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Daniel of Doulogos Name:Daniel
Home: Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
About Me: I used to believe that evolution was reasonable, that homosexuality was genetic, and that people became Christians because they couldn't deal with the 'reality' that this life was all there was. I used to believe, that if there was a heaven - I could get there by being good - and I used to think I was more or less a good person. I was wrong on all counts. One day I finally had my eyes opened and I saw that I was not going to go to heaven, but that I was certainly going to suffer the wrath of God for all my sin. I saw myself as a treasonous rebel at heart - I hated God for creating me just to send me to Hell - and I was wretched beyond my own comprehension. Into this spiritual vacuum Jesus Christ came and he opened my understanding - delivering me from God's wrath into God's grace. I was "saved" as an adult, and now my life is hid in Christ. I am by no means sinless, but by God's grace I am a repenting believer - a born again Christian.
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Daniel's posts are almost always pastoral and God centered. I appreciate and am challenged by them frequently. He has a great sense of humor as well.
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Friday, January 16, 2009
Double Crucifixion. Part III - Follow the Rabbit.
If you haven't done so already, please read through the first and second posts in the series for context.

We start this installment by asking a question about the scope of our forgiveness: How many sins are forgiven when we get saved?

In 1 Peter 3:18, we read, "For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit" [NASB]

There is something of an interpretive challenge, here in that Peter says, "once for all". What exactly does "all" refer to here? People? Sins?

I think the answer is found in a parallel thought in Hebrews 10:12, "but He, having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, SAT DOWN AT THE RIGHT HAND OF GOD," [NASB, capitalization is in the original]. That is, I expect that Peter means that Christ died once for all time, the Just for the unjust. The author of Hebrews further narrows the scope two verses later in Hebrews 10:14, For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified.

One could derail the whole discussion here, I suppose, in defending the scope of the atonement - but for our purposes let's allow that a plain reading of these texts causes one to conclude that Christ died once for those whom He sanctifies.

That is an important starting point, because if it is true that Christ can only die once for our sins, it follows that by (and through) this same death all of our sins are (must be) dealt with - past, present, and future. If there is only one death, it is an all or nothing affair.

While the notion of Christ dying multiple times is, of course absurd, we nevertheless make the case biblically, lest there be some reader who imagines that Christ's death satisfied God's wrath only for those sins which we have committed in the past, and that sins we commit today (or in the future) have not been dealt with yet, and must be satisfied on a "piecemeal" basis from now till the day we die (through confession and repentance), lest we pass into death only partially forgiven. It is an all or nothing choice - either we are forgiven all, or we are not forgiven at all. There is no in between, partial, temporal forgiveness.

We enter onto the rabbit trail, therefore, with the biblical understanding that in the moment of justification all sin is forgiven, it happens once and can only happen once. In that moment all sins including those we haven't yet committed are satisified by the death of Jesus Christ.


posted by Daniel @ 6:29 AM  
  • At 11:20 AM, January 19, 2009, Blogger Jim said…

    Daniel, it's interesting that we always tend to think of the forgiveness of sins as a present act centered in time and space around "us". But Christ died for all of our sins prior to us even being born and therefore to consider future sins as somehow distinct from past sins is really a humourous argument.

    That being said, how do you apply the verse in 1 John 1:9 that says "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness"? It seems His forgiveness is conditioned upon our confession. Do you believe this is a one time deal or an ongoing practice as we walk in the light?

  • At 1:52 PM, January 19, 2009, Blogger Daniel said…

    Jim, John sets the state in verse five, that is, he tells us the purpose of what is going to follow: What he writes is intended to show that God is light, and that there is no darkness in Him.

    We often forget that when we memorize a snippet out of context (not that I am suggesting that you have done so - just saying it happens, and happens often).

    We don't remind ourselves of this in order to produces some bizarre interpretation of what looks to be a clear verse either. We do this because if John is using this snippet to support the thought he proffers at the outset, our interpretation will suffer if it fails not only to harmonize with - but in fact to fully support the thought John is trying to share.

