I was listening to a radio broadcast, Christian talk radio of course, and there was a discussion over when Jesus died, were future sins forgiven as well as past sins or just your past sins. It is a good question to see how you understand forgiveness and atonement and fun to discuss, but what got me was a caller who said that by forgiving future sins, one was embracing the doctrine of eternal salvation.
This comment reminded me how people equate forgiveness with salvation, as if being forgiven means one is saved. Now I hold that all sins can be forgiven through what Jesus did on the cross, but in regards to 1 John 1:9, I hold that it takes an active effort on the part of the person to repent and ask for forgiveness. The person’s effort does not save them nor get them forgiven, but it is the action of obedience and submission to Christ that allows the appropriation to take place.
I see that the forgiveness is out there for all people and for all sins. There is nothing that cannot be forgiven, except failing to ask for forgiveness. I feel the need to explain my views, because if I do not, someone will either misunderstand what I believe or disagree with me because they do not believe the same way. Religion and doctrines are really good as separating people who would, usually that is, otherwise agree.
So forgiveness is out there, but not all are forgiven. I know it confuses some people since we are not just saying that all sins are forgiven, as if we were putting additional requirements on the people. The problem I find with saying that all sins are forgiven without stressing the need to approach and submit to Christ, is that the statement seems to remove the need for relationship with Christ. Salvation is connected to the relationship with Christ and not simply the forgiveness of sin due to what Christ did on the cross.
When conversing with some Rabbi’s is the view that Christians are not saved as we are committing idolatry. To those outside the church, the majority of the western church treats Jesus as an idol instead of as God. We approach Christ and ask for forgiveness then go back and do the same thing over and over again. That relationship is not there and nowhere near what the Rabbis would consider worshipping God alone. This is the perception that the Church is giving to nonbelievers.
I think a big part of the problem is that we do not teach new believers about the need for the relationship. The standard for those who are newly “saved” is to read the Bible, be good and pray for forgiveness. The relationship that is required to be saved is not really stressed and that is probably because it is not as easy to describe or explain as the “to do lists” for being a good person. How do you submit to Christ as Lord if you do not spend time with him?
Now I am not saying that we do not have to follow the “to do” things. We should be reading and praying and being good, but that motivation should flow out of the relationship with Christ and not to gain or merit favor with Christ. Now this is not always possible in the beginning for these new believers, since the relationship has not really been developed, but if we are to be good children, we cannot allow these people to get stuck on this path of just doing the good works and never developing the relationship and the faith that comes from the relationship.