The Evangelical Universalist Forum

The gospel

I might need to study this a bit more, but I don’t recall offhand that God has already forgiven us. I thought this was conditional upon our repentance and reliance on Christ. As SLJ pointed out, I John 1 tells us that when we are restored in our relationship with God upon our confession of sin, then God forgives us.

Very well said Sonia. I totally agree with your whole post, especially those last two paragraphs. Two thumbs Up!!

First, thanks for the responses so far.

Sonia, you wrote:

That’s the kind of thing I was after: potential issues. So thanks for that. My only comeback to that is that John was writing to believers, not unbelievers. So it seems that’s actually about how Christians are to “walk in the light”, meaning, in the context, continue in correct relationship with each other, not “the gospel”.

This also is probably true. I guess I was hoping to find some analagous “gospel presentation” to the standard one which is short enough to remember but includes enough to make sense.

OK. Does that imply that if we turn away from all those things, we won’t have to face their consequences?

Yeah but this is kind of my big underlying thing: if they’re “saved” from a God whose primary motivation is to make sure sin is punished, is that really the true God of the Bible? Not that I’m saying that hell isn’t something to fear; I’m just wondering whether the “salvation” would be different if people understand that God was waiting purely for them to come home, like the father waiting for the son, and that the father’s thoughts were surely not centred on making sure the son “paid for his sins”, but were “I long for my son to come to his senses, come home, and be reconciled to me, so we can celebrate”. There seems to me to be a huge difference.

This is wonderfully put! I see clearer now.

Dondi, you wrote:

You and me both probably need to study more! What you’ve said also underlines my suspicion of it. It seems like you’re basically saying that the gospel isn’t a gospel of grace, but of a work, specifically the work of repentance.

As to God having already forgiven us, what about Jesus and the woman in adultery? She didn’t repent. Jesus forgave her before she said anything. What about Jesus praying for those who crucified him? Father, forgive them? Surely God answered his prayer. But those guys didn’t repent. What about Paul? He definitely didn’t repent, but Jesus appeared to him. He was surely already forgiven before he repented. What about Jesus saying to the paralysed man, “Son, your sins **are **forgiven.” Note that he didn’t see the faith of the paralysed man, he saw the faith of his friends. The man hadn’t repented and “trusted in Christ”. And note that he didn’t say “Son, your sins will be forgiven if you repent and trust in me”

And probably most crucially for this discussion, the writer of Hebrews says in 10:15-18

"The Holy Spirit also testifies to us about this. First he says:

“This is the covenant I will make with them
after that time, says the Lord.
I will put my laws in their hearts,
and I will write them on their minds.”

Then he adds:

“Their sins and lawless acts
I will remember no more.”

And where these have been forgiven, sacrifice for sin is no longer necessary. "

According to the writer, his reason as to why the sacrificial system is no longer necessary is precisely because “their sins and lawless acts have already been forgiven, and God will remember them no more”. The whole point seems to be “God has already forgiven you: now live as those already forgiven!”

I trust people might keep this thread alive a little longer because it seems to me this is a fairly important thing to get right.

My understanding is that the gospel is not about forgiveness of sins but about deliverance from sins. The angel announced to Joseph, “You shall call his name “Jesus” (saviour or deliverer) for He shall save (or deliver) His people from their sins.”


Yes, this is key I think, I had forgotten about it though. So, what about…

God has already delivered you from your sins.
He did this when He offered Jesus as a sacrifice to take away the sin of the world.
Jesus’ resurrection showed that the way to be reconciled to God was open.
Therefore, turn away from your sins, believe that God raised Jesus from the dead, and be reconciled to Him.

In Robin’s talks, he says that we are already reconciled (which I assume implies we are already forgiven). I believe it’s a case of now and not yet. i.e. we are already reconciled & forgiven, however, this isn’t actualized for many people yet.

However when Calvinists restrict God’s love & reconciliation so much, I think it changes, or at very least taints, the quality of that love & reconciliation.

When a preacher proclaims the “gospel” on the corner, he would have to say, “God loves a few of you, but hates most of you! Pray that you’re one of the lucky ones. Rejoice that God’s glory and justice will be clearly displayed in the eternal torment of His enemies.” (I get the impression Jonathan Edwards might’ve done this :open_mouth: ).