    Why is John showing that God is light and in Him is no darkness whatsoever? Even if history gave us no clues, the text itself suffices to explain - for John begins immediately to describe those who are walking in darkness but imagine themselves to be walking in light - that is, John is not merely describing some false converts, but identifying them as such by description: They are sinning (walking in darkness), but saying that their sin is not really sin (claiming that they are walking in the light). That is, John is addressing a problem that history calls gnosticism.

    The gnostics made some faulty distinction between the spirit and the flesh, which ended up as a teaching that nothing you did "in the flesh" was sinful, because you were no longer in the flesh. Thus they were encouraged to sin all they wanted, since it didn't count anymore.

    That is what John is up against, and he calls that walking in darkness. They thought they were having fellowship with God, but they were not.

    John starts, therefore, by showing that they cannot be having fellowship with God if God is light and in Him is no darkness whatsoever, if in fact they are walking in darkness.

    John points out the error in the verses preceding verse nine, and immediately begins to offer the corrective to that error. This is the context of our snippet. The snippet is being used as a broad corrective, and not in, say, a theologically drilled-down sense. Not that John is being vague, but that we do well to keep the scope of our interpretation on par with the scope of John's instruction.

    Before we get to the snippet itself, recall that the point being made, of which this snippet is a part, is actually in verse 10, "If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us" - that is, John brings us "confessing our sin" - as it pertains to the point being made in verse 10 - "if we say we have no sin..." The snippet in verse nine is held in tension against verse 10 - and an informed understanding of what is being said in verse nine, requires us to acknowledge in our interpretation the purpose John intends in mentioning the snippet.

    Now, as to verse nine itself, given all these caveats,

    In order to get the full flavor of what is being said, we should also understand that Greek doesn't always translate into English in a fully nuanced way.

    Often a single word in Greek, in order to be fully nuanced in English, that is, in order to remove all inherent ambiguity, can require five more English words - words which, while more precise, would often be jarring to an English reader.

    Without going too deeply into it, the word translated as "confess" here, in the Greek carries a durative (ongoing) sense, that isn't coming across well.

    If we flesh out the nuance, you will see that there is less room for ambiguity for the notion here is that "we are continuing to be confessing"

    Thus, consider the flow of what John is saying:

    John begins with the premise that God is light and shows from this premise that those who walk in darkness are not having fellowship with God, even if they think they are.

    John then contrasts this error with genuine faith: "But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin."

    Note that our fellowship is tied to "walking in the light", here - and note that John again, immediately, contrasts that to walking in darkness, "If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us." - When John says, "we lie" he means we are attempting to deceive others by a falsehood, i.e. we are trying to pass ourselves off as something we are not.

    When we get to verse nine, the thought is that if we haven't embraced the wrong-headed notion that the evil we do is no longer sinful - but continue to regard our sin as sinful (agreeing with what God says about our sin) - then we are walking in the light - then the blood of Jesus cleanses us righteously, as opposed to this bizarre, unrighteous cleansing which was being presented as the genuine faith (i.e., your flesh is sinful, and it will be destroyed, but your spirit is untainted, so that anything you do your body will pay for, but not you - which is not righteousness at all, but a twisting of the same.

    Walking in the light reveals not Gods glory, His grace, His righteousness, and mercy. The point of John's admonition to constantly confess your status as a sinner, is not to suggest that God metes out forgiveness based upon your ability to remember sin, and confess it categorically, such that he must (if He is to remain just) condemn you in spite of Christ should you fail to confess even the smallest of sins.

    The point is that if you deny that you are a sinner, you are not walking in the light (i.e., you are not a Christian), no matter how convinced you might be that you are.

  • At 4:19 PM, January 19, 2009, Blogger Jim said…

    Daniel, I appreciate your detailed answers. Let me ask a few questions - not for the sake of being snarky - but because I know you will consider them carefully, and because I am hesitant to buy your caveats (which require extra-Biblical assistance, IMHO).

    Let us suppose you are correct and John was contrasting the practice of gnosticism with a true understanding of walking in the light. If this were true, we definitely have a resurgence of gnosticism in the Church today and sadly the majority of professing christians are not saved. I am reluctant to accept that argument with a broad stroke but agree in circumstances and situations it is most likely true.

