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Are Your Future Sins Forgiven?

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How can the Catholic Church teach that we need to worry about losing our salvation through mortal sin when the Bible teaches that we have been sanctified once and for all? Karlo Broussard tackles another Protestant challenge.


Cy:
Are your future sins already forgiven? Next, with Karlo.

Hello, and welcome to Focus, The Catholic Answer’s podcast for living, understanding and defending the Catholic faith. Remember to subscribe to Focus wherever you get your podcasts. And if you would, please give us that five star rating and help us to grow this podcast. Some of our Protestant friends tell us that the Bible assures us that all of our sins are already forgiven, even those we haven’t committed. Most of them will point to two passages from the letter to the Hebrews as evidence to support this idea, both come in chapter 10 of the Book of Hebrews. Chapter 10, verse 10, says that, “We have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” Then, in verse 14 of the same chapter of the letter to the Hebrews, the author says, “For by a single offering, he has perfected for all time those who are sanctified.” This is pretty powerful stuff.

And in the light of these passages, we have to ask ourselves, how can the Catholic church teach that we need to worry about losing our salvation through mortal sin? This argument is actually a big deal. If nothing can rob you of your salvation, then you’re safe. But if you can still lose your salvation by committing serious sin, then you’re in danger and you need ongoing help. You’ll have to repent anew each time you sin and be forgiven anew. So, who’s right? Particularly, is the Catholic church denying what the letter to the Hebrews teaches? Let’s see what Karlo has to say.

All right, Karlo, I have another brilliant kind of setup for you, because you wrote it. The catechism of the Catholic church teaches that mortal sin destroys charity in the heart of man and that to die in mortal sin without repenting and accepting God’s merciful love means remaining separated from him forever by our own free choice in a state of existence we call hell. This means that even a Christian who commits a mortal sin can lose his salvation. Au contraire.

Karlo:
Somebody who’s in a saving relationship and made a mortal sin and died without repentance, well even before death, that saving relationship can be lost. And of course, if one dies in that state or condition, hell would be their lot.

Cy:
By the way, you can’t really commit a mortal sin by accident. Sometimes people get really nervous about this. It’s an act of the will.

Karlo:
Mortal sin, if we can chase this rabbit right here, a mortal sin is kind of, we have to nuance it. Right? Some people refer to mortal sin with regard to the objective act itself.

Cy:
Murder is a mortal sin.

Karlo:
That sin is a mortal sin, and refers to just the action itself in that it’s serious enough to have a mortal effect on the soul, namely losing sanctifying grace, if committed with full knowledge and deliberate consent.

Cy:
Technically we would call that grave matter.

Karlo:
Correct.

Cy:
It’s grave matter. It doesn’t mean that a sin has been committed necessarily, it means a grave matter.

Karlo:
It doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve incurred the mortal effect. And then, other people refer to mortal sin, including all the conditions for this sin to have the mortal effect on the soul.

Cy:
Right, and we should have a healthy fear of hell, but I know there are people that get very… All right so, but Protestants will counter that, the whole idea that look I’ve been saved don’t bother me with your mortal sin because they’ll say Hebrews 10 through 14 contradicts this belief, which is held not only by Catholics, but by many Protestants. The author of the Hebrews says that, “We have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once and for all,” that’s verse 10, and then verse 14 says, “For by a single offering, he has perfected for all time those who are sanctified.” So, why don’t you believe the Bible, Karlo?

Karlo:
Yeah, and one little further thing to tease out that some of our Protestant friends will infer from these two verses, is that all our future sins are already forgiven. And this is related to this understanding or this doctrine of eternal security. Once saved, always saved, emphasizing the always saved. Right? The idea of eternal security. So, how do we meet this challenge? Well, first of all, Cy, I would want to point out, as I do in my book, that this passage can’t mean that all our future sins are automatically forgiven because the Bible elsewhere teaches that there are conditions for having our future sins forgiven. And here’s a perfect example. Consider the Our Father, what does Jesus instruct us to pray? Forgive us our debts or trespasses, right, as we have also have forgiven our debtors or those who have trespassed against us. That’s in Matthew Chapter 6, verse 12. Then in verses 14 through 15, we read that, “But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your father forgive your trespasses.”

So according to Jesus, a condition for having our sins forgiven is that we forgive others. Now Jesus, I’m sure, Cy, would you agree with me that Jesus didn’t intend for us to pray the Our Father once when we’re saved in the past?

Cy:
That would seem quite obvious, yes.

Karlo:
Right, that this would be something that a Christian would pray continuously throughout the Christian life. And in as much as the Christian prays the Our Father prayer throughout his or her Christian life, he or she is going to be asking the father to forgive him or her on condition that he or she forgive others. Right? And so, the question becomes, what if the condition is not met? Well then, the individual would not be forgiven of his or her sins.

