God: Forgiving the Unforgivable
Have I Gone Too Far?
A few years ago, Ernest Hemingway wrote a book in which he told a story of a father and his estranged son. Apparently, they had a fight and the young man, Paco ran away from home and began to wander the streets of Madrid, Spain. Paco decided to try to earn a living as a bullfighter. This is an extremely dangerous job under the best of situations if you are trained by a teacher who is an expert. However, Paco remembering his mistakes and guilt didn't really care if he lived or died, so he blindly followed this professional path of suicide.
Paco's father, frantically trying to find his son, decided to take out an ad in the local newspaper, El Liberal. Here are his words to his son, written in the paper:
“Paco, meet me at the Hotel Montana at noon on Tuesday.
All is forgiven!
However, the father wasn't prepared for the sight that he observed when he arrived at the hotel on Tuesday. Rather than his son, he found 800 young Paco's waiting for their fathers to meet them and to give to them the forgiveness that they so desperately needed and wanted to receive that day.
This story illustrates the fact that one of the greatest needs of the human race is forgiveness. The Bible says that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). None of us is without sin and so all of us have guilt. But the question is, can I go too far? Is there a point where God will just give up on me and say: "That's it!" I've had enough of this person? Can I be too bad for God to forgive me? Will God forgive the seemingly unforgivable?.
I. Horrible Sins Forgiven By God
1. King David
Maybe it's because of our tendency not to forgive ourselves after God, through Christ, forgives us that the Lord put some examples of major failures in His Word that were perpetrated by some of His most trusted and loyal followers. King David comes to mind. Called in Scripture "a man after God's own heart" (I Samuel 13:14; Acts 13:22) David was a model King in many ways and future kings get compared to him as to whether or not they remained faithful to the Lord as His servant David had done. And in Ezekiel 34:23 God promises the people of Israel that in the future:
"I will give them a king like my servant David to be their one shepherd, and he will take care of them."
However, there is a major black mark on King David's reign. In II Samuel 11-12 we read that the King observed, from the roof of his palace, a woman bathing and inquired about her. He found out that her name was Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah the Hittite, one of David's mighty men in his army. David lusted after her, committed adultery and conceived a baby by her.
He then tried to cover it up by bringing Uriah home to have sex with his wife to make it look like the baby was Uriah's. When Uriah wouldn't cooperate because he didn't want to enjoy himself while the army of Israel and the Ark of the Covenant weren't safe, David had to devise another plan. He had Uriah placed at the worst part of a battle and then ordered others around to abandon him so that he would die. In this way he had Uriah murdered.
Then David married Bathsheba and covered up his many sins before being confronted by Nathan the prophet (II Samuel 12:1-15). There were many consequences to David's sin, including the death of Bathsheba's firstborn son, but ultimately God forgave David when the King came before him with a broken and contrite heart. We read about his repentance in Psalm 51. Here are the first four verses of it:
"Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight; so you are right in your verdict and justified when you judge."
It is obvious that If God can forgive, adultery, murder, and lies, then nothing is beyond His grace. He can forgive you as well.
2. The Apostle Peter and Other Apostles
Peter, like most of us, was big on saying what he would do in a life or death situation but was overcome by fear when the actual moment arrived. In Matthew 26:31-35 Jesus predicted that all his Apostles would run away when he was taken to be crucified. Here is the passage:
"Then Jesus told them, “This very night you will all fall away on account of me, for it is written: “ ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’ But after I have risen, I will go ahead of you into Galilee.” Peter replied, “Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will.” “Truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “this very night before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.” But Peter declared, “Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.” And all the other disciples said the same."
We see in this section of Scripture how Peter's apparent boldness also emboldened the other Apostles. However, when Jesus was actually arrested, they all fled (26:56). And later, Peter denied His Lord three times, just as Christ had said. And the Scriptures say that "he wept bitterly" (26:69-75).
Later, we see a repentant Peter preaching to the crowds at Pentecost when the Holy Spirit was given in Acts 2. And the other Apostles as well, with the exception of Judas who was called a thief (John 12:6) and also the "son of perdition" by Jesus himself (John 17:12), became bold as well. These men later literally gave their lives for Christ. An unrepentant Judas, hanged himself. All of the 11 remaining Apostles with the exception of John died martyrs deaths. John lived out the final years of his life on Patmos, a penal colony, because of his faith in Jesus Christ. God used cowards and one who had denied him, to change the world of their day.
3. The Apostle Paul
Paul was another one who was forgiven for great sins and later went on to do spectacular things for the Lord. These sins were committed before his salvation. This godly Apostle, who was perhaps one of the greatest evangelists of all time, was also a murderer and persecutor of the followers of the Messiah that He later came to worship. Perhaps Paul preached so eloquently on the grace of Almighty God because he never quite got over the fact that the Lord would take a terrible sinner such as himself and lavish his love on him and make him the Apostle to the Gentiles (Romans 11:13). Here is his own self-evaluation:
"The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life" (I Timothy 1:14-17).
