by Mike Ratliff
Behold, I made him a witness to the peoples, a leader and commander for the peoples. Behold, you shall call a nation that you do not know, and a nation that did not know you shall run to you, because of the LORD your God, and of the Holy One of Israel, for he has glorified you. “Seek the LORD while he may be found; call upon him while he is near; let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the LORD, that he may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. (Isaiah 55:4-8 ESV)
We have been looking long and hard at the narrowness of the Gospel and how it it is not editable. It is not open to change. No matter how much a person wants it to be otherwise, it is unchangeable. It is God’s Good News to fallen man. This good news is the proclamation that there is a way, only one way, for sinful people to be reconciled to God. It is good news because all people suffer from the same condition. They are born dead in trespasses and sins and are not morally able to do anything about it. This separates all of us from God because He is Holy and must judge all sin. The Gospel declares that Jesus Christ went to the cross and became sin on our behalf. God judged our sin in Him. This “atoned” for our sins. Now let us look at the pardon available to all who believe.
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. (John 3:16-18 ESV)
In the passage I placed at the top of this post, Isaiah 55:4-8, we read the prophet setting forth the mission of Jesus Christ. What is it? That mission was to be a witness to and commander for the peoples. As we read the Gospels we see that our Lord made an appeal to sinners straightway. He did this because He comes to sinners. Sinners do not come to Him. This lines up with our study of the Moral Inability of the natural Man. What does the Lord proclaim when He comes to sinners? He proclaims pardon to them as a call to faith and repentance. It is an immediate, frank, spiritual and complete offer of an abundant free-grace pardon for “he will abundantly pardon.”
Now let us pause for a moment and think about the ways and means preachers we have heard make the “gospel call.” What inducements have they made? Think of someone like Joel Osteen who is “mister positive.” The gospel he preaches is one of coming to Jesus so your life will be made better. The gospel of Charles Finney was somewhat similar. A study of his Systematic Theology is quite eye-opening for he was an unvarnished Pelagian. His concept of salvation was that people should commit themselves to moral living and seal that commitment by making a decision for Christ. He had no concept of regeneration. Much like Joel Osteen, his gospel call was to come to Jesus so your life will be made better.
What was our Lord’s one and only inducement to the lost? It is not to come to Him so He can make your life better, but believe and He will pardon abundantly. This is the call that the Holy Spirit uses to plow the heart. He uses the Gospel truth that includes the moral inability of us all to believe and repent to bring each new believer to the point of surrender. This is where the inducement of absolute pardon comes in. The preachers of the first Great Awakening such as Jonathan Edwards and George Whitefield would counsel those who were stricken by the Holy Spirit during their preaching to pray to God and plead with Him for their souls for His pardon. It was during this that the Holy Spirit would bring each to that place of surrender to the Lordship of Christ, repentance of their sins, and belief.
Now, let us contemplate the abundance of this divine pardon. The Word of God states that God is love (Deuteronomy 7:9). The abundance of God’s love is source of this pardon. All the attributes of God are infinite and harmonious, but we are not told that “God is justice or power.” No, we are told that “God is love.”
For your steadfast love is great above the heavens; your faithfulness reaches to the clouds. (Psalms 108:4 ESV)
The earth, O LORD, is full of your steadfast love; teach me your statutes! (Psalms 119:64 ESV)
Take the time right now to read Psalm 136 from your Bible. You will understand when you have finished that God’s mercy endures forever! The abundance of the objects of the pardon. From the days of Adam until now God has pardoned multitudes among all nations, classes, and ages. Yes, God is just. God is Holy. God is Righteous. However, He is also merciful. We quickly lose patience when we are offended, but it is not so with our God.
Please pardon the iniquity of this people, according to the greatness of your steadfast love, just as you have forgiven this people, from Egypt until now.” (Numbers 14:19 ESV)
It boggles the mind to ponder the abundant sins God has pardoned. Who can count the thoughts, words, and deeds which are pardoned? Carefully read the following two passages. We must marvel at God’s patience with us.
You have not bought me sweet cane with money, or satisfied me with the fat of your sacrifices. But you have burdened me with your sins; you have wearied me with your iniquities. (Isaiah 43:24 ESV)
So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. (Revelation 3:16 ESV)
Our sins are great. We have sinned against God’s law. We have taken the Gospel for granted. We have even taken God’s forgiveness and love for granted. All are guilty of these things, the young, the middle aged and the elderly. All of us have sinned and fallen far short of the glory of God. However, God removes these sins and makes them as if they had never existed. When He forgives, when He pardons abundantly, our sins are like the countless locusts blown away by the wind.
Think now of the sinfulness of the sins which our gracious God has pardoned. Some sins are planned and deliberated on, and each plotting and devising entails sin. Some sins are swarming with many other sins. Some sins are proud, wanton, cruel, blasphemous, and impudent. Some are repeated. Some are aggravated and persisted in. Yet, even the poison from these sins the Lord removes abundantly.
