The Wreck, The Ruin, and The Remedy

The following appears as the commentary to the Consuming Fire entry for February 4th, and is inspired by George MacDonald's Unspoken Sermon, It Shall Not Be Forgiven. 

“That is, in Christ, God was reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them...” (II Cor. 5:19)

Many have taught that there is but a single unpardonable sin which can never be forgiven; this teaching is founded upon the single utterance of our Lord, located in Mark 3:29 and also in our text under this heading, Luke 12:10.  St. Mark's rendering of our the Lord's words are more ominous than those of St. Luke, for he goes further than Luke, saying; “But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; they are guilty of an eternal sin."  We must pull back the veil at this early point to discover what the verse actually says, and proceed from there to understand the God Who said it.

In another place I have spoken of the word which is here translated as “eternal” and will not enter into any discussion of it now, except to reassert that it is a form derived from the Greek noun αἰῶν, pronounced “aye-own,” which means “An indefinite period of time, an age,” and is the source of our English word “eon” which carries the same definition.  The translators came to the table with certain preconceived notions (i.e., the Penal/Substitutionary Theory of the Atonement which harks back to Augustine), and have forced the Scripture to say what they believed it is saying, rather than simply allowing it to say what it is actually saying.

Accordingly, the phrase “guilty of an eternal sin” supplied in Mark 3:29 would more accurately be translated as “...will be guilty of this [specific] sin for an indefinite period of time.”  In the earlier reading for January 11th, MacDonald employs this understanding of αἰῶν, which is part and parcel to his theology, when he says “It may be centuries of ages before a man comes to see a truth,” and, again, “For this vision of truth God has been working for ages of ages.”  In other words, he does not see the wretched estate of a man to be “eternal” in duration, though it may be “ages of ages” before he, quite the same as with biblical Prodigal son, “comes to his senses.”

This understanding leads immediately to a question; what is the nature of God if His judgment against a man is not “eternal?”  We would first submit that this judgment, whatever it is (for its form differs from person to person), is not meant to destroy and damn, but is of a purely purgatorial nature, intended to drive out from a man his dross, to refine his gold: It is, in this life and also in the coming one, the Consuming Fire doing its work of redemption.  The purity of a man is measured but by a single standard; is he like the Son of God?  Anything in him that is not exactly like the Lord Jesus is his dross; it is this slag that the Fire burns, brings to the surface, and expels from the man, rendering him pure. 

One need not have great spiritual insight to see that God is ever planning, and working, for the redemption of sinners.  He is doing it in every way, in every case, for every beloved child estranged from Him, including the one so wayward as to blaspheme against the Holy Spirit.  God cannot pardon sin, any sin; He must forgive it, in fact is bound to destroy sin in order to reconcile sinners; yet until He is able to forgive it it remains unforgivable.  Had He for any reason been able to simply forgive, without regard to a man's condition of heart, as though to turn His face and not see the sin, then the Atonement would have been the most foolish and cruel thing God ever did—not only to His Son, but also to the sinner.  In that unthinkable case, Jesus would have died in vain, at least for the great masses of humanity, and the sinner would be condemned to forever exist in his miserable, sinful, condition.

Our Lord summed the entire satisfaction for every Divine commandment by setting forth a single two-fold command: Love God, and love your neighbor.  It is not two commands but one; for, God cannot be truly loved except the neighbor also be loved, and a man cannot truly love his neighbor unless he also loves the Father of the man.  The “unforgiveable” sin is likewise a single two-fold condemnation: In the first part it is “unforgiveness of our neighbor” and in the second “the heart's choice” to “shut out God.”

A second question arises: When is a man forgiven by God?  The answer is that the man is eternally forgiven, that he has ever been forgiven; this must be the case, else the Lamb “slain from before the foundation of the created world” is wholly lacking in logic, both human as well as Divine.  If, then, Christ is the eternal Atonement, there must be that which eternally needed Atoning.  The theologians have long told us that the Atonement is sufficient but not necessarily efficient; in this, though they mistakenly imagine that the inefficiency shall continue “eternally,” they are very close to the truth of the matter.  There is a Divine depository in the Heart of God, filled with the sacred forgiveness, extending to every person, awaiting only the time—whether in this life or the next, in this moment or after ages of ages, that indefinite αἰώνιος length of time if needed, when the lost sheep sees, recognizes, surrenders to, and follows his Great Shepherd.

In the meanwhile, the God of all Love “holds the unforgiving man in His hand, but turns His face from him.  If, in his desire to see the face of his Father, he turns his own towards his brother, then the face of God turns round.”   In Galatians 5:14 the Apostle quotes our Lord, but with a modification; he states “For the whole law can be summed up in this one command: 'Love your neighbor as yourself'."  In quoting our Lord, why does St. Paul not include His phrase which says to “love God?”  It is for what I said above; it is impossible to truly love neighbor unless one also loves God.  Thereupon, I say, that more is included in MacDonald's words quoted above from the daily reading than is overtly expressed.

In closing, the fact is that God will not rest until He has redeemed His lost sheep, each and every one of them without exception; and the manner of that redemption is through Christ, is found in Him alone; for it is “in Christ, that God was reconciling the world to Himself.”  What of offenses?  How shall He exact Justice?  He shall do it even as Christ has demonstrated, uttering through His unspeakable abuse and pain, crying out, “Father, forgive them...”  And no prayer of our Lord shall ever be contrary to the heart throb of His Father and ours.  Therefore, the second portion of the verse; “...not counting their trespasses against them.”  God does not count our trespasses against us, those things which we have done: It is not for sins which a man has done that God must condemn, but for the sin which a man continues to do.  And when the chief of sinners finally comes to the place of self-loathing, of finding himself at the end of Self, then, then, he will turn to Love, will find his God and Father, and be through the Atoner, Who is his Elder Brother, finally reconciled with the Divine.  It will be the day when the sinner forgives trespasses levied against himself as he welcomes, rather than shuts out, his God.  Man has been Wrecked by sin, thus he has been Ruined; the Remedy is found in Christ Jesus alone:

God loves the sinner so much that He cannot forgive him in any other way than by lifting him out of the mire of his iniquity.”