    John starts his epistle by stating that fellowship with God is the goal which he is longing for the believer to have. Hence the goal of our walk is not simply the cleansing of sin and revealing of light but an intimate fellowship with the Godhead.

    I agree with you that the word confess signifies an ongoing practice of agreement with the truth. As we walk in the light God continues to expose areas that we must confess as being sin. This cycle of confessing and cleansing is a natural process in the Christian's growth and maturity.

    However, many Christians have become stunted because when they were confronted with the truth as revealed by the Spirit of God they shrank back and refused to confess their sin. Unwilling to humble themselves they put on a front and say that they do indeed have fellowship with God when they are actually walking in darkness. John continues this theme in chapter 2 stating that if we hate our brother we are also in the darkness.

    Coming to the light is a very painful and humbling occasion at times but is most necessary if we wish to continue on the path of sanctification and transformation. Failure to obey the Lord results in our self-justification and rationalization of scripture. In effect we nulify the grace of God. Therefore I would disagree that all believers are categorically walking in the light as a constant reality.

    "The point of John's admonition to constantly confess your status as a sinner"

    Daniel, where does the Bible say that our status is a sinner? Are we not saints? Have been not been transferred from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of His dear Son? Have we not been buried and raised together with Christ? Are we not a new creation in Christ? Are we to not to reckon the old man dead to sin, but we ourselves alive to God through our Lord Jesus Christ? Thus we are no longer sinners but saints, children and heirs of God.

    Yes we sin but our status is no longer that of the sinner, but the child of God.

    Thus I would say; if you deny that you have sinned (when the Spirit convicts) you are no longer walking in the light, no matter how convinced you might be that you are.

  • At 11:42 PM, January 19, 2009, Blogger Daniel said…

    Jim, forgive the length of my comment. I didn't stretch it out in order to exhaust you - I just found that it took a lot to say what I meant to say...

    I now regret using the word status, as I didn't anticipate how you would construe it.

    I should have said, The point of John's admonition is that [1] a Christian is one who acknowledges that he or she sins while conversely [1] one who denies that he or she sins is –NOT-- a Christian.

    I want to try another angle here – sometimes that helps.

    In 1 John 2:26 the Apostle writes: These things I have written to you concerning those who are trying to deceive you.. Do you recall John’s second epistle? He describes these deceivers there again in 1 John 1:7 thus, “For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is the deceiver and the antichrist.”

    I am going to go out on a limb here, and suggest that these antichrists were not Christians who were teaching the way of sanctification incorrectly, but in fact false brethren who were deceived themselves, and trying to seduce these genuine believers through that doctrine by which they themselves were deceived.

    When John contrasted walking in darkness with walking in light, he was (according to his own testimony) comparing those deceivers who were walking in darkness with genuine believers who were walking in the light. Said without the metaphors of darkness and light – John was comparing their false unenlightened teaching with the enlightened understanding of the gospel.

    It is in -this- context that John says "if we say we have no sin (as those who are trying to deceive us say they have no sin c.f. 1 Jo 2:26), then we deceive ourselves (just as those deceivers are deceived) and the truth is not in us. In 1 John 2:4, those who do not have the truth in them are described as lying when they say they know Jesus. That is, they not saved.

    So when we read 1 John 1:9, we must ask ourselves, what aspect of their false teaching was John correcting?

    I don’t believe that John was correcting the antichrist’s understanding of how sanctification works… Rather I think John was correcting the gospel that was being presented by those antichrists.

    Said another way, even though the verse, when examined in a vacuum, seems to be teaching us that fellowship with God is achieved through a rigorous regiment of confessions, yet I don’t believe this was a passage is a fellowship recipe, nor a (direct) teaching on sanctification. If someone wants to understand sanctification by faith – they should read Paul’s epistle to the Galatians, especially chapter three.

