Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Gospel Love & the Covering of Sin

“He who conceals [מכסהֿפשע] a transgression seeks love, but he who repeats a matter separates intimate friends” (Proverbs 17:9). What does it mean to cover a transgression of another with love as a goal?

We do not cover our own trangressions; that is the work and right of God upon our humble confession of sin: “How blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered [כסוי]! How blessed is the man to whom the LORD does not impute iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit! When I kept silent about my sin, my body wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me; my vitality was drained away as with the fever heat of summer. Selah. I acknowledged my sin to You, and my iniquity I did not hide [כסיתי]; I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the LORD’; and You forgave the guilt of my sin” (Psalm 32:1-5). It is not our place to hide, or cover, our own sin. We must humbly confess it to God, Who conceals the sin of His covenant people under atoning blood: “You forgave the iniquity of Your people; You covered [כסית] all their sin” (Psalm 85:2). This was true in the Old Testament, and is true today in the New Testament: “This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us” (1 John 1:5-10). The goal of God’s sin-covering in Christ is also love, love that is an inseparable part of His character and being, as described in our Proverb for today. In fact, biblical love as attributed to God must be understood in connection with our sin and the Father’s covering of that sin in Christ: “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love. By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another” (1 John 4:7-11).

It is a sin before God for us to cover our own transgression. We saw the consequences of this in the confession of the Psalmist above (32:3,4). Job, in appealing to God, protests that he has not concealed his sins before God: “Have I covered [כסיתי] my transgressions like Adam, by hiding my iniquity in my bosom, because I feared the great multitude, and the contempt of families terrified me, and kept silent and did not go out of doors? Oh that I had one to hear me! Behold, here is my signature; let the Almighty answer me! And the indictment which my adversary has written, surely I would carry it on my shoulder, I would bind it to myself like a crown. I would declare to Him the number of my steps; like a prince I would approach Him” (Job 31:33-37). The wisdom of God also testifies to this: “He who conceals [מכסה] his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will find compassion” (Proverbs 28:13).

We humbly confess our sins with repentant attitudes before God and He is faithful to cover those sins in Christ, the Person of the Trinity Who manifests the Father’s love to us. As we saw above (1 John 4:7-11), this sin-covering love then becomes the pattern of our loving relationships with each other in the covenant people of God. We imitate God’s love when we cover the transgressions of others: “Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers [תכסה] all transgressions” (Proverbs 10:12). Paul makes this connection, as well: “So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you” (Colossians 3:12,13).

“He who conceals [מכסהֿפשע] a transgression seeks love, but he who repeats a matter separates intimate friends” (Proverbs 17:9). Let God and the love of those in the covenant community of God with us be the coverers of our humbly confessed sin. In this is Christ-exalting, God-centered love. True love.

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