The Gospel Is Better than Amnesty

The Gospel Is Better than Amnesty

In the gospel, we announce to the world that freedom and full forgiveness for crimes committed against the King of the Cosmos is available in Christ. We declare to the prodigal son and the proud older brother that they can both find grace and mercy with no cost to them if they turn and believe in Jesus. This forgiveness, however, comes at a high price. A price the Great King has paid. 

Good paintings tell stories.

Think of the Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci. It tells the story of Jesus and his disciples sitting down for the final meal before the crucifixion. Jesus would drink the Passover cup before being sacrificed as the Passover lamb.

The good news of Jesus is more than a story. But it’s not less. It is the most important story on the planet. And it is the truest of true stories. Many have attempted to paint pictures that rightly tell the story of the gospel. Sometimes these paintings are painted with words, instead of paint and a canvas.

These gospel paintings are often necessary because the gospel must be explained. It is a message made of propositional truth. That means it must be understood. John Piper writes, “The gospel is not only news. It is first news, and then it is doctrine. Doctrine means teaching, explaining, clarifying. Doctrine is part of the gospel because news can’t be just declared by the mouth of a herald—it has to be understood in the mind of the hearer.”[1]

People paint a number of different word pictures trying to help a hearer to understand the gospel. Some compare believing the gospel to Jesus paying your speeding ticket or serving your prison sentence. Like creation itself, the word-pictures available are gloriously endless.

One such picture offered is that of amnesty. The good news of Jesus is compared to a government, possibly a king, declaring amnesty to those who have committed a crime against the state. The question is whether or not the picture of amnesty has all the colors and contours of the gospel painting.

Defining “Amnesty”

Most often this term is applied when the group declaring amnesty is a form of government. Accordingly, Merriam-Webster defines amnesty as “the act of an authority (such as a government) by which pardon is granted to a large group of individuals.” The government forgets the crime and offers absolution.

The Encyclopedia Britannica further develops the picture:

Amnesty. In criminal law, sovereign act of oblivion or forgetfulness (from Greek amnēsia) for past acts, granted by a government to persons who have been guilty of crimes . . . Technically . . . amnesty differs from a general pardon in that the latter simply relieves from punishment whereas the former declares innocence or abolishes the crime.

Amnesty, as commonly understood, is a declaration by an authoritative body (e.g., Congress, or King, or President) to abolish a crime (or crimes) and forget that it had ever occurred. There are no penalties or punishments or justice to be meted out for crimes committed.

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