Chapter # 3 Paragraph # 1 Study # 6
Thesis: Does "forgiveness" automatically mean the restoration of the losses incurred by the sins that need to be forgiven?
Introduction: We have been considering some of the issues that are involved in John's message that if a person will repent, God will forgive his/her sins. The problems that have arisen since the days in which John preached in Judea are many -- just as we would expect from the reality of John's "repentance-setting". If the human heart really is the "wilderness" that John declared, we should not be surprised that a 2,000 year long passing of time would automatically result in a host of misunderstandings and mis-applications of his message. We have already looked into several issues. The first of those issues has to do with "desire": do we really want to be reconciled to God? The second of those issues is the definitive link between forgiveness and grace and the fact that there is a very real alteration of behavior that occurs when a person "repents": but, that alteration is not "of" man, but, as grace declares, it is "of" God. The third issue we have considered is the absolute reality that there is no "forgiveness" under "Law"; the only way a person can be forgiven is if he is removed from the domain of "Law". And, last week, we considered the issue of whether one is ever removed from the domain of Law and then replaced under that dominion on the basis of one's "behavior" issues. It was our conclusion that God removes us from "Law" in order to "forgive our sins" and once He has done that, it is impossible for Him to return us to "Law" as that would be fundamentally contradictory to the rationale of "Law". One cannot "impose" Law on someone who has been removed from Law without the principle of "Law" being in place -- and it cannot be said that the principle of Law has been removed if it is still in place. This is the foundation for Paul's pointed declaration in Romans 6 that we are "not under Law" and his declaration in Romans 8 that no one can bring a charge against God's elect because they are "justified" -- removed from the reach of the Law under which "charges" are made.
There is another issue that has been corrupted in the understanding of what happens when a person is "forgiven". This issue is the question of whether "forgiveness" restores what was lost by the sins that were the expression of the foundation that calls for "repentance" and the forgiveness that comes out of repentance. It is our desire this morning to shed a little light on this issue.
December 11, 2005
- I. The First Fact: Forgiveness Results in a New "State of Harmonious Relationship".
- A. The first issue involved here is the initial removal of a person from "Law" and the establishment of them in a new relationship to God in which He no longer relates on the basis of "Law", but on the basis of "Grace through faith".
- B. The second issue involved here is the place that "repentance/forgiveness" takes in the new relationship.
- 1. The New Testament is filled with the fact that the new relationship did not set aside the "repentance/forgiveness" issues once they had brought the new relationship to pass.
- 2. The function of the "repent/forgive" issue in the new relationship needs to be as clear as it can be: this mechanism of relationship sponsors and magnifies the effectiveness of personal, relational, growth.
- a. Relationships are always strained by "sin" no matter whether there is any "law" involved or not.
- 1) Sin brings death even where there is no law.
- 2) Repentance/forgiveness blocks the progress of death.
- a) "Death" is defined as "the inability to function in a defined realm".
- i. If the "realm" is physical, death brings about a cessation of the ability to act.
- ii. If the "realm" is the Kingdom of God, death brings about an inability to participate in that Kingdom.
- iii. If the "realm" is a relationship between persons, death makes the relating on a harmonious basis impossible.
- b) When the mechanism of repentance/forgiveness is applied to the relational realm (its only "realm"), death is blocked from its ability to maintain the adversarial reality in the relationship that is knee-jerk-automatic to sin in relationships.
- b. It is only through repentance/forgiveness that any relationship grows in its quality of harmony.
- II. The Second Fact: Forgiveness Does Not Result in an Automatic "State of Privilege".
- A. The "forgiven" are not automatically accorded any special privileges beyond those that are inherent in the harmony that has been established.
- 1. "Privileges" needs definition: they are relational liberties that are both beyond those that are inherent to "harmony" and are granted on the basis of the development of the relationship.
- 2. Every "privilege" is dependent upon a growing level of trust between the persons involved.
- a. Examples abound in all relationships (church, family, job, community, etc.)
- b. No one gets the "end" of the long-term relationship at the beginning.
- B. Privilege arises out of the growth of "fidelity" to the principles of love and faith in the context of a growing skill in addressing the inner wilderness.
- 1. The inner wilderness creates strain on relationships.
- 2. The practice of "rebuke/repent/forgive" eliminates that strain.
- C. Violations of those principles often create a loss of previously extended privileges.
- 1. If a person proves to be less trustworthy than was thought by those that extended the trust-based privilege, the privilege is rescinded.
- 2. Sometimes the "rebuke/repent/forgive" process does not require the recension of privilege because the process was exercised early and successfully.
- D. Repentance does not signal the generation of the kinds of understanding that enable the practice of the principles (love and faith) -- so it does not return a person to what has been lost by any fairly egregious failure to practice the principles.
- 1. Egregious failure to practice the love/faith principles signals a breakdown in the growth process in dealing with the inner wilderness...something significant has not been "handled" correctly.
- 2. A person's "repentance" of egregious failure does not mean the "something significant" has been addressed and the method of "handling" it has been learned.
- III. The Third Fact: Forgiveness Does Not Alter the Reality of the Wilderness.
- A. Forgiveness does lay the foundation for the alteration of the reality: the expressions of the reality are "forgiven" as the person is removed from the domain of "Law" so that the One forgiving is not compelled to seek vengeance.
- B. But there is nothing inherent in "forgiveness" that alters the condition of the inner wilderness.
- IV. The Fourth Fact: God Alone Alters the Inner Reality.
- A. The alteration is "incipient", not "comprehensive and immediate".
- B. The alteration is a consequence of the divine process of "training", which includes some fundamental concepts.
- 1. The first concept is the presence of a divine provision for blocking the expressions of the wilderness.
- 2. The second concept is the reality of principles by which that divine provision is brought into play.
- 3. The third concept is the learning, by the human being who is a participant in the wilderness reality, of the principles by which the divine provision is brought into play.
- a. There has to be understanding of what is an expression of the wilderness and what is not (a grasp of what true righteousness is).
- b. There has to be an understanding that God will not accept the refusal to identify an expression of the wilderness for what it is.
- V. The Fifth Fact: The Extension of Privilege is Conditional to Faithful Practice.
- A. Privileges come out of faithfulness over time.
- B. Privileges are revoked when faithfulness is jettisoned.
- C. Privileges are not automatically reinstated on the basis of "repentance". Sometimes they are not reinstated at all; sometimes they are reinstated rather rapidly; and sometimes they are only reinstated after an extended time of demonstrated ability to be faithful.