Saturday, February 7, 2009

Judicial Forgiveness and Parental Forgiveness - Part 5

The fellow Christian who "introduced" me to the concept of Judicial Forgiveness and Parental Forgiveness referred to two articles to justify his acceptance of the concept. The first one is "If We Confess Our Sins" by John MacArthur which I have commented on earlier, and the second one is "Justified But Not Forgiven?" by John Piper.

I append John Piper's article below and shall highlight in red those arguments or statements I do not think is correct.

Pondering the Difference Between Judicial Wrath and Fatherly Displeasure
Pastor John Piper

How can we be justified by faith, once for all, and yet need to go on confessing our daily sins so that we will be forgiven!

On the one hand, the New Testament teaches that, when we trust Christ, our faith is reckoned to us as righteousness (Romans 4:3, 5-6) the righteousness of God is imputed to us (Philippians 3:9). We stand before God "in Christ" as righteous and accepted~ yes, even "forgiven," as Paul says, "David [in Psalm 32:1] pronounces a blessing upon the man to whom God reckons righteousness apart from works: Blessed are those whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered" (Romans 4:6-7, RSV). Thus justification, in Paul's mind, embraces the reality of forgiveness.

But, on the other hand, the New Testament also teaches that our ongoing forgiveness depends on confession of sins. "If we confess our sins, he i5 faithful and just, and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9, RSV). Confessing sins is part of "walking in the light" which is what we must do if the blood of Jesus is to go on cleansing us from our sins: "lf we walk in the light as He Himself is in the light...the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin" (1 John 1:7, emphasis added). And Jesus taught us to pray daily, "Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors" (Matthew 6:12).

How then shall we see ourselves in relation to God! Are all our sins already forgiven, or are they forgiven day by day as we confess them! Does justification mean that all sins are forgiven past, present, and future--for those who are justified! Or is there another way to see our sin in relation to God?

Let's listen first to a pastor and theologian from 350 years ago, Thomas Watson.

When I say God forgives all sins, I understand it of sins past, for sins to come are not forgiven till they are repented of. Indeed God has decreed to pardon them; and when he forgives one sin, he will in time forgive all; but sins future are not actually pardoned till they are repented of. It is absurd to think sin should be forgiven before it is committed....
The opinion that sins to come, as well as past, are forgiven, takes away and makes void Christ's intercession. He is an advocate to intercede for daily sin (1John 2:1). But if sin be forgiven before it be committed, what need is there of his daily intercession! What need have I of an advocate, if sin be pardoned before it be committed! So that, though God forgives all sins past to a believer, yet sins to come are not forgiven till repentance be renewed. (Body of Divinity [Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1979], 558)

Is Watson right!

It depends. Yes, I think one can talk this way about forgiveness if one keeps firmly in mind that the purchase and ground and securing of a2I (past, present, and future) was the death of Jesus, once for all. The ambiguity comes in the question,
When do we obtain forgiveness for all the sins we will ever commit'? Does this question mean, When was our forgiveness purchased and secured for us! Or does it mean, When will our forgiveness be applied to each transgression so as to remove God's displeasure for it! The answer to the first question would be, at the death of Christ. And the answer to the second question would be, at the renewal of our repentance.

Which raises another question: Does God feel displeasure toward his justified children! If so, what kind of displeasure is this! Is it the same kind of displeasure he has toward the sins of unbelievers?
How does God see our daily sins! He sees them as breaches of his will that grieve him and anger him. This grief and anger, however, while prompted by real blameworthiness and real guilt, is not 'Judicial wrath," to use Thomas Watson's phrase. "Though a child of God, after pardon, may incur his fatherly displeasure, yet his judicial wrath is removed. Though he may lay on the rod, yet he has taken away the curse. Corrections may befall the saints, but not destruction" (Body of Divinity, 556).

God also sees our sins as "covered" and "not reckoned" because of the blood of Christ (Romans 4:7-8).Thus, paradoxically, he sees our sins as both guilt-bringing (and thus producing grief and anger) and guaranteed-of-pardon (though not yet pardoned in the sense of his response to confession and the actual removal of his fatherly displeasure). What is it that distinguishes God's judicial wrath toward the unbeliever's unconfessed sin from God's father~ displeasure toward the believer's unconfessed sin! The difference is that the believer is united to God in Christ by a new covenant. The promise of this covenant is that God will never turn away from doing good to us and will never let us turn away from him, but will always bring us back to confession and repentance. "I will make with them an everlasting covenant, that I will not turn away from doing good to them; and I will put the fear of me in their hearts, that they may not turn from me" Jeremiah 32:40, Rsv, emphasis added).

  This new covenant commitment was purchased by Christ for us (Luke 22:20) and applied to us through faith so that, though we incur our Father's displeasure, we, who are justified believers, never incur the judicial wrath of God to all eternity. Or to put it another way, since the forgiveness of all our sins is purchased and secured by the death of Christ, therefore God is totally committed to bring us back to confession and repentance as often as necessary so that we may receive and enjoy that forgiveness in the removal of his fatherly displeasure. It is our Father's pleasure to restore us to his pleasure until such restoring are needed no more

[Note: This was published in the Bethlehem Baptist Church Newsletter a few years ago - can't remember the date. It also appears in Piper's book A GODWARD LIFE BOOK II in chapter 29, pages 103-105. For more information, see Desiring God Ministires]

Do you see a similarity between John MacArthur's and John Piper's articles? Basically, the whole concept of Judicial Forgiveness and Parental Forgiveness (JFPF for short) hinges on only 3 things:

1. 1 John 1:9
2. Only our "past" sins up to the point of salvation are forgiven.

3. God is angry or displeased at us when we sin.

I have dealt with all these points in detail in parts 1 to 4 and will not repeat my arguments here. Briefly, let me say that:
1) 1 John 1:9 is not directed at believers,
2) ALL our sins - past, present and future - have been forgiven, and
3) God has sworn that He will never be angry with us again (Isaiah 54:9).

This whole concept of JFPF is conjured up by man (learned men notwithstanding) to satisfy his own need to justify himself, to indulge his own self-righteousness.

When you offend someone, the criteria for forgiveness is NOT set by you but by the person who was offended by you. If the person whom you offended tells you that he just needs to hear you say sorry to him only once and he will forgive any wrong you do against him from then onwards, just accept it! How can that be? Where do you find such a person?

Of course no human being can be that kind of person! Maybe that's why it is so difficult for us to accept that God can be like that person. We are projecting our own human inadequacy or smallness onto the Almighty God. God can be like that person, nay, God IS that person! If you cannot accept this truth, it means that you have not understood and appreciated God's love! 

But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. (Romans 5:8)

And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. (Ephesians 5:18)

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