    Looking at it from the other side; if 1 John 1:9 really is teaching that God not only cleanses us from our sins – but actually forgives sins on the basis of individual acts of confession, then 1 John 1:10 goes on to teach that failure to confess even one sin it shows that God’s word does not abide in us. In John 5:38 it tells us that the reason someone doesn’t have God’s word abiding in them is because they do not believe in Him who God sent.

    On the other hand if 1 John 1:9 is contrasting saving faith with a false gospel - then the context of 1 John 1:9 is describing not the cleansing of sanctification, but the cleansing that takes place in the moment of justification. If we are confessing, that is, if we are coming to Christ as sinners saved by grace, then the blood of the lamb cleanses us from all sin – that is, then we are saved/justified. We see this exact same language used of conversion in Acts 15. There Peter testifies about the conversion of the Gentiles in this way: they had their hearts cleansed by faith.

    To understand what John is on about, one needs to understand who the Gnostics were. Gnosticism was a religion that predated Christianity. It taught that all matter was evil and all things metaphysical were good (i.e. all things spiritual). It taught that humans, having a material component were devolved from a higher, pure spiritual state into a state where matter and spirit were mixed. The idea was that if one had the right knowledge, one could transcend this material world and re-evolve into a pure spiritual being. Sort of like you were already a lesser deity, trapped in the material world, and that given the right information, you could return to the spirit world. Of course – no material teacher could pass along this teaching since all matter is evil and corrupt. Thus Christianity was co-opted by this religion. Jesus did not come in the flesh (c.f. 2 John 1:7) , because matter is evil – no, Jesus was a spirit – an emissary of the OT God (who himself was a lesser God), sent to instruct us in how to achieve pure spirituality.

    It was the co-opting of the gospel that made this heresy so horrible – since it presented Gnosticism in Christian garb. The trouble with this religion is that it was not Christianity. These people were not enlightened, but in darkness – hence John’s phraseology. They claimed to be enlightened, but they were walking in ignorance.

    This co-opted version of Christianity, this bizarre and false Christ - denied that Christ had come to redeem us from sin, or reconcile us to God - it taught that Christ came with a message of self-redemption, that he descended from the spiritual realm in order to set free our inner deity from the material realm. Gnosticism denied the reality of sin and guilt, and therefore denied the need for repentance, and the need for Christ’s vicarious death - Jesus was a savior in the sense that he enabled “spiritual wholeness” he was a spiritual doctor who cured us of our primary sickness: ignorance.

    I think that it was this false Jesus/gospel/system that John was refuting. These Gnostics thought that they were fellowshipping with God, and leading others into the same – when in reality they denied that there was such a thing as sin, or a need for reconciliation with God.

    Thus John’s refutation makes sense. They were clueless about the true gospel (walking in darkness), and they denied that they were sinners, since they denied sin itself.

    Given that these were a real people, and that Gnosticism really did infect Christianity during that time, and given that John makes reference to these deceivers and antichrists as denying that Christ came in the flesh – I think it is more than reasonable, especially given the context on the passage itself – to conclude that John is not having an intramural discussion about the finer points of sanctification, as though he were merely instructing an immature believer in the finer points of fellowship – but rather John is being proactive in defending the gospel against the Gnostic heresy, showing that these Gnostics are not believers but unenlightened pagans.

    So that when we get to the line “If we confess our sins Christ is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness” it is not describing how to be sanctified, but describing the character of saving faith – Christians do not pretend there is no such thing as sin – for why should we strive to be saved from it, if sin does not really exist? No, says John, we do not deny sin – we confess it – we agree with God about our sin – and the day that we did that – the day that we saw ourselves as condemned sinners before God – on that day we cried out in faith to be saved, and were cleansed by the blood of the Lamb. We who confess our sins (as opposed to the Gnostics who do not) are forgiven them, and cleansed from all unrighteousness.

    That is, I think, how it is supposed to be understood.

    If the text is saying that we fellowship with God through confessing our sins, then it is also saying that our sins are forgiven through daily confessions – which means that Christ did not die for our sins, but just to make our confession valid – and we better confess all of it, because if we miss even one, we are doomed.