Cy:
Got it.

Karlo:
So, if all our future sins were already forgiven initially when we first came into a saving relationship with Christ, then this command of Christ to ask God to forgive us on condition that we forgive others throughout the Christian life, would be unintelligible. It would not make sense. So, that Jesus gives us the command to pray this prayer throughout the Christian life entails that we need to have our sins forgiven throughout the Christian life as we sin.

Cy:
Yes, right, right, right.

Karlo:
So, it doesn’t mean that all our future sins, this actually refutes the idea, that all our future sins are already forgiven. And consider other elements of the Our Father. Jesus also tells us to pray for our daily bread. Right? Well, that implies that we need the bread daily as we go throughout our Christian life, whether you’re talking about the natural bread or the-

Cy:
Super substantial bread.

Karlo:
… super substantial bread of the Eucharist. Right? We also pray that God’s will be done on earth as it is in heaven. That’s something we must continuously pray that God lead us not into temptation. Are we going to say that well, since we’ve been initially saved and I am sure of the fact that I will never be led to the test or that I would never succumb to temptation, of course not. We need to pray this prayer continuously throughout the Christian life, because we continuously are faced with temptation. And in the moment we need the help of God. We also pray deliver us from evil. Once again, an ongoing prayer that we pray throughout the Christian life. It’s within this context that we need to ask for God’s forgiveness of our sins on condition that we forgive others implying that this is something we ask and request throughout the Christian life. But this request would be unintelligible if our sins are already forgiven. There would be no need for continuously requesting the Father to forgive us of our sins.

Cy:
Right, right. And Jesus, in teaching us to pray, he’s teaching us about the reality in which we live.

Karlo:
That’s right. It’s not going to just be some superfluous external action. I mean, this would be vain prayer, right, to be praying just for the sake of saying the words when it has no efficacy whatsoever in our life. This would be the very thing that many of our Protestant friends charge Catholics of doing when they pray the rosary. It would have no connection whatsoever to reality and to what’s going on in my relationship with God.

Cy:
Yeah, right. I always think that that part where he says, he’s teaching about how to pray, go to your inner room, he says. Don’t babble on like the pagans do that’s. He’s teaching us this is an intimate form of prayer with God. This is how you have that intimate communication here. So, this is very personal that we need to personally ask God for forgiveness and to personally from our heart, forgive. That’s how I take the meaning of when you pray, go to your inner room.

Karlo:
Oh, well sure, yeah. And I mean, this fits with the Catholic understanding of receiving the forgiveness of sins, because the sacrament of reconciliation is primarily and technically for mortal sin. Venial sins can be forgiven outside of the sacrament of confession. And so, praying the Our Father prayer, asking the Father to forgive us of our sins, if we’re contrite and we request God’s mercy, the guilt of venial sin is going to be forgiven. And even the guilt of mortal sin can be wiped away through private prayer and asking the Father to forgive us if we have perfect contrition and in extraordinary circumstances.

Cy:
Well, it would be good though if he would have given us a parable or something that taught this.

Karlo:
Well, guess what, Cy?

Cy:
I wish he would teach more of this stuff with parables.

Karlo:
Well, guess what, he does. In Matthew Chapter 18, we actually have a parable where Jesus teaches us about the forgiveness in the Our Father and is concretized, right, and this is the parable of the unforgiving servant. So, it was a servant who owed 10,000 talents. That’s worth roughly about 164,000 years of daily wages.

Cy:
Wow, so we’re talking Mark Zuckerberg money.

Karlo:
This is a debt he could not owe. But the king forgives him of the debt, wipes the debt clean. But the servant, who had debtors, was unwilling to forgive their debts. And so, when the king finds out, “Hey, I forgave your debt but you’re not willing to forgive the debts of others?” This is the Our Father, right? This is concretization of the Our Father prayer. You’re not willing to forgive the debts of others so I’m not going to forgive your debt. And this unforgiving servant is thrown into a prison. Now, we have good reason to think this prison is hell and it’s an everlasting punishment, because it’s a debt the servant could not owe.

Cy:
You mean he couldn’t pay.

Karlo:
Yeah, he couldn’t pay it, I’m sorry.

Cy:
That’s okay.

Karlo:
I’m sorry. Yeah, he couldn’t pay. And this is in contrast to Matthew Chapter 25, where you have sort of a similar parable of an individual who’s thrown into prison to pay the last kodrantes, the last penny. That’s a debt that could be paid, right? This one can’t be paid. So, we have good reason to think this is hell, but notice here, this is a parable that’s given us a concrete example of what Jesus meant in the Our Father. Forgive us our debts as we forgive those who have debts against us. Right? I notice here that the debts were forgiven, so if we draw the parallel to a Christian, this is a Christian who is saved. Right? But the individual was not willing to forgive the debts of others and consequently, this forgiven servant was then thrown into hell. So, if we apply that to the Christian-

Cy:
Right, he was forgiven the 10,000 and okay, I got it.

