Positional forgiveness versus relational forgiveness?

Some popular Bible teachers say that we Christians are indeed completely forgiven “positionally” but not “relationally” until we confess each sin. Here are my thoughts on the so-called difference between “positional forgiveness” and “relational forgiveness”:

It’s all make-believe. It is literally fabricated terminology that turns the work of the Cross into something less powerful than the blood of bulls and goats in the Old Testament.

In the Old Testament, Jews felt better (yes, in the real world, even “relationally”!) when the blood of bulls and goats was shed. Why? Because another year’s worth of sins was covered. This wasn’t “positional forgiveness” achieved by animal blood. It was actual, experienced relief for the Jews! And blood caused it.

How much more should we “feel better” in the here and now because the Lamb of God has taken away our sins, once and for all, through His blood?

Those who fabricate two “types” of forgiveness, and say that Christ’s blood achieved one but not the other, insult the Son of God.

They essentially believe that the way to motivate Christians is to hijack their forgiveness and hold it hostage. Then Christians will behave, they think, and will admit wrongdoing in order to get forgiven “relationally” through confession.

Here’s the simple truth: Only blood (not words!) achieves forgiveness, and Jesus will never die again. It’s finished – both positionally, and relationally, and in any other silly way we want to invent.

Imagine sitting at the foot of the Cross, looking up at Jesus Christ with blood all over him and then asking Him: “Jesus, is this positional?” I’m afraid He might just vomit all over you for that one. If not, then Peter might lop your ear off!

The whole thing is absurd. Let’s motivate Christians by reminding them that they are dead to sin, alive to God, and made for so much more. Let’s even tell them that, when they sin, they are quenching (not expressing) God’s Spirit. But let’s not try to motivate them by hijacking the true effects of the Cross and acting as if the blood of Jesus didn’t fully work for the here and now.

That’s just lame.

Christians are forgiven people, period. There are many reasons to turn from sin and live uprightly. There are many reasons to admit our wrongdoing, to regret sin. But getting more forgiveness is not one of those reasons. Jesus already gave us all the forgiveness we will ever need.

Jesus plus nothing,

Andrew Farley

About Andrew
  • Andrew McNeill

    How do you deal with James 5:15? “And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.” The context seems to deal quite clearly with a believer who is sick, is healed through the prayers of the elders, and receives forgiveness also. In what sense does this person receive forgiveness? I’ve been struggling with this issue over the past few days and while I admit the strength in what you say, I find it hard to fit into what the Bible says.

  • Matt Hallenbeck

    what about the instruction given by Jesus (Matthew 6:12) and John (1 John 1:9) to practice a continual seeking of forgiveness? how does that play into this? i agree with your premise, i’m just trying to have a response for when those passages are cited? thanks.

    • Steve

      I’d direct you to what Luke 17:3-4 says, “If your brother or sister sins against you, rebuke them; and if they repent, forgive them. Even if they sin against you seven times in a day and seven times come back to you saying ‘I repent,’ you must forgive them.”

      Mr. Farley rightly notes that the offer of forgiveness is offered to everyone because of what Jesus did. However, the application of that forgiveness to the individual is not effected until we repent. And if we sin again, we must repent again. This is why Jesus tells us (as you note) in the Our Father to pray in a way in which we continuously ask for forgiveness.

      The unfortunate consequence of Mr. Farley’s idea here is that it eliminates the need for repentance from sin in salvation. This is why Paul spends a great deal of effort warning the Corinthians, who were “washed, sanctified, and justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God” to avoid sin, lest they not inherit the kingdom of God.

      “Do not be decieved”, he says. Good advice.


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