How can God do this and remain just? The means of this abundant pardon reside in the atonement of His Son, and His Righteousness. The sacrifice on the Cross was sufficient no matter what the Word-Faith heretics preach. When Jesus came to His disciples before His resurrection He said. “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me (Matthew 28:18). He received this authority because of His obedience at the Cross. He is now at the right hand of God the Father as our Advocate. His merit in the Father’s eyes is infinite. Therefore, as He prays for us and asks the Father to pardon us, it is done according to His will. We also have the Holy Spirit ever present in us to apply Gospel provision to our souls and spirits. He is with us always and does lead us into the will of God while enabling us to learn, believe, and remain faithful.
This abundant pardon contains abundant ease of the terms of it. There are no hard conditions of penance or purgatory. We only have to ask in order to have. He grants us repentance and this builds our trust in Him. Even the repentance and faith required to believe and be saved are given to us by our gracious God.
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9 ESV)
This abundant pardon is also abundantly full. It covers all sin, past, present, and future. It is effectual, sure, and complete. It is perpetual and irreversible. It is accompanied with imputed righteousness. We are new creations. This abundant pardon washes, while justification clothes and beautifies. Do you see now why we dilute these truths when we believe that our salvation was our own doing? When we come to terms with these truths it is a most joyous experience. God is not only involved in all parts of our salvation, He is the author and finisher of it.
Our salvation is the result of God pardoning us. No pardon, no salvation. This abundant pardon is also attended by abundant blessings. All who are pardoned are liberated from spiritual prison and all legal attachments our enemy had against them. They also receive freedom from the reigning power of their inbred sin. What a blessing this is, but so many professing Christians today seem to not posses this blessing. All who are pardoned are also adopted into God’s family. We are considered to be “Sons” by the Father and fellow siblings of our Lord. I struggle with this one. How can a sinful person such as I be accounted as my Lord’s sibling? It can only be by the Grace of God who has abundantly pardoned me.
Genuine Christians also receive an acceptance by God so full that they are able to challenge accusers. That includes our enemy my brethren. He wastes no time accusing the lukewarm. No, He comes after those who are fully trusting in God and, therefore, are standing out in the darkness because God’s light of truth is reflecting from them to all around them. Our enemy cannot bear this so he will come after us. Just remember, we are able to stand and not fall as we keep our eyes on our Lord.
God also uses those He abundantly pardons. This includes ministries. It can also include being a witness in the face of the darkness of this world. God does use those He abundantly pardons for His own purposes. He also has provided us to be able to commune with the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Yes, He is Holy, Righteousm, and Just, but we have been pardoned abundantly and are now in His eyes clean, pure, and are objects of His abundant love. That fact that He desires to commune with me is hard for me to grasp. However, we can come boldly to the Throne of Grace because we are abundantly pardoned. He hears our prayers and answers them as if we were perfectly pure. He grants us ultimate admission to glory itself with the perfect ones.
I know that when this body dies that I will be taken into my Lord’s presence. I know also, because the Bible states this clearly, that I will be made perfect at that time. Sin will no longer be found in me. The declaration of justification and abundant pardon I received when God saved me will at that time become a reality that will require no more pardon. I long for that my brethren. The older I become the more I see this world as not my home. I pray to be taken home sometimes. I believe that the blessed hope of being with my Saviour and no longer living in this body of death helps me walk in repentance.
Because of this all who are in Christ should walk in this life free from despair. If the Lord only pardoned now and then, then we should seek His favor even on the bare chance of obtaining it; but now let us return unto him in sure and certain hope of pardon. Then there is a loud call to repent, for who would offend so good, so kind a Lord? Let us pursue a life of repentance since He has promised us such abundant pardon. Here is a special call to the greatest sinners, since abundant mercy is most appropriate to their case. However, this call is to all including those who may be considered less guilty. They should come as well since there must be room for them. Our forgiving God deserves to be much loved, and the lives of the pardoned should prove that to whom much is forgiven, the same loveth much. If such mercy be slighted, we may be sure it will entail great wrath.
Yes, our God is a great and merciful God, but we cannot take this offer of abundant pardon for granted. I fear that the proliferation of heretical doctrines in our time is the result of a lack of fear of God. I wrote a piece on the fear of God not long ago and I received some very persistent email and comments from some who claim that we should not fear Him. These particular fellows were followers of Rob Bell. The offer of abundant pardon is coupled with the genuine Gospel. The genuine Gospel starts with the Law and how all have broken it. The offer of pardon is made to those who see their great sin and how they are morally unable to save themselves from the wrath of God. If some teach that God is not to be feared then we also know that they do not preach the genuine Gospel. Let us remove ourselves from any association with those who teach such things and seek to live in the light of God’s truth by His grace and within His abundant pardon.
Soli Deo Gloria!