back to Mainly for Beginners
Quoting a great sinner (David), Paul in Romans 4:7-8 says, "Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven and whose sins are covered. Blessed is the one against whom the Lord will not reckon sin." NRSV
He uses a double negative in 4:8 to stress the non-occurrence. As if, "The Lord simply will not do it!" Imagine someone asking a righteous man or woman to do something that thoroughly lacks integrity, trying repeatedly to get them to agree. Imagine the righteous person closing the matter with a final, "I simply will not do it!" and you have the tone of Romans 4:8. "Thereís little point in you trying to persuade me to do this. There is no way thatíll happen."
What do we have here? We have a sinner whose sin is recognised as precisely thatósin! We have a Lord who simply will not hold that sin against this sinner. No wonder David and Paul call such a person "blessed"!
But not everyone is blessed in this way. A blessing of that magnitude belongs to a certain class of persons. "Obviouslyótheyíre Godís Ďpetsí." No, God has no "pets". God is a God of holy grace and life with him is a gift of grace but the kind of life he gives cannot be other than a relationship that takes its direction and shape from his own character. Who are these blessed people? They are people who live in covenant with God and have by faith embraced what "life" with God means. See http://www.jimmcguiggan.com/perplexed/lesson.asp?id=61
Within that covenant life and union their sins are not held against them (non-imputation, forgiveness and covering are all equivalent in Romans 4:7-8). This is a relationship of grace between two covenant partners that are not equal. But the relationship doesnít obliterate our moral weakness or our capacity to sin. God knew and knows thatóhow could he not know it? He called sinners to his side! It is sinners he makes his companions (see Luke 15:1-2 and elsewhere).
But they arenít sinners that actively despise him and rejoice in the scorn they have for him. These are convicted, contrite and repentant sinners that in his name seek to glorify God and bless his creation. But sinners just the same! To them, in holy grace God credits no sin.
But surely they must be repentant. Iíve said so! But repentance is more than a frame of mind we adopt at the moment when we have done something wrong. It is a mindset that God in holy grace has drawn us into when we committed to him in covenant relationship. Repentance is an aspect of the relationship we entered! Just like the purpose to honour and support our spouse or our friend when we entered the relationship with them. The mindset permeates the relationship. It isnít an isolated act or thought or emotional response that happens every so often.
Itís impossible to have a true friendship with someone we think we can treat as abominably as we wish anytime we wish. Such a mindset knows nothing of friendship. Friendship has built into it an attitude and purpose toward the other that leads to a certain kind of behaviour toward that other. So it is with the friends and companions of God (compare James 4:4).
We are not to think that a Christian commits a sin and her sin hangs over her head until she goes through a specific mental and emotional act at which moment God forgives her or decides not to record her sin against her.
We are not to think that the cross of Jesus Christ was to make it easier for us to sin or to make evil appear less evil. Neither are we to live with the spiritual jitters, ceaselessly wondering if, having committed ourselves in faith to God, he is holding our sins over our head as an ever-present threat.
There is no assurance of sins forgiven for those not covenanted with God; thatís what holy grace means. But for those that are in a faith relationship with him, sins are not credited against them because thatís what holy friendship means.