    Given that is an inescapable conclusion, how are you doing my brother? Have you experienced an on going cleansing from all unrighteousness? I mean, if this is talking about sanctification, and not justification, then being cleansed from all unrighteousness is certainly going to be an experiential reality… right? So my presumption is that you have either been cleansed, experientially from all unrighteousness (and I mean –ALL—unrighteousness) and are likewise forgiven, or you are going to die in your sins, and are a hypocrite (I am giggling at the absurdity).

    I think if you meditate on it for a while, especially on the fact that these things must not remain high handed truths that find no purchase in our lives – either we are cleansed from all unrighteousness forensically in the moment of salvation (but not experientially in our lives), that is, either this is speaking of our justification – or it is speaking of our sanctification – whereby you should expect to experience a sinless perfection the first time we confess our sins – at least if we are going to be consistent…

    Hope I haven’t worn you out. Love ya man.

  • At 11:24 AM, January 21, 2009, Blogger Jim said…

    Daniel, I think I understand your view here. I am not totally convinced as I don't believe we need to understand the finer points of gnosticism in order to really know what John was trying to say.

    "one who denies that he or she sins is –NOT-- a Christian."

    Daniel, I have met many people who have openly acknowledged they are sinners and who have sinned; some even who go to "confession" or "pray" to God regularly, and yet have not trusted Christ alone to save them from their sin.

    I will try to meditate on this for a while to really understand what you are saying. Can you please explain to me your understanding of how we deal with sin day to day and how (if at all) the need for confessing plays in that?

    I am trying not to develop too many items at once lest we create multiple rabbit trails.

  • At 12:14 PM, January 21, 2009, Blogger Daniel said…

    Jim, I too have met many people who openly acknowledge that they are sinners and who have sinned, and go to confession, pray, read the bible, go to church all dilgently and regularly, who have not confessed Christ in a salvific way. I was born and baptized a Catholic after all.

    When I say, "one who denies that he or she sins is –NOT-- a Christian." I do not suggest that merely confessing oneself a sinner equates to saving faith.

    You ask about my understanding of how we deal with sin day to day, and I am afraid that the answer is so simply you may miss it by imagining it is more complex than it is. Romans six tells us to stop presenting our members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but to present them to God instead. That's "how" we do it.

    We don't wait around for feelings, we don't wait around for mystical pressure - we just do what God told us to do, and TRUST that God is going to work through that just as he said he would.

    You see, there are really only two motives for pursuing sanctification - either I want to prove to myself I am saved (fear is driving me), or I want to draw near to God (love is drawing me).

    Too simple? let me know.

  • At 12:17 PM, January 21, 2009, Blogger Daniel said…

    I should add Jim, the greatest hinderance to a walk with God is the secret and nagging suspicion that God doesn't accept us because of our sin. We can spend all our time trying to over come that, and never come an inch closer to God - all the while losing confidence in the whole Christian endeavor, until eventually we become frustrated, and disenchanted pew warmers with heads full of verses that never saved us from sin.

  • At 1:43 PM, January 21, 2009, Blogger Jim said…

    Daniel, it sounds simplistically simple and perhaps the reason why we miss it so often. :)

    I can tell you that the biggest hinderance probably to my walk with the Lord and I am guessing the majority other Christians is the unwillingness to unconditionally surrender everything to Him. IOW, I don't love Him with all of my heart as I ought, and the love of the world still has a pull at times.

    There have been times when I was enraptured with the reality of Christ, but I must confess these times are not constant. This combined with a weak faith no doubt dampen my love for Christ and obedience to Him.

    Am I alone in this?

  • At 2:04 PM, January 21, 2009, Blogger Daniel said…

    Am I alone in this?

    Definitely not. We learn obedience, it doesn't just fall out of the sky.

    There is chastisement, there is fellowship, there is growth and progression. Even in what seems to be a mire of stasis, there is growth, for we learn as we come out the other end that God was with us, we learn as we come out of every failure that God remains for us - in every thing, whether perceived as success or failure, we learn more about God, because God is with us in it all - so that all things work together for the good of those who are in Christ.

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