Many years ago my wife worked as an advisor for a counseling center offering abortion alternatives. One day, a young woman, pregnant for the fourth time, visited the center. Each of her pregnancies was by a different father and she freely admitted to being promiscuous. My wife asked if she would consider changing her lifestyle. She said, rather indignantly, “No, my pastor told me Jesus loves me just the way I am. I have invited Jesus into my heart and I am a Christian. That’s the end of it!” She held membership in the largest Pentecostal church in a medium sized city.
When is the last time you heard a preacher say that everyone in the congregation was born with a sin nature and, without confession of sin, remorse, repentance, faith and obedience, no one would go to Heaven? Have you ever heard that in church or from a TV preacher?
Classical Christianity teaches that:
Each person who responds to God's grace and the substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ by confession of sin, remorse, repentance, faith, and obedience receives the great gift of salvation. Each person who resists God's grace is condemned to everlasting punishment.
- Each person who responds to God's grace and the substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ by
- confession of sin (Ps 32:3-5; 1 John 1:8-10),
- remorse (Ps 66:18; Luke 18:13),
- repentance (Mat 3:8; Rom 12:2, 13:14; Eph 4:23-24; Rev 2:5, 16, 3:3, 19),
- faith (John 6:29, 3:16-17; Acts 16:31; Eph 2:8-10) and
- obedience (Mat 28:20; Luke 11:28; John 14:15; Rom 1:5, 6:16; Heb 5:9)
- receives the great gift of salvation (Acts 4:12; Rom 1:16; 2 Cor 7:10; 1 Thes 5:9; Heb 5:9; 1 Pet 1:9, 18-19).
- Each person who resists God's grace is condemned to everlasting punishment (Mat 25:46; 2 Thes 1:8-9).
Christian belief must be preceded by repentance and followed by obedience to qualify as faith. Faith is not just an intellectual exercise (Jam 2:19) or an emotional experience (Jer 17:9).
But, in many churches, confession of sin, remorse and repentance are of no importance. If the preacher talks about sin, he is surely referring to someone else’s sin, not your sin. After all, Jesus loves you just the way you are! Just invite Jesus into your heart and go on with your life unchanged. Preachers with such a message are alethophobic; they have a fear of truth; it might cost them some popularity within the church! But sin, that evil residing in the soul of man, is the reason for the crucifixion of the theanthropic Jesus Christ. Your sin, my sin and the sin of every preacher, killed Jesus! So every preacher, pastor and minister should talk about sin? It is central to the substitutionary atonement.
In the words of Oswald Chambers:
“We have to recognize that sin is a fact, not a defect; sin is red-handed mutiny against God. Either God or sin must die in my life. The New Testament brings us right down to this one issue. If sin rules in me, God’s life in me will be killed; if God rules in me, sin in me will be killed. There is no possible ultimate but that. The climax of sin is that it crucified Jesus Christ, and what was true in the history of God on earth will be true in your history and in mine. In our mental outlook we have to reconcile ourselves to the fact of sin as the only explanation as to why Jesus Christ came, and as the explanation of the grief and sorrow in life.”
“Sin is a thing I am born with and I cannot touch it; God touches sin in Redemption. In the Cross of Jesus Christ God redeemed the whole human race from the possibility of damnation through the heredity of sin. God nowhere holds a man responsible for having the heredity of sin. The condemnation is not that I am born with a heredity of sin, but if when I realize Jesus Christ came to deliver me from it, I refuse to let Him do so, from that moment I begin to get the seal of damnation. ‘And this is the judgment’ (the critical moment), ‘that the light is come into the world and men loved the darkness rather than the light.”
“The great miracle of the grace of God is that He forgives sin, and it is the death of Jesus Christ alone that enables the Divine nature to forgive and to remain true to itself in doing so. It is shallow nonsense to say that God forgives us because He is love…The only ground on which God can forgive me is through the Cross of my Lord. There His conscience is satisfied.
Beware of the pleasant view of the Fatherhood of God – God is so kind and loving that of course He will forgive us. That sentiment has no place whatever in the New Testament. The only ground on which God can forgive us is the tremendous tragedy of the Cross of Christ; to put forgiveness on any other ground is unconscious blasphemy.
Forgiveness is the divine miracle of grace; it cost God the Cross of Jesus Christ before He could forgive sin and remain a holy God. Never accept a view of the Fatherhood of God if it blots out the Atonement. The revelation of God is that He cannot forgive; He would contradict His nature if He did. The only way we can be forgiven is by being brought back to God by the Atonement.”
Your sin and mine precipitated the crucifixion and death of Jesus Christ (see also Sections 2.9, 8.6, 8.9 and 8.13 of Theology Corner).
The guilt, penalty and pain caused by one individual’s sin against another can morally be borne either by the sinner through justice or by the victim of sin through forgiveness; either the sinner pays the price of justice or the victim pays the price of forgiveness. The victim cannot forgive the sinner without paying a price. In other words, there is no serendipitous land of cheap forgiveness where we simply forgive one another by overlooking a few inconsequential faults at no cost to us. While forgiveness usually brings a sense of peace and relief to the victim of sin, the victim can also bear great burden and pain. The consequence of sin may last a lifetime.
The penalty of sin cannot be transferred to a third party. When we say that Christ died as our substitute, we do not imply that He was simply a third party who stepped in between God and man. Christ was not a third party in the affair at Calvary. He was God against whom every sin is committed. When God the Son said, at Calvary: “Father forgive them” instead of saying “Angelic hosts, destroy them,” He, as the victim, bore the guilt, penalty and pain rightfully due every person who will ever live. Jesus not only bore the guilt and penalty for your sins but he took a step further. Since your guilt is canceled and your punishment remitted, He said that you can be accepted before God as righteous. You can, therefore, stand before God as if you had never sinned; you are thereby justified.