Friday, March 11, 2016

Hyper Grace: Sin and Forgiveness

One of the foundations of the hyper-grace message is that God has already forgiven all our sins, meaning past sins, present sins, and future sins. ... (Michael Brown, Hyper-Grace, 39)

Simply stated, there is not a single verse anywhere in the Bible that pronounces us already forgiven for our future sins (meaning, sins we have not yet committed). (Ibid., 43)

Dr. Brown's first critique against the hyper-gracers is their strident tone attacking those who reject their message as "legalistic" and "against grace" (Brown, 22-38). The accusations by the hyper-gracers would however be true if what they proclaim was actually true. In other words, Brown's complaint here would only be valid if the hyper-gracers are wrong. If however the hyper-gracers were correct in their understanding of the Gospel, then Brown's complaint would be invalid. Brown scored better in his second critique of speaking about the forgiveness of sins, but even then he fumbles.

The hyper-gracers believe that Jesus forgave our sins past, present and future. Therefore. there is no need to ask for forgiveness for sins committed in the future. Rather, the whole idea is to just declare one's righteousness and not think about sin (e.g. Joseph Prince, Destined to Reign, 17-18). Brown's critique is that Jesus has declared us righteous by faith, but that forgiveness is given only after sins have been committed, "applied as needed" (Brown, 43).

Both the hyper-gracers and Brown are in error on this point, although Brown is closer to the truth. The problem arises when proper theological categories and distinctions are not made. When the question is asked as to whether God forgives our sins "past, present and future," the whole manner of thinking is wrong from the beginning. The question tacitly assumes that the solution to sin is the forgiveness of God, which plays into the hyper-gracers distortion of the problem with Man, but it certainly is not how the Bible expresses itself on the way of salvation.

The orthodox manner of understanding the work of salvation is to distinguish between redemption accomplished by Christ, and redemption applied by the Holy Spirit. Christ fulfilled redemption for all time for all kinds of peoples on the Cross. He has paid the full price of atonement to propitiate the Father's wrath and expiate the penalties of our sins. God is now both just and justifier of believers in Christ (Rom. 3:26). The price has been paid for all sins that has ever been committed, past, present and future. The work of Christ is finished, a fact which Brown has gotten right.

The redemption accomplished by Christ is then applied to believers by the Holy Spirit, who calls, regenerates and applies the verdict of justification to believers, adopting them into the household of God, and then He sanctifies and finally glorifies them. This application of regeneration is applied in time to believers. Redemption accomplished is finished at the Cross, but redemption applied is ongoing throughout time and history.

When we think in this manner, then the question posed by the hyper-gracers can be seen as being imprecise and misleading. Does God forgive our sins "past, present, and future"? God has paid for our sins and thus the forgiveness of sins past, present and future, but the application of that forgiveness comes about by faith and repentance. As 1 John 1:9 states, "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." We are already forgiven, but yet we continually seek forgiveness for our sins. Thus, contra Brown, it is true that we are forgiven of our future sins, but contra the hyper-gracers, it is because we are objectively forgiven of our future sins that we seek forgiveness (subjectively) from God for any sins we commit.

This dynamic is clearly stated in the Bible. We are saved apart from works, so that we might obey God (Romans, Galatians). We are saved from salvation by the Law, in order to obey the Law (Gal. 5:13-14). We are saved FROM good works (contra Legalism) FOR good works (contra Antinomianism). This is the proper manner of understanding the Gospel and the Christian life, which we should take in contrast to both Brown but especially the hyper-gracers.

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