Some who take part in our study also take time to reflect. And they contact me at my personal email address which always appears in each post. I’ll never disclose any personal information or violate your trust, but sometimes the questions seem to be worth thinking about when the questions and answers seem so important to each of us. After one of my earlier posts, I received a letter raising a serious, sincere question and I felt compelled to try to answer it. Then I felt other readers may have a similar question and would find the answer could help in their situations. Here was the question:
“I have read the scripture and wonder one thing….. how understanding is God when we as Christians keep screwing up over and over again. How many times does He forgive us?”
Without disclosing the writer’s identity, here is my answer:
I suggest that you read I John 1:9…READ IT THOUGHTFULLY. In English, it sounds Limited: If we confess (once. twice? three times?). . . He is (remains) faithful and just to forgive (once. twice? three times? You get my drift? and cleanse (once, twice, etc.? and after that am I pressing my luck or straining His faithfulness & justice? Am I on the verge of exhausting His grace then? Not on your life!
The Greek language had a way with tense that expresses a specific notion of time. They wrote words one way if they meant an action occurred only once at a specific point. Another way suggested continuous (this is IMPORTANT.) action. For example, if you translate the sentence the way it was written originally, I would read something like this: “If we KEEP ON CONFESSING our sin, He KEEPS ON BEING faithful and just, and KEEPS ON FORGIVING us our sins and KEEPS ON CLEANSING us from unrighteousness. In another place, one of the disciples asked Jesus how many times he should forgive? Seven? And Jesus replied “No, that’s not enough. Try seventy times seven (which, if my memory of multiplication serves me correctly equals exactly 490! But, before you take that figure literally, keep in mind that sometimes “figures of speech” are used. And sometimes words and numbers are use symbolically. Seven, for example is often used to signify perfection, or completeness.
What I think the Bible is driving at is that you cannot build a fence around the Amazing Grace of God. The inference I believe we can draw is simply: As often as I sin (and that is often, in spite of my good intentions), just that often I confess it sinerely. And just that often He forgives and cleanses us. Look at it another way: How often do you wash your hands? Or take a bath? I suspect you do that as often as you need to do that!
The writer had more to say. . . ‘”I have another question for you.” and I’ll get to that later. It seems to me that if we can digest this information it can provide real help with some of our concerns.
Let’s continue to pray for each other as we seek a better understanding of Scripture and apply that to our own lives.
God’s servant, your friend, brother, and fellow student,