By Leslie Diestelkamp
God’s grace is constantly available to the child of God, so much so that he can have confidence and security in a continuing obedient faith. Of course the child of God can falter, he can stumble, he can fall from grace (Gal. 5:4). He can “make shipwreck of the faith” (1 Tim. 1:19). He can turn back to the ways of the world and of sin and/or he can become unfaithful and unfruitful in life. Additionally, he can depart from the faith into doctrinal error (Gal. 1:8).
But it is not necessary for the child of God to so falter, so stumble, so fall that he loses the favor of God. The title of this essay, when properly understood, suggests that I believe the child of God can have constant forgiveness and, therefore, a continuing, day-to-day salvation that will enable him to live in hope and assurance. This involves three major principles:
1. The Bible teaches that there are different kinds of sins. We have allowed the Catholic doctrine of mortal and venial sins to drive us from recognition and declaration of truth in this regard. Some say, “Every sin is alike”. But consider: (1) If we sin willfully . . .” (Heb. 10:26, 27); (2) “There is a sin unto death. . .” (1 Jn. 5:16). The next verse says “there is a sin not unto death.” (3) Surely all of us can see a difference in the sin of deceit in Ananias and Sapphira and the sin of dissimulation by Peter (Acts 5:1-11; Gal. 2:11-14). There are sins of ignorance, sins of weakness and sins of wilfulness. Ananias and his wife sinned deliberately. Peter stumbled in human weakness (for though he was a great man in the faith, he was also a very human man in weakness of the flesh).
2. Every sin we commit is charged against us, though every sin a child of God commits can be forgiven (1 Jn. 1:9). Sin on the part of a Christian is dreadful and dangerous, but such sin is not fatal, necessarily. The blood that cleansed us once, at baptism, is still the ransom price and altogether adequate for us (1 Jn. 1:7).
3. But forgiveness for the child of God is not automatic. It is conditional, just as any and all forgiveness from sin is conditional. To receive pardon the Christian must: (1) Forgive others (Mt. 6:12, 15); (2) Confess his sins (1 Jn. 1:9); (3) Repent of sins (Acts 8:22); (4) Pray for forgiveness (Mt. 6:12; Acts 8:22). Under these circumstances, God’s grace avails for the erring child of God.
When this particular essay is studied, one should also reread and study again a previous section in this series on “Grace is Not License.” It is certainly not my intent to suggest that one may live a life of dishonesty, immorality, disobedience and neglect and still go to heaven. But it is my purpose to show that, though we are all imperfect (1 Jn. 1:8), we can have hope and assurance that, by grace, we can be forgiven and have a constantly favorable relationship with God and a real promise of a heavenly home. I must continue to beg my brethren to be continually obedient but, at the same time, to put no trust in human merit. Let us live lives of humble subjectiveness, having hearts of contrite penitence. Let all human wisdom, all arrogance, all pride and all trust in personal merit be cast aside and let our confidence be in justification by grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus (Rom. 3:24).
Grace For Secret Sins
David said, “Cleanse thou me from secret faults” (Psa. 19; 12). David did not mean that God should cleanse him from faults he was trying to hide from others, but that he desired forgiveness of sins that were hidden from him (David). In other words, David recognized that he was guilty of sins which he could not identify – sins which he committed in ignorance – and that he needed forgiveness even though he could not specifically confess them. Any sincere Christian will surely feel just as David did. He knows that he lacks perfect discernment of the Word as well as perfect ability to apply that which he discerns. In humility, he will acknowledge that he is a sinner, even beyond the specific sins which he recognizes.
But do such unknown sins constitute a barrier between the Christian and the Heavenly Father? Must the Christian live a life of despair, lest he fail to know all the faults of which he must repent?
Rejoicing In Hope – (Rom. 12:12).
The Bible teaches that God’s people need hope as “an anchor of the soul” (Heb. 6:19). “Blessed is the man who trusteth in the Lord and whose hope the Lord is” (Jer. 17:7). “Behold, the eye of the Lord is upon them that fear him, upon them that hope in his mercy” (Psa. 33:18).
But, my brethren, hear me: if there is no forgiveness of incidental faults (sin, if you please) of which we are not aware and which we cannot, therefore, specifically confess, then there is not hope at all! We then are all hopeless, helpless and miserable creatures, destined to receive nothing but the vengeance of a God who made us incapable of perfection and then determined to destroy us without mercy! But John wrote, “These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life . . .” (1 Jn. 5:13). We can never have such confidence by human merit, but only as we “walk in the light” and trust in the grace of God.
Wherein Is That Hope?
When I speak of continuous (constant) grace, does this include constant forgiveness? I believe it does! But it is not automatic, it is conditional, thus: (1) The Christian must confess his sinfulness and repent of sins of which he is aware. (2) And he must have a humble, contrite, penitent attitude regarding his own inability to identify every sin. Is that not all one can do (provided he does not deliberately reject or neglect knowledge – Hos. 4:6)?
Perfection is impossible (1 Jn. 1:8) but forgiveness is available, by grace, even for unknown imperfections (1 Jn. 1:7). With a deep sense of unworthiness and with a full acknowledgement of imperfection, let us cry out, “God be merciful to me, a sinner.” Then, with full assurance of God’s grace, and with genuine hope in Christ Jesus, let us look forward to the crown that is laid up for all the faithful (2 Tim. 4:8). We can have that “lively hope . . . . of an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled . . . reserved in heaven” for us (1 Pet. 1:3, 4), for Christ is the author of eternal salvation to all them that obey him (Heb. 5:9). That, my friends, is salvation by grace – amazing grace. And that is the only salvation there is – salvation by grace, through an obedient faith.
Truth Magazine XXIV: 16, pp. 261-262
April 17, 1980