What good is forgiveness if it doesn’t ‘work’ when you actually need it?
I raised this question in response to some negative responses to this awesome blog post by David Zahl:
The Subjective Power Of An Objective Gospel
I thought the response was important enough to repost on my own blog, so I’m sorry in advance to anyone who ends up reading this twice.
If the propitiatory blood of Christ is only good for some sins, but not others, if we can only be forgiven smaller sins but not larger ones, then which ones? Only past ones? Why only those, is that a Biblical distinction? Are we forgiven, are we accepted in Christ, or not? What good is forgiveness if it doesn’t ‘work’ when I actually need it? I was always confused that people would seem to teach forgiveness one minute and conditional acceptance the next; now I realize that I was right to be confused. The primary condition for “sanctification” (this word is quickly becoming a meaningless euphemism) is a very firm assurance of the truth of our redemption. We are saved completely and unalterably by ‘easy-believy’ faith in Christ, or else it is not a FREE GIFT. Our assurance is for OUR good, God already knows what will happen; what good is it to be wishy washy and unclear about ‘assurance’? It doesn’t even make sense at all. If your thinking about redemption leaves you unsure, then what is it you think ‘redemption’ is? Can you break your own salvation? Then you are saving yourself, and Christ has no place in it.
I’m not sure I understand how you can be a Christian and remain unclear on these things.
Here is the real question, and it is what Paul is talking about in Romans 6-8. If we are so radically redeemed by such a scandalous grace, that we are accepted by simple belief, can we just sin more? If your understanding of the gospel doesn’t raise this question then you are not understanding the gospel. Notice that for Paul, it raised the question. Are we better than Paul the Apostle? The question should become, having been so richly and cleanly and simply and completely redeemed, how do we now produce virtue? IT IS DIFFERENT. Legalists look at radical grace and see only license to sin, because they are under law in their heart and only love sin; their virtue is a veneer. (Ro 7:5-13) Because they have not believed in true radical grace, they have not died to the flesh as a means of producing virtue. We cannot and no longer need to produce virtue by fear of the punishment of the law! We do it by supernatural means. Virtue as a Christian cannot be stripped of the supernatural, that is what the law tries to do. The Holy Spirit, as someone inevitably points out on every one of these posts, is a crucial party to Christian living. (Ro 8:1-8) An antinomian isn’t someone who believes in radical grace. An antinomian is someone who is still under the coercion of the law but redefines the law to condone what they want to do in the flesh, and thinks God approves of that. They are in the wrong universe altogether.
You will say, “you are mixing up justification and sanctification.” No, you are divorcing these in an unhealthy way. I am saying very strongly that our justification is not contingent upon our ‘sanctification’. Any little hint or twinge of required works on the tail end of Jesus’ sacrifice is evil; just a little drop of pee in your coffee makes it disgusting. If you don’t have a real way to believe in an assuring way, you can’t CHOOSE virtue from the heart. If you want to be more holy, if you want to see your brothers and sisters living holy, if you want sustainable enduring virtue, you have to be clear about radical grace, real free-gift justification. This is the only way anyone is going to truly continue to bear fruit.