Is there to be forgiveness without acknowledgment of wrong?

Is there to be forgiveness without acknowledgment of wrong?

There are various categories of forgiveness in the Scriptures, which must be distinguished—God’s forgiveness of sinners; the Father’s forgiveness of His children; ecclesiastical forgiveness; and personal forgiveness.

As to the first named, though it is a mistake to apply to the conversion of the sinner, the words of 1 John 1:9 “If we confess our sins, etc.,” which have to do directly with God’s children, yet it may be confidently affirmed that no sinner ever received divine forgiveness without acknowledgment of sin in one form or another, tacit or explicit, leading on to faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, when revealed. But here it is not so much a confession of particular sins, as of sinnership—”God be merciful to me a sinner.” This corresponds with “repentance unto life,” the result of the Holy Spirit’s work in conviction, without which there can be no true conversion to God.

In the case of the Father’s forgiveness to His erring children, it is conditional on confession of sins; then “He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” It is perfectly true that God’s forgiveness has already covered the sins in question, but His forgiveness as Father is needed, if communion with Him is to be restored. The confession should be real and full, and at once forgiveness and cleansing follow, though not often realised to the full at once. David was forgiven the instant he confessed his sin in the presence of Nathan, but later he wrote the 51st Psalm. This may correspond to the application of “the water of separation” on the third and seventh days (Numbers 19: 12, 19).

As for ecclesiastical forgiveness, this is that which is referred to in Matthew 18:18 and John 20:23—the “binding or loosing,” the remitting or retaining, of sins, not by ecclesiastical officials, the pretended priests of Christendom, but by the local church. Nothing is said in these passages of the condition attaching to the forgiveness, but the case that arose in the Corinthian Church (see chap. . i), throws light on this, for in the second epistle, the restoration of the offender is recommended by the apostle on the ground of his repentance—”lest perhaps such an one should be swallowed up with over-much sorrow”—and if they forgive him, he (Paul) will forgive also (2 Corinthians 2: 7-10). Paul does not appeal to some leaders in the Corinthian Church, but to the Church as a whole. This ecclesiastical forgiveness has been perverted into what is known as auricular confession, and priestly absolution, things, as we believe, totally foreign to the New Testament and Christianity. As for individual forgiveness, there should be from the first a forgiving spirit on the part of the offended person; he must not bear a grudge or count the offender as an enemy, but be ready to forgive (Matthew 18: 15, 21, 22), but he must not express his forgiveness until the offence is acknowledged. To do so would be a subtle way of putting your opponent in the wrong, and be an insult rather than a favour. “If thy brother tresspass against thee rebuke him, and if he repent forgive him” (Luke 17:3, 4).

William Hoste