History and Forgiveness
I have a question for you. It might seem like an odd question. It might even seem trivial. But there’s a point, so stay with me. Here it is: Can you go back in time and pull Jesus off the cross? Can you build a time machine, travel back in time, and somehow prevent Jesus from dying for the sins of the world? Even if you could build that time machine, would Jesus let you pull him down?
I have another question. And this one might start to reveal the point of the first question: Can you commit a sin so bad that it ripples back in time and convinces Jesus to give up on the whole redemption thing? Can you commit a sin so evil that it pierces backward through time and space until it reaches Jesus on the cross and makes him say, “Okay, forget it; it’s just not worth it”?
I have a third question for you. And this is the last one: Can you undo your Baptism? Can you use that aforementioned time machine to go back in time and prevent that water from falling on your head? And can you stop the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit from being spoken over you? You can leave the covenant of your Baptism, either by persistently rejecting the Holy Spirit when he convicts you of your sins, by denying the truth of the Christian faith, or simply by neglecting the worship of the saints. If this is you, repent. Return to the covenant of your Baptism, because it is still valid. You can leave it, but that’s not the same thing as undoing it.
You cannot undo any of these things, because you cannot undo history. History is history. It’s done. No time machine and no sin will ever undo history.
But this isn’t a science fiction issue. It’s a theological and spiritual issue. So here’s the point: If you cannot undo these things (and you can’t), then you cannot prevent your sins from being forgiven. One of the unique things about the Christian faith is the historicity of it. The truthfulness of it does not depend on our feelings. It depends on real, historical events. Sometimes you will feel forgiven; sometimes you won’t. That’s beside the point, because whether or not your sins are forgiven does not depend on how you feel. Jesus died for your sins whether you feel like it or not. And Jesus rose from the dead whether you feel like it or not. This happened long before you were born, so you really can’t do anything about it.
And when that water reached your skin and that name was spoken over you, it brought these real, historical events to you. And this became a real, historical event of its own. “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?” (Rom. 6:3). Your Baptism brought the death of Jesus to you. And if it brought the death of Jesus to you, it also brought his resurrection to you (Rom. 6:4-5). This Baptism is a real, historical event that connects you to the real, historical events of Jesus’ death and resurrection.
Dear baptized child of God, you will not always feel forgiven. You will not always feel like a Christian. Every Christian experiences this. So what? Can your sins undo your Baptism? Can your sins pull Jesus off the cross? No and no. And if your sins do not have this kind of power, then they also don’t have the power to undo your forgiveness. Your forgiveness does not depend on the severity of your sin. Nor does it depend on how you feel. It depends on history. Live with it.