4 And the foundations of the thresholds trembled at the voice of him who called out, while the temple was filling with smoke. 5 Then I said,
“Woe is me, for I am ruined!
Because I am a man of unclean lips,
And I live among a people of unclean lips;
For my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts.”
6 Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a burning coal in his hand, which he had taken from the altar with tongs. 7 He touched my mouth with it and said, “Behold, this has touched your lips; and your iniquity is taken away and your sin is forgiven.”
8 Then I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?” Then I said, “Here am I. Send me!” 9 He said, “Go, and tell this people:
‘Keep on listening, but do not perceive;
Keep on looking, but do not understand.’
Here is another short meditation on this passage. I noticed something about it while mulling over things. Where is the gradual sanctification here? Notice that the touch of the coal accomplishes the simple removal of guilt. It achieves forgiveness. It is not declared that it removes more than that. Forgiveness is profound, because guilt is the main barrier to service and being set on mission.
Nor, once forgiven, does Isaiah raise the antinomian question. He does not say, “I’m forgiven! Now can I sin all the more?” It is a given that the holiness of heaven is beautiful and the purposes of God are altogether glorious. Forgiveness brings the relief that we are allowed to be present in the holy affairs of God. The result of forgiveness is to allow entrance into these entirely desirable things. It does not require a redefinition of mercy and grace as anything more than simple forgiveness.
The reason that the antinomian question comes up is because we are strangers to the beauty of the holiness of heaven. We see the gospel as a necessary doctrinal checkbox. In our hearts we still count the beauties of sin as greater, because we know about those glories but we have not seen or experienced the overwhelming glory of heaven. True grace means simple forgiveness as an entrance to glory, and to the opportunity to be set on mission to speak the grace and truth of God to people without hypocrisy.
The perception of holy glory undoes us with regret and guilt and desire, and God’s forgiveness allows us entrance into this glory and the opportunity to be set on mission. This is how the gospel works – it is simple forgiveness unadulterated by law, and holiness driven by the freedom of real desire.