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2 Peter 1:9 says that a Christian who lacks the Christian graces “is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins” (NKJV, emphasis added). Does this imply that he is forgiven of his old sins but isn’t necessarily forgiven of present sins?

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The teaching in 2 Peter 1:9 is also repeated in many other places. Here is a sample:

  • Acts 22:16 - And now what are you waiting for? Get up, be baptized, and wash your sins away, calling on His name.’
  • Heb 10:22 - let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.
  • 1 Cor 6:11 - And some of you were such. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.
  • Eph 5:26 - so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water by the word,
  • 1 Peter 3:21 - And this water symbolizes the baptism that now saves you also—not the removal of dirt from the body, but the pledge of a clear conscience toward God—through the resurrection of Jesus Christ,
  • etc

Commenting in 2 Peter 1:9, The Cambridge commentary says this:

The “purification” is that of conversion symbolized and made effectual by baptism, and connects itself with the stress laid upon it in the words that belong to one great crisis of the Apostle’s life (Acts 10:15; Acts 11:9; Acts 15:9). The man who forgets this cleansing of his soul, and acts as if he were in his simply natural state, with no power to resist temptation, does in fact ignore what God has done for him, and treats “the sins of long ago” as though they were still the inevitable accompaniments of the present.

Benson is similar:

having forgotten the purification from his former sins; not remembering, or not having a proper sense of what he himself felt when his past sins were forgiven him, and he was first assured of his acceptance with God. “The apostle’s expression here, in which he alludes to baptism, together with Ananias’s words to Paul, (Acts 22:16,) Arise and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, is thought by many to imply, that in baptism the guilt of former sins is washed away.

In 2 Peter 1:9, Peter is lamenting the lack of growth in Christian graces and the detrimental effect this has on the Christian. Some continue to struggle to fully grasp (by faith) the fact they that have been forgiven and cleansed, and so still act as though this weight of sin must still be carried.

Peter encourages us all to recall the great grace of Jesus who, as Isaiah states:

Isa 53:4, 5 - Surely He took on our infirmities and carried our sorrows; yet we considered Him stricken by God, struck down and afflicted. But He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed.

That is, Peter is telling us an important truth - those who cannot accept by faith that Jesus' atonement is real and present, cannot grow in the Christian graces of (2 Peter 2:5-8) faith, virtue, knowledge, self-control, endurance, godliness, brotherly affection, love.

It was the great author, John Bunyan, who depicted this well in his extended parable of "Pilgrim's Progress" - it was only when Pilgrim left his burden of sin at the cross that real progress toward the "celestial city" could be made.

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  • Your reference to that scene in "Pilgrim's Progress" illustrates the point of 2 Peter 1:9 extremely well. The only real difference. if it can even be called a difference, is that the Pilgrim of 1:9 has forgotten that the burden has been removed. So, being short-sighted, he sits in one place and doesn't see very far forward. He's effectively blind. Commented May 21 at 19:37
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Make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, virtue with knowledge, 6 knowledge with self-control, self-control with endurance, endurance with devotion, 7 devotion with mutual affection, mutual affection with love. 8 If these are yours and increase in abundance, they will keep you from being idle or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 Anyone who lacks them is blind and shortsighted, forgetful of the cleansing of his past sins.

The OP uses the term "Christian graces" to describe the qualities listed above. A better term is "virtues." The Greeks and Jews also spoke of these qualities, so the are not particularly "Christian." Rather the author sees them as fruits of spirit which supplement faith. He warns that if a person lacks them, they are "blind" and forgetful of the cleansing of past sins. In other words, he is warning Christians to remember their salvation and manifest good works and character traits. He does not say whether or not current sins are covered by one's initial profession of faith.

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