Tuesday, March 23, 2010

ATP: Forgiven of sin not yet committed?

Can you be forgiven of sins you have not yet committed?

The answer to this question exposes a huge difference between Lutherans and Roman Catholics in their understanding of forgiveness. Case in point: Baptism. For a Roman Catholic, in Baptism, God only forgives past sins. For a Lutheran, when God baptizes you, He places you into His forgiveness. That forgiveness covers past sins, current sins, and future sins. As Luther explained it, we live in our Baptism every day.

So, to the person who is worried that Jesus might return before he has the chance to confess sins and receive forgiveness for those sins, the answer is, “Yes, as long as you remain in the forgiveness delivered to you at Baptism, you are already forgiven of those future sins.” There’s no partial forgiveness. Either all of your sins are answered for by Jesus or none of them is.

But to the person who wants a license to sin, the answer is “No, you may not plan to sin and also remain in the forgiveness delivered to you in Baptism.” Plain and simple, Christians don’t plan to sin. Planned repentance (“If I do this, God will still forgive me”) is not repentance. And to plan to sin is to fight against faith and forgiveness. “If we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins” (Hebrews 10:26).

The means through which God forgives our sins, Absolution, the Lord’s Supper, and the preached Word, are means by which God holds us in the water of our Baptism. They don’t bestow new forgiveness or extra forgiveness. They do deliver forgiveness, but they do so in concert with Holy Baptism, not in addition to it. All of God’s means of grace have this as their goal: to hold you in the forgiveness delivered to you in Baptism. If you remain in the faith and forgiveness delivered to you at Baptism, all your sins are forgiven, taken away and given to Jesus, who has already answered for them.

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