By Ron Halbrook
IV. Other Concepts Of “Automatic” Grace Or Forgiveness:
A. WE ALREADY HAVE ETERNAL LIFE AS A PRESENT POSSESSION, so we will not be lost because of sins we may commit. Persons teaching this error will want to specify “sins of weakness,” “sincere sins,” “sins of ignorance.” This waters down the doctrine and makes it easier to swallow. Actually, it comes from Calvinism which says we have eternal life and cannot be lost no matter what sins we commit. The Bible teaches we are alive unto God when we obey the gospel (Eph. 2:1). Being in the family of God, we are “heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.” There is “the glory which shall be revealed in us.” “But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it” (Rom. 8:17, 18, 25). There is “an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you” (1 Pet. 1:3-5; cf. Phil. 3:20). On the inheritance day, “the righteous (shall go, understood verb, RH) into life eternal” (Matt. 25:46). We have eternal life in prospect or by right of inheritance. If we continue to practice a sin (failing to repent, confess, ask forgiveness, and quit the sin), we forfeit our inheritance.
B. 1 JOHN 1:7 SHOWS GOD WILL REMOVE OUR SINS, EVEN SINS WE ARE CONTINUING TO PRACTICE, IF WE ARE DOING THE BEST WE CAN. Just as above, this amounts to a provision of automatic forgiveness for some sins one may continue to practice. “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin” (1 Jn. 1:7). This passage is isolated from its context and other passages to create this impression: (1) we walk by faith in some things, walk-walk-walk, i.e. continued action; (2) we walk in sin in some things, sin-sin-sin, i.e. continued action; (3) Christ’s blood removes the sin though we never quit practicing it! Just as fast as we can commit the sin, the blood of Christ washes it away unconditionally so far as the sin itself is concerned supposedly conditionally in that we must walk by faith in some things.
The context continues at least through 1 Jn. 2:2, and does not have in view continued action in sin. The sin washed away in 1:7 is the sin committed in 2:1, which is not continuous action. A. T. Robertson points out in his Word Studies that “sin” in 2:1 (“if any man sin”) is 11 second aorist (ingressive) active subjunctive”: “if one commit sin.” Ingressive aorist signifies point action which “breaks in” upon the scene, as any grammar will show. Dana and Mantey say of it that the action is “contemplated in its beginning. This use is commonly employed with verbs which signify a state or condition, and denote entrance into that state or condition” (A Manual Grammar of the Greek New Testament, p, 196). John pictures our falling into sin from time to time, not continuous action. He pictures sin as “breaking in” upon our lives, not continuous action constantly in our lives. It is sin “breaking and entering” from time to time, not sin abiding in us. In his Word Studies, Vol. IV, Kenneth S. Wuest says
” In the expression, ‘if any man sin,’ we have the aorist subjunctive, speaking, not of habitual action, but a single act. It could better be translated, ‘if any man commit an act of sin.’ John regards sin in the believer’s life, not as habitual, but as extraordinary, as infrequent.”
When a man continues in digression, as worshiping with an instrument of music, he is constantly in the “state or condition” of sin. He is not repenting-not changing his mind–and not reforming-not changing his practice. JOHN IS NOT PROMISING FORGIVENESS FOR ANY SUCH SIN!
If a Christian began worshiping with an instrument, letting that sin “break in” upon his life, entering the state or condition of sin, BUT THEN REPENTED AND CONFESSED AND REPUDIATED HIS WRONG, the blood of Christ would cleanse him in keeping with 1 Jn. 1:6-2:2. Sin breaks in upon our lives when sinful anger breaks in; but as we repent and confess, God forgives. If we enter the state of sin by ungodly anger and do not repent or confess it to God, but continue to walk in that state or condition, there is no automatic forgiveness clause revealed in God’s word for such.
In fact, 1 Jn. 3:9 absolutely denies the very thing brethren affirm! “Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin because he is born of God.” No this does not teach perfectionism. This concerns continuing in a state or condition of sin, “not mere occasional acts of sin.” “Doeth no sin” is “linear present active indicative. . . . The child of God does not have the habit of sin.” ‘And he cannot sin” is “present active infinitive” and “can only mean ‘and he cannot go on sinning . . . . . .. (see Robertson’s Word Studies in 1 Jn. 3: 6, 9). Interestingly, Dana and Mantey use the very verses our brethren overlook, in comparing the aorist and present tenses (Grammar, p. 195):
In 1 Jn. 2:1, he uses the aorist tense twice with the verb HAMARTANIEN, to sin, ‘My little children, I write these things to you HINA ME HAMARTETE, in order that you won’t even commit an act of sin. And EAN TIS HAMARTEI if anyone does commit a sin, we have an advocate with the Father.’ In 3:9 he uses the present tense with the same verb: ‘Everyone born of God OU POIEI, does not practice, continue in sin; because his seed MENEI, is abiding in him, and he is not able to HAMARTANEIN, continue in sin, because he GEGENETAI, has been born of God.’
