Forgiveness and the consequences of sin. Does being forgiven mean that we do not suffer the consequences?
“This means, fourth, that the real sinner is anyone who insists that sin is serious before God and must require atonement and restitution. The “spiritual” man is then the one who treats all sin as an opportunity to assure the sinner, “I forgive you,” without any of the requirements of God’s law being met.
As I write this, I am thinking of two long distance telephone calls today about an adulterous man. A young woman, a new Christian, has a husband who has been for years flagrantly adulterous. The “spiritual” counsel she has received has presupposed only one binding sentence in Scripture to govern all her problems: “Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord” (Eph. 5:22). But no commandment of obedience to man is unconditional. The counsel given to this young woman consistently assumed that forgiveness of unrepented and continuing sin is required by God, which is radically false. Our forgiveness is to be like God’s (Matt. 6:12), and His is always in harmony with His law. Repentance, which involves a change of direction and action, is required (Matt. 18:15–17). No one requirement of Scripture can nullify another (Lev. 20:10; Deut. 22:22); the penalty for adultery cannot be eliminated by our insistence on love and forgiveness. A repentant murderer can know the forgiveness of God and man, but he cannot escape God’s required penalty for murder. His forgiveness of sins alters his theological status; his civil status calls for the death penalty according to God’s word.
Forgiveness thus has two aspects, theological and social or civil. Christ’s atonement effects theological forgiveness for the redeemed; it does not alter the civil consequences of sin as required by God.
When Paul faced the problem of incest in the Corinthian Church, he knew that no death penalty existed for the act he cited (1 Cor. 5:1). Hence his counsel is to consign the guilty over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, hoping that they could be saved by God’s grace for heaven (1 Cor. 5:5). In brief, he invoked the necessary death penalty supernaturally, while hoping for the redemption of the sinner thereby. We find that the early church used this precedent to hold those guilty of capital offenses to be legally dead and hence outside of the communion table while having fellowship after repentance.
The humanistic view of forgiveness as a human, emotional act goes hand in hand with the view of the law as a humanistic fact. The law
hand in hand with the view of the law as a humanistic fact. The law being a human product can be set aside by man. Where the law is from God, there forgiveness is only on God’s terms, and in harmony with His law.”
Rushdoony, R. J. (1994). Systematic Theology in Two Volumes (Vol. 1, pp. 602–603). Vallecito, CA: Ross House Books.
“The work of Christ, regarded as an objective satisfaction to God, secures for man the forgiveness of sins. By this we mean that the consequences of sin as an offence against the law of God are remitted. The consequences of sin as transgression are guilt and punishment, and the forgiveness of sins implies remission of both. The consciousness of guilt is the feeling that offence against the moral law as the expression of the will of God has placed us in a position of hostility to God, so that our fellowship with God is broken. Wherever the distinction between God and the world is maintained, the forsaking of God for the world, on the part of man, is seen to involve guilt, which, again, is the basis for the infliction of punishment. Forgiveness of sins is not the remission of the penal consequences of sin only, but also and primarily the remission of that guilt which makes us liable to punishment. Where sin is regarded as having a physical basis, and is referred to material or sensual nature as its source, sin is conceived of not so much as guilt but rather as suffering, and consequently emphasis is laid upon the need of redemption rather than upon the need of forgiveness of sins. In the New Testament doctrine, which gives prominence to the idea of the guilt of the sinner and the need of awakening the consciousness of that guilt, similar prominence is given to the forgiveness of sins as the presupposition of all other blessings of redemption. It was in order to acquire power to forgive sins that the Son of God became the Son of Man, and during His earthly life He exercised this power, and declared that this forgiveness was a necessary condition of peace of soul and far beyond any bodily healing in difficulty and in blessedness. It was to secure the power of dispensing this blessing that the Son of Man died and rose again, and in the institution of the Supper He declares that the purpose for which He shed His blood was the remission of sins.1 Everywhere throughout the New Testament the preaching of the forgiveness of sins is the way in which the preaching of the gospel is usually described, and the obtaining of forgiveness for sinners is regarded as the immediate result and the most precious benefit of Christ’s death. In the New Testament the forgiveness of sins is not the abolition of suffering, the removal of the penal consequences of sin, but essentially the removal of sin itself. Hence it is of the very essence of the gospel of redemption. Christ promises forgiveness of sins to all who believe on Him. Faith is the only condition for the forgiveness of those who have offended against us demanded in the Lord’s Prayer, and the much love of her to whom much had been forgiven is evidently the proof of the reality, not the condition of the obtaining, of the divine forgiveness. But, as Kaftan says, even faith in the strictest sense is not a condition, though without faith forgiveness cannot be enjoyed. What is needed is acceptance of the call to enter the kingdom, which acceptance can be given only in repentance and faith, but being given, then to all entering the kingdom there is forgiveness unconditionally. Paul makes the forgiveness of sins the basis for that new relationship which we have to God in Christ, in which, when thus possessed of the righteousness of God, we have peace with God.”
1 Matt. 9:6, 9:2; Luke 7:48, 24:45; Matt. 26:28.
Macpherson, J. (1898). Christian Dogmatics (pp. 350–351). Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark.
“With these observations and qualifications we may assent to much that is said by Whiton, Divine Satisfaction, 64, who distinguishes between forgiveness and remission: “Forgiveness is the righting of disturbed personal relations. Remission is removal of the consequences which in the natural order of things have resulted from our fault. God forgives all that is strictly personal, but remits nothing that is strictly natural in sin. He imparts to the sinner the power to bear his burden and work off his debt of consequences. Forgiveness is not remission. It is introductory to remission, just as conversion is not salvation, but introductory to salvation. The prodigal was received by his father, but he could not recover his lost patrimony. He could, however, have been led by penitence to work so hard that he earned more than he had lost.”
Strong, A. H. (1907). Systematic theology (p. 850). Philadelphia: American Baptist Publication Society.
“Divine forgiveness does not momentarily and immediately remove all the consequences of sin in this present life. Forgiveness does remove sin as the major barrier between sinful humans and the holy God and offer deliverance from eternal punishment for sins. But wasted strength, maimed or abused bodies, lost time, and other results of sin may not be overcome even when forgiveness has been granted.40”
40 Conner, The Gospel of Redemption, p. 161.
Garrett, J. L., Jr. (2014). Systematic Theology: Biblical, Historical, and Evangelical (Second Edition, Vol. 2, p. 326). Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock.