Much contemporary preaching demands faith. This is right insofar as it goes, but it is not all. Preachers should not demand faith only. We are saved by faith in Christ, yes, but Christ saves us, through faith, from sin. He was called Jesus (literally, Savior) because he was going to save his people from their sins (Matt. 1:21). If the preaching of salvation through Christ has no reference to sin, then the people to whom we preach are robbed of the whole context of sin which gives penitent faith in Christ its significance. It is easier, even pleasant, to preach faith in Christ as the only necessary response to the proclamation of gospel truth, but it is sin to which sinners are attached.
True repentance grows in the gospel soil of God’s sovereign grace. Its roots comprise both biblically-informed grief over sin and biblically-informed apprehension of God’s mercy in Christ. Its trunk and branches are turning from sin and turning to God. Its fruit is the endeavor for new obedience in full dependence upon the Holy Spirit.
All this we have gleaned so far from looking at chapter 15 of the Second London Baptist Confession. The chapter now concludes by examining the necessity of preaching repentance in the light of what we know about sin:
Such is the provision which God hath made through Christ in the covenant of grace for the preservation of believers unto salvation; that although there is no sin so small but it deserves damnation; yet there is no sin so great that it shall bring damnation on them that repent; which makes the constant preaching of repentance necessary.
No Sin So Small
The Confession completes its treatment of repentance with some particular and searching counsel about the necessity of preaching repentance in the light of what we know about sin. As we noted when we began, every sin is grievous, and the “least” sin (as men perceive it) is sufficient for the condemnation of any man. However, that God is willing to forgive the sins of those who come to him in faith and repentance is the hope of the sinner, and must therefore be preached to sinners fully and freely.
Never underestimate sin. There is no sin so small but it deserves damnation. The wages of sin — all sin, each and every sin — is death (Rom. 6:23). In this sense, no sin should be considered small, as it brings so great a condemnation. The holy law of God is like a great and fragile object, perhaps a beautiful window or some other work of art, all made of one piece. If I make a crack in this great and fragile thing, no one accuses me of breaking only a part of it. The entire object is no longer whole. Thus it is with the law of God: to break it at all is to break it all (James 2.10). To stumble in any point is to become a lawbreaker, and therefore to be guilty, and deserving of punishment.
When David cries out for forgiveness in Psalm 51, there is a comprehensiveness in his desperate request. David is concerned for particular sins, yes, but with every particular sin also. He wants God to cleanse him from sin in its totality and sins in their plurality. He desires a complete cleansing (for example, Ps. 51:2, 7, 9), because he knows that one sin is fatal to peace with God. All this means that when we look at any man or woman, boy or girl, we are looking at someone who is a lawbreaker, who has offended the gracious and holy God, and is therefore liable to the just and fearful punishment of that God for the transgression of his revealed will. That proper and righteous punishment is death and hell. This is the horror of sin.
No Sin So Great
We should not underestimate sin, yet neither should we underestimate the Christ who saves us from sin. Here is cause for great praise and thanksgiving! Such is the provision which God has made through Christ in his covenant of grace for the preservation of believers unto salvation, that there is no sin so great that it shall bring damnation on them that repent. The blood of Christ is sufficient to wash away the deepest stain of iniquity — his blood can make the foulest clean. The gospel offer, the gospel provision, for repenting sinners is that those whose sins are like scarlet shall be made as white as snow through the blood of the Lamb; though our sins are red like crimson, they shall be as pure new wool (Isa. 1:18).
All upon whom God has set his love are so provided for by the atoning blood of Christ in his propitiating sacrifice that each sin, all sin, and every sin can be covered, transgressions swept away as far as the east is from the west (Ps. 103:12). Again, this is no ground for sinning with impunity, but is rather the great motivation to holiness of life and fleeing every sin.
We should also be very clear in our minds and hearts, and in our preaching, about the certainty of forgiveness where true repentance is demonstrated. As we should ourselves repent with an “apprehension of the mercy of God in Christ,” so we should preach to others.