A Heretical Question?

Here in the churches of Christ, we have studied Scripture and discerned a plan of salvation. 5 simple steps that God requires everyone to follow in order to receive his forgiveness.

HEAR (Romans 10:17)

BELIEVE (Mark 1:15)

REPENT (2 Cor 7:10)

CONFESS (Rom 10:10)


(were we sexta-phalangeal creatures, we would add ‘BE FAITHFUL UNTO DEATH’)

Now, here’s my question: Does it trouble anyone that we believe God requires us to walk this path in order to receive forgiveness from Him, but that He also requires us to simply forgive others, without any such policy?

Does God hold us to a higher standard than He Himself meets? I will not believe that, but that seems to be the answer that our hermeneutic provides when make this comparison within its system.

OR have we deeply misunderstood “the forgiveness of sins” and the nature of Scripture itself?

in HIS love,



About Nick Gill

orphan-poet-adoptee-soldier-prodigal-servant-husband- counselor-desperate seeker after my Father's face "I feel my body weakened by the years as people turn to gods of cruel design. Is it that they fear the pain of death, or is it that they fear the joy of life?" - Toad the Wet Sprocket

Posted on 13 August, 2008, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 9 Comments.

  1. Nick,

    I’m NOT a fan of the five steps. It’s a strange modification of what Walter Scott used to use, an attempt to add something to the Bible that isn’t there. That being said, hasn’t God always asked men to do something to be in relationship with him? Focusing merely on forgiveness seems to warp things a bit; to me it’s more about relationship.

    Covenant relationships go beyond mere hospitality. It’s one thing to mow the yard for a friend; another to accept the position of gardener at his home. My wife and I had a loving relationship before our wedding, but that ceremony brought a new dimension to our relationship. [Even if I had just “taken her into my mother’s tent,” something would have changed when we became man and wife.] It seems to me that the analogy of merely forgiving someone does not completely correlate with what happens in salvation.

    Grace and peace,

  2. I agree wholeheartedly — which is why I struggle with how we focus singlemindedly on a literalistic understanding of the phrase “forgiveness of sins”.

    The covenant relationship between God and man encompasses far more than the sin factor. Until we internalize that (that God is more interested in us getting our hands dirty for him than in us keeping our hands clean for him), we will continue to struggle with evangelism and prayer.

  3. I understand what you are saying. For the record either way can and often is a formula so I know people who did the other way who have the same anxieties/fears/issues. It doesn’t come from one formula or the other, it comes from seeing the relationship built on a proper formula.

    Since the Bible was not inspired as a science formula and those who originally received it didn’t think scientifically looking to create a formula so no wonder this creates such an issue.

    My greatest liberation was reading the early church fathers on baptism and instead of simply going back to find a defense for one formula or the other I actually looked at their attitude and understanding. Liberating indeed.

  4. We always get into trouble when trying to codify or number (or make a checklist) what isn’t codified (or a checklist) in scripture. I think of Maimonides and the 613 precepts. God bless.

  5. I understand the complication of forgivess. However, when we put ourselves where we ought, it is not difficult at all.
    God is God. His reaquirements for how are forgiven are far and above our requirements for others.
    He requires repentance and baptism, asking for forgiveness -from the Christian, for the purpose of obedience to Him, of the pursuit of righteousness, to enter Heaven.
    Our reasons to forgive others are so that other’s may glorify God.
    We do not require outright repentance of others because we to are sinners. We are not better than anyone as far as sin goes. We cannot think that we require what God does, because we cannot give the rewards that God gives. Our duty is to represent Christ. Let our light shine. To be an example.
    God requires us in plain terms, to forgive your neighbor. So let’s do that. If the other person is not sincere, that God will deal with. Let us have a heart of forgiveness and mean it.
    I hope that has helped.
    God Bless,
    Tammy Snyder

  6. God’s reason for forgiveness is the same as ours: “So that we may glorify Him.”

    John 20:23 doesn’t sound like we are just to be examples. In fact, that whole passage sounds like those who have the Holy Spirit are to be ambassadors (2 Cor 5:19-21), not just examples.

    My question is not about whether or not we should forgive; nor is it about whether or not we should require repentance or anything else first.

    It is about the way our particular pattern suggests that God is not as forgiving as He expects us to be. I do not believe it is the only way that Scripture can be read, nor do I believe that it is the closest to the way the texts on “forgiveness of sins” would be heard in the first century.

    When we offer forgiveness, we are serving as ministers of God. Our forgiveness is expected to be an image of God’s forgiveness. So if they operate differently, then what we are doing is NOT a reflection of what God does.

    My contention is that we understand how God expects US to forgive very well. Our understanding of HIS forgiveness is unhealthy, and it affects everything else that we do.

    in HIS love,

  7. I think all five of those things are important, but I with K.S. Moser in that I think we have to exalt The Man over the plan.

  8. Nick said “God’s reason for forgiveness is the same as ours: “So that we may glorify Him.”

    Nick I don’t know that is the reason, but I do believe that is the result.
    I think the reason for forgiveness is so the forgiver and the forgiven may become closer to one another.
    I believe that was the purpose of God’s forgiveness of man. and no God does not expect that we seek forgiveness from him, in the same way that we seek to forgive our brothers.

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