Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Does God REALLY Forgive Us?

Central to the understanding of Substitutionary Atonement is the idea that through his death on the cross Jesus paid for our sins.

We were in debt to God and Jesus paid the debt and therefore God can now forgive us.

Is this true forgiveness... if the "debt" has been paid?

Is there anything left to forgive?

1. to grant pardon for or remission of (an offense, debt, etc.); absolve.
2. to give up all claim on account of; remit (a debt, obligation, etc.).
3. to grant pardon to (a person).
4. to cease to feel resentment against: to forgive one's enemies.
5. to cancel an indebtedness or liability of: to forgive the interest owed on a loan.

To forgive means to cancel the debt not merely have it paid. If a debt has to be paid in order to be forgiven, then it's not really forgiveness.

If you owe me $100 and you or someone else gives me the $100 and I tell you that I now forgive you, you would think I am crazy. The debt was paid and there was nothing for me to forgive you for.

However, if I said, don't worry about the debt you owe me, i forgive you. That means I never expect the debt to be paid. It's done. There is nothing else for you to do.

Did a debt have to be paid in order for God to forgive? And if so, does God REALLY forgive us?

Your thoughts?


JustinGaynor said...

God has much to say about the nature of substitutionary atonement, actually all of your questions and the error of taking ultra-literally the law court metaphor can be gotten at by meditating on the beginning, namely Genesis 3v21 (this is after all how Jesus measured doctrine...whether it was a word of God or the word of one of his prophets (like Moses) to deal with our hardness of heart (there is a difference))...Hebrews 9v14 should put the error of penal substitution to rest for good for those with ears to hear.

LOL...as though God needed anything to be in the right, who will go to law with Him?...Oh, how He loves us!

JustinGaynor said...

One more thing in response to...

'If you owe me $100 and you or someone else gives me the $100 and I tell you that I now forgive you, you would think I am crazy. The debt was paid and there was nothing for me to forgive you for.'

Forgiveness means to bear the weight of the debt yourself rather than requiring it from the person or (as you were pointing out) passing the buck, your analogy doesn't work because YHWY was fully present in and as the 'temple' of Jesus...Immanuel....Yah with us. Jesus was in the Father and the Father in Jesus.

The Father does not forgive us because of the cross of Christ, the cross of Christ is his forgiveness.

letusfollowhim said...

someone always pays. no debt is merely forgiven. if someone owed you $100 and you forgive them, in reality you payed $100. This is the case with God—He forgives us, and pays in the person of His son.

Christ's atonement allows Him to be "just and the justifier." Simply 'passing over sins' would leave God unjust. Read Romans 3.

Jkub said...

Let me remind you that I am not making (intending) to make claims about what I think about the reality of the atonement, but rather raising questions about, what I feel to be, the common understanding of the PENAL Substitutionary Atonement.

At this point I'm much more interested in pointing out what I believe to be flaws in the judicial/law/court metaphor in which Justin pointed out. The whole idea that God is out for blood and his son steps in to fulfil the wrath of God which was intended for us.

I'm totally with you on the debt understanding. The unmerciful servant parable comes to mind. The master forgives the servant of his debt meaning that the master took on the debt himself. I get that.

I should have been more clear about the analogy.

Thanks for the Good input

Jkub said...

...not trying to (completely) get rid of the idea of substitution.

JustinGaynor said...


Great point, you should read Romans 3, but hear this first...righteousness means covenant faithfulness...God offered up Messiah because God was faithful to keep the Abrahamic covenant and thus covenant with Creation despite the transgressions of humanity. YHWY is just or 'in the right' no one can bring judgment against Him, no one can say He is in the wrong. He has shown himself 'just' and by His grace through His faithfulness to those covenants. Has nothing to do with exacting an eye for an eye otherwise he's unjust. (More on this later)

We, whom he foreknew, have become faithful to the Messianic Covenant by the Power of the Holy Spirit working in and through us, which has made the Mosaic Covenant obsolete because we, in the power of the Spirit, make full the righteous requirements of the Law to overflowing. Love always does more than is required. Therefore He is also the 'justifier' because He lives and works in and through us, the living Body of Christ, to demonstrate His ongoing faithfulness to the world which He so loves, from faithfulness to faithfulness.

This is Pauline justification by faith in a nutshell...this is the life of the ages, eternal life, though what you see may be changed like a garment the Word remains... the beautiful, healing Tree of Life that springs forth from the Holy Seed.

One last thought, if a God required the sacrifice because without it he would be unjust, or if some punishment was required...then you would have stood with the Accuser when Jesus was forgiving sins based on love, repentance and faith well before the crucifixion.

So, Is God unjust? Not at all! For he says to Moshe,

“I will have mercy on whom I have mercy,and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.”

So let's get that straight, before we make the same error that the 2nd Temple sects made.


The lawcourt metaphor is spot on, the trouble is that people have understood the metaphor in a Western/Roman/Hellenistic court rather than a Jewish tribunal. This is what Paul, a high ranking Jewish leader draws on because it's what he knows, in order to tell the Truth, but he is telling the same Truth the Synoptics are telling, just in a different way. He ran his gospel by the Jerusalem leaders and they concurred, though they added nothing to him, it is the Gospel of God, the Good News of the Kingdom that comes, the wonderful new world breaking forth like a brand new day, right in the midst of this cold night.

Just because we know that the sacrifice was only required because our consciences required it, otherwise we couldn't be set free, does not make the sacrifice unnecessary, it doesn't mean there was no debt or wrath, there was substitutionary atonement, God was pissed and yes perfect love, gets pissed off sometimes... particularly when the people who are supposed to be representing God manipulate Him and His words for their own personal gain and dominion, rather than His glory and His wondrous dominion, His wise glad order...this brings us back to the 2nd Temple sects and their present day counterparts whether it be in so called 'christian church's', islamic temples or Jewish synagogues and all the different shades of those and many more...but there is only ONE body of Christ, and we are called to love, not tolerate, love all of them with a sacrificial love. Not because we agree with them or their ideals, but because that is how evil is finally exhausted and overcome. Because we let it do it's worst to us and we give it no ground to hurt anyone else, it stops with us, we simply refuse to pass it on, not because we are so strong, but because Him who is in us, is stronger than him who is in the world. As Rob Bell says, 'it stops here'.