Saturday, August 30, 2008

Our God Is Not a Contritionist

So often we hear that we forgive those who are sorry. We forgive those who repent. It seems a logical corollary to the idea that a pastor would "withhold forgiveness from the unrepentant, as long as they do not repent." But forgiveness is not parceled out based on the sinner's repentance.

Yesterday's Bible story was about the golden calf (Exodus 32). Pastor pointed out that, on the mountain, God threatened the punishment the Israelites deserved. Moses interceded for his people and reminded God of His promise to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The Lord reiterated that He would be faithful to His promise, that He would forgive His people. But what was happening at that moment? Were the people repenting? Were they saying how sorry they were that they'd made this idol? Were they putting the idol out of their midst and making sacrifices to the true God?

Nope. They were still reveling in their sin.

And yet, we see God's heart of love and mercy that yearns for them even while they are still despising Him. His love for us is because of what's in Him, not because of our sorrow over sin. And that's good to know.


  1. Just like "God so loved THE WORLD that He gave His only Son, that whosever believeth in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life."

    He died on the cross for ALL sins, but faith needs to be present for salvation.

    Sins can be bound to someone who is unrepentant...but Jesus already died or those sins, just like God was crediting to Him those sins that the Israelites committed when they were worshiping the Golden Calf.

    God's promise doesn't rely on our strength or wisdom. However, faith is what takes hold of the promise.

  2. Yup. "Faith saves" can be understood as "faith is the good thing I do that makes God love me" OR "faith apprehends the forgiveness that is already there in the heart of a merciful God." The passivity of faith which receives God's love and forgiveness is SO important when the devil tempts you to believe that you aren't really a Christian because you haven't "repented well enough" or "shown enough fruits of faith" or "don't really have true faith." All of those taunts are revealed to be self-centeredness when you realize that it's still all about me, and that my eyes are on my own navel instead of on Jesus and what He has done. It's not my contrition that causes God to forgive me; it is His nature and His promise.