Karlo:
And subsequently ended up in hell.

Cy:
It’s all right there in the parable.

Karlo:
And so, if we apply this to the Christian life, the Christian initially is forgiven of his debt because he’s forgiven of his sin through coming into a right relationship with the king, King Jesus.

Cy:
Right, right. You’re forgiven an unpayable debt, a debt you cannot pay.

Karlo:
Cannot pay… Amen. Forgiven the debt. But, according to the parable, it’s possible that the Christian go throughout his life having his debts forgiven but not forgiving the debts of others and subsequently ending up in hell. And so, the parable of the unforgiving servant in Matthew Chapter 18 gives us good indication that it is possible to fall out of that right relationship with Christ, to lose your salvation.

Cy:
But did Jesus ever say to his disciples you could lose your salvation? Did he ever come right out and say it?

Karlo:
Well, I’d have to think about that. Well yeah, I mean, Jesus told them in Matthew Chapter 10 verses 32 through 33, if you deny me before men I will deny you before my Father, and he’s talking to his disciples there. Individuals who are already believing in him. Right? Jesus said in Matthew Chapter 10, I think it’s verse 22 if my memory serves me correctly, you must persevere until the end in order to be the saved. What is the implication? If you do not persevere… and what does perseverance imply? You’re in right relationship with Christ. You’re in grace.

Karlo:
So, you have to persevere in the relationship with Christ until the end in order to receive the final reward of heaven. So, those are two examples that come to me right away. I’m sure we could find some more where Jesus teaches… Oh, Matthew Chapter 7. This is another one. “Lord, Lord, did we not cast out demons in your name and perform miracles?” And then Jesus says, “I never knew you, depart from me.” The fact that they’re calling him, Lord, Lord, and doing all of these mighty works by the spirit of God implies that they were disciples.

Cy:
I was thinking about when they ask him who’s the greatest in the kingdom of heaven in Matthew Chapter 18.

Karlo:
Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven? The little ones?

Cy:
Yeah. So, doesn’t Jesus… Okay, so here’s the deal. Does he, I guess I’m confused on that.

Karlo:
Yeah, Matthew 18, those that are the greatest in the kingdom of heaven are the little children, and whoever scandalizes one of these least of these children it’d be better for him to have the millstone tied around his neck and thrown off the cliff.

Cy:
But he’s saying this to his disciples, that’s what I’m thinking.

Karlo:
Oh yeah.

Cy:
You see what he’s saying? It’s better for you to be thrown off…

Karlo:
He’s saying if you scandalize one of these little ones.

Cy:
That’s what I’m saying. But that’s a mortal sin to scandalize one of these little ones.

Karlo:
That’s right, and he’s talking to those-

Cy:
The disciples

Karlo:
… who are following him, amen.

Cy:
Okay, so I was on the right track. I thought I was on the wrong track.

Karlo:
You got it. There are other passages as well that imply that our future sins are not already forgiven. Here’s just a couple of examples from Hebrews. So, the author of Hebrews in Chapter 4 verse 16 teaches, “Let us then with confidence, draw near to the throne of grace that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in the time of need.” Now, if we’re already free, if our future sins are already forgiven, why would there be a need to approach the throne of mercy to receive God’s mercy? There would be no need to receive God’s mercy if our future sins are already forgiven. You see? Now, somebody might push back and say, “Well, the context says finding grace and the help in the time of need, so mercy just simply means, God, we need your help now. So be merciful to us.” Well, if you don’t accept Hebrews 4:16, consider Hebrews 10:26 through 27. Check this out, Cy.

The author writes, “For if we sin deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful prospect of judgment and a fury of fire which will consume the adversaries.” That’s some strong language, right? So, notice if we sent deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, well, wait a minute, you’ve already received the knowledge of the truth. That’s implying that you’re a saved Christian, right? You’re in the fold, Jack. And the author is saying if you sin deliberately no longer remains a sacrifice for sins.

Now, within the context, the author is saying the sacrifice for sins, the implication is that those individuals, Christians, who are going back to the old covenant, to the Old covenant sacrifices and that’s the deliberate sin that the author within context is referring to because they’re being tempted by, known as the Judaizers, those Jewish Christians are saying, “Hey, you want to be a Christian? You still got to hold fast to the old covenant sacrifices. That’s going to save you. That’s part of salvation.” And the author of Hebrews is saying no, if you go back to those old covenant sacrifices there is no forgiveness of sins. But notice this is an admonition to Christians. Those who have already come to the knowledge of the truth. They’re already saved.

