A Two-Fold Forgiveness

The judicial pardon that we have in our justification on account of the sacrificial death of Jesus is the foundation of our paternal pardon (1 John 2:1-2).

On the one hand, Scripture teaches us that all of our sins–past, present and future–are forgiven based on the once-for-all atoning sacrifice of Christ. On the other hand, Scripture teaches us that we must confess and forsake our sins in order to obtain forgiveness. We know that to confess and forsake our sins is not a one time act that occurs at the beginning of the Christian life and does not recur in our Christian experience. It is a continual process in the life of believers (1 John 1:8-10).

 

Chief among those questions that plague Christians the most in this life are those that concern the forgiveness of sins. Many Christians have asked the following out of a sincere sense of spiritual desperation: If God has forgiven all of my sins in the death of Jesus, why do I need to continually confess my sins? What if I die with unconfessed sins, will the death of Jesus cover them? These are vital questions for which we should diligently search for answers in Scripture. So, how are we to reconcile the biblical truth that God has already pardoned all the sins of believers in the death of Jesus and that Scripture holds out the hope of forgiveness to those who live in the continual act of confessing their sin to God? The answer is found in the distinction between legal and paternal forgiveness.

On the one hand, Scripture teaches us that all of our sins–past, present and future–are forgiven based on the once-for-all atoning sacrifice of Christ. On the other hand, Scripture teaches us that we must confess and forsake our sins in order to obtain forgiveness. We know that to confess and forsake our sins is not a one time act that occurs at the beginning of the Christian life and does not recur in our Christian experience. It is a continual process in the life of believers (1 John 1:8-10).

In his book Evangelical Repentance, John Colquhoun explained the teaching of Scripture regarding judicial pardon when he referenced “God’s judicial pardon of sin in the act of justification…‘I have blotted out,’ says Jehovah, ‘as a thick cloud, thy transgressions, and as a cloud, thy sins’” (Isa 44:22). He then proceeded to explain paternal pardon when he wrote,

By paternal pardon is not meant that forgiveness of all sin which forms a part of justification, but that fatherly pardon which consists in a believer’s deliverance from the guilt which he is daily contracting, by sinning against God as his God and Father, namely, the guilt which renders him liable to the painful effects of paternal displeasure.

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