On a more positive note, I love the prodigal son story (& hence your summary), as to me, that sums up everyone’s journey :sunglasses:

On another recent thread, Sherman wrote

This would very much seem to affirm what I was thinking earlier, that everyone is already forgiven, already redeemed, justified and free, they just don’t know it yet. The more I think this through, the more I think this is quite close to the mark of what the gospel is, and is not.

It’s not “If you repent, God will forgive you.”
It’s “God has forgiven you. Now repent and sin no more.”

I think there is a world of difference.


Yes. For some years I’ve been saying this to folks but rather than the word ‘know’ I use the word ‘realise’:
“they just don’t realise it yet” and I emphasise that 'realise means to ‘make real’. It is not a reality in their lives until they realise it.

Good thread. God never changes, he doesn’t condemn us one day and forgive/deliver us the next.
I still have to remind myself there’s nothing I can do to make him love me more. Gratitude is the Spirit motivator, not fear.

God bless

Oooh. Good point! I like realise “make real”

I have to say I’m surprised so few people have anything to contribute to this topic which is pretty key. :open_mouth:

I think that’s a good point too. I’ve been using the word “actualize” :slight_smile:

Oi :stuck_out_tongue: 15 posts in a topic is pretty good at the moment, given the forum has broken new records of activity over the last week. I’ve enjoyed reading along :mrgreen:

Maybe. What I was meaning was the lack of distinct humans who had weighed in.

The gospel is the story of the prodigal son.

The father gives his son freedom. The son abuses his freedom and ends in torment, a personalized hell. In his suffering he finally realizes an important truth: good is better than evil. He limps home and discovers another truth: his father has loved him all along. The son is reborn. He is transformed in ways the older brother is not. He now knows things the older brother cannot know. If the son hadn’t been allowed to leave, if he hadn’t experienced his hell, he would never have understood.

(BTW, if the younger brother is Man, is the older brother Lucifer? Perhaps that’s what his falling out with God was all about. Was Lucifer angry that he was displaced (as he saw it) in God’s affections by a race of hairless primates?)

Amen! I’ve been thinking about this the last few days.

:laughing: I’ve never heard/thought of that angle, but now that I think about it…


Are you saying that if you were “sharing the gospel” with someone (I know you enough to know you wouldn’t phrase it like that!) that you would tell them the story of the prodigal son, and not even go with something like

God has already delivered you from your sins.
He did this when He offered Jesus as a sacrifice to take away the sin of the world.
Jesus’ resurrection showed that the way to be reconciled to God was open.
Therefore, turn away from your sins, believe that God raised Jesus from the dead, and be reconciled to Him.

If that’s true, can you possibly confirm for me whether you think that the father had already forgiven his son? In other words, is the gospel “you’re already forgiven”, or “you can be forgiven if you repent”.

And where does judgment for sin etc fit in with the prodigal son?

Thanks, and I’ve dropped everything to wait for notification of your reply. :wink:

Not quite sure what’s going on with the formatting/quoting in the first paragraph :confused:

you’re right, I bet dad would, but with a few extra, clever twists :laughing:

Rejected, left to rot in a pig pen in a foreign, heathen land… but yes, as Luke said to me, it’s missing vital things like Jesus & the Cross. However, given it is a parable, I don’t think we should expect every detail (otherwise it would be too easy for us :wink: )

The pig pen was God’s judgment on the boy’s sin.

The father willingly paid the price for the boy’s folly. He absorbed the pain and the loss. He did not demand repayment. Without the shedding of blood there can be no forgiveness of sins. The father bled for the boy.

Just as that father took the sins of the boy upon himself and paid the price, so our True Father takes the sin of the world upon himself and pays the price. Christ is the revelation in space and time of this eternal sacrifice.

As for “preaching the gospel”, I was talking the other day to a crusty old sailor (ex RAN), a hard-bitten agnostic. He took me aside and told me that his sister was trying to convert him. “I’m not surprised,” I replied. “Look. I think it’s very simple, when you boil it down. If God is good, we have nothing to fear. We can trust him to do the right thing by us. But if God is bad, we’re seriously screwed, whatever we do. I mean it. Seriously screwed.” He laughed at this. (A nice laugh.) His heart had lifted at the thought. If God is good, we have nothing to fear. And that was the end of the conversation.

