A Jagged Contention: Condoning Sin?

When all has been said, there can be no question that the preaching of the forgiveness always runs the risk of seeming to condone sin. Always there will be some who, hearing the good news of God’s graciousness, will decide to sin so that grace may be more abundant (Rom. 6:1; cf. 3:8). Luther recognized that his preaching was leading to this result. Does that mean, he asked, that we should quit preaching forgiveness because of the abuse? His answer was a ringing “no.” Taking comfort from the fact that Jesus and Paul had been similarly misunderstood, he concludes with a typically pungent statement. “Nor should we pay attention to how our doctrine is abused by the vicious and wicked rabble, who cannot be cured whether they have the Law or not. On the contrary, we should pay attention to how suffering consciences are to be counseled, lest they perish with the wicked rabble.” Luther here is in harmony with the practice of Jesus. Despite the danger that some will use the teaching of forgiveness to condone sin, forgiveness must be offered to all who suffer the pangs of guilt or who stand condemned by society. The words of condemnation and judgment are to be reserved for those who feel no need of being forgiven because they find nothing wrong with themselves.

– William Hordern, Living By Grace, pg 89.


Is Hordern right in his analysis? Does the preaching of forgiveness run the risk of sounding as though it condones sin? Is there a way to preach forgiveness while not sounding as though one is condoning sin?

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