Category Archives: Forgiveness

“The one undivided and indivisible Christ” by Herman Bavinck

“The Reformation attacked this entire nomistic system at the roots when it took its position in the confession that sinners are justified by faith alone. By this act, after all, it all at once reversed the entire order of things.

Communion with God came about not by human exertion, but solely on the part of God, by a gift of His grace, so that religion was again given its place before morality.

If human beings received the forgiveness of sins, righteousness, adoption as children, and eternal life through faith alone, by grace, on account of the merits of Christ, then they did not need to exert themselves to earn all these benefits by good works.

They already possessed them in advance as a gift they had accepted by faith. The gratitude and joy that filled their hearts upon receiving all these benefits drove them to do good works before the thought that they had to do them even crossed their mind.

For the faith by which they accepted these benefits was a living faith, not a dead one, not a bare agreement with a historical truth, but a personal heartfelt trust in the grace of God in Christ Jesus.

In Justification that faith of course manifested itself only from its receptive side because in this connection everything depended on the acceptance of the righteousness offered and bestowed in Christ.

Yet, from its very inception, and at the same time as it justified, it was also a living, active, and forceful faith that renewed people and poured joy into their hearts.

Actually, therefore, it was not faith that justified and sanctified, but it was the one undivided and indivisible Christ who through faith gave Himself to believers for righteousness and sanctification, who was imputed and imparted to us on the part of God, and whom we therefore from the beginning possess in that faith as Christ for us and in us.”

–Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics: Holy Spirit, Church, and New Creation, Vol. 4, Ed. John Bolt, and Trans. John Vriend, (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2008), 4: 242–243.

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“He atoned for all our sins” by J. Gresham Machen

“This business of letting by-gones be by-gones has a pleasant sound. But in reality it is the most heartless thing in the world.

It will not do at all even in the case of sins committed against our fellow-men. To say nothing of sin against God, what shall be done about the harm that we have wrought to our neighbor?

Sometimes, no doubt, the harm can be repaired. If we have defrauded our neighbor of a sum of money, we can pay the sum back with interest. But in the case of the more serious wrongs such repayment is usually quite impossible.

The more serious wrongs are those that are done, not to the bodies, but to the souls of men. And who can think with complacency of wrongs of that kind which he has committed?

Who can bear to think, for example, of the harm that he has done to those younger than himself by a bad example? And what of those sad words, spoken to those we love, that have left scars never to be obliterated by the hand of time?

In the presence of such memories, we are told by the modern preacher simply to repent and to let by-gones be by-gones. But what a heartless thing is such repentance!

We escape into some higher, happier, respectable life. But what of those whom we by our example and by our words have helped to drag down to the brink of hell? We forget them and let by-gones be by-gones!

Such repentance will never wipe out the guilt of sin— not even sin committed against our fellow-men, to say nothing of sin against our God.

The truly penitent man longs to wipe out the effects of sin, not merely to forget sin. But who can wipe out the effects of sin? Others are suffering because of our past sins; and we can attain no real peace until we suffer in their stead.

We long to go back into the tangle of our life, and make right the things that are wrong—at least to suffer where we have caused others to suffer.

And something like that Christ did for us when He died instead of us on the cross; He atoned for all our sins.

The sorrow for sins committed against one’s fellowmen does indeed remain in the Christian’s heart. And he will seek by every means that is within his power to repair the damage that he has done.

But atonement at least has been made—made as truly as if the sinner himself had suffered with and for those whom he has wronged. And the sinner himself, by a mystery of grace, becomes right with God.

All sin at bottom is a sin against God. ‘Against thee, thee only have I sinned’ is the cry of a true penitent.

How terrible is the sin against God! Who can recall the wasted moments and years? Gone they are, never to return; gone the little allotted span of life; gone the little day in which a man must work. Who can measure the irrevocable guilt of a wasted life?

Yet even for such guilt God has provided a fountain of cleansing in the precious blood of Christ. God has clothed us with Christ’s righteousness as with a garment; in Christ we stand spotless before the judgment throne.”

–J. Gresham Machen, Christianity and Liberalism (New Edition.; Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge, U.K.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2009), 109–110.

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“A most ordinary pastor” by D.A. Carson

“Tom Carson never rose very far in denominational structures, but hundreds of people in the Outaouais and beyond testify how much he loved them.

He never wrote a book, but he loved the Book.

He was never wealthy or powerful, but he kept growing as a Christian: yesterday’s grace was never enough.

He was not a far-sighted visionary, but he looked forward to eternity.

He was not a gifted administrator, but there is no text that says, ‘By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you are good administrators.’

His journals have many, many entries bathed in tears of contrition, but his children and grandchildren remember his laughter. Only rarely did he break through his pattern of reserve and speak deeply and intimately with his children, but he modeled Christian virtues to them.

He much preferred to avoid controversy than to stir things up, but his own commitments to historic confessionalism were unyielding, and in ethics he was a man of principle.

His own ecclesiastical circles were rather small and narrow, but his reading was correspondingly large and expansive.

He was not very good at putting people down, except on his prayer lists.

