To the BelieverÂ—concerning legal and filial reconciliation to God;
and concerning the forgiveness of sins.
As a believer you are not only a saved sinner, but a reconciled child of God, and it is your privilege to walk daily in the consciousness and enjoyment of that relationship.
You cannot, however, rejoice in the consciousness of your complete reconciliation to your Heavenly Father, and walk in unreserved communion with Him as His child, unless as a sinner you have the full consciousness that your reconciliation to Him, as the holy and just God against whom you have sinned, has been already completed for you by God Himself, through the death of His beloved Son.
If you think that your reconciliation to God’s justice depends in the least degree upon your faith, or upon anything you can do, you will never know true comfort, because increasing knowledge of yourself will but show how utterly unable you are of yourself to do anything pleasing to God; and that even when grace is imparted and
grace assists, the best actions or thoughts, and even faith itself, are rendered so imperfect by the evil within that it is only through the
merits of Christ they can be accepted of God, and be pleasing in His sight.
Your consciousness of reconciliation to your Heavenly Father must, however, rest upon the consciousness of your complete reconciliation to Him as the just and holy God. The latter is ever the foundation of the former. Where there is any doubt about your reconciliation to Him as the just and holy God whose laws you have dishonoured, such doubt will hinder your walk of conscious reconciliation with Him as your Father.
Your reconciliation with God as God, is distinct from your reconciliation to God as a Father. Reconciliation to God has to do with your position as a sinner. Reconciliation to your Father has to do with your position as a child. Reconciliation to God must necessarily be in the way of strict justice and is altogether independent of your experience whether of conviction or of faith. Your reconciliation to your Heavenly Father is different and is the result of gracious operations in your heart.
As God, His justice must be satisfied. As a Father, His love must be satisfied. The former He Himself accomplished by the gift of His beloved Son, who satisfied Divine justice for the sins of the transgressors by laying down His life for them. The latter He accomplishes through the gift of the Holy Spirit, by whose quickening power the sinner is awakened to see his natural state of guilt and condemnation and is led to flee for refuge and salvation to the full provision made in the death of Christ for sinners. By this he learns his full reconciliation as a sinner to Divine justice; and looks to God as a God of grace and mercy, without any fear of wrath or judgment to come. Taught by the word of God, and influenced by the Spirit of adoption, he soon learns that the provision thus made for him as a sinner by the God of grace is also a provision made for him as a child by his Heavenly Father; and in this consciousness he looks as a reconciled child to God, calling Him “Abba, Father.”
All the children of God considered as sinners under law condemnation were, once for all, reconciled by the death of Jesus Christ as their law surety (Rom. 10). This legal reconciliation was complete and can never be altered. Before multitudes of them were born, all their sins were beforehand known to God, and reconciliation was made and satisfaction rendered for all by Jesus Christ as the Father’s covenant servant on their behalf.
On the completeness of this legal reconciliation of the sinner rests the filial reconciliation of the child; and that filial reconciliation is the sure result of such legal reconciliation. Therefore, when, by the quickening grace of the Holy Spirit, a sinner is made anxious about his soul and longs to be reconciled to God: it is not only that he may receive the consciousness of full reconciliation as a sinner to God through the atoning death of Christ, but also that he may enjoy the privilege of sonship and the consciousness of full reconciliation as a child to his Heavenly Father.
According to the order of God’s word, legal reconciliation is first provided, then proclaimed, and afterwards received. Provided in Christ by God Himself (Rom. 5.10). Proclaimed in the ministry of the Gospel (2 Cor. 5.18). Received through faith by the awakened sinner (Rom. 5.11, margin), resulting in conscious peace with God, and in joy in Him as the God of grace and salvation; followed by the consciousness of sonship, which results in a loving and trusting walk with God as his own Father, towards whom he looks with a heart conscious of peace and rest and reconciliation (Rom. 8.14-16; Gal. 3.26, 4.4-7; 1 John 3.1,2). Many saved sinners do not, however, enjoy this latter privilege of sonship and filial reconciliation, but stop short at salvation.
It is indeed a great blessing to live in the consciousness of being saved through the atoning death of the Lord Jesus; but that privilege should be the step to the further privilege of assured sonship.
