Occasionally you will hear someone refer to God’s two laws of pardon. What exactly are these “laws of pardon?”
Nowhere in the Bible will you find this term; it’s just a man-made phrase. Yet much like the word “Trinity” (which also isn’t found in the Bible), it adequately captures what the Bible teaches; in this case, what is necessary to receive God’s pardon from sin.
The First Law Of Pardon
The first law of pardon is for the non-Christian – someone who must be “born again” in Jesus Christ to be saved.
The Plan Of Salvation
Concisely, the steps necessary to become a Christian, to receive the forgiveness of sins, and to become part of God’s spiritually family (the Church of Christ), are as follows:
1. Faith & Confession Of Belief. Faith in God’s existence, that He will reward those who seek Him (Heb. 11:6), that Jesus is His Divine Son (John 8:24), and that He is the only way to the Father (John 14:6). This kind of faith can only result from hearing the Word (cf. Rom. 10:17). Genuine faith is more than just mentally assenting to belief; it is complete obedience, beginning with outward confession (cf. Rom. 10:10; Acts 8:36-37).
2. Repentance. Repentance is defined as godly sorrow over sin (cf. 2 Cor. 7:10) which leads to both (a) a change of thinking (cf. Matt. 21:28-29), and (b) a change of life (cf. Matt. 3:8). Without repentance, one cannot be saved (cf. Acts 2:38).
3. Baptism. This final step is absolutely necessary to becoming a Christian, for without it, one can never be “born again.” Baptism is an essential element of the “new birth,” which is “of water and the Spirit” (John 3:3-5). At the point of baptism (if one has genuinely believed and repented) comes salvation (Mark 16:16), forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38), the washing away of sins (Acts 22:16), and the entering in of Christ (Rom. 6:3; Gal. 3:27).
4. Continual Growth. After one has initially been “born again” (John 3:3), he must be “taught to observe everything Christ commanded” (cf. Matt. 28:20). This is a process of continual growth “in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Pet. 3:18). We are commanded to grow (1 Pet. 2:2); if we don’t, we will drift away from the Lord (Heb. 2:1).
Satan, at this point, has lost the battle for your soul. You are now a Christian.
The Second Law Of Pardon
Though Satan has lost the battle, he has not yet lost the war. In fact, it could be argued that he intensifies his attacks on Christians. Those who follow Christ with the impression that temptation, pressure, and persecution will subside are dreadfully mistaken.
Sadly, at times, Christians bow to temptation. Sometimes Satan succeeds to the point that Christians, like Simon the Sorcerer (Acts 8), find themselves once again “poisoned by bitterness and bound by iniquity” (v. 23).
When a Christian has sinned, what must he do? Does he need to be baptized again?
This is where God’s second law of pardon comes into effect. It is not optional; it is just as important for Christians who have sinned to follow the second law of pardon as it is for alien sinners to follow the first law of pardon.
The fallen child of God (a Christian can fall from grace – cf. Gal. 5:4; 2 Tim. 2:16-18; Heb. 6:4-6; &c) isn’t instructed to be re-baptized, but he must do the following:
1. Repent. Peter responded to Simon the [former] sorcerer – a Christian who had sinned – with, “Repent, therefore, of this wickedness…” (Acts 8:22). Repentance, again, means to experience godly sorrow for sin and to turn away from the practice of sin.
2. Confess. When we realize we have sinned, we must confess our sins (cf. 1 John 1:9-10; Jas. 5:16-17). There is only one sin God won’t forgive – any sin we refuse to confess!
To whom must we confess our sins? Confession of sin must be as public as the sin itself. Note the following:
a. Private Confession. A private confession is in order when sin has been committed privately. Perhaps only one person knows about your sin; you should keep your confession between “you and him alone.” Note Jesus’ instruction in Matthew 18:15-17. Simon the [former] sorcerer confessed his sin to Peter (Acts 8:24).
b. Public Confession. A public confession is in order when our sin is known publicly (e.g. known by our church, our neighbors, &c).
An example of the need for a public confession would be the Christian caught in adultery in 1 Corinthians 5:1-2. He was willfully practicing sin – sin that the church knew about – and the Corinthian church was instructed to withdraw fellowship from him. This they did, and their discipline had the desired effect. The man who had committed adultery was sorry for his sin, and the Corinthian church was instructed to receive him back into their fellowship (cf. 2 Cor. 2:1-10). How would the church have known that this man had repented? Only by a public confession!
3. Pray. Simon the [former] sorcerer was instructed to pray to the Lord for forgiveness (Acts 8:22). Also, Peter, to whom Simon confessed his sin, was also asked to pray (Acts 8:22). Those who know of a Christian’s sin, after witnessing a penitent heart and hearing a confession of sin, are to pray for that brother’s forgiveness (cf. 1 John 5:16).
The second law of pardon is just as binding on the Christian as God’s first law of pardon is on the non-Christian. Thank God for His wonderful plan, for which I am personally and eternally grateful!
Many become Christians (the first law of pardon) without being instructed on what to do when they sin later in life. How alarming! All Christians, especially those in leadership roles, need to do a better job teaching the second law of pardon.
Question: Do you know of a more effective way to teach people about the two laws of pardon?