God’s Forgiveness Of Sin -- By: William H. Bates

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 079:315 (Jul 1922)
Article: God’s Forgiveness Of Sin
Author: William H. Bates

God’s Forgiveness Of Sin

William H. Bates


“Sin is any want of conformity unto, or transgression of, the law of God.”1

Law, as concerns moral beings, is a rule of conduct enforced by penalty. Law, therefore, is composed of two elements: precept and penalty. Precept tells what to do, and penalty tells the consequences of not doing. Subtract either element from law, it ceases to be law.

Forgiveness is a remission of the penalty due the sinner for non-conformity to, or transgression of law.

Universal Need of Forgiveness

Every human being needs forgiveness, for (Rom. 3:23) “All have sinned.” All have failed of perfect obedience; “all have gone out of the way” (Rom. 3:12), i.e., all have sinned.

In every just law—which every law of God is—both of the elements of law are right. If I break the preceptive part of the law, equity declares it to be right and just that I should suffer the prescribed penalty, and wrong and unjust that I should not suffer it.

The Ethical Ground of Forgiveness Sought

But a serious ethical question arises just here. If forgiveness be the remission of penalty, the question inevitably presents itself, How, or on what ethical ground, can God remit the penalty, or forgive, and not thereby himself do wrong?

A satisfactory rational answer to this problem is thought to present one of the greatest difficulties with which the Biblical and theological discipline has to deal. Indeed, many have given it up as unsolvable, and have

taken the doctrine of forgiveness as simply resting on the authority of divine revelation. Let us see. My moral sense, in common with that of others, tells me that I ought to suffer the penalty of my sin; that it is eternally right that I should suffer it, and eternally wrong that I should not. It demands that the penalty incurred must be suffered. So, whatever answer is given to meet the question, it must certainly include the penalty satisfied; for, if the penalty be not endured, the righteous penal element of the law is violated, and still another—and, if possible, worse—sin is committed.

The Bible proclaims the fullest and freest forgiveness. When, therefore, God forgives a person, it can be only on the ground that the penalty of his individual sin has been met. But how? The ready answer is, Through the redemptive work of the Lord Jesus Christ! “In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness ...

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