Often well-intentioned Christians and pastors use the phrase “God gives second chances” to explain the Gospel and forgivness. Though the following quote is not what led me to write this post, it summarizes the way this concept gets presented. “We are all sinners and even with the best intentions, we continue to sin. But God gives us a mulligan, a second chance to redeem ourselves. As a matter of fact he gives us third and fourth chances as well. Our God is so awesome that he gives us unlimited do-overs.”
This sounds nice to us because we can remember messing up younger and receiving another opportunity to try again. We look back on the time when the teacher let us redo the test or gave us an easy extra credit assignment. Isn’t God good, loving, and fair? Hearing He gives “second chances” lets us know God’s sees our best efforts and gives us another shot.
Unfortunately, this common phrase betrays the message of the Christian Gospel. “God gives second chances” makes it sound as if God is saying, “Hey, you did your best the first time and failed, so I’m going to give you another chance to prove yourself.” Through the Gospel, God declares something much better than “I’m giving you a second chance.” In fact, this would be terrible news.
Humans suffer from a deeper problem than failing to live up to our best intentions. We have sinned and we are sinners. Romans 3 shows that sin has affected every part of our beings so that we stand before God with no excuse for the life of rebellion we have lived. The offer of a second chance would only be a second chance to fail again. Offering a third chance, fourth chance, fifth chance, or a millionth chance cannot change the problem we have by nature.
Our sin deserves death; our death. Yet Jesus, the perfect Son of God, took our death upon Himself when He gave Himself up on the cross. Then He conquered death in His resurrection from the dead. “You get a second chance” is not the Gospel; it’s Law. Jesus gives something infinitely better than a second chance. He never needed a second chance because He perfectly fulfilled God’s law in every way. What God offers those who have faith in Christ is not another chance to do their best, but the opportunity to stand before God clothed with the righteousness of Christ. Those who trust in Christ are justified before God, adopted by God, forgiven by God, and reconciled to God.
Because of the Gospel, another amazing thing happens. God’s give us His Spirit. Those who trust in Christ don’t get a mulligan so they can try to do things in the power of their flesh again. They’re made new; renovated from the inside out. Why hold out the opportunity of a “second chance” when the offer of new life exists.
This may seem picky, but don’t we want to describe the good news of what God has done accurately? We don’t want people hearing that they need to try harder, we want them to hear the free offer of God’s grace in Jesus? What God produces in us through His Gospel is infinitely better than what we produce through our efforts at self-redemption.