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Question #314

Can I be forgiven?

I'm 53 years old. I was not raised in any church. At age 17, I dated and later married a young lady from the church of Christ. I also was baptized after a short study period. I fell from grace. Turned away from the lord. Ended up being divorced. For reasons that are allowed. Adultery. I've tried to come back. Even tried some other churches. I was baptized again at a Baptist church. I moved back into the area of the church of Christ I first attended. I've tried to communicate with the church. I even attended another church of Christ. There were members there that were from the old church of Christ I attended. I was made not to feel welcome. I tried to talk to the new preacher at the first church of Christ I attended and was baptized in. I was told he could not stop me. But would have to discuss it with the elders, etc. I feel unwelcome and do not know what to do. Every Sunday I get up with the intention of going to one of these church's to repent. Possibly be baptized again. Fear, keeps me at home. I want to do God’s will. I'm afraid I’ve sinned too much to be forgiven. Confused! How should I go about this? I'm now in poor health. I feel the need to go and also attend. I have 2 grown children raised in the church of Christ. They no longer attend. No doubt my poor example. God has kept me alive for a reason. I need to try. Not just for myself. But also for my children. And whatever plan Jesus has for me. I've got to go. It is hard when I do not feel welcome. Am I just to go to hell? I thought the church would be forgiving. My ex wife and others have forgiven me. I'm very lost. I can't even drive anymore. If I do not act quick. I may die and will be separated from God for eternity. Is that what I should expect? Can I go back? Can I be forgiven? Please. Tell me what and how to do it.

The Answer:

This is a sad story for several reasons: a broken marriage, children who either strayed away, Christians who were less than helpful, and a fallen Christian who wants to do what is right but is having trouble doing so.

At this point nothing can be done about the marriage. As long as the children are alive there is hope that they can be persuaded to return. Since they were “raised in the church” it is likely that they are from the first marriage. If the mother has remained faithful she should be able to help. As the father, you can take action to make your life right which includes repentance not only before the Lord, but to your children. They may not accept your expression of sorrow for the wrong you did them in breaking up the family of their youth, but you will at least have done all that you can do. Your statement to them should include a statement of your desire to set things right with your God before you go to meet him and your desire that they do the same.

It is unfortunate that you feel unwelcome at the congregation where you first obeyed the Lord and were added to his church. However, you should keep in mind that a part of that feeling may be simply internal to you – you feel unwelcome because you are aware of their knowledge of your past life. What you can and should do is go before the congregation where you first began to stray and publicly confess your repentance and join with them in prayer for your restitution to right relationship with the Lord. Assuming that your first baptism was for the right reason, you do not need to be baptized again. Hopefully their attitude will be one of acceptance and forgiveness. Should it not be so, once again you have done all that you can do and all that the Lord requires of you. Whatever the condition, demonstrate your changed life by new behavior and faithfulness to the Lord and his body, the church. By your fruits they shall know the sincerity of your repentance. Your fear for the Lord must be greater than your fear of how you might be or how you perceive you have been treated. “And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Mat 10:28 KJV).

God's Plan of Salvation

You must hear the gospel and then understand and recognize that you are lost without Jesus Christ no matter who you are and no matter what your background is. The Bible tells us that “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) Before you can be saved, you must understand that you are lost and that the only way to be saved is by obedience to the gospel of Jesus Christ. (2 Thessalonians 1:8) Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” (John 14:6) “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12) "So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." (Romans 10:17)

You must believe and have faith in God because “without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6) But neither belief alone nor faith alone is sufficient to save. (James 2:19; James 2:24; Matthew 7:21)

You must repent of your sins. (Acts 3:19) But repentance alone is not enough. The so-called “Sinner’s Prayer” that you hear so much about today from denominational preachers does not appear anywhere in the Bible. Indeed, nowhere in the Bible was anyone ever told to pray the “Sinner’s Prayer” to be saved. By contrast, there are numerous examples showing that prayer alone does not save. Saul, for example, prayed following his meeting with Jesus on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:11), but Saul was still in his sins when Ananias met him three days later (Acts 22:16). Cornelius prayed to God always, and yet there was something else he needed to do to be saved (Acts 10:2, 6, 33, 48). If prayer alone did not save Saul or Cornelius, prayer alone will not save you. You must obey the gospel. (2 Thess. 1:8)

You must confess that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. (Romans 10:9-10) Note that you do NOT need to make Jesus “Lord of your life.” Why? Because Jesus is already Lord of your life whether or not you have obeyed his gospel. Indeed, we obey him, not to make him Lord, but because he already is Lord. (Acts 2:36) Also, no one in the Bible was ever told to just “accept Jesus as your personal savior.” We must confess that Jesus is the Son of God, but, as with faith and repentance, confession alone does not save. (Matthew 7:21)

Having believed, repented, and confessed that Jesus is the Son of God, you must be baptized for the remission of your sins. (Acts 2:38) It is at this point (and not before) that your sins are forgiven. (Acts 22:16) It is impossible to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ without teaching the absolute necessity of baptism for salvation. (Acts 8:35-36; Romans 6:3-4; 1 Peter 3:21) Anyone who responds to the question in Acts 2:37 with an answer that contradicts Acts 2:38 is NOT proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ!

Once you are saved, God adds you to his church and writes your name in the Book of Life. (Acts 2:47; Philippians 4:3) To continue in God’s grace, you must continue to serve God faithfully until death. Unless they remain faithful, those who are in God’s grace will fall from grace, and those whose names are in the Book of Life will have their names blotted out of that book. (Revelation 2:10; Revelation 3:5; Galatians 5:4)