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Pointers along the way #459

Forgiveness redefined?
- Jacob Ninan

One of the greatest truths revealed through Jesus Christ is that we can receive forgiveness of our sins from God freely because Jesus has died in our place and taken our punishment already (Ep.1:7). This forgiveness is now available for every human being (1Jn.2:2). But we know that just because Jesus has paid for the sins of the whole world everyone is not forgiven automatically. Those who repent from their sins and believe in what Jesus has done for them receive this forgiveness, and they alone (Lk.24:47).

There are many twists to this teaching coming from different teachers. Some say that since forgiveness is a free gift through God's grace (unmerited favour), it would be wrong to require repentance from people before they can receive it. They think that repentance would amount to a 'work' that has to be done in order to 'earn' forgiveness. That is wrong. Repentance is really the change that takes place in our heart when we realise we are sinners deserving God's judgment. We no longer 'want' to sin. Of course a true repentance in our heart will show its fruit outside too, as a changed behaviour. The Bible states very clearly that if there is no subsequent change in behaviour no salvation has taken place. Such a 'faith' is dead (Jas.2:17). Without a genuine repentance there is no genuine recognition of the need for salvation, and then such people do not really experience a genuine salvation.

Another wrong teaching is the one which implies that once God has forgiven us it doesn't really matter how we live, because all our sins--past, present and future--have already been paid for. It is in fact true that our future sins also have been included in the price Jesus paid. But this does not give us a licence to be careless with sin (Ro.6:1,15). A careless life of sin would indicate that there has been no genuine repentance on our side, and also that we have not understood what it cost our Saviour to earn this forgiveness for us.

Some teachers say that since the blood of Jesus has been shed once for all for our sins, and they have all been forgiven, including the ones we fall into after we receive God's forgiveness, it would be insulting towards God if we go and confess our sins whenever we become aware of any. What an example of how wrong teachings can have an appearance of wisdom! The Bible tells us clearly to confess our sins in order to receive forgiveness (1Jn.1:9). The Old Testament which gives us many patterns that are later taught in the New Testament with true meaning tells us about how when someone becomes aware of a sin that he had committed unintentionally earlier he ought to present a sin offering to God (Le.4).

These types of wrong teaching illustrate a common mistake that many people make when they make doctrines based on individual verses without placing those verses in the context of the entire Bible. We must remember that the Bible gives us a progressive and distributed revelation of truth.


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