Quick. Gotta stop. Time for Dr. Who.

This type of thinking is ludicrous! How can God have delivered me from my sins, if I’m still walking in them? Let’s consider a couple of real-life examples of this kind of thinking:

Scenario 1:
Joe has climbed a tree, trying to escape the bear who has been chasing him. Joe tried to shoot the bear but his gun jammed, and he had dropped it. Suddenly Joe’s hunting companion, Jack, comes bursting through the brush, carrying his 30-30.

“Jack, shoot the bear! It’s about to climb up after me! Quick, Jack! Save me from the bear!”

“Don’t worry, Joe! I have already saved you!”

“What do you mean?” shouted Joe. “Quick, he’s starting up the tree! Shoot him!”

Jack replied, “Please be calm, Joe. I have already delivered you from that bear. All you have to do is climb down, turn away from it, and walk away. I have already saved you.”

Scenario 2:

Sam: Jimmy, I thought I told you not to steal chocolate bars from stores!

10-year-old Jimmy: You did, Dad. But I have no money, and I just love chocolate bars!

Sam: Well, I just want you to know that I’ve already forgiven you.

Jimmy: Thanks Dad, now I don’t have to worry about you punishing me. I can steal all the chocolate bars I want without a worry in the world.

Sam: Now Jimmy, I have forgiven you; we are reconciled. Now, turn from your stealing, and be good. Live an honest life.

Jimmy: No way, Dad! If you’ve forgiven me, and we’re on good terms, I’m gonna keep on stealing! I enjoy stealing!

George MacDonald was a 19th century writer and believer in universal reconciliation. In chapter 1 “Salvation From Sin” in his book The Hope of the Gospel MacDonald wrote:

The Lord never came to deliver men from the consequences of their sins while yet those sins remained; that would be to cast out the window the medicine of cure while yet the man lay sick.

In the same chapter, MacDonald also wrote:

The mission of Jesus was from the same source and with the same object as the punishment of our sins. He came to work along with our punishment. He came to side with it, and set us free from our sins. No man is safe from hell until he is free from his sins.

What can it possibly mean to say that God forgave us while we are still living in our sins? By having forgiven us, has he let us off the hook, as Jimmy thought his dad had done? If not, then what does it mean to be forgiven? And how can God have delivered us from our sins, if we are still living in them? Joe was still threatened by the bear.Obviously he had not been delivered from that threat regardless of Jack’s claim.

The apostle Paul tells us why Christ died:

Titus 2:14 [Christ] gave himself for us to redeem us from all iniquity and to purify for himself a people of his own who are zealous for good deeds.

If we are still practicing iniquity, if we are not yet purified, if we are not zealous for good deeds, then Christ has died in vain. His death was of no benefit to us. We have not been delivered from sin. We need to be delivered! We need to have a change of mind (repentance), and submit to the authority of Christ in our lives. Then we will be delivered.


I think that’s the first time something I’ve posted has been branded “ludicrous!”. Thanks for that new humbling experience! I wonder if this means what I wrote is at stage 1 of your quote in your signature. :wink:

I do, though, appreciate your passion for the truth. Would you mind, then, explaining the woman caught in adultery? She didn’t say a thing, hadn’t turned away from her sin, and yet Jesus doesn’t even give her the option of “turning away”. He just comes straight out and tells her she’s already forgiven. “Neither do I condemn you”.

Paidion, are you still walking in some sins? How then can God have delivered you from them?

The main problem I see with this scenario is that Jack says

but he hasn’t. He hasn’t killed the bear. Massive contrast with Jesus. Jesus has slain the dragon. He has already conquered death and sin. Surely that’s the whole point of the cross?!? So when Jack says he’s already saved Joe, Jack’s lying. When Jesus says it, he’s telling the truth.

And this betrays the big problem I have with scenario 2. If that’s Jimmy’s attitude, then Jimmy hasn’t grasped what he’s been forgiven from. He hasn’t grasped the fullness of his father’s forgiveness. He hasn’t experienced the love of his father who, as Paul might say (paraphrasing 2 Cor 5:19) was in the house, reconciling Jimmy to himself, not counting Jimmy’s sins against him. (Have a look at 2 Cor 5:19 to see how well this fits). True forgiveness leads to a change in heart and action. Take Zaccheus, who has a massive turnaround not just in heart but also in action.

