10 In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.
15 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. 16 We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. 17 By this, love is perfected with us, so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment; because as He is, so also are we in this world. 18 There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love.
1 John 4:10,15-18 (NASB)
Double Jeopardy and Stealing Donuts
In legal matters, the term “double jeopardy” means that you can’t be tried twice for the same offense. If you’ve been tried for murder and convicted or acquitted, you can’t be tried again, because the matter has been decided. In American law there seem to be so many ways around this that it has almost ceased to have any meaning at all, but think about this. If someone has been sentenced to death and has actually been executed, there isn’t really much chance for double jeopardy. There is nothing more you can do to someone once you’ve killed them, it is the ultimate consequence.
Do a thought experiment with me. Suppose you had bought a box of donuts for a meeting, and you told your child not to touch them. Then suppose that as you were leaving for the meeting, you noticed that three of the donuts were missing. Three! What is an appropriate punishment? A lecture? How about a grounding? A spanking? How about the death penalty? Whoa there, right? The death penalty would be … wait for it … overkill. You can’t execute capital punishment on someone for stealing three donuts. However, that isn’t the question. The question in each of these instances is, is this enough punishment? Has justice been sufficiently served? In the case of the lecture, maybe not. In the case of the grounding, it depends on (I’m on a roll!) the grounds. In the case of the death penalty, it may be overkill, but it is certainly sufficient justice — there is no question about that.
The blood of Jesus and habitual sin
If you say that you believe Jesus died for you, but that there is some sin you’ve battled or some sin you could fall into which would disqualify you from heaven, what you’re saying is that the death penalty wasn’t enough. You’re also saying that God’s ideas about substitutionary sacrifices, that someone else could suffer justice in your place, are OK in theory but in reality they are kind of crazy. It boils down to whether or not you believe in the propitiation — the sufficiency of Christ’s death for all of your sin, past present and future. The fact is, Jesus didn’t just live for you, or swoon for you, or pray for you, or teach moral lessons to you. He died for you. He went all the way. The sentence you fear, the consequence you dread, has been carried out with more severe justice than you could have imagined.
Did you personally murder the one and only central figure in history, the Messiah who fulfilled thousands of years of prophecy, the Son of the Living God? That is a whopper of a sin! If you had, He still would have begged for your forgiveness. How much more is His death sufficient for your actual sins! How much more does He persist as your Advocate (1 John 2:1-2)! It may have been overkill, but His public and humiliating death was certainly sufficient. Because He has died, there is no more double jeopardy; you can be confident that in the day of judgment, you are going to be accepted. The cross declares that you have been cleanly and finally forgiven, that the sentence for all of your guilt has been executed in full and beyond. The slate is clean. Your sins have not been simply glossed over and forgotten, they have been weighed out and judged with a great severity and finality.
But what about this or that verse?
Some little voice in your head is going to say, “yes, that sounds great, but what about this verse or that verse or the other verse?” You want to believe what I’m saying, but in your integrity, you are unconvinced. I applaud you for this, I really do. I and many others have addressed specific passages in the past. Right now I am going to come at this from a different angle. You can either read scripture from the perspective of the world, or from the perspective of the cross. I am saying that it is the cross which is the blinding sun, the great and central perspective from which all other things must be seen. Do you really think that the right way to interpret any verse is to interpret it in such a way that it nullifies the power and sufficiency of the cross of Christ?
As an example, (and this may get a little technical) let’s look at Hebrews 10:26:
26 For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, 27 but a terrifying expectation of judgment and the fury of a fire which will consume the adversaries.
“See!”, you might say, “you can sin and nullify the sufficiency of Christ’s blood for yourself. That’s what this verse says!” But, as Steve Edwards has shown us in his post on this verse, the intended readers of the book are religious Hebrews, and the sin they are persisting in willfully is thinking that the blood of bulls and goats (Hebrews 10:4) is better than the blood of Jesus. The reason they would sin in the sense of forsaking the assembly (Hebrews 10:25) is that they judged the members unworthy — because the assembly considered the blood of Jesus to be final and had ceased worrying with animal sacrifices. In other words, the sin the writer of Hebrews is referencing is a sin of unbelief, specifically unbelief in the propitiatory power of Jesus’ blood. If this were not so, how could he say this:
12 but He, having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, sat down at the right hand of God, 13 waiting from that time onward until His enemies be made a footstool for His feet. 14 For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified.
Unless he is incoherently mad, he wouldn’t say this and then a few verses later say that any willful sin could take away our sacrifice for sins. Think about it like a normal person for a moment: how could you say He was sacrificed for sins and then say that if you sin, the sacrifice is no good? It is complete nonsense. Thinking that way is the very sin he is addressing, do you see it? Indeed the general and central message of the book of Hebrews is that Jesus’ blood is better than the old Jewish animal sacrifices, and he would naturally define fatal sin in reference to this. We assemble together to strengthen one another in Christ, and to stimulate one another to live fervent lives rooted in grace and truth (Hebrews 10:24), to affirm the sufficiency of Christ’s blood for one another.
Rest assured, your salvation is final
In every case, the question is this: is your salvation final? Are you eternally loved, forever accepted? Are there any conditions to your favor and acceptance by the Father? The cross of Christ declares that our judgement is complete and finished. Jesus Himself declared from the cross, that it is finished. You are now the one in the judgement seat, and God is on trial. Was He right, or was He wrong? Is the cross of Christ sufficient to save you? What deed of yours, good or bad, will you place above His death for you? If there is none, and your conscience is satisfied before God, then consider this: your judgement is over with! You are clean and clear, set free for all time from judgement! The favor of God is forever with you, because His death was final. You are truly saved. Bask in it, glory in it, rejoice in it, give thanks for it, and most of all, believe it!