By Leslie Diestelkamp
Restrictions suggested by the editor require that this be very brief. I shall not waste space with non-essentials. This is to provide some rebuttal to the two review articles by brother Marshall Patton regarding two articles I wrote on continuous forgiveness for the faithful Christian. But at one point brother Patton says that I (L.D.) affirm the absolute necessity of continuous cleansing. Then brother Patton says, “I do not know of anyone who denies this.” But “continuous” means “without interruption.” Well, that is what I am contending for-that the faithful Christian, as long as he is faithful, is kept clean by the grace of God and the shed blood of Christ. Of course, brother Patton teaches that a Christian becomes unfaithful every time he sins regardless of the nature of the sin-that one cannot be spiritually alive while he sins, He teaches that one ceases to walk in the light when he sins at all, and he then is again in the light when he repents. Thus we are in and out, in and out, in and out of the light and of the darkness. We are going to have to be very fortunate if we die “in the light”!
Brother Patton says that I teach that God does not impute sin to the Christian — even while he sins. Please let me state what I do teach on that matter. I teach that God counts every transgression as sin (conversely brother Patton says he doubts that lying, swearing, etc. are always sin). I also teach that God forgives those sins that do not constitute the Christian as walking after the flesh and as living in sin (Rom. 8:1-4; 4:7; 1 Jn. 1:7). He asks, “How can one confess a sin of which he is unaware?” Well, to confess it (specifically) he cannot. But he can confess that he sins and he won’t need to tell the Lord the verse that says so (1 Jn. 1:8). Brethren do it all the time in public prayer, thus: “Forgive all our sins, for we know we do sin.” I take that as an acknowledgment of all sin — even those one does not know about. We all sing, I ‘Forgive the sins we have confessed to Thee; forgive the secret sins we do not see.” But brother Patton asks, “How can we repent of unknown sins?” Well, repentance includes determination to change and we can determine to learn, to grow, to mature and to change as we become aware of sin. No, I do not teach forgiveness without repentance, but I even urge confession of unknown sins.
Brother Patton thinks I was wrong in my discussion of the brethren in Corinth. But I see no evidence that all of those who were involved in squabbling over men or those who were not rebuking the adulterer or those who were eating and drinking unworthily-that all such were spiritually dead. In error, yes; dead, no. He teaches that Peter was lost when Paul scolded him. I find no evidence that this was true. Yes, Peter sinned, but that he was lost is not stated or hinted. Then brother Patton says that in Romans 7:14-25 Paul was not referring to himself at all unless it was when he was Saul, the alien. I think Paul was simply identifying his own humanity for the example of all of us — that he was subject to temptation and was an imperfect man. Brother Patton says some hard things about Abraham (and I did goof — Abraham lied twice, not thrice). Brother Patton says Abraham lied with “aforethought, purpose, plan and intentional design to deceive.” But Abraham is called “the friend of God” (Jas. 2:23) and “the father of us all” (Rom. 4:6). Indeed, I believe Abraham lied twice out of fear – yes out of weakness, not out of willfulness. But he did lie, and he did live, whereas Ananias and Sapphira lied and died!)
Brother Patton says that David, in Psalm 19:12 was circumventing God’s law regarding forgiveness of sins of ignorance. No! David may have made the sacrifices, but there was no law of sacrifice for sin that was unknown-only for those that had become known (see Lev. 3,4). So David was praying for forgiveness of sins about which he had no awareness. Today sacrifice has been made for us in Christ’s death, but we still need the humility to pray for forgiveness of all sins, even the unknown ones. Brother Patton says the publican of Luke 18 was guilty of “wholesale apostasy.” But this is mere assertion. Rather it seems that he was of a contrite heart. And the fact that he was a publican does not mean he was a reprobate, etc. Matthew was also a publican, you know. Brother Patton says some matters are relative and some absolute. Certainly that is true. Yet he says that the music used in worship, the day to observe the Lord’s supper and the pattern for church organization are all absolute-that one does not become proficient in these matters. Thus, he teaches that one must have perfect (absolute) understanding of these matters instantly when he is baptized into Christ. I wonder how he discerned this. It means we must teach each one completely on such matters before baptism.
Now let us notice some things brother Patton did not even mention in his review of my articles: (1) that continuous cleansing is without a satisfactory alternative-because if this is not so, there is no hope at all for any of us; (2) if the blood of Christ does not keep us clean while we walk not after the flesh, then unless we die with a prayer upon our lips, we have no hope.
Indeed, the view brother Patton advocates means that unless we have perfect discernment of God’s word (know every truth without a mistaken interpretation), perfect application of what we know and perfect perception of our own selves (to know our own weaknesses and faults, perfectly) — unless all of this is true of us, we are hopeless creatures. Yes, if the faithful Christian is not cleansed of all sin when he humbly prays with contrite penitence, then we have no advantage over the alien or the heathen. But “in Christ” there is assurance (read Heb. 4:6; 11:40).
Remember, I have not taught the Calvinistic doctrine of once saved, always saved, nor any other doctrine peculiar to Calvinism! I have clearly taught that “the wages of sin is death” but at the same time I have taught that “the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom. 6:23).And I have taught that “if we walk in the light . . . the blood of Christ cleanseth us from all sin” (1 Jn. 1:7); that there is continuous cleansing for the faithful child of God who walks not after the flesh but after the spirit and who forgives others (Mt. 6:12,15), confesses sins (1 Jn. 1:9), repents and prays (Acts 8:22). Brother Patton has engaged himself in a review of my teaching and has asserted repeatedly that I am in error, that my argument will not bear up under scriptural examination and that I miss the truth. But usually he only asserted — he did not make an examination that proved such. I suggest to readers that you re-examine my first two articles. I will trust your discernment of truth I presented even in view of response that was made. Feel free to write me.
Guardian of Truth XXIX: 13, pp. 400, 402
July 4, 1985