But the question remains: Why are you supposed to seek God's forgiveness if He has already justified you? If justification takes care of sin past, present, and future, so there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ (Rom. 8:1), why pray for forgiveness? Aren't you praying for something that is already yours?
The answer is that divine forgiveness has two aspects. One is the judicial forgiveness God grants as Judge. It's the forgiveness God purchased for you by Christ's atonement for your sin. That kind of forgiveness frees you from any threat of eternal condemnation. It is the forgiveness of justification. Such pardon is immediately complete–you'll never need to seek it again.
The other is a parental forgiveness God grants as your Father. He is grieved when His children sin. The forgiveness of justification takes care of judicial guilt, but it does not nullify His fatherly displeasure over your sin. He chastens those whom He loves, for their good (Heb. 12:5-11).Let me show you the difference:
- Judicial forgiveness deals with sin's penalty–parental forgiveness deals with sin's consequences.
Judicial forgiveness frees us from the condemnation of the righteous, omniscient Judge whom we have wronged–parental forgiveness sets things right with a grieving and displeased but loving Father.
Judicial forgiveness provides an unshakeable standing before the throne of divine judgment–parental forgiveness deals with the state of our sanctification at any given moment and is dispensed from a throne of divine grace.
So the forgiveness Christians are supposed to seek in their daily walk is not pardon from an angry Judge, but mercy from a grieved Father.
Some object to the idea that God could ever be displeased with His own children. They ask: Can our once-and-for-all forgiven sins ever provoke divine displeasure? The answer is a resounding "Yes." In fact, it is because of God's righteous displeasure over your sin that He refuses to leave you the way you are–sinful.
In a very practical sense, God's indignation over your daily sins demonstrates His love for you. That's the thought of Hebrews 12:5-11 where some form of the word discipline is used seven times. Divine displeasure over your sin brings discipline, reproof, and scourging. That's a good thing, not only because it helps rid your life of sin, but it also shows His love for you and confirms your relationship to Him–"those whom the Lord loves He disciplines, and He scourges every son whom He receives" (v. 6).
God's discipline–sometimes involving punishment for disobedience–is painful; no one will argue with that. But you must remember: He is causing you to share in His holiness (v. 10); He is training you (v. 11); He is producing in you the "peaceful fruit of righteousness" (v. 11). So when you have sinned, humble yourself, confess your sin, and submit to His loving discipline.-----------------------------------------------------------
Hebrews 12:5-11 (NLT)
5 And have you forgotten the encouraging words God spoke to you as his children?[a] He said,
“My child, don’t make light of the Lord’s discipline,
and don’t give up when he corrects you.
6 For the Lord disciplines those he loves,
and he punishes each one he accepts as his child.”
7 As you endure this divine discipline, remember that God is treating you as his own children. Who ever heard of a child who is never disciplined by its father? 8 If God doesn’t discipline you as he does all of his children, it means that you are illegitimate and are not really his children at all. 9 Since we respected our earthly fathers who disciplined us, shouldn’t we submit even more to the discipline of the Father of our spirits, and live forever?
10 For our earthly fathers disciplined us for a few years, doing the best they knew how. But God’s discipline is always good for us, so that we might share in his holiness. 11 No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening—it’s painful! But afterward there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way.[a]Proverbs 3:11-12 (NLT)
11 My child, don’t reject the Lord’s discipline,
and don’t be upset when he corrects you.
12 For the Lord corrects those he loves,
just as a father corrects a child in whom he delights.
The scripture reference of Hebrews 12:5-11 quoted by John MacArthur is talking about God disciplining us in love, not in anger. Hebrews 12:5-6 is actually quoting from Proverbs 3:11-12 and Paul calls these words " the encouraging words God spoke to you as his children". We should be encouraged when God disciplines us for he disciplines those he loves.
The verses do not say anything at all about God's indignation or displeasure over our failings; in fact Proverbs 3:12 says he is correcting a child in whom he delights. The verses also do not say anything about we confessing our sins to the Father for his forgiveness.
Proverbs 13:24 says "Those who spare the rod of discipline hate their children. Those who love their children care enough to discipline them." It is painful for the child when he receives the rod of correction but this is done out of love, not displeasure or anger so that he will live right. John MacArthur is simply using human logic to assume that God is angry with us when we sin but the bible does not say so.
Hebrews 10:8 (NLT)
First, Christ said, “You did not want animal sacrifices or sin offerings or burnt offerings or other offerings for sin, nor were you pleased with them” (though they are required by the law of Moses).
Hebrews 10:16-18 (NLT)
16 “This is the new covenant I will make with my people on that day, says the Lord:
I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds.”
17 Then he says, “I will never again remember their sins and lawless deeds.”
When we accepted Christ as Lord and Saviour, we entered into the new covenant through Christ. Under the new covenant, God says he will never again remember our sins and lawless deeds, that means he has forgiven ALL of our sins. Therefore, as Hebrews 10:18 says, we do not need to offer any more sacrifices of constant confession of sins.
Moreover, Hebrews 10:17 just simply says "I", it does not say that "I, the Judge" will never again remember while "I, the Father" remember. But doesn't God get displeased or angry with us when we sin? What does the bible say about this?
Isaiah 54: 8-10 (NLT)
8 In a burst of anger I turned my face away for a little while.
But with everlasting love I will have compassion on you,”
says the Lord, your Redeemer.
9 “Just as I swore in the time of Noah
that I would never again let a flood cover the earth,
so now I swear
that I will never again be angry and punish you.
10 For the mountains may move
and the hills disappear,
but even then my faithful love for you will remain.
My covenant of blessing will never be broken,”
says the Lord, who has mercy on you.
These wonderful verses emphasize only God's love and compassion for us, not anger and displeasure! If God is ever going to get angry and displeased with us, I think he will be angry and displeased that so many Christians still see him as an angry God and Father!
God himself, through Jesus Christ, has already told us that he is a loving Father who does not remember our sins anymore - Luke 15: 11-31 (the parable of the prodigal son).
After the son squandered away his portion of the father's inheritance, he decided to return home to seek his father's forgiveness and was prepared to remain in his father's house as a servant, thinking that he was not worthy to be his son after the evil he had done. What did the father do?
While the son was still a long way off, the father spotted him and ran to him and kissed him. The father did not wait for the son to come crawling back into his presence and beg for forgiveness. In fact, the father totally ignored the son's confession and called out to the servants to bring out the best robe and put it on the son, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet!
Luke 15: 18-22 (NKJV)
18 I will arise and go to my father, and will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you, 19 and I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me like one of your hired servants.”’
20 “And he arose and came to his father. But when he was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him. 21 And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight, and am no longer worthy to be called your son.’
22 “But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet.
If the father in the parable was not angry or displeased when his son came back, shouldn't he be at least grieved? No, he was not grieved, in fact he was so happy that he threw a party to celebrate!
Luke 15: 23-24 (NKV)
23 And bring the fatted calf here and kill it, and let us eat and be merry; 24 for this my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ And they began to be merry.
Throughout the whole parable which Jesus told, there is not a single word that says the father was angry or displeased with the wayward son. The word "angry" appears only once (v28) and it is talking about the elder son who was angry at his father for the unconditional love he showered on his younger brother (Luke 15: 25-30).
The elder son is still alive today! He cannot accept that the father did not get angry with the younger son and punish him for his sins. Are you the elder son?
(to be continued ...)