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?

Share your thoughts in the comments


4 thoughts on “A Jagged Contention: Condoning Sin?

  1. It seems the idea of sinning more is a problem that promotes a neutral position: a choice by the hearer. The one who receives the gospel has forgiveness. The one who doesn’t is still regenerate and his justification for why he sins isn’t really important.


  2. Pastors: Do not nullify the grace of God.

    “But if, in our endeavor to be justified in Christ, we too were found to be sinners, is Christ then a servant of sin? Certainly not! For if I rebuild what I tore down, I prove myself to be a transgressor. For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.”
    Galatians 2:17-21 ESV

    Thank you for your faithfulness to Christ and His Word.


  3. Often, I hear criticism of our view of grace and preaching forgiveness as discouraging sanctification or failing to account for a human role in justification. The world, and many denominations, have a major justice issue with free grace. They want comeuppance for sinners, they want to redress or atone for their sin, progress before the world. What I run into is a notion that we take advantage of cheap grace. What they are missing (and what preaching can lack) is that God visited judgement upon Himself. Christ took all sin upon his shoulders and suffered the full justice of judgment for all sin. He endured the pangs of hell, actual death, the full force of separation from hope, the rending of being, and was made anew. Only the Almighty can endure the wrath of the Almighty.

    Only when we belittle or avoid the full weight of God’s justice, the real blood spilled, the real cost paid by a God who, loving and caring for His creation beyond measure, promising immediately following the Fall, that He would make things right, and, as always, fully providing for His people a safe path away from sin, do we cheapen grace. This is where too many churches point to an empty “resurrection cross”, the the backside which faces heaven. We are better when we see this side of it and the price paid. Then we see the costly grace and the price exacted. No amount of sanctified living, craving for justice, desire for or acts of antonement, no penance can purchase even a penny’s worth of grace. As always, God works everything.


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