Fri April 10 Q 101-102: A Collision of Holy and Unholy
101. What comes next?
I believe in “the forgiveness of sins”.
102. What do you understand by this word “forgiveness”?
That God by His pure goodness forgives and pardons the sins of believers, so that they are not brought to account before His judgment, in order to be punished.
I will step outside of the Catechism for a moment to go to another resource to begin the discussion on the Catechism’s questions on forgiveness. In “The Problem of Forgiveness,” Stott writes,
It is not why God finds it difficult to forgive, but how he finds it possible to forgive at all… Or, in the words of Carnegie Simpson, “forgiveness is to man the plainest of duties; to God it is the profoundest of problems.” The problem of forgiveness is constituted by the inevitable collision between divine perfection and human rebellion, between God as he is and us as we are. The obstacle to forgiveness is neither our sin alone, nor our guilt alone, but also the divine reaction in love and wrath toward guilty sinners. (John R. W. Stott, “The Problem of Forgiveness” in The Cross of Christ [Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1986]: 88.)
We deserve punishment for our sins. We are debtors with a price to pay, lawless ones, transgressors of laws and commandments, and people who have missed the mark of God’s perfection. We have not broken simple human laws made by other people full of sin; we have failed to reach the standards commanded by the Holy and Righteous One. We have enjoyed disobeying him (for no one does anything for any motivation other than pleasure). We have no means by which to repay our debts, and we have no right to an appeal for a second look at the socio-environmental factors that might lead to a not-guilty-by-reason-of-insanity-acquittal. We are guilty and should be brought into account before God’s just judgments, and there should be no means by which we should be forgiven as the Judge’s responsibility to uphold his laws runs into our willful, happy rebellion at full speed.
The Catechism’s truth is our only hope: “God by His pure goodness forgives and pardons the sins of believers.” God supplied for himself Abraham’s (sacrificial) lamb (Gen 22:8); God himself was pleased to bruise the Servant (Isa 53:10); God put forth Christ as a propitiation by blood (Rom 3:24-25); God made him who knew no sin to be sin for us (2 Cor 5:21). God himself is the basis of our forgiveness. It is he who sees the collision and runs into the wreckage — Eph 2:3—we have been in a wrath-wreckage from birth! – with the blood and emptied tomb of Christ to pull us from the death that certainly would be ours from the smashing of the completely holy into the absolutely unholy.
Rejoice, you holy ones, rejoice! For God has forgiven us because of God, not us!