By: Rev. Fr Joseph Nyarko Asare , Diocese
NB: This text is a reactive write-up on a post purported to have come from a once Catholic priest. By way of summary, he teaches that Jesus has dealt with our sins. He concludes that this means that your past, present and future sins are already forgiven once you believe in the fact of Jesus’ act of taking away all sins on the wood of the cross. Patiently read to the end.
The first thing a Christian must keep is that God loves each one. God so loves that he never leaves us in our sins and difficulties, once we open up for his help. He has made available various means by which we can embrace his love and forgiveness anytime we come back to our senses like the prodigal child (cf. Lk 15:11-32).
After the resurrection, when Jesus met the disciples, one of the first things he did was to give them the power to forgive sins. “And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said unto them, “Receive the Holy Spirit: whosoever sins you remit, they are remitted unto them, and whosoever sins you retain, they are retained” (cf Jn 20:22-23)
If all sins, even future ones, has already been forgiven by Jesus on the cross, there would have been no need for him to institute the process of forgiveness. We Catholics have the privilege of the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation (Confession) that makes God’s mercy available for us.
Let me explain something here: the presence of the forgiving love of God is not a guarantee that we must keep on sinning. Like our rooms, no matter how well we sweep each morning, we will always end up the next morning getting some dust to clean. We do not intentionally dirty the room but it always gets dirty, in need of cleaning. Such is our lives with grace. We are always in need of forgiveness because we get soiled with imperfections each day, no matter how much we try to stay out of sin.
Now, Jesus bore our sins on the cross. If we, mistakenly take this to mean that every sin we commit is countered against Jesus, this does not give us a privilege to keep sinning. Let me ask a legitimate question: Would you burden the one who dearly loves you or you dearly love with your sins? Jesus loves us and we love him. If he carries all my sins, will love motivate me to keep on sinning so that I keep on loading him with burdens?
Granted that he actually carries all my sins and none is held against me, that should, in itself, make me fear sin. Jesus is the judge of the Universe. How will I stand in his presence for an entry to heaven after loading him with the weight of all my sins: past, present and future?
Jesus tells us plainly that believing in him and becoming a Christian is not enough for salvation. Jesus says in Mat 7:21, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven; but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven”. A mere mental or verbal acceptance of Jesus, as well as an acceptance and ministering in spiritual gifts are not guarantees of heaven. Faith without works and works without love never saves.
A basic passage that is used to confuse believers is Ps 32: 1-2, quoted by Paul in Rom 4:7-8. It reads, “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds have been forgiven, and whose sins have been covered. Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will not take into account.” This text says neither that your future sins are forgiven nor Jesus takes responsibility of your sins. All that it says is that the one who receives forgiveness is blessed indeed.
Granted that the text quoted in the Psalm is addressing our current state as Christians, it will be great to look at the Psalm in its entirety. The same Psalm quoted in Romans has, in its fourth verse the words, “I acknowledged my sin to Thee, and my iniquity I did not hide; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD”; And Thou didst forgive the guilt of my sin” (Ps 32:5). There will be no need to acknowledge your sins and confess them if you are not responsible for them. If Jesus has forgiven future sins, we should not worry about acknowledging, confessing and atoning for them.
When Paul mentions in Rom 4 that we are not justified by works, he is referring to the then existing Jewish mentality. The Jews believed and held that justification is by circumcision. Thus, an uncircumcised one could never be saved. This is what Paul was addressing. It had nothing to do with actual sins.
The wages of sin remains death, either before or after the death of Jesus. Salvation through Jesus Christ entails, believe, renunciation of past life, profession of faith, baptism, and a life permeated by love of God and neighbour. To miss any of these willingly and freely is to miss salvation. For people who never hear of Jesus, those who desired but died before baptism, and those who were cut off from the Christian community because of disaster, exile or persecution, God, in his wisdom knows the best of plans he has for them. Let us leave them in his care.
Since the words of Paul are used to justify the distorted concept of forgiveness in Christ, let us look at few of Paul’s writings to discover how we ought to live and how we must not abuse the message of the cross.
In Acts 13:38, as Paul preached, he mentioned the purpose of Jesus’ ministry on earth. Paul said, “Let it be known unto you therefore, men and brethren, that through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins.” The Geneva Bible notes explains the text with the words, “Christ was sent to give them free remission of sins who were condemned by the Law”. Paul is speaking about the immediate benefit of those who come to faith in Jesus. Jesus deals completely with the past. Paul never says that Jesus has already dealt with the future of a believer.
Paul says that those who have died in sin should not live in sin (cf Rom 6:1). We cannot do sinful acts after embracing Jesus. This is a call on us, and not a statement of conclusion. We are not suppose to live in sin (indulge in sins) when we receive Jesus as our personal Lord and saviour. From the words of Paul, we are not to indulge in the deeds of the flesh. He emphasized that those who live in sin will not enter into heaven.
In Galatians 5:19-21, Paul writes, “Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you just as I have forewarned you that those who practice such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. (emphasis is mine).
Dear Christian, seek after holiness and do not believe in the lie that your future sins are already dealt with. When you die in sin, you will go to hell. Jesus needs you save so: run from sin and live in holiness. Should you discover a sinful pattern in your life, run to the mercy of God. He is more than willing to restore you after every fall, not after a willful sleep in the mud.
Peace be with you.