By Leslie Diestelkamp
For several years brother Mike Willis and I have corresponded regarding our differing convictions on the subject of continuous forgiveness for the faithful Christian. Repeatedly he has asked me to write an affirmative on this subject. For several reasons that do not need to be identified here, I have hesitated to do so, but my reluctance to do so was not at all to avoid making my conclusions known. In fact, in the last four years I have preached in about 53 meetings in 17 states, and in almost every one I have preached at least once on “Grace,” including some expressions about continuous forgiveness. Likewise, in my own publication (Think) I have occasionally written on these matters. So, you see, I have not avoided the subject.
Now I have decided to comply with brother Mike’s request to express my convictions in Guardian of Truth for these reasons: (1) I want to “set the record straight” with his readers, and (2) I want his readers to realize that Mike’s view is not a prevalent one. (Note: His “Letters” column in GOT does show that some agree with him, but I am convinced that 90% of brethren do not so agree. They don’t write to him, they write to me and to others who differ with Mike. In all of those 53 meetings mentioned above only three men have stated a disagreement with what I preached.)
1. I affirm that the Scriptures teach that a child of God who lives in sin — who continues in the practice of sin — who walks after the flesh and not after the Spirit — will receive no forgiveness as long as he continues thus (Rom. 6:1,2; 8: 1; Gal. 5:19-21; Rev. 21:8). Such a person is not a faithful Christian, and I find no way to offer hope for him in that condition.
2. I affirm that a faithful Christian — one who “walks in the fight” (1 Jn. 1:7) and who “walks not after the flesh but after the Spirit” (Rom. 8:1-4) does indeed sin even while he is faithful. Understand, his sin is not an act of faithfulness and God does not approve of it, but his life is a life of faithfulness and God does approve of it. How can God approve of a life in which there is a sin? He forgives and then does not reckon that sin against the faithful one (see. Rom. 4:7, 8). John says, “If we say we have no sin we deceive ourselves” (1 Jn. 1:8), but of the same ones John says, “My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous” (Jn. 2: 1). Yes, we do sin and 99.44% of the readers of this article will admit it. But we don’t live sinful lives — we don’t continue in sin — and we don’t cease to have the favor of a merciful God — and most of our readers agree with that statement also!
3. I affirm that forgiveness for the faithful Christian is altogether conditioned upon: (a) forgiving others (Mt. 6:12,13); (b) confessing sin even confessing sins of which we are unaware (Lk. 18:13; Psa. 19:12); (c) repentance and prayer (Acts 8:22). There is no hope for the child of God who will not forgive others, nor for the one who will not confess and pray as did the publican, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner” and as did David, “Cleanse thou me from secret faults.”
4. I affirm that (a) continuous cleansing is an absolute necessity for the faithful Christian because he does sin and even may be unaware of some of his sins; (b) continuous cleansing for the faithful Christian is a genuine reality because God has promised that, through the blood of Jesus, we have full forgiveness as we walk in the light; (c) continuous cleansing for the faithful Christian is without any satisfactory alternative because if such is not so, then there is no hope at all for any of us. If the blood of Christ does not keep us cleansed (while we walk not after the flesh but after the Spirit), then unless we die with a prayer upon our lips we may indeed die lost, and every hour of every day and night would be a day and an hour of misery and fear.
Remember, what I affirm has nothing to do with the alien — he has no relationship with God (Rom. 6:23); he has no mediator until he obeys Christ (Rom. 6:17,18; 2 Tim. 2: 10). Remember, also, what I affirm provides no hope for the unfaithful child of God unless he turns from his unfaithfulness, for “if we sin willfully” and if we trod under foot the Son of God, there is nothing but vengeance in store for us (Heb. 10:26-29). Indeed, “if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world” through Christ and “are again entangled therein, the latter end is worse than the beginning” (2 Pet. 2:20).
But remember, dear reader, there is consolation and hope for the humble, contrite child of God who resists evil and who draws near to God (Jas. 4:7,8). Our hope is not in merit of our own. Paul said that his desire and hope was that he “would be found in Him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith” (Phil. 3:9). Please, dear reader, do not ask me if you are good enough to go to heaven. I’ll disappoint you. I’ll have to say “No.” But you can go to heaven, though you never earn it yourself, because of the goodness and love and mercy and grace of God. “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God, not of works, lest any man should boast” (Eph. 2:8,9). Do you believe it? I do!
There is no automatic forgiveness, no unconditional salvation. And there is no security apart from faithfulness. But, totally by grace God did provide a way of salvation, by genuine faith we accept that free gift of God-which we receive at obedience and which we retain by faithfulness. “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom. 6:23).
If you are reading this in Guardian of Truth, then it means that brother Willis has agreed to also publish in the next issue a “Necessary Negative.” Look for it.
Guardian of Truth XXIX: 11, pp. 336, 338
June 6, 1985