by Rick Thomas
One of the more interesting teachings which has crept into the Christian world view is the idea of self-forgiveness. “You just need to forgive yourself” is one of the standard ways this secular doctrine is put forth.
I’m not exactly sure how it became such a supported teaching in the mainstream Christian consciousness, though I do have a pretty good idea of some of its secular counterparts. The self-esteem movement would be one of its companions. Self-forgiveness and self-esteem are similar in that they have a high view of self in common.
Whose blood is sufficient?
Typically a person who believes he needs to forgive himself has sinned in some way–hence the need for forgiveness. All sin requires forgiveness in order to be free from it. This is straight-forward Christian doctrine: I sin; I must be forgiven.
The problem arises when the self-forgiver is not seeking forgiveness from God alone. He is looking for something more–something in addition to God’s forgiveness. Though he may realize God will forgive him of his sins, he also believes his personal forgiveness of himself is required too.
“Yes, God has forgiven me, but I can’t forgive myself for what I did,” is a typical response.
This should be a self-evident heresy because it adds to the forgiveness we receive from God alone, through Christ alone, based on the Bible alone. It’s adding to the Gospel. It’s like placing the blood of the lamb above the doorpost, plus my blood too (Exodus 12:7). This is dangerous teaching.
Christ’s forgiveness of myself + my forgiveness of myself = heresy
Christ’s forgiveness of myself + my acceptance of His forgiveness = Gospel
The reason the perfect Lamb of God came to earth was to save us from our sins (John 1:29). This is a major plank in the Gospel platform. Man was lost in his sin and if he was going to be redeemed, then God had to come to do it (Ephesians 2:1-9).
He did come by becoming a man, living perfectly, dying on the cross, and rising from the grave in order to not only conquer sin, but to provide a means for sinner-man to be freed from sin.
In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace. – Ephesians 1:7 (ESV)
If sinner-man could forgive himself, then he would not need a perfect sacrifice.