As we wade through all six of Boston’s “Miscellaneous Questions” we will find a common driving force behind them. He seems to be putting to rest any doubt about how we as sinners are to view our sins and the effects of sin, as it relates to our security in Christ. With the second question we will explore, “Whether or not all sins past, present, and to come, are pardoned together and at once?”
Dividing the question into two, we can get closer to the root issue. First, are all sins past, present, and future actually pardoned upon first believing on Christ? Or, are only past sins actually pardoned and present and future sins only virtually pardoned?
I suppose that in the early 18th century, when Boston posed the question, the notion of virtual reality was a bit obscure. The idea of tinkering with future events in another space and time would have earned you a trip to the town square and possibly a starring role in the burning at the stake. However, the consideration of future reality and how God not only knew of future events, but also ordained them coming to pass, was the common belief of the Church.
For the most part, our experience of virtual reality, comes through the use of video games. From a remote control we sit in the comfort of our present reality and control the actions of some character to achieve an outcome that is consistent with winning a contest virtually. However, your victory or defeat is only virtual, in that you really did not physically exist in the other reality. For the sake of avoiding any misconception here, I in no way am advocating the notion that God is controlling the future like a video game. The doctrine of predestination has been slaughtered by the modern church in using a similar analogy to explain away this historical Christian doctrine. God does not look into the future, like some video game, and see what you will do, and then decide to include you among the chosen from a past reality. Your destiny was prescribed for you by the eternal counsel of HIS will. I will not even begin to explain this doctrine in a way that will prove its validity. That is merely a part of faith. Quoting Boston, “If we did not too much measure God’s ways by man’s ways, perhaps there would be less difficulty in this matter.”
Steering the ship back on course, let us consider whether your sins are virtually or actually forgiven, even before you commit them. Though the answer is simple, the path to the simplicity of it will depend on the axiom from which you begin. What is for certain is that God, in his infinite wisdom, has provided a way to reconcile an answer.
Boston, using a scripturally based and logical argument, supports the idea that your sins have only to be pardoned once. All the sin of God’s adopted children from all eternity past, present, and future, were virtually laid on Christ at the cross. To satisfy the law, one man, Jesus, paid the penalty for that sin, and virtually earned the pardon of all believers past, present, and future. None of the elect of God would ever be actually condemned. However, it is not until the souls of believers are united with Christ through faith that they receive actual pardon. One pardon is for all sins.
The prophet Isaiah is told by God, “I, even I, am the one who wipes out your transgressions for my sake. And I will not remember your sins.”(Is. 43:25) In order to “not remember” something you would have to have been at first aware of something. Here God promises to purposely erase from his recollection the sins of his people. He does not forget, but rather chooses not to apply them to our account or to not recount them. If God is omniscient, all knowing, then he does not have to experience your sin to pardon it.
When theologians began to organize the doctrines taught in scripture, the Ordo Salutis was conceived to provide a progressive sequence to the process of salvation. At the heart of this sequential order was the doctrine of Justification. Basically this legal term is defined as a one time pardoning of sin. Before one can pass to the next phase, adoption, there must be a declaration of pardon. God admits no one into his family who is still liable to the punishment for a crime. That includes future crime. Justification is a perfect, instantaneous, inclusive and permanent act of God. Therefore, anyone who says that future sins require another pardoning is calling God a liar. If future sins require a re-pardoning, then there would also be a requirement of a re-adoption. God does not have need for “do overs.”
The concept of salvation by faith in Christ’s bearing our sins and the penalty of death, is nothing new to you. From the earliest exposure to the faith we are made aware of the passion of Christ, the foundation of our faith. Often, however, many believers get little farther in their understanding. It is necessary for strengthening and conditioning to better understand the many facets of your faith. Faith is not believing in the events of Christ, but rather a participating in Christ. Our union with him makes us participants. Working out these doctrines is a way of participating in the mind of Christ.
Imputation is a term that is rarely used by Christians today, but cannot be accurately replaced in our modern vernacular. Though imputation is a doctrine within itself, Boston would like us to consider it for our purposes in exploring the pardon of sin. Imputation means to credit something to another’s account. To see how imputation applies to justification we must first put away the misuse of another term. We often say we are justified by faith or saved by faith. Well, those are both legitimate truths if we use them properly. However, to be more specific we are justified and saved by Christ’s imputed righteousness. Faith is not the action verb that many use it for. Christ’s work on the cross, credited to our account, justifies and saves us. Faith is the conduit through which flows our union with Christ. Perhaps we would be safer in saying that we are justified and saved through faith. This of course is what Paul teaches when he says, ” For by grace you have been saved through faith, and not of yourselves, it is a gift of God.”(Ephesians 2:8) Our faith in this imputed righteousness of Christ does not originate with us. God gives us our faith. Righteousness being the full obedience to the law of God. Once this righteousness is in our account we can never lose it. Christ is now our representative head. We are permanently pardoned because of our representation by him at the throne of God. We are represented also because of our marriage to him, as the husband represents the wife. We don’t think in these ways anymore about marriage. Biblical marriage is permanent and representative. The husband cannot divorce the wife nor vice versa. The husband is responsible for the wife regardless of her actions. Even his name is imputed to her. Once we are married to Christ we take on his name and are sheltered by him. His righteousness is ours and nothing we can do will change that, though we are rebellious and unsubmissive.
In Boston’s next question we will continue this theme of where pardon falls in our justification and the necessity of repentance. Though there may seem to be a bit of redundancy in the arguments for the answers to the questions, I cannot stress enough the importance of them. Satan has set up false religious doctrines that he purposes to use against us. Satan, the father of lies, wants to weaken your resolve and confidence in the word of God by setting up stumbling blocks, such as the reordering of the Ordo Salutis. That is, where pardon falls in relation to repentance. Therefore Boston uses every means available to him to properly align our thinking. Boston, if he were here today, would echo the words of Paul, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is; his good, pleasing and perfect will.”(Rom. 12:2)