Recently, former Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour signed pardons for more than 200 inmates. Attempts were made to block and overturn the pardons but they were upheld by the Supreme Court of Mississippi. Here is a clip from CNN.com where Jeffrey Toobin discusses the court’s decision:
I could dive into all the facts and tell you that these pardons were probably not warranted but I will refrain. What I want to point out are the comparisons and contrasts between these pardons and the pardon that God grants to his people.
Toobin’s first comments in the video were:
Blown away. Shocked. Amazed.
This reaction is understandable considering pardons are not normal and typically murderers are not pardoned. This reaction can also be seen in Scripture. David says this in Psalm 31: 1:
How blessed is the one whose rebellious acts are forgiven,whose sin is pardoned! -NET
The reaction to a sinner or law-breaker being pardoned is similar. Granted the sinner is deserving of death while most civil law-breakers are simply locked away. Regardless of the offense, being pardoned should elicit the same reaction that Toobin had. We should be in awe of what God has done for us and “amazed” at his great love.
Toobin also said this:
These people are free, and it’s not just…like they are let out of prison…It’s like they were never convicted at all.
This is an amazing aspect to a pardon. Not only do the sentences end for these prisoners but they are actually free again. Their standing in the eyes of the law are clean and upright. It is as if they have never committed the crime that got them convicted. This is strikingly similar to the Christian doctrine of justification. Here is an excerpt from my post “Justification (Hilaterion)”:
whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. -Romans 3:25, ESV
This is a wonderful verse that sums up what justification is. What I want to highlight though is the word “hilasterion” (propitiation). Lets define propitiation. Bible.org defines it when John F. Walvoord writes:
“Propitiation is the biblical doctrine embodying the concept that the death of Christ fully satisfied the demands of a righteous God in respect to judgment upon the sinner.”
When we grasp propitiation’s definition Rom. 3:25 holds an even greater meaning. Jesus put forward a sacrifice that satisfied the insurmountable gap that separated us from God. That insurmountable gap was created by sin. Our standing with God is that of disdain and disgust because he views people as they are…sinful. Jesus’ sacrifice changed all that. By definition if Christ’s death actually secured a righteous standing before God that means that it is pointed or directed to a specific people. If it isn’t then Jesus’ propitiatory sacrifice never accomplishes its aim because many people refuse to turn to God in faith. This is known as limited atonement. Jesus’ sacrifice was for a specific group of people who are propitiated by his sacrifice through faith. Notice though how Paul underscores Jesus’ sacrifice when he says, “This was to show God’s righteousness.”
The greatness of Jesus’ sacrifice is that it paid for our sins. Not only that it was a complete sacrifice. Our sins were put on Christ and his righteousness was then placed on us. In God’s eyes it is like we have never sinned at all. We are free.
In the article linked to above Gov. Barbour gives an explanation of his pardons:
Barbour has defended his pardons and said the former inmates had been rehabilitated.
Did you notice how Barbour defended his pardon? He said that these inmates had proven that they were rehabilitated before the pardon was granted. This is where the pardon of the Governor differs from the amazing pardon of God. Romans 5:8 says:
But God demonstrates his own love for us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. -NET
Jesus didn’t wait for people to prove their rehabilitation before he gave himself up for his people. He died for sinners that were in love with their sin. He paid the ultimate price for those who didn’t give two cents about their standing before a holy and righteous God. Jesus doesn’t pardon those who earn it…he changes those who never deserved it.
God’s pardon is amazing, God’s grace is freeing, and God’s love is heart-changing.
Thanks for reading.
Yesterday I posted a video of a young R.C. Sproul talking about the imputed righteousness of Jesus. You can check the video here “Justification (Imputed Righteousness)“.
