Does forgiveness remove all consequences of sin? Or put another way, if there are still consequences, does that mean that there has not been forgiveness?
I think consequences can exist even after honest repentance and true forgiveness. A few biblical examples:
And the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not believe in me, to uphold me as holy in the eyes of the people of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land that I have given them.” [Numbers 20:12 ESV]
Did Moses and Aaron never repent? Did God never forgive them? Or, was there a consequence to their actions that no repentance or forgiveness could change?
Nathan said to David, “You are the man! Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, ‘I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you out of the hand of Saul. And I gave you your master’s house and your master’s wives into your arms and gave you the house of Israel and of Judah. And if this were too little, I would add to you as much more. Why have you despised the word of the LORD, to do what is evil in his sight? You have struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and have taken his wife to be your wife and have killed him with the sword of the Ammonites. Now therefore the sword shall never depart from your house, because you have despised me and have taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife.’ Thus says the LORD, ‘Behold, I will raise up evil against you out of your own house. And I will take your wives before your eyes and give them to your neighbor, and he shall lie with your wives in the sight of this sun. For you did it secretly, but I will do this thing before all Israel and before the sun.'” David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the LORD.” And Nathan said to David, “The LORD also has put away your sin; you shall not die. Nevertheless, because by this deed you have utterly scorned the LORD, the child who is born to you shall die.” [2 Samuel 12:7-14 ESV]
It looks to me like David repented, and God forgave him. However, the son conceived died, and as Nathan said many of David’s offspring died and his son slept with his wives in front of many. To me, this is consequences after forgiveness.
David explained it like this:
O LORD our God, you answered them; you were a forgiving God to them, but an avenger of their wrongdoings. [Psalms 99:8 ESV]
The “them’ in that verse includes Moses and Aaron!
Want one from the New Testament? How about the Prodigal Son? He was forgiven and restored as a son, but he was still broke!
Based on this, I do not see any indication that repentance and forgiveness results in everything being as it was. Sin changes things; it can change our bodies (injuries, disease) it can change our minds, and it can change our relationships. I think God is all about restoration, but that restoration does not always look like what existed before the sin.
What does all this mean when we sin against our spouse? I think it means we need to give them a great deal of space and grace. Yes, they are commanded to forgive, but they are not commanded to act as if it never happened. Trust has been broken, and it takes time to rebuild trust. Certainly, “fruits in keeping with repentance” can help (and a lack of such fruits will hurt), but it takes time for that fruit to show.
The bottom line is the one who has sinned does not do well to demand forgiveness or trust or anything else, especially at first. If you show sustained (meaning over time) signs of repentance and she refuses to forgive or work on restoration, then it is time for third party help.
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