Chapter # 3 Paragraph # 1 Study # 5
Thesis: Forgiveness, as the equivalent of redemption, is a once-for-all extension of exemption from the condemnation of the Law; but, as the mechanism of relationship, it is an on-going necessity for harmony unto Life.
Introduction: Last week we considered the issue of forgiveness from the perspective of what it means in terms of exemption from certain consequences of one's sins. We also considered its essential nature as a "relationship" term that reveals the impossibility of harmonious relationships without both of the attitudes represented in "repentance" and "forgiveness". It was our major thesis that anyone seeking to be "forgiven" was seeking to be placed outside of "Law". Forgiveness is impossible under "Law" because "Law" describes and enforces "Justice". Thus, to be "forgiven" is to be translated out of the realm of "Law" and into the realm of "grace-based mercy".
Now, we need to address one of the first questions that arise when we claim that when God forgives, He moves the forgiven out from under Law into Mercy. That question is this: when God forgives, does His forgiveness include things the forgiven person has not yet done. In other words, is "forgiveness" only for sins that have already been committed, or is it a blanket issue that actually puts a relationship on a new foundation that cannot be subverted by new acts of sin? The more recognizable form of this question is: Is "once-saved, always-saved" a true doctrine?
This morning we are going to look into the issue of whether "forgiveness" has any kind of "once-for-all" sense to it.
December 4, 2005
- I. The Complicating Issues.
- A. Everyone knows that "relationships" can not only be made harmonious by the "repentance/forgiveness" couplet, they can also be turned back into their former adversarial nature by the breakdown of that couplet.
- B. Everyone also knows that men do not consistently practice the principles of rebuke/repent/forgive (the Luke 17 trilogy) so that human relationships "bounce" back and forth between the "harmonious"/"adversarial" characterizations.
- 1. Even if the practice is consistent, the relationship "bounces" -- for it is "sin" that creates the adversarial reality and that precedes the "rebuke" aspect of the response.
- 2. And when the practice is not consistent, relationships remain in their adversarial state for as long as the principles are not applied.
- C. And everyone also knows that all God/human relationships "bounce" in the same way.
- II. These common knowledge facts raise this question: Does God adhere to this trilogy Himself?
- 1. If He does not, how is it that He insists that we do?
- 2. If He does, how does He apply it to people?
- a. The first part of the answer involves what happens the very first time a person "repents".
- 1) In the light of this question, it is absolutely imperative that we understand exactly what "repentance" is.
- a) Repentance has never been exercised apart from the human/God reality.
- i. No human "repents" to another human without first "repenting" to God.
- ii. Apart from divine input, all human activity is manipulative -- including all professions of repentance.
- iii. This means that "repentance" is fundamentally a God-and-me reality. All human practices involving relationships that leave God out of the fundamental core of the relationship are merely manipulative adaptations designed to keep overt murder from making one's goals impossible.
- b) Repentance is not "about" a specific "sin": it is "about" the reality of the condition of sinfulness.
- i. As long as people adhere to the notion that repentance is "about" individual acts of sin, they can by-pass repentance altogether and actually become more sinful than they were (individual acts can be identified as mere "flaws" that need to be touched up and "admitting" to "flaws" can actually gender pride).
- ii. It is only when a person realizes his "wilderness reality" that he can repent because repentance is all about facing the terrible reality of sinfulness; it is not at all about the willingness to admit to certain faults unless the admission is the fruit of the recognition that those individual faults flow naturally out of the terrible reality.
- c) Repentance is not repentance without the humility of dependence so that God is both implored and permitted to empower a successful solution to the wilderness's dominion.
- i. This means that "repentance" is not about "taking myself in hand and correcting the problem."
- ii. This means that "repentance" is not telling someone (God or another) that "I won't ever do that again".
- iii. This means that "repentance" is a full-blown admission of my total inability wedded to at least a mustard-seed sized faith that God will address the problem in me Himself.
- 2) In the light of this issue, we must understand what God does the very first time a person genuinely "repents".
- a) This takes us back to the study of last week: God removes us from the domain of "Law".
- b) The chief issue that this statement raises is this: what does it mean for God to remove us from the domain of "Law"?
- i. First, it means to remove us from the domain of "Law" (He sets the issues of "Justice" aside).
- ii. Second, it means to remove us from the domain of "Law" (He does not simply move us from one set of "laws" to another set).
- iii. Third, it means to remove us from the domain of "Law" (He begins to deal with us according to Grace-based Mercy).
- iv. Fourth, it means to remove us from the domain of "Law" (He never again subjects us to the justice-demands that are inherent in "Law"; if He did it would only prove that He never really set those demands aside and only really just "traded out" the Law-sets).
- v. Fifth, it means to remove us from the domain of "Law" (All of His actions from this point on are designed to train us in righteousness with no possibility of condemnation at all). The training in righteousness fundamentally consists in empowering the consistent practice of the humility of faith (repentance).
- b. The second part of the answer involves what God does with every succeeding time the relationship "bounces" (i.e., reverts to its old adversarial character).
- 1) He does what He insists we do: He "rebukes" us -- not as an enemy, but as a brother.
- 2) He gives us space to deal with the "rebuke" (1 Corinthians 11:31).
- 3) If we "return" to "harmony", He is satisfied.
- 4) If we persist in rejecting the "rebuke", He enters into progressively serious disciplinary activity -- allowing us to experience the dregs of death to a limited degree.
- 5) If we continue to persist, He will finally take us out of this world by turning our bodies over to Satan for the destruction of them.