I really like how Sproul explains Jesus’ work on the cross. He first discussed that Jesus took our sin on himself. This is one transaction of Jesus’ propitiatory sacrifice. Our sin became Christ’s sin. This puts us in a place of non-guilt. However, there is a problem. It isn’t the guilt-free people who get into heaven it is the righteous people who get into heaven. In Matthew 13:34 Jesus says:
“Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear.” -ESV
In Matthew 25:46 Jesus says:
“And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” -ESV
Jesus taking our sin from us and placing it on himself is essential in justification, but it is not enough. We must be righteous not just sinless. This work is referred to as imputed righteousness. Jesus takes our sin on himself and places his righteousness on us. We see the imputation of Christ’s righteousness in many places in Scripture. Lets look at 2 Corinthians 5:21:
For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. -ESV
Here we see the two transactions of Jesus’ sacrifice. Jesus became sin. He didn’t “know” sin. This means that he never participated in or gave into sin. This sinlessness makes Jesus’ sacrifice perfect. Because of Jesus’ standing as holy and righteous he was an acceptable sacrifice for our sin. That is transaction number one. The second transaction is Jesus giving us his righteousness.
As Jesus said in Matthew 25 the righteous that enter into eternal life. The second transaction of Jesus’ sacrifice accomplished the need to be righteous. As Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 5, “so that we might become the righteousness of God“. This righteousness isn’t ours. Nothing good can come from us. Good can only come from God. This is the amazingness of Christ’s work. Not only does it take our sins from us but it makes us righteous. It accomplishes what we could never accomplish. It is perfect, holy, and final. I love how Tullian Tchividjian speaks to this when he writes:
It is true! No strings attached. No but’s. No conditions. No need for balance. If you are a Christian, you are right now under the completely sufficient imputed righteousness of Christ. Your pardon is full and final. In Christ, you’re forgiven. You’re clean. It is finished. -theresurgence.com “Wrecked by Grace”
May we all live lives that reflect this essential truth of justification.
Yesterday, we looked at propitiation in Romans 3:25. I gave a brief overview of the word and discussed how it shows God’s righteousness. I encourage you to read “Justification (Hilasterion)” before reading this article. Along with God’s righteousness, propitiation also shows God’s love. Before we dive into 1 John 4:10 we need to look at the depravity of man.
The depravity of man is something that causes much debate in Christian circles. Calvinists call it “total depravity”. I do hold to this view but not because it happens to fit into my theological construct. I hold this view because Scripture clearly teaches it. There are many passages that speak on this but I will focus on two of them. The Apostle Paul understood the sinfulness of man. He understood that depravity was all encompassing and total. We see this in Romans 5:10 and Romans 8:7. Let’s start with Romans 5:10, which says:
For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. -ESV
Paul describes humans as enemies of God. Left alone to themselves, humans do not want to be united with God. The natural man battles against God, rejects God, and hates God. They do not want to accept his call to repent and believe, in fact, they cannot. This inability to respond to God’s call is shown in Romans 8:7 when Paul writes:
For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. -ESV
Paul describes the natural mind as hostile towards God. This fits with Paul’s description of humans being enemies of God. Paul takes this one step further when he says that humans cannot submit to the law of God. It is clear that humans do not want to submit to God’s law but we need to understand that humans can’t do so. In passing, Jesus established this point in his ministry when he says:
“No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.” – (John 6:44, ESV)
So, we see that humans are enemies of God and are hostile towards God. They fight God. They spit at God. They hate God. R. C. Sproul speaks on this in The Holiness of God and says it better than I could when he writes:
If we are unconverted, one thing is absolutely certain: We hate God. The Bible is unambiguous about this point. We are God’s enemies. We are inwardly sworn to His ultimate destruction. It is as natural for us to hate God as it is for rain to moisten the earth when it falls. -R. C. Sproul. The Holiness of God (Kindle Locations 1822-1823). Kindle Edition.
This now brings us to the love of God shown through the propitiatory sacrifice of Jesus. 1 John 4:10 says:
In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. -ESV
I love how John describes Jesus’ sacrifice and how it is consistent with Jesus’ and Paul’s teaching on the depravity of man. Notice that John tells us where love comes from and what love is. John tells us that we don’t love God. This is consistent with total depravity. We are enemies of God so it makes sense that love doesn’t come from us. So, where does love come from? Love comes from God!
God loved us so much that, even though we were deserving of death, he sent his Son to pay for our sins. Jesus fulfilled the need for humanity to enter into a life-giving relationship with God. His death makes people righteous before God even though they were deserving of punishment. This shows us how amazing God’s love is. God loved us more than we hated him. If you are looking for God’s love look no further than the propitiatory sacrifice of Jesus Christ. As the Apostle Paul wrote in Romans 5:8:
but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. -ESV