See? This could be a paraphrase of Jesus talking to the woman caught in adultery. It’s not so “ludicrous” after all. :slight_smile:

Refer my point above about Jimmy not understanding forgivness.

Goodness me. Are you really asking that? :open_mouth: How about “God showed his love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Or this “God was in the world reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against him.” Isn’t the whole entire amazingly good point of the good news that God did indeed forgive us while we were in our sins? If you need more convincing, try this one from Ephesians 2:1-5

As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2 in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. 3 All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh[a] and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. 4 But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5 [size=150]made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions[/size]

Wow! Could it be clearer?

Of course not. He’s given us a framework to deal with our mess. It’s like Dave Busby would say “God’s gonna deal with the stuff, inside the hug.” Knowing the grace of forgiveness empowers people to live a changed life. It certainly has with me.

Hmmm. How’s this for an example: The woman who was photographed as a child running from a bomb blast in Vietnam. It’s probably one of the most famous photos in 20th century military history. That child grew up and forgave the people involved in the bombing. In no way did she wait for those people to stop “living in their sins”.

I agree that we need to have a change of mind, but I’d ask you this: where does that change of mind come from? Doesn’t it come from seeing how great and high and deep and wide the love of God really is? From seeing that as AllanS said, God is good? From realising that God was in the world, not counting my sins against me?

Consider the prodigal son. Why did he even think of returning home? Surely not because his father had sent out messengers commanding him to repent and submit to his authority? Surely because in his soul, he knew that his father was good! He knew his father enough to know that when he returned home, his father would welcome him.

Don’t get this post wrong. I really appreciate you taking the time to give your views. I just find your claim of ludicrous a bit strong, given my responses above, and I wonder whether you’d care to respond to them.

Heh, heh! Yes, I suppose you could take it that way. I bet you’re eagerly waiting for stage 3!

It seems that we have two distinct foundations of thinking about salvation. When this is the case, it is easy to see statements based on a different foundation as “ludicrous” when viewed in light of one’s own foundation. To see it as sensible seems to require a paradigm change, and this doesn’t come easily. In any case, I regret that I branded your concept of forgiveness as “ludicrous.” I’m sure your view makes sense when viewed from your foundation of thinking.

Actually, Jesus didn’t tell her that she was already forgiven. Rather, when her accusers stopped condemning her, He said, as you stated in the following sentence, “Neither do I condemn you.” Refusing to condemn a person is not the same as forgiving them. Forgiving does NOT mean letting go of condemning feelings, or letting go of hate feelings, or letting go of any feelings. Rather it is a response to repentance. When a person truly repents (has a change of heart and mind), and you recognize it, you are able to forgive him. This means that for you, as far as your relationship with him goes, it is just as if he had never done the wrong. Most modern concepts of forgiveness require much less than this. I have heard someone say, “I have forgiven you, but our relationship will never be the same!” I heard someone else say, “I forgave him, but I certainly won’t be going out to dinner with him!” What do these people mean when they say they forgave? Can you imagine God telling you He forgives you, but your relationship will never be the same again? What kind of forgiveness is that? Or to tell you that He forgave you, but He will not be fellowshipping with you again?

I was speaking in a hypothetical manner by my use of “I” as Paul did in Romans 7, that is, if I am walking in sins, how can I affirm that God has delivered me from them. It doesn’t make sense.

Yes it’s a massive contrast with Jesus as He really is. But the way you seem to view Him, it’s the same thing. While Jack claims to have saved Joe, the bear is still threatening to kill Joe! You seem to say that Jesus has already saved the practising sinner from sin. This is a contradiction in terms. If the person still lives in sin, then obviously he is not saved from sin.

You are correct in saying that Jimmy hasn’t grasped the fullness of his father’s forgiveness ---- and that is exactly the problem with the idea that forgiveness is possible when the “forgiven” person has not repented, that is, had a change of heart and mind. I don’t agree with your statement, “True forgiveness leads to a change in heart and action.” Rather, true forgiveness is the response to a change in heart and action.”

As for Zacchaeus, there is no indication that the Lord forgave him before his repentance. Somehow after Jesus came to his house, he repented, bearing the fruit of repentance through his decision to help the poor, and to restore fourfold what he had stolen from people. Only then, did the Lord say, Today salvation has come to this house,” and “The Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” Jesus didn’t tell him that he was already forgiven before his repentance.

