When Christ said, “It is finished!” our salvation, provided we have asked for it, was completed. He didn’t say “It is finished, provided my followers obey the commands that some future mortals may conjure up!” That’s because salvation is handed to us by an act of grace, pure and undeserved mercy. That’s what the purveyors of the “you must always forgive even when forgiveness isn’t requested or earned” forget. They’re attempting to define salvation as something achieved by faith plus works. Sorry, but He doesn’t partner with anyone. He’s already done the work. The glory is His alone.
The relationship between faith and works is that works are the result of faith. In the Bible, faith and works are very often contrasted. They are not the same thing, and the combination of faith and works does not bring salvation. Salvation is by faith alone.
- Rom. 3:28, “For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law.”
- Rom. 4:5, “But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is reckoned as righteousness.”
- Gal. 2:16, “nevertheless knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus…”
False religious systems always teach that faith plus a person’s works result in salvation. This is false, because our good works are filthy rags before God (Isa. 64:6). Therefore, we can’t do anything to please God by our good works. Gal. 2:21 says that if righteousness comes by the law (works), then Christ died needlessly. Matt Slick, What is The Relationship Between Faith & Works?, Christian Apologetics & Research Ministry, carm.org
Christ and the apostles didn’t throw out the Torah and the laws of the prophets. Instead they advocated for the end of the heavy handed rules and regulations that were added to them by the Pharisees and Sadducees to solidify their power and control over people. The three times forgiveness rule was also negated. To advocate for righteousness deserving of salvation by way of faith plus works is to engage in an impossible end game.
But Can’t We Achieve Perfect Righteousness?
Neuroscientists estimate that roughly 10,000 thoughts go through the human mind every day. In the course of a day, we speak thousands and thousands of words. Suppose I asked you to recall the thoughts you thought and the words you spoke on September 3, 1983, or July 13, 1991, or January 27, 2000- how many thoughts and words would you be able to recall? Unless one of those dates happened to be your birthday or your wedding day or the day you drove your car into the swimming pool, you probably could not come up with a single thought or word. It has well been said that a ‘clear conscience is usually the result of a poor memory.’ But God remembers everything. If God remembers every sin we have committed, then we are truly doomed, aren’t we? We are powerless to erase our sins from His memory. We cannot lift ourselves out of the mire of our own sinful condition. Our situation is utterly hopeless- Unless God Himself provides a solution. D. James Kennedy, Solving Bible Mysteries: Unraveling the Perplexing and Troubling Passages of Scripture, Thomas Nelson Publishers, Inc., © 2000, pp. 192-193.
Since Christ has already accomplished our salvation the only thing we need do is to accept him as our adopted heavenly father. Sure, you might be able to always forgive anyone and everyone but what about the other sins you’ll be committing along the way? You know, the slightest lustful, or jealous thought; or spoken word, or action, or in-action that equates to a sin? None of us mere mortals can spin that many plates successfully in the air at the same time. That’s because we’re all sinners in need of the salvation He has offers us. We simply aren’t capable of earning it!
Meanwhile, as our life walk with Christ progresses day by day, He wants us to always be ready to reconcile with others by having a heart prepared to forgive if we are approached for it in sincerity.
“And be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ also forgave you.” Ephesians 4:32
How did He forgive us? Wasn’t it only after we called on Him, sincerely repented and asked for His eternal forgiveness and acceptance into His heavenly kingdom? Then, we, being “born again” hit the reset button of our earthly walk; attempting to live our earthly lives as Christ did his. You see, that’s teshuvah based repentance.
Be reconciled with your broth/sister”…Matt. 5:23-26. “The difference in result between forgiveness that responds to repentance [teshuvah] and forgiveness independent of the repentance of the offending party is, of course, that the former pattern issues in reconciliation while the latter does not. But in both cases what is presupposed is that the believer forgives the offender. Transparently, reconciliation is a good thing if it can be achieved, but the goal of reconciliation should not become a cloak for nursing bitterness because it cannot be achieved. D.A. Carson, Love in Hard Places, Crossway Books, 2002, p 82.
That means that when we are sincerely asked for it by a person who exhibits a changed way of life, we are obligated to forgive. In the alternative, if that person who wronged us never asks for forgiveness we are not to harbor a grudge, plan some sort of retaliation or let our displeasure with him make our life or the lives of those around us miserable.
Search your heart and mind, give attention to these matters and ask yourself: In your earthly walk would a god who loves you burden you with the heavy chain of forgiving unconditionally, a standard different than the one He uses? Examine the Hebrew roots of His ministry and look to see if he expressly commanded forgiving outside of a teshuvah based formula for reconciliation.
