The Promise of Pardon

Dr. O.S. Hawkins, Chancellor, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary

“Seek the Lord while He may be found, Call upon Him while He is near. Let the wicked forsake his way, And the unrighteous man his thoughts; Let him return to the Lord, And He will have mercy on him; And to our God, For He will abundantly pardon” (Isaiah 55:6–7 NKJV).


At the end of each United States presidential term the president issues pardons to certain men and women who are incarcerated or who have been convicted of various crimes. Governors of the various states also have this power vested within their state offices. A pardon exempts someone from punishment for a crime they have committed. It rests solely on an executive decision and is not subject to any judicial review. The Creator of the universe has broad pardon powers, but pardons are not granted to everyone. They are available to those of us who “seek” Him, “call” to Him, and “return to Him.

Our God does not simply promise to pardon us but to “abundantly” pardon. He goes above and beyond a pardon to “justify” those whom He pardons. The Bible says, those “whom He called, these He also justified” (Romans 8:30). This is something altogether different from a pardon and is wrapped up in the thought of His promise to not only pardon us but to do so abundantly. No court of law can justify someone for their offense. A court may acquit someone, or even pardon someone, but it cannot “justify” someone. They cannot make the particular offense as if it never happened. But God can — and God does. He abundantly pardons and does not simply exempt us from punishment but wipes our slate clean as if it had never happened and we had never sinned. This is why the Bible says Jesus will one day present us “faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy” (Jude v. 24).

This promise of a heavenly pardon comes to us with a cause and effect attached. Not everyone will be pardoned of their sin. This promise is for those who meet three criteria listed in the context of God’s promise to “abundantly pardon.” The pardon is given to those who “seek” the Lord, who “call” on Him, and who “return” to Him.


Pardons are for those who seek the Lord

Don’t be confused at this point — a pardon does not come in seeking it, but in seeking the Lord. All through Scripture we are called to seek Him. Perhaps you need power to overcome something that has entered your life. It does not come in seeking power, but in seeking Him: “I sought the Lord, and He heard me, and delivered me from all my fears” (Psalm 34:4). Perhaps you are financially challenged and in need of monetary help. Don’t seek it. Seek the Lord, who said of Uzziah, “As long as he sought the Lord, God made him prosper” (2 Chronicles 26:5). Are you looking for happiness and contentment? You may be looking in all the wrong places. The Bible promises that those who seek the Lord will rejoice and be glad (Psalm 70:4). It might be that wisdom is your need of the day. “Those who seek the Lord understand all” (Proverbs 28:5). The wisest people I have known are not those with degrees from esteemed institutions of higher learning but those whose lives are characterized by their seeking the Lord continually.

The Bible admonishes us to seek Him “while He may be found.” This brings the element of urgency into the equation. There is not always going to be adequate time to call on Him. We derive our word callous from the Greek word found in Ephesians 4:19 where Paul escribed someone who is “past feeling.” I have a callus on the bottom of my foot. I can stick a pin in it and not feel it. There comes a time when after one repeatedly rejects Christ that his heart “hardens’ toward spiritual things like a callus and he becomes “past feeling.” It is not that the Lord ceases to call but that we can reach a point where we cease to hear and feel. Seek the Lord while He may be found. There will not always be adequate time.


Pardons are for those who call on the Lord

pardonNext, if you are in need of pardon, “Call upon Him while He is near.” Perhaps even as you read these words you sense His nearness to you in this moment. Call on Him. No one has ever sought and found the Lord without calling out to Him. He promised, “Call to Me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know” (Jeremiah 33;3). I cannot think of anything simpler than to call on Him. Those who have never prayed can call to Him from their hearts. He is “able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think” (Ephesians 3:20). 


Pardons are for those who return to the Lord

And finally, pardons come to those who “return to the Lord.” This thought is best pictured in the story of the prodigal son who “returned” to his father, seeking him and calling to him, and received his father’s full pardon and restoration. Isn’t it time for us to “forsake” our wrong ways and thoughts and simply return to Him? Here is repentance — a change of mind, which affects a change of volition or will, which causes a change of action. WE see Him. We call on Him. We return to Him.

God promises, “You will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13). And here is the good news. Before you ever decided to seek Him, He took the initiative and sought you. Jesus said He came to “seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10). That is the Lord Jesus knocking on your heart’s door now. Seek Him while He may be found. Call on Him while He is near. Return to Him. And when you do, “He will have mercy… He will abundantly pardon.”


Taken from The Promise Code by O.S. Hawkins. Copyright © 2022 by Dr. O.S. Hawkins. Used by permission of Thomas Nelson.

O.S. Hawkins is the chancellor of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He has served pastorates, including the First Baptist Church in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and the First Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas, for more than 25 years. A native of Fort Worth, Texas, he has a BBA from Texas Christian University and his MDiv and Ph.D. from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. For almost a quarter of a century, he served as president of GuideStone Financial Resources, with assets under management of $20 billion, serving 250,000 pastors, church staff members, missionaries, doctors, university professors, and other workers in various Christian organizations with their investment, retirement and benefit service needs. He is the author of more than 40 books and regularly speaks to business groups and churches nationwide. All of the author’s royalties and proceeds from the Code series support Mission:Dignity. You can learn more about Mission:Dignity by visiting

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