  • And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.” And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” Luke 19:8-10*

No, it couldn’t. For Jesus hadn’t claimed to have forgiven the woman. He stated only that He wouldn’t condemn her (to stoning for adultery). In the same way, you and I might not be willing to condemn a thief to the penalty of having his right hand cut off. But this fact in no way indicates we have forgiven the thief. There was no indication that the woman had repented. But Jesus told her to go and sin no more. If she had followed His instruction, that may indeed have been evidence of a later repentance.

It doesn’t help.

God showing his love for us while we were still sinners is a quite different matter from God forgiving us while we were yet sinners. There is no Biblical evidence of the latter.

That seems quite clear. God was in the process of reconciling the world to Himself in Christ. Throughout history from the time of Christ’s sacrifice, people have been coming to Christ, being reconciled to God — God not counting their sins against them. This is not the case for those who are unrepentant. God will count the latters’ sins against them, for in doing so, He has a justification for correcting them. If they do not repent in this life, they will do so in hell, after God has finished dealing with them.

NO! (I’m thinking “ludicrous”). There is not a single scripture that says so. The apostle Paul as Peter wrote about the amazingly good point of the good news:

*…and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised. 2 Corinthians 5:15

He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. 1 Peter 2:24*

Clearer for what? Not a word there indicates forgiveness prior to repentance! Paul states that his readers (the Ephesians) used to live in transgressions and sins, but no longer, for they had repented and been delivered from them by the enabling grace of God. Verses 4 and 5 tell us how great God’s love for us was, in that He made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions. In other words, after we had a change of heart and mind (repented), God through His mercy and love made us alive in Christ!

Of course not? But if He has already forgiven us, then He has! For forgiveness implies that He will not hold us accountable for our past sins, will not correct us, and thus we are free to go on sinning, since our sins are all forgiven, past, present, and future!

That’s good! But didn’t you have a change of heart first? Or did the thought that you had been forgiven lead to a change of heart?

How could the child grow up forgiving them? First of all, most of them were probably dead after the child grew up. Can you forgive a dead person? It depends upon your definition of “forgiveness”. If you think forgiveness is simply letting go of your ill feelings toward some one, then you can forgive a dead person. Is God’s forgiveness like that? I don’t think so. God doesn’t have ill feelings. Oh, He may be angry about wrongdoing, and He will not let go of that anger toward an unrepentant person, even though Christ died in order to deliver mankind from their sin. They cannot be delivered until they turn from their wrongdoing with abhorrance.

Usually it comes from realizing what a horrible thing sin is, how it’s practice is hurting others as well as oneself.

Not so! He didn’t expect his father to welcome! That’s why he worked out what he would say to his father.

  • I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.’” Luke 15:18,19*

He didn’t expect his father to treat him as a son at all. But he thought possibly his father would be willing to hire him as a hired servant, so that at least he would have food to eat.

However, that loving father welcomed him back as his son, and treated him well. He had no ill feelings toward that son whatever. But by being willing to humble himself, and take the position of a servant, that son clearly showed that he had had a change of heart and mind — in other words, he had repented. The father understood this when he saw his son returning, and he didn’t even wait to hear his words of repentance, how he would be happy just to earn his food as a hired servant.

It is indeed important to show love for others. It is indeed true that others respond to love, and some repent. My main theme here is that true forgiveness in nothing less than a response to repentance. It is such a complete response that it comprises more than showing love to the offender, more than refusing to condemn the offender, more than not insisting that the offender atone for (make up for) his offence. It includes all of these, but in addition, it includes a complete restoration of relationship with the offender. That’s the way that God forgives us! All praise to His glorious Being!

Hi Paidion

Thanks for the time you put into your response. I think this

essentially sums it up. With the one proviso that you’re coming from a “I’m convinced of my theology and have a fairly good idea of what I believe”, whereas my original post was more coming from “what do people think?”, the point being that I don’t have it figured out yet. I was hoping to find out from others whether my conception of “the gospel” was valid, accurate, biblical. Some have posted that they think essentially it is, others (you, for instance!) have posted that it isn’t. I’m still thinking it through.

Anyway, thanks again and blessings. :slight_smile: