ's bloody sacrifice on the cross of Calvary provide such grace for maintenance of fellowship, just as they did for the origination of our relationship with God. Again, to believers, John declares, "These things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And, if any man sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous" (I John 2:1). Christians require application of Christ's sacrifice to our conscience if we distrust and disobey our Lord, choosing to believe "there is forgiveness with Thee" (Psalm 130:4). We affirm that Christ died for our sins, and we also acknowledge that no one else is responsible for them other than ourselves (Psalm 130:4). Thereby, the Holy Spirit bears witness deep within our hearts that fellowship is restored, and the prayer of King David is answered in our own personal experience: "Restore unto me the joy of Thy salvation" (Psalm 51:12 - note, by the way, that this plea of David, offered upon his confession of the terrible sin he committed with Bathsheba, does not involve the restoration of salvation itself, but rather the "joy" of salvation).
Many believers fail to walk in peace because they fail to avail themselves of "having our hearts cleansed of an evil conscience" (Hebrews 10:22). It's hard to imagine a greater tragedy than being a son or daughter of the Most High, "justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus," but living with a guilt-ridden conscience that remains uncleansed through the neglect of unbelief (Romans 3:24). Certainly, the ideal and the goal is to "sin not." If we sin, however, we need not wallow in the mire of a stained conscience, nor would our Heavenly Father have us do so. We rather remember His fatherly forgiveness, based upon the sacrifice of His Son.
Initial forgiveness, received when we first trust in the Lord Jesus, establishes permanent relationship with God. Ongoing forgiveness, received within the family environment of a Father and His children, maintains the fellowship of such relationship. Understanding the difference comprises a vital doctrinal understanding of Biblical truth, maintaining both a heart at peace, and a walk of fellowship and faithfulness.
" Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way, which He hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, having an high priest over the house of God; let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for He is faithful that promised)."