Monday, June 21, 2010

Complete Forgiveness of Our Sin

We made it!  I am in Hampton, GA, with the senior highs this morning.  This morning has been a total struggle.  The bed is so uncomfortable that I did not sleep well at all.  In an effort to not wake my roommate with my brewing, I went on a hunt for coffee this morning because our leader from the mission work camp promised coffee early in the morning.  I went to where the coffee was supposed to be, but there was none to be found at 5:45.  I know I woke up my roommate going back into the room and taking the coffee maker to another area.  After finishing that cup, I noticed the lights on in the cafeteria so I went for more coffee.  The nastiness that passes for coffee these days!  My roommate set his alarm for 7:00, so I guess I will wait another 25 minutes for a good second cup.  On a positive note, I did find a wi-fi hotspot and I am able to access Facebook after a little reconfiguration of my work laptop.

I found this morning's reading really interesting.  Calvin so so logical in his writings that it would be hard to argue against him.  There are those who teach that believers are forgiven of their sins at baptism, but after baptism satisfaction must be made in order to lessen the punishment God imposes for these sins.  Penance is made so that the church can dispense Christ's blood for the forgiveness of sins.  Calvin responds to these beliefs by quoting 1 John 2:1-2,12: "My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world... I write to you, little children, Because your sins are forgiven you for His name’s sake."  Christ is our Advocate.  He reconciles us with God.  This passage from 1 John was written to believers, not people getting ready to join the church through baptism.  We are promised forgiveness of our sins, not a lesser penalty for our sins if we do certain steps.  Calvin writes that Christ, "taking upon himself the penalty that we owe, he has wiped out our guilt before God's judgment."

The next section has two main points: "Christ's honor [is to] be kept whole and undiminished" and "consciences assured of pardon for sin may have peace with God."  By heaping rules and requirements on top of Christ's gift to us, the Roman church has taken away Christ's honor.  We must never restrict the forgiveness that Christ offers through the requirements of penance.  We are assured through the Scriptures that Christ has fulfilled all the requirements for us.  All we must do is be His followers.  We are promised the forgiveness of our sins and that they have been blotted out forever.  If we must perform penance, how can our consciences ever feel assured of forgiveness?  How much is enough?  We are thankful that there are no requirements for God's mercy: it is a free gift.

It seems that we have covered this next section before, but Calvin explains it again.  There is this false distinction between venial and mortal sins.  Not only has the Roman church made this distinction, it then prescribes different remedies for each category of sin.  Calvin, rather than using human reason that some things are bad and others are worse, responds that ALL sin is bad.  All sin deserves death.  Romans 6:23 reads, "For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord."  This does not state that the wages of some sin is death and other sin is temporal punishment.  No, the wages of any and all sin is death.  There is no distinction.

In order for true forgiveness to take place, no penalty is still in effect.  Yes, there are consequences for our actions (especially sin), but there is no more penalty imposed once forgiveness has taken place.  The Roman church teaches that there is still a penalty to be paid even after forgiveness.  Men must work to earn this forgiveness.  Calvin writes, "Good God, what flitting levity is this!  They admit that forgiveness of guilt is freely available, yet repeatedly teach men to deserve it through prayers and tears, and all sorts of other preparations."  He then turns to Scripture to show how God has forgiven us completely.  One passage he quotes is Ezekiel 18:21-22, "But if a wicked man turns from all his sins which he has committed, keeps all My statutes, and does what is lawful and right, he shall surely live; he shall not die. None of the transgressions which he has committed shall be remembered against him; because of the righteousness which he has done, he shall live."  God will not remember our sins.  They are wiped clean.  There is nothing to pay a penalty for once our sins have been truly forgiven.  Finally, he quotes a favorite verse of mine related to forgiveness:  Isaiah 1:18, "Though your sins are like scarlet, They shall be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, They shall be as wool."  He uses more passages, but we will leave it at this. roommate should be up now.  Time for that second good cup of coffee.

Tomorrow's reading: 3.4.30-3.4.34

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