We cannot look upon all of these examples and think that we are beyond hope, or say to anyone: "If only you knew what I have done, you'd know that God cannot forgive me." Well, God knows what you have done and he does forgive! We can all say with the prophet Malachi:
"Who is a God like Thee, Who pardons iniquity and passes over the rebellious act of the remnant of His possession? He does not retain His anger forever, because He delights in unchanging love. He will again have compassion on us; He will tread our iniquities under foot. Yes, Thou wilt cast all their sins into the depth of the sea." Micah 7:18-19
II. The Unpardonable Sin
There is what some would say is a problem that we must bring up in looking at this great subject of forgiveness. Some people may ask about the unpardonable sin when it comes to the forgiveness that God offers in Christ. If God forgives then what about this sin? You may have heard some people worry that they may have committed that sin themselves. They base their fear on a statement found in Matthew 12:31 where Jesus says:
"Therefore I say to you, any sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven men, but blasphemy against the Spirit shall not be forgiven.”
In order to understand this, we must know the context. The religious leaders that were confronting Christ were attributing the miracles of our Lord to demonic powers when these miracles were actually being done by the power of the Holy Spirit working in the life of Christ (Matthew 12:12-32) That was the blasphemy. By rejecting the work of the Holy Spirit who revealed Christ as their Messiah and Lord, (John 16:10-16), they were showing evidence that their heart was hardened and that they would not repent. Unbelief in Christ and unrepentance are the unpardonable sin.
The good thing is that anyone who is worried about having committed the unpardonable sin hasn't done it. Those who commit this sin are rejecting Christ as Savior and Lord. Anything short of that is within the realm of pardon and forgiveness.
III. No Condemnation in Christ Jesus
Those who worry that God can't pardon because they have gone too far into sin for His forgiveness are dwelling in Romans 7 when they need to move on and embrace chapter 8. Saying God won't forgive you is not putting yourself down as much as it is putting down the work of Christ in your life. It is implying that what he has done is not sufficient for your particular sin.
Salvation is not by works in the first place so it can't be something you do that will cause you to lose it. Rather it is God's grace through faith in the death, burial, and resurrection of our Lord Jesus (Ephesians 2:8,9).
In Romans 7 Paul is talking about wrestling with the flesh and sin in his life. We can feel the pain of someone who wants to do good but can't seem to make it happen. He says:
"For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want" (7:19).
Paul later writes in the same chapter:
"Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from the body of this death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand, I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other hand, with my flesh, the law of sin" (7:24-25).
It is then that the great Apostle moves into chapter 8. This starts with the fact that there is no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus in verse 1 and ends with the truth that there is no separation. Nothing can separate us from the love of God which comes through Jesus Christ our Lord (8:38,39).
What a marvelous chapter for anyone struggling with the weight of sin and God's forgiveness in their lives. Through Jesus, God is not angry with you. He is not condemning you any longer. When he sees you he no longer sees your sin. Rather he sees the righteousness of Christ in you (II Corinthians 5:21).
The words from a song entitled 'A Mind at Perfect Peace' which has been attributed to Horatius Bonar sums up our lives in Christ:
A mind at perfect peace with God,
Oh! what a word is this!
A sinner reconciled through blood;
This, this indeed is peace!
By nature and by practice far,
How very far from God!
Yet now by grace brought nigh to Him,
Through faith in Jesus’ blood.
So near, so very near to God,
I cannot nearer be;
Yet in the person of His Son
I am as near as He.
So dear, so very dear to God,
More dear I cannot be;
The love wherewith He loves the Son:
Such is His love to me!
Why should I ever careful be,
Since such as God is mine?
He watches o’er me night and day,
And tells me Mine is thine.
You are not only eternally forgiven by God, you have a relationship that cannot be lost. It is given to you by the perfect sacrifice of Jesus Christ.
In a book entitled: Occult Bondage and Deliverance K. Koch tells a story about Martin Luther. It seems that Luther had a dream that he was being attacked by Satan. In the dream, Satan unrolled a scroll with all the list of sins that the great saint had committed. Satan read each one and at the end, Luther asked: "Is that all Satan replied: "No" and he proceeded to roll out another scroll and do the same thing. After a third scroll, the Devil finally ran out of sins. Then Martin Luther triumphantly said to him:
"Quickly write on each of them, 'The blood of Jesus Christ God's Son cleanses us from all sins."
What a great and powerful truth that we are forgiven! The sooner we realize that fact, the sooner that we will begin to live in the freedom that Christ set us free to experience. Let us all live the rest of our lives in the power of his forgiving love. And may we share that forgiveness with everyone with whom we come in contact. Thank God for his grace, his mercy, his love and for his wonderful unmerited forgiveness.
© 2018 Jeff Shirley