There was no antagonism between God as God, and God as a Father; but His love as a Father moved Him to make every arrangement for the satisfaction of His justice on behalf of His loved ones and to make every arrangement for their eternal well-being; so that the yearning of His heart as their Father might be fully satisfied. in having them evermore with Him as His happy children in their bright home above (Heb. 2.10; John 17.2; Heb. 2.13).
As the question of the forgiveness of sins is closely related to this subject, a few words in explanation of that question will not, therefore, be out of place.
Law and justice make no provision for reconciliation or forgiveness. It is a question beyond their domain altogether. All that law and justice require is full satisfactionÂ—satisfaction either in the perfect obedience of the subject, or satisfaction in the payment of a suitable penalty for disobedience. Either way the law is satisfied.
Law and justice, however, reigning supreme, they require that grace and mercy should manifest their love of justice by first providing for the full satisfaction of their claims against the transgressors, before they wrought any further good for the objects of their favour. If grace and mercy would place the prisoners of the law amongst the most highly favoured subjects, or give them the place and privileges of the children of the king in the king’s palace, they must first release the prisoners, not by lawless force, but by providing a full satisfaction of the law’s just claims against them. After that, the way is open for grace and mercy to work out their fullest desires.
There are two kinds of forgiveness spoken of in Scripture. The one concerning the sinner as related to the royal law of Divine justice. The other concerning the child as related to the commands of his Father. The former forgiveness is alluded to in Acts 13.38:
“Be it known unto you, men and brethren, that through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins.” This forgiveness is from the God of grace and mercy, for transgressions as regards an
avenging law; for which transgressions, satisfaction to that law has been rendered by the atoning death of the Lord Jesus. This forgiveness embraces the whole of the sins throughout the whole life, and is complete at once, and received by the sinner when he first trusts in the Lord Jesus for salvation.
The other kind of forgiveness is alluded to in 1 John 1.9: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins.” This forgiveness is from God as our Heavenly Father, through the repentant confession of our sins to Him as we are conscious of having acted contrary to His will in our daily path. As regards Divine justice, no repentance, no confession, however sincere, will procure forgiveness. That comes to believers from the God of grace, solely through the full satisfaction to Divine justice rendered By Jesus Christ (Acts 13.38,39; Eph. 1.7; Col. 1.14). Divine justice being thus satisfied, and grace having pronounced a full and free and unconditional forgiveness, the way is fully opened for the display of Fatherly pity and mercy, in forgiving the child his daily transgressions.
God as judge gives an acquittance for the whole of life’s transgressions, even before many of the transgressions have been actually committed, when justice has been beforehand fully satisfied for all. But the Father only grants His Fatherly forgiveness after His child has actually sinned. It is only then the child consciously needs the forgiveness, and the Father is ready to grant it at once, on the confession of His child.
The eye of God, as a judge, sees no sin upon those sinners who truly trust in the Lord Jesus for salvation; for their sins and guilt were alike judicially taken away by Jesus through His death on the cross, when the iniquities and the resulting condemnation were laid upon Him (Isa. 53.6,11; Heb. 1.3). Their sins could not, judicially and in law, be upon both the sinners and their Surety at the same time. Therefore, by the death of Christ for those sins, both the sinners and their Surety are free.
Thus it is that God, as the Head of law and justice, beholds no sins on those who trust in the Lord Jesus. When, however, we consider the relation of God as a Father to His already redeemed and reconciled children, the question is completely different. God, as a Father, does behold the transgressions of His children whenever they disobey His commands; and He will visit such with Fatherly chastisement unless they confess their sins and seek His forgiveness.
The child of God in confessing to His Father, should not ask forgiveness as if he were a sinner in danger of eternal condemnation for his sins; for there is no such condemnation for him now; that being completely removed by the Lord Jesus: but he should ask forgiveness as a penitent child who is grieved for having displeased his loving and gracious Father.
The forgiveness sought in the Lord’s prayer is a Father’s forgiveness, and is not in any relation whatever to eternal judgment and condemnation.
Thomas Moor 1881.