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Sinners, saved by grace

By Scott Tibbs, June 15, 2009

On a forum I frequent, a poster made a remark about former House speaker Newt Gingrich converting to Roman Catholicism. The question was this: How is it that a 3 times married, twice divorced guy fits in with Catholics?

That is a good question, since it underscores the mistaken view many people have about Christian theology. Your statement, applied consistently, would automatically exclude anyone of converting to Catholicism or joining any Protestant church, because "all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God." (Romans 3:23)

In fact, Jesus said in Mark 2:17 that "they that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance." What is the point of Christ's sacrifice on the Cross if His church is going to turn away repentant sinners as unworthy of the gospel? If someone has truly repented of his sin, then that person should be accepted, by any Bible-believing church he wishes to attend.

We see this in the Apostle Paul's letter to the Corinthian church. In 1 Corinthians 5, The Apostle Paul scolds the church by writing: "It is reported commonly that there is fornication among you, and such fornication as is not so much as named among the Gentiles, that one should have his father's wife." Paul scolds the Corinthians for being "puffed up" commands them to "put away from among yourselves that wicked person."

But in 2 Corinthians 2:5-8, Paul commands the Corinthians to forgive the wicked man and restore him to fellowship. The reason he is to be forgiven and restored to fellowship is because he has repented of his wickedness. The application, of course, is this: if someone has repented of his wickedness, any Bible-believing church is obligated by Scripture to forgive him and restore him to fellowship.

The Prodigal Son is another example of forgiveness. The son demanded his inheritance from his father, a terribly hateful act that is basically wishing his father was dead. After wasting away his fortune, he goes back to his father's house to ask if he could be a servant, because his wickedness has made him unfit to be a son. Instead, the father (a representation of God) completely restores his son (a representation of repentant sinners) to the household.

Does that mean wickedness such as adultery is OK? Of course not. The Bible is very clear that marriage is to be honored, and that husbands are to love their wives as Christ loved the church. In return, the church is to love Christ and be faithful to him. As marriage is a picture of that relationship, the Bible often describes idolatry as people "whoring" after other gods.

What it means is that Christians are sinners saved by grace, and that we have a loving and merciful God who will accept with open arms anyone who repents of sin and accepts His Son as both Savior and Lord. No matter what we have done, and no matter how vile our wickedness, there is no sin that the blood of Christ cannot wash away of the sinner is repentant.