Cy:
Yeah, don’t backslide.

Karlo:
Yeah, he’s saying don’t go back to the Old Testament sacrifices because then you’re not going to have any forgiveness of sins. Well, think about number one, this implies that you can lose your salvation. Right? And number two, it’s implying that not all our future sins are already forgiven, because if that were the case, then there would be no possibility of losing one’s salvation. There would be no reason for the author to say there are no longer remains a sacrifice for sins.

Well, the implication is that you need the one sacrifice for sins, namely the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, in order to receive the forgiveness of sins, even as you journey throughout the Christian life. So, Hebrews 10:26 through 27, I think is a death blow to the idea of eternal security of always saved, all future sins being already forgiven. That doctrine does not jive with Hebrews Chapter 10 verses 26 through 27.

Cy:
Okay. So then, we go back to Hebrews Chapter 10, verses 10 and 14, where we started. What’s the proper way… because I’ll repeat them to you. It says, “You have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” And then, verse 14 of Chapter 10 of Hebrews, “For by a single offering, he has perfected for all time those who are sanctified.” So, in the light of what we’ve seen, we’ve got to go back and say, well, what do those mean then?

Karlo:
That’s right. Well, concerning the once for all statement in verse 10, the context bears out the clear meaning. In verses 11 through 12, the author is contrasting the sacrifice of Christ with the multiple sacrifices of the old covenant. The reason why all those sacrifices had to be offered again and again and again in the old covenant because none were sufficient for the forgiveness of sins. But, the sacrifice of Jesus Christ is sufficient for the forgiveness of sins. Consequently, therefore Jesus does not have to die again and again and offer himself again and again, because the one offering is sufficient for all sins on condition that we repent throughout our lives. So, at any moment in our life when we repent, the one sacrifice of Jesus is sufficient for me to be forgiven of my sins. Jesus doesn’t have to die again when I sin tomorrow. So, the once for all applies to the sufficiency of Jesus’s death on the cross, he died once, offered himself once for all time, such that at whatever moment in my life I need the mercy of Jesus.

Cy:
There it is.

Karlo:
There it is, accessible to me on condition that I repent and the mercy will be given to me, which is the merits of Jesus’s death and the cross being applied. And finally, in verse 14, when it says that Christ has perfected for all time, those who are sanctified, well, we know he’s not saying perfected in the sense that there’s nothing else that we have to do, and that it’s automatically perfected, because even Paul himself in Philippians 3:12 says, “Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect.” Even Paul himself says, “I’m not already perfect.” So, what’s going on here? Well, I think the similar to what we said before, Christ’s death on the cross makes the provisions for Christians of all times to achieve their goal of perfection. So, Christ’s death on the cross is at every moment of my life accessible to me. I can tap into the source of power in order for me to have the grace, which is coming from his cross, which is the cause of my perfection here and now.

So, I always have the provisions for perfection because of that one death, that one sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. And finally, check this out. It says Christ has perfected for all times those who are sanctified. In the Greek, it’s a present participle, those who are being sanctified. So watch this, if they were being sanctified, that means the merits of Jesus’ death on the cross, which happened once in the past, is at every moment of the Christian’s life being applied because they were being sanctified, thus giving them the provisions to be perfect. That is good news, amen.

Cy:
That is good news, Karlo. Thanks. Thanks again.

Karlo:
Thank you, buddy.

Cy:
I always end up feeling God is good after I talk to you, Karlo, thank you very much.

Karlo:
Indeed he is.

Cy:
The interior life, the life of constant daily even, repentance and renewed intimacy with God is the beauty of the Catholic faith. While we can be confident that God wants us in heaven with him and we’re never ever vulnerable to him abandoning us, he never will, it’s actually a harm to our spiritual life if we come to believe that this means our salvation is guaranteed. There remains the little matter of continuing to follow him, to be strengthened again and again by his sacraments, to grow in friendship and intimacy with him. It’s a life that requires not just that we turn once to Jesus, but that we develop the habit of turning to him.

The saints teach us that this is possible. They show us that a life of ongoing repentance, renewal, and ever deeper intimacy with the one who never gives up on us is actually the most beautiful life possible. Thanks for joining us on Catholic Answers Focus. If you enjoyed this episode or maybe you got a complaint about this episode, you can always let us know by sending us an email at [email protected] Don’t forget to subscribe to Focus wherever you get your podcasts, and please leave us that review in order to help grow the podcast. Some of you are able to support us financially, and we do need your financial help to continue to produce this podcast. It costs actually quite a bit of money to produce this podcast. You can provide your help at givecatholic.com. I’m Cy Kellett your host, and we’ll see you next time, God willing, right here on Catholic Answers Focus.

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