Future Sins Forgiven in Advance: The Fundamental Error of Hyper-Grace

Outside the Box, But Interesting

Michael Brown (a charismatic) is writing specifically against an antinomianism common in some charismatic circles (see his book on this), and if you don't get that context, you may not understand where he's coming from. So, while the context which prompted the article is a bit outside the normal fundamentalist "bubble," he does raise a very interesting question with some intriguing implications:

  • Have I been wrong in the past to tell people Jesus has forgiven all the sins they have committed, are committing and ever will commit? Have I been subtly (and unwittingly) encouraging antinomianism?

Does this lead to a one-dimensional understanding of what sin is? If I commit a sin in the future, and I forget to specifically confess it, am I therefore unforgiven? Brown wrote,

"Jesus paid for all our sins when He hung on the cross, which means that for all of us living after the cross, He paid for our sins before we were ever born. But He does not forgive our sins until we come to Him asking for mercy, and when He forgives us, He forgives what we have done," (emphasis mine). 

He then appealed to the present tense-form of 1 Jn 1:9 (among other places). I hear what he's saying, but his argument seems to make sin a mere act, not a state or status a Christian has been redeemed from. I've been pondering what, exactly, sin is lately, so this is particularly interesting to me.

TylerR is a former Pastor. He lives with his family in Olympia, WA. He blogs here.

I think

that what Michael Brown is trying to say is Romans 6:1-14, and that he does not charitably view the idea that grace is provided so that we can continue to sin.

But his article does raise an interesting point of study for me, and that is the functional difference between forgiveness and atonement.

John B. Lee

Agreed

JBL wrote:

the functional difference between forgiveness and atonement

I think that is the crux of it, really. 

In one sense, atonement is a completed and final action - we are justified once for all. In another sense, though, it is an ongoing process - we are "being saved," (1 Cor 1:18).

Forgiveness is a bit different, because it depends on your status. Brown appealed to 1 Jn 1:9. I think we should always distinguish between (1) forgiveness which restores a believer to fellowship in God's family, and (2) forgiveness which makes somebody part of God's family in the first place. 1 Jn 1:9 seems to be referring to the former option. There is all the difference in the world between forgiveness which adopts you into God's family, and forgiveness once you're already within that family. 

TylerR is a former Pastor. He lives with his family in Olympia, WA. He blogs here.

"If we say that we have no

"If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us."

 

Can we say we're ever without sin? If not, what happens when we die? Or what happens if we die before repenting for our MOST recent sin (probably just seconds ago, if that.)?

 

 

 

Inter-twining Topics

That is what makes this question so interesting - and complicated. It combines several connected issues (atonement, forgiveness, sanctification, sin), and Brown's article makes assumptions about each of them to make his argument. To make matters more difficult, he is writing against a particularly charismatic flavor of antinomianism that is more than a bit outside our orbit.   

TylerR is a former Pastor. He lives with his family in Olympia, WA. He blogs here.

No, 1 John 1:9 is about salvation.

It's part of two pairs of statements and rejoinders, beginning with verse 6, describing an unsaved person ("If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.")  Verse 7 is the rejoinder, describing the saved person ("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.")  Likewise, verse 8 describes the unsaved ("If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us") while verse 9 describes the opposite ("If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.")

Grace wherein we stand

Brown is wrong. I appreciate what he's trying to do, but "forgiveness" is not actually the issue. Believers don't choose the path of obedience because they'll need forgiveness if they don't. This is the not the motivational dynamic we're called to. Rom 5:1-2. We are justified and stand in grace. A justified person positioned within grace is a forgiven person and, to borrow his phrase, "Scripture doesn't teach anywhere" that this standing is altered by what we do. Needing forgiveness in that sense is not on the table.

Which raises the question: in Brown's view, what happens if a believer dies while not "forgiven"?

If he says "He goes to be with the Lord," then he is clearly not really talking about "forgiveness" in reference to sin. If he says the believer goes into wrath, he's being consistent with the term but has other problems! 

1 John 1:9... I'm strongly inclined to see both v.8 and 9 as referring to believers. In the epistles of John, is "we" ever in reference to unbelievers? Maybe, but this is unusual if it happens at all.  [Edit: OK, I'm pretty sure he does occasionally use "we" and "us" this way. still, the benefit of the doubt has to go to "we" and "us" being believers, the recipients of the epistle.]

The key here is understanding that John is talking about fellowship, an experience. He's not talking about our standing before God as forgiven or unforgiven people. So 1:9 is about clearing up the relationship and restoring fellowship in our end, not fixing our standing on God's end. The latter never changes.

I may have been taken the

I may have been taken the wrong way.

 

I used 1Jo to point out that we're ALL going to hell if we must be forgiven of every sin individually, by confession, before our death. And I used it because:

Are we ever without sin, even for a moment? Can we say that? It implies we can't. How then are any saved?

 

We know some are saved, so it can't be used this way.

Questions for Further Discusson

  1. Is correct to say that, if you're a Christian, you've been permanently adopted into God's family, been made a citizen of God's coming Kingdom, and are justified once for all in His sight?
  2. If this is correct, then are you therefore already forgiven for future sins?
  3. Is Brown confusing progressive sanctification with initial sanctification (i.e. justification)?

It is important to point out that one mark of a true Christian is perseverance, and a honest desire to follow the Lord, whether he is successful every day or not. That is, antinomianism is the antithesis of true regeneration - the Apostle John spent 1 John making that case against the proto-gnostic libertines.

It seems to me that Brown wants to fight against a real false antinomianism teaching particular to charismatics, and in doing so he swings a bit too far to the other side. Rather than claiming that Jesus did not forgive future sins, it might be better to focus on the Bible's teaching against sinful liberty (e.g 1 John as a whole).

TylerR is a former Pastor. He lives with his family in Olympia, WA. He blogs here.

I think too much gentleness

I think too much gentleness is being given to him, because this is basically gospel we're talking about. If his teaching is correct, then we know from other scripture that no one is going to heaven.


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