Would he be so cold, callous and indifferent to justifiable anger? The answer is no. He understands justifiable anger but he doesn’t want it to let it consume us. We should always be prepared to forgive the truly repentant offender to restore reconciliation.
A Christian, who deliberately harms others, just like an unbeliever, is not living a Holy Spirit inspired life. Your act to call him or her on their conduct could be what the Spirit is waiting on to begin convicting and transforming him or her into an obedient follower of Christ.
We Practice Teshuvah Repentance Though We’re Not Aware of It
Our criminal justice system is based upon the Christ/Hebrew scripture inspired notion that men and women are accountable but it’s tempered with the knowledge they can change their conduct. We allow hundreds of thousands of convicted persons every year, who would otherwise be locked up in our jails and prisons, to enjoy freedom outside a penal environment on the condition they demonstrate a change from the conduct that put them there in the first place. We call it probation and parole.
Alcoholics Anonymous,’ 12 Step Program, uses a teshuvah based concept of seeking help to become free of and make amends to those who have been harmed by a lifestyle of alcohol addiction. Give it a read sometime at: aa.org
If you’ve ever been involved in an accountability group the purpose of it is to seek to see if teshuvah is being practiced by its members.
Anyone who’s ever raised children knows one doesn’t automatically forgive them if they refuse to do their chores, respect their elders, and learn be responsible for themselves We lovingly rebuke and correct them for their errant behavior. It wouldn’t be in their best long term interest to not do so. It isn’t in the best interest of some errant adult, young or old either. Giving them automatic forgiveness may make us feel better. We may even experience a peace but all we accomplished was satisfying a selfish concern for ourselves and not a desire to help another to learn from their wrong behavior and the consequences of it, or to be convicted by the Holy Spirit.
The Old & New Testaments, Christ’s Seamless Messages to Us
To claim the Hebrew teshuvah standard isn’t applicable to you or me is to deny the Holy Spirit’s ability to change lives, to reflect a holy standard for living.
“The Holy Spirit is the one who brings grace and enables the Christian to live the Christian life. “The fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, long suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance” (Galatians 5:22-23).” D. James Kennedy, Why I Believe, West Publishing Group ©1999, p. 175.
We must always remember how the Old and New Testaments are Hebrew messages to the world. The Old Testament is a product of the Holy Spirit. It serves not just as a historical record but as a spiritual one, full of the prophecies of Christ’s birth, life and death that were fulfilled in the Gospels. Search the books of Genesis, Isaiah, the Psalms, Micah, Daniel, Jeremiah, Malachi and others for instance and witness the Hebrew underpinnings of so much of what occurred in the New Testament.
Have Peace in the Knowledge That Christ Has Done All That is Needed
Finally, if your conscience is plagued by the thought that you must forgive someone who you know has no remorse, won’t even admit they injured you, I hope this series will give you peace of mind. If you wish to forgive this unrepentant offender it’s okay. That’s your call. No one is stopping you. But Christ DOES NOT demand you to do it.
When He spoke of forgiving, or referred to forgiveness he was assuming that the person who injured you was earnestly and demonstratively regretful and asking for your forgiveness. Put another way, he was using a kind of shorthand for the teshuvah based forgiveness he was raised with, learned and taught in the synagogues, and the Jewish people (including his apostles) were steeped in for generations from His Torah; that which he swore he would fulfill. He also doesn’t base your salvation upon any earthly work you could possibly come up with because as He said on the cross “It is finished!” The only earthly works He wants from us are those we perform out of gratitude for our granted salvation, not out of fear.
Like the examples cited in Part 9, the Apostle Paul taught by example that forgiveness, given in a silly, willy-nilly, anywhere, anytime to anyone, for anything way was irresponsible. It’s not to be thrown around in a thoughtless, irresponsible way because Christ is also a god of reason, justice and order. He knows there are people in the world who are full of pride, self-centered. The thought of Christ never enters their minds. Others may be aware of Him but they hate, loath and refuse him. He also knows there are those who claim to have accepted him yet live like they haven’t (antinomianism).
All of them refuse the Holy Spirit’s call to their consciences. At best they follow His teachings in a cafeteria style manner. Christ knows that if they do not repent He will one day be forced to deal with them, individually, in a final, eternal manner. Meanwhile He doesn’t want you unwillingly victimized any longer by any of them. Praise be to Christ!