God’s Second Law of Pardon

Jesus said, “The poor ye have always with you” (Matthew 26:11). He could have as easily said, “Sin you have always with you”. Man is inclined to sin. John wrote, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the word is not in us” (1 John 1:8).

Every responsible person has at one time or another sinned. Paul wrote, “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). When man becomes a child of God he is still in the flesh and tempted by the works of the flesh, and being so there will be times when he succumbs to sin’s enticements. Must he go back and be baptized again?

It is true one is baptized to be saved (1 Peter 3:21; Acts 2:37-38), but there is a unique purpose in baptism: one not only is baptized to be saved, one is baptized to be born again, to enter into Christ, to put on Christ. Jesus was approached by a Jewish teacher named Nicodemus, who confessed he believed Jesus was a God-sent man because of the works He did (John 3:1-2). Jesus immediately said, “Verily, verily I say unto thee, except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3). Nicodemus, in his astonishment, asked, “How can a man be born when he is old, can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” to which question Jesus responded, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, except a man be born of the water and the spirit he cannot enter the kingdom of God” (John 3:4-5). Jesus explained that a man is born again when he is born of the water (baptism) and the spirit (instructions of the Spirit). Paul taught the same in Titus 3:5 when he wrote, “According to his mercy he saved us through the washing of regeneration and the renewing of the Holy Spirit”. John 3:5 and Titus 3:5 say exactly the same thing. Through the new birth (which includes water baptism) a man is born again; he becomes a part of God’s family and is God’s child. Sin does not change that. It is through baptism that one is baptized into Christ (Romans 6:3-4) and puts on Christ (Galatians 3:26-27).

When the Christian sins, can he be forgiven again, and if he can, must he be baptized? How do we know? The Bible gives us the answer to each of these questions. Consider the first, “Can the Christian who sins be forgiven of his sins?” Yes, the Christian who sins can be forgiven. The answer to this is found in multiple places. John, in his first epistle, is very explicit. He told us that the Christian (he was writing to Christians) who says he has no sin deceives himself; the truth is not in him. Furthermore he said, “If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar and his word is not in us” (1 John 1:8, 10). He urged, “My little children, these things write I unto you that ye may not sin. And if any man sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous, and he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the whole world” (1 John 2:1). James wrote that we are to confess our sins one to another and pray for one another so we can be healed (James 5:16). These passages teach that the child of God who sins can be forgiven of his sins.

Since baptism is for the remission of sins and the Christian can be forgiven of his sins, why must he not be baptized for the sins he commits? The reason why he is not to be re-baptized for sins he commits is that God has one law for forgiveness for one who is not His child, and a second law for forgiveness to one who is His child. We call this the second law of pardon.

But, how do we know there is one way for one who is not a Christian to be forgiven of his sins and a second way for one who is a Christian to be forgiven? We know because we have a Bible example of such a person.

In Acts 8 we have an account of Philip, one of the seven deacons, going to the city of Samaria and preaching the gospel of Christ to them. Philip worked many marvelous works among those people who were astonished by those miracles and who believed Philip’s preaching and were baptized, both men and women (Acts 8:12). Among those who heard Philip preach was a sorcerer named Simon. He saw the miracles Philip worked, and although Simon had, by his trickery, deceived the people into believing his works were real, when he saw the works Philip did, knew Philip’s works were real and his were fake. Simon also believed and was baptized (Acts 8:13).

Philip left the city and Peter and John came from Jerusalem to confirm and strengthen the Samaritan church. They laid hands on certain of those Samaritans and imparted spiritual gifts to them. Simon saw that “by the laying on of the apostles’ hands the Holy Spirit was given” and he coveted that power and offered the apostles money so that whoever he laid his hands on would have the Holy Spirit as well. Peter rebuked Simon and said, “Thy silver perish with thee because thou hast thought to purchased the gift of God with money. Thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter; thy heart is not right with God. Repent therefore of this thy wickedness and pray the Lord if perhaps the thought of thy heart might be forgiven thee” (Acts 8:20-22).

Simon was God’s child — just as the Samaritans were who had believed and been baptized, so had he (Acts 8:12). Simon sinned; he was now lost, although he had been saved by his faith in Christ and baptism. He was lost because his heart was not right; he was in a state of perishing. Simon was told to repent and pray for forgiveness. James tells us to confess our faults to one another, to pray for one another. In this incident regarding Simon we see that Simon, a fallen child of God, was not told to be baptized again. He was told to repent and pray; James added confession as an ingredient to forgiveness. Thus, in Simon we see him submitting to two laws of God for forgiveness: as an alien sinner (one not God’s child) Simon had believed and been baptized; as an erring child of God, he had repented and prayed for forgiveness.

Some people may suppose that they, as an erring child, may be forgiven of sins by being re-baptized. That is not God’s law for pardon for the erring child. On the other hand, some who have never become God’s child are told they can be forgiven by doing what the erring child is told to do: believe, repent, and pray. This is not God’s law and will not secure forgiveness of sins for the alien sinner. The alien sinner must be born again, and he cannot be born again unless he is baptized in water.

Jim McDonald

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