The Mississippi Pardon and the Gospel
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.
Posted on March 12, 2012, in Christianity, Culture, Life, Theology and tagged Christianity, Culture, Gospel, Jesus Christ, justification, life, pardon, reformed theology, theology, truth. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.