The Resurrection: Hope and Consequences

ResLife

Here in Romania, on the second day of celebrating the Resurrection, our pastor’s text from Luke 24 concerned two perplexed disciples on the Road to Emmaus. Their state of mind is best summed up in their words, “We had hoped…”

crux

In their encounter with the resurrected Jesus, that dashed hope blooms as he breaks bread with them and they recognize him. Rushing back to Jerusalem, they find the other disciples also rejoicing. The worst moment in their lives, the Crucifixion, has now been transformed into the most hope filled day of their lives. “The Lord has risen indeed.”

Hope abounds and persists. Years later Peter wrote, 3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,…” (1 Peter 1).

Our hope is rooted in, and confirmed by, the Resurrection. But the Resurrection also has consequences. As Paul told those who worshiped other gods,

Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, 31 because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead.” Acts 17

And the responsibility for conveying that message is given to us. “Ye will be my witnesses.”

Advertisements

Repentance And Forgiveness

Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance . . .

                                                                                    –Dietrich Bonhoeffer

The exception proves the rule.

We have rules and we have exceptions—each has its proper place.

Today, however, when the topic is forgiveness, we hear many Christians thoughtlessly citing the exception just as if it were the rule; it appears as if they have never heard and applied the true rule.  (Shades of Murphy’s Law!) We hear the exception from Jesus on the cross (an exceptional circumstance indeed!) with reference to his executioners: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34).

When this verse is quoted out of context, the emphasis always falls on “Father, forgive them.” The remainder of the verse is all but forgotten.  Who are the “they” who “know not what they do”? I. Howard Marshall explains the verse in this manner: Jesus, addressing God, “asks him to forgive ‘them’ (the executioners, possibly all who are involved in his crucifixion), on the grounds of their ignorance; their sin is unwitting.”

But Jesus also teaches us the clear rule that forgiveness is conditional based upon the repentance of the sinner: “Take heed to yourselves.  If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him” (Luke 17:3).

First, note that this concerns a “brother,” that is, a fellow believer.

Here, Jesus’ exhortation to forgive rests upon the conditional phrase, “if he repents.” The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia states, “Jesus recognized that there are conditions to be fulfilled before forgiveness can be granted.  Forgiveness is part of a mutual relationship; the other part is the repentance of the offender.  God does not forgive without repentance, nor is it required of mankind.”1 (This aspect of a mutual relationship has been banned from today’s self-centered, therapeutic notions about forgiveness.)

In expositing Peter’s preaching on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:1-47), F. F. Bruce states, “It would be a mistake to link the words ‘for the forgiveness of sins’ with the command ‘be baptized’ to the exclusion of the prior command to repent. . . . blotting out of the people’s sins is a direct consequence of their repenting and turning to God.”

And we must not confuse these two aspects: though forgiveness is conditional on repentance, it is also unlimited, even to seventy times seven.

From Love, Prayer, And Forgiveness  for ebook or print ed. at  Amazon