When he died, there were no crowds outside the hospital, no editorial comments in the papers, no announcements on television, no mention in Parliament, no attention paid by the nation.

In his hospital room there was no one by his bedside. There was only the quiet hiss of oxygen, vainly venting because he had stopped breathing and would never need it again.

But on the other side all the trumpets sounded.

Dad won entrance to the only throne room that matters, not because he was a good man or a great man-he was, after all, a most ordinary pastor-but because he was a forgiven man.

And he heard the voice of Him whom he longed to hear saying, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; enter into the joy of your Lord.'”

–D.A. Carson, Memoirs of an Ordinary Pastor (Wheaton: Crossway, 2008), 147-148.

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“Preach free and full forgiveness” by J.C. Ryle

“Forever let the mighty principle laid down by our Lord in this passage, abide in our memories, and sink down into our hearts. It is one of the great corner-stones of the whole Gospel.

It is one of the master-keys to unlock the secrets of the kingdom of God. The only way to make men holy, is to teach and preach free and full forgiveness through Jesus Christ.

The secret of being holy ourselves, is to know and feel that Christ has pardoned our sins. Peace with God is the only root that will bear the fruit of holiness. Forgiveness must go before sanctification.

We shall do nothing till we are reconciled to God. This is the first step in religion. We must work from life, and not for life. Our best works before we are justified are little better than splendid sins.

We must live by faith in the Son of God, and then, and not till then, we shall walk in His ways. The heart which has experienced the pardoning love of Christ, is the heart which loves Christ, and strives to glorify Him.

Let us leave the passage with a deep sense of our Lord Jesus Christ’s amazing mercy and compassion to the chief of sinners. Let us see in His kindness to the woman, of whom we have been reading, an encouragement to any one, however bad he may be, to come to Him for pardon and forgiveness.

That word of His shall never be broken, ‘Him that cometh unto me I will in no wise cast out.’ Never, never need any one despair of salvation, if he will only come to Christ.

Let us ask ourselves, in conclusion, What we are doing for Christ’s glory? What kind of lives are we living? What proof are we making of our love to Him who loved us, and died for our sins?

These are serious questions. If we cannot answer them satisfactorily, we may well doubt whether we are forgiven. The hope of forgiveness which is not accompanied by love in the life is no hope at all.

The man whose sins are really cleansed away will always show by his ways that he loves the Saviour who cleansed them.”

–J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on Luke (New York: Robert Carter & Brothers, 1879), 1: 238–239. Ryle is commenting on Luke 7:36-50.

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The Valley of Vision — “Pardon all my sins”

Merciful Lord,

Pardon all my sins of this day, week, year,
all the sins of my life,
sins of early, middle, and advanced years,
of omission and commission,
of morose, peevish and angry tempers,
of lip, life and walk,
of hard-heartedness, unbelief, presumption, pride,
of unfaithfulness to the souls of men,
of want of bold decision in the cause of Christ,
of deficiency in outspoken zeal for His glory,
of bringing dishonour upon Thy great name,
of deception, injustice, untruthfulness in my dealings with others,
of impurity in thought, word and deed,
of covetousness, which is idolatry,
of substance unduly hoarded, improvidently squandered,
not consecrated to the glory of Thee, the great Giver;
sins in private and in the family,
in study and recreation,
in the busy haunts of men,
in the study of thy Word and in the neglect of it,
in prayer irreverently offered and coldly withheld,
in time misspent,
in yielding to Satan’s wiles,
in opening my heart to his temptations,
in being unwatchful when I know him nigh,
in quenching the Holy Spirit;
sins against light and knowledge,
sins against conscience and the restraints of thy Spirit,
sins against the law of eternal love.

Pardon all my sins, known and unknown,
felt and unfelt,
confessed and not confessed,
remembered or forgotten.
Good Lord, hear; and hearing, forgive.

–Arthur Bennett, ed., “Sins,” in The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotions, (Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth, 1975), 87.

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“The riches of His mercy” by John Newton

“The unchangeableness of the Lord’s love, and the riches of His mercy, are more illustrated by the multiplied pardons He bestows upon His people, than if they needed no forgiveness at all.”

–John Newton, The Works of the John Newton Volume 1 (London: Hamilton, Adams & Co., 1824), 450.

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“God is always the most offended” by D.A. Carson

“What makes sin sin, what makes it so profoundly heinous, what makes it so deeply repugnant and culpable, is that it is offense against God. We dare not forget that the first commandment, according to Jesus, is the commandment to love God with heart and soul and mind and strength.

Thus the first sin– first sequentially, first in fundamental importance– is not to love God with heart and soul and mind and strength. It is the sin we always commit when we commit any other sin. At the most profound level, whenever we sin, God is always the most offended party.

David understands this: ‘Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight’ (Psalm 51:3). And that is why, whatever other forgiveness we try to secure, we must have God’s forgiveness, or we have nothing.

Yes, you and I need to forgive one another. Yet in the most profound analysis of what sin is, only God can forgive sin.”

–D.A. Carson, Scandalous: The Cross and Resurrection of Jesus (Wheaton: Crossway, 2010), 159-160.

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