Westminster Confession 11.5

What significance do our sins have after coming to faith in Jesus and being justified (legally forgiven and declared righteous)by God?  If we are have entered into a state of justification can we fall out of it?  Can we fall back into a state of condemnation before God?  The Roman Catholic church and some Protestants, especially those of Arminian leanings have taught that yes you can.  Thus they make achieving and maintaining a righteous or just standing before God dependent on men and what they do, their works, to some extent.  Justification is no longer by grace alone and one must always fear falling from that blessed condition that leads to eternal life.  What a sad and uncertain state of affairs.

On the other side of the coin are those who pervert grace in the other direction.  Often times called anti-nomians (which means against law) these folks believe that in order for grace to be grace it can not be said that:

-One falls under God’s displeasure for their sins.

-That one can be punished in any sense for their sins.

-That one is bound to confess their sins to God, beg for pardon, and renew their faith and repentance.

This view creates those who take sin lightly and think that it has little bearing on their relationship or standing with God.  Such people tend not to deal with the sins in their life seriously as the Lord commanded us to do (Matthew 18:8-9) and thus leads to a perpetual state of immaturity and folly.  This view also creates those who are self deceived altogether thinking they are in a state of grace when they give no evidence of it.  While repentance and faith are not to be trusted in to merit our forgiveness and righteous standing before God, they are necessary for the assurance that we have interest in Christ and all his blessings.  And so where sad souls continue in sin while flattering themselves that they are in a condition of grace and therefore secure in a righteous standing before God, they will find out the truth in the end though it be too late.

So it is incredibly important that we understand the teaching of the Scriptures as recorded by our Confession in chapter 11.5 on these things.

What does it say?

1.  God continues to forgive the sins of those that are justified and they can never fall from the state of justification.

The moment we truly trusted in Christ God pardoned our sins and declared us righteous and acceptable through Christ.  There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus the apostle proclaims (8:1, see also Heb 10:14).  And so when we sin it does not and cannot overthrow our standing.  Each sin is covered and forgiven by the declaration God made to forgive us and accept us in Christ.  Our just standing is wonderfully secure and we cannot be brought again into a condition of legal condemnation by any sin, no matter how big or small!  God’s declaration for us in Christ cannot fail or be overthrown my friends in spite of the reality of our continuing struggles with sin.

2.  God is nonetheless displeased when believers sin and has appointed them to confess their sins, beg pardon, and renew their faith and repentance.

Does this the fact that true believers cannot fall back into legal condemnation mean that we ought to take sin lightly?  No way.  Though true believers will not fall under God’s legal displeasure as condemned men and women they nonetheless can fall under God’s fierce fatherly displeasure for sin.  God hates sin and is offended by sin.  He has sent Jesus into the world to free his people from the condemnation as well as the power of sin that they might be no longer lawless but rather zealous for good works (Titus 2:11-14).  The Lord has also appointed a time to inflict wrath and vengeance upon all who refuse to respond to the call of the gospel to forgiveness and new life as God’ friends and obedient servants choosing instead to walk in disobedience (Heb 10:26-27).  We ought to hate what the Father hates and love what the Father loves.  And we ought to be wary of displeasing and offending the Father irrespective of whether it will bring us legal and eternal condemnation.

But God has not only revealed a general displeasure with sin that we ought to share but also commanded us to confess sins, beg his pardon, and renew our faith and repentance regularly.  This shows us that God does not intend for his grace to be considered a license for immorality (Jude 1:4).  But his purpose in grace is perfectly in accord with his moral government and the call of Christians to a holy fellowship with him (1 John 1:5-7)

-Thus we are to confess our sins.  1 John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”  In our justification God legally absolved us from sin and yet he is nonetheless offended by them.  He has appointed confession that he might forgive that offense and our fellowship with him might be kept in good order.

-In a similar way we are to beg pardon for our sins.  The Lord Jesus taught us to pray, “forgive us our debts” as part of our regular pattern of prayer (Matthew 6:12).  Sin is always an offense against God and he commands that we ask him to forgive that offense.

-And we are told to renew our faith and repentance regularly.  The book of Hebrews reminds us in chapter 12:1-4 to lay aside all that hinders us and focus our eyes on Jesus the founder and perfecter of our faith and then goes on to exhort us not to grow weary in our struggle against sin.  And in Revelation 3:19 Jesus says that he rebukes and disciplines those he loves and commands us therefore to be zealous to repent.

3.  Finally we see the consequences that the justified may incur in this life when they sin.  God may withdraw the experience of his blessing to those under his grace and severely chasten them until such time as they  confess, beg pardon, and renew their faith and repentance as we have seen they are commanded to do.  The Puritan, Thomas Brooks, says, “Sin will usher in the the greatest and the saddest losses that can be upon our souls.  It will usher in the loss of that divine favour that is better than life, and the loss of the joy that is unspeakable and full of glory, and the loss of the peace that passes understanding, and the loss of the divine influences by which the soul has been refreshed, quickened, raised, strengthened, and gladdened, and the loss of many outward desirable mercies, which otherwise that soul might have enjoyed.”  Indeed it is madness to think that that sweet and precious blessings may not be lost by the justified due to sin and that miserable and destructive consequences might not come into our lives.  Stay away from sin my friends.  (See Psalm 32, 51, and 1 Corinthians 11:30ff)

Praise the Lord then, that Scripture teaches we cannot fall from that wonderful standing of “just” and “righteous” before God that we have in Christ into that horrible sentence, “guilty” and “condemned”.  But let us venture always to please our Father by shunning sin and be mindful of the great seriousness of that enterprise.


Westminster Confession 11.5

V. God does continue to forgive the sins of those that are justified;[14] and although they can never fall from the state of justification,[15] yet they may, by their sins, fall under God’s fatherly displeasure, and not have the light of His countenance restored unto them, until they humble themselves, confess their sins, beg pardon, and renew their faith and repentance.[16]

Scripture References

[14] MAT 6:12 And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. 1JO 1:7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1JO 2:1 My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: 2 And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.

[15] LUK 22:32 But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren. JOH 10:28 And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. HEB 10:14 For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified.

[16] PSA 89:31 If they break my statutes, and keep not my commandments; 32 Then will I visit their transgression with the rod, and their iniquity with stripes. 33 Nevertheless my lovingkindness will I not utterly take from him, nor suffer my faithfulness to fail. PSA 51:7 Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. 8 Make me to hear joy and gladness; that the bones which thou hast broken may rejoice. 9 Hide thy face from my sins, and blot out all mine iniquities. 10 Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me. 11 Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me. 12 Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit. PSA 32:5 I acknowledged my sin unto thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid. I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the Lord; and thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin. MAT 26:75 And Peter remembered the word of Jesus, which said unto him, Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice. And he went out, and wept bitterly. 1CO 11:30 For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep. 32 But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world. LUK 1:20 And, behold, thou shalt be dumb, and not able to speak, until the day that these things shall be performed, because thou believest not my words, which shall be fulfilled in their season.