3. Forgiveness without repentance.
It is true that God is very patient toward us, and shows great forbearance and longsuffering toward the sinner, but this should not be mistaken for actual forgiveness. One of the tragedies in the church today is that it often is! I for one am glad that God doesn’t crush us for our sins right away. But if we are not careful, this might deceive us into thinking that God is okay with it!
Gods patience and longsuffering towards our sins should never be looked at as a finished article, but should rather be viewed as God giving us space so that we might repent and change our ways. There was even a woman in the church of Thyatira, by the name of Jezebel, whom God gave space too, that she might repent but she repented not and was judged, see Revelation 2:21-22.
Paul describes Gods heart toward the unrepentant as His goodness, forbearance and longsuffering. But He also points out why God is this way toward the sinner, it is to lead him to repentance and change. See Romans 2:4.
Peter in his second epistle points out this same theme of Gods patience and longsuffering toward the sinner as a temporary stay of execution, in the hopes that repentance would be sought for, salvation would be given. see 2 Peter 3:9. [ Note the different translations of this verse, the KJV uses the word longsuffering, which describes how God puts up with the sinner, and may for a long season allay His judgment. The NAS also translates not wishing that any should perish, which describes His goodness towards all rather than an unalterable sovereign decree.]
Paul also continues with this theme in his epistle to the Romans in describing how God endures with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted for destruction. See Romans 9:22 KJV. I too at one time believed that I was one of those, but God was very merciful to me, and I can see now how patient He was towards me. How do we know, that vessels which would appear to be to us vessels of wrath fitted for destruction, may yet very well be some of Gods elect? [ of course I speak in human traits and not from Gods vantage point, for with Him there is no confusion between who the elect are and the vessels of wrath!]
Yet the Bible speaks of those kind of sinners who are like sticks pulled out of the fire! See Zechariah 3:2 NIV, and the Bible also says we are to save others by snatching them out of the fire! JUDE 1:23 NAS. This is the way we are called to minister in these times where God is allowing space to repent.
What kind of salvation would it be, if God was merely to overlook our sins, leaving us in them? I state that this is no salvation at all! Yet this is the cheapened kind of presentation of salvation that is currently on offer today in many of our churches. Please do not mistake Gods great forbearance and longsuffering towards your sin as forgiveness itself! But rather something that makes repentance and forgiveness possible. Jesus came to save us from our sins, and any other kind of salvation on offer is not the salvation of the Bible See Matthew 1:21. I hope we come to realize the difference between Gods granting us space and actual forgiveness! May God mercifully deliver us from this error!