In other words, the sins which we confess and are forgiven are occasional acts of sin which we may commit and turn from in genuine sorrow (1 Jn. 1:6-2:2). When we continue in a sinful practice and thus the state of sin, there is no automatic provision of grace; to the contrary, we show we are standing out of the family of God where all grace is and standing in the devil’s family (1 Jn. 3:4-9).
Both concepts discussed here under the heading of automatic forgiveness are currently being used to enlarge the circle of grace, unity, and fellowship to include brethren WHO ARE CONTINUING IN THE SINFUL PRACTICES OF DEGRESSION from the law of Christ revealed in the New Testament.
V. Even Though Something Is Sinful, That Is No Guarantee We Will Be Lost For Practicing It. The argument is that we cannot be God or “play judge and jury.” We can say a practice is sin, but we cannot say it will make one be lost. This is an old denominational dodge, implying men should agree to disagree without saying one viewpoint or the other actually condemns in God’s sight. It is like saying that it is a sin to hear the gospel without believing and being baptized, but that such failure does not mean one will be lost. When we declare the consequences of sin, the truth is we do not take anyone’s final judgment into our own hands. To admit that an action is sinful, to say sin condemns, and to then say the specific action mentioned will condemn does not constitute playing judge and jury. It constitutes faithfulness to the word committed into our hands for preaching. Sin condemns! If it does not condemn one to eternal torment, just what does it do?
A tract has been widely circulated which admits instrumental music in worship “is sinful.” But then the author says, “Some, however, have apparently wanted to play judge and jury, and assign to hell without further ado all who use instrumental music in worship. This I have refused to do, and, when it has been clear that this was the meaning being given to ‘sin’ I have refused to use that word” (Edward Fudge, Answers to Questions ). The truth is that when one admits a practice is sin, he has already made the wages of such an act death – eternal separation from God. (1) “The wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23). (2) Instrumental music in worship is sinful. (3) THEREFORE the wages of worshiping with instrumental music is death. Unless a perfect square can be perfectly round, there is just no way to get around it. But why would anyone want to get around It? To soften the thinking of brethren. To widen the boundaries of grace, unity, and fellowship.
VI. We Are Saved By Grace, Not By Our Own Works Of Merit Or Perfect Obedience. This is the old denomination dodge setting aside the conditional nature of salvation. Verses are quoted regarding our being saved by grace, not being earned or merited. We are saved by faith, not by works, it is added. Surprisingly, even an occasional denominationalist will see through this farce. Commenting on Romans 4, Kenneth S. Wuest points out that the faith which saves is actually a work; faith can be conceived of as saving as a work of merit or as an unmeritorious condition of salvation. In his word Studies on Romans (p. 66-67), he used the illustration of a drowning man:
It is like the proffered hand of a drowning man that makes it possible for the life guard to save him. There is nothing meritorious in the act of a drowning man in stretching out his hand in order to he saved. It is the efficient medium through which he is saved. Thus, the act of faith on the sinner’s part is not meritorious but only the efficient medium through which God is able to save him.
We enter grace by obedient faith, we continue in it by continuing in obedient faith. If one can understand that he enters grace by baptism as an act of faith, he can understand that other acts of obedient faith may be required to sustain the relationship. “The just shall live by faith” (Rom. 1:17).
But brethren’s thinking is becoming blurred on some of these fundamental principles. For instance, one brother addresed a church after it fell to institutionalism this way; he said that it may be better for a church not to contribute to human institutions, but brethern in churches which do so may expect the grace of God to save them anyway. “. . . we are saved ones because of God’s grace to us in His Son, and we are accepted by Him ‘in the Beloved!’ Not because we know it all, or do it all right.” We are not saved “through works of righteousness which we may do, but by the grace of God.”
We cannot work out a plan of salvation by ou- own wisdom, but God in His wisdom does have a plan of salvation for us (Eph. 1). Nothing we can do will make us earn, deserve, or merit salvation; yet it is a condition of salvation that we must work the works of God-we must obey Him in order to be saved (Lk. 17:10; Eph. 2:8-9; Jn. 6:29; Matt. 7:21-23; Heb. 5:8-9). It is the very nature of faith to do what God requires (Heb. 11). “The just shall live by faith.”
The loose teaching pointed out in this article is not all the loose teaching being done in relation to the new unity movement. Passages like Lev. 10:1-2, Jn. 17, Eph. 4:1-7, Gal. 1:8-9, 1 Cor. 1:10, 2 Jn. 9, Jude 3, and others are being construed to broaden concepts of grace, unity, and fellowship. But all the loose teaching has one thing in common: it will pave the way for unity with institutional brethern, conservative Christian Church people, then those in demoninations who have been immersed for one reason or another. Let us “remove not the old landmark” (Prov. 23:10). If we can move it an inch, we can move it a mile. In time, that is exactly what will happen to the new unity movement. The inch demanded now may not look like much. It has all happened before. Look at the last century, or the first and second centuries and following. Once human wisdom moves and expands the boundaries God has set, there is no stopping place short of “the universal brotherhood of man.”
Truth Magazine XX: 45, pp. 710-711
November 11, 1976