FORGIVE ONE ANOTHER. Christians are most like God when they are forgiving others. 1 John MacArthur

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1 FORGIVE ONE ANOTHER Christians are most like God when they are forgiving others. 1 John MacArthur PRIMARY SCRIPTURES: Eph 4:32; Col 3:13 Eph 4:32: Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you. (NASB) Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. (ESV) Col 3:13: bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. (NASB) bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. (ESV) CONTEXT OF THE PASSAGES: Each of these passages (Eph 4 and Col 3) discuss practical aspects of the Christian s walk, his daily life before God: doing away with the old and putting on the new in order to be more like Christ. In a sense, these sections parallel each other closely. Overall, they speak of the kinds of changes initiated by God in the Christian by grace at the point of salvation, changes that should continue and that reflect the character and actions of our Savior and promote unity in the Body. OTHER REPRESENTATIVE SCRIPTURES that speak of forgiveness: see pp WORD MEANINGS: 1. The word translated forgive in our two primary verses is charizomai (Strong s 5483) or a variation of it. This comes from the Greek word charis, from which we get our word grace. Literally, to show favor, to cancel a debt, to give freely, to be gracious or show kindness to. The concept is to bestow undeserved forgiveness freely or unconditionally (notice the emphasis on grace). Examples: Luke 7:42-43; 2 Cor 2:7, 10; Eph 4:32; Col 2:13, 3: The more common NT word translated forgive is aphiemi (Strongs 863). Apo = from + hiemi = to send; literally, to send away or dismiss or release; to remit or forgive sins, debts, or offenses; to liberate a person from their sins, their guilt, and their power. The idea is to be released of or freed from liabilities incurred due to sin, to no longer be guilty of or liable for sin. Examples: Matt 6:12, 14, 15; 18:21, 27, 32, 35; Mark 11:25; Acts 8:22; Rom 4:7; Jas 5:15; 1 Jn 1:9, 2:12. 1 Unknown reference. Page 1 of 6

2 APPLICATION: we forgive others because God has commanded us to do so. Sin requires forgiveness if reconciliation and restoration (essential for unity) are to occur. We can learn to obey this command by considering and answering some questions regarding forgiveness and forgiving one another. 1. What exactly is forgiveness? Forgiveness is a lifting of the charge of guilt from another, a formal declaration of that fact and a promise (made and kept) never to remember the wrong against him in the future. 2 Forgiveness cancels a debt that is owed due to sin. Failure to forgive means we want the person to pay. 2. What kinds of forgiveness are there? God s forgiveness of our sins, resulting in salvation (Col 2:13) God s ongoing, daily forgiveness of the Christian s sins (1 Jn 1:7-9) Our forgiveness of the sins of others (Eph 4:32; Col 3:13) 3. What, then, is forgiveness not? It is not a feeling or emotional state. Feelings tend to follow forgiving. It is not finally being able to forget about how badly someone hurt you, betrayed you, etc. God does not remember our sins (Isa 43:25), but because God is omniscient, He never actually forgets anything. The reference in Isaiah refers to God not counting our sins against us. Forgetting tends to follow forgiving. It is not excusing sin or being light on sin (Ps 51:4) 4. How do I know what it means to forgive? God is both our Model and our Motive for forgiveness. We are commanded to forgive others in the same way God forgives us and because He forgives us (Matt 18:21-35; Col 3:13; Eph 4:32) 5. How does God forgive me? God freely, willfully, and continually forgives believers of their sins by His decision, His declaration, and His promise, on account of Christ s finished work on Calvary, not to hold our sins against us (Jer 31:34). This is not excusing sin. God is just to forgive our sins because He crushed Christ on the cross as a penalty for our sins (Isa 53:10; Col 2:14). Our forgiveness was purchased at the cost of Christ s life. 6. What does it mean to forgive someone? What should this look like? Based on how God forgives us, we can deduce that forgiveness involves making a decision some promises. Therefore, when you say to someone, I forgive you, you are (or should be) promising these four things that God does for us: 2 Jay Adams, A Theology of Christian Counseling, page 229. Page 2 of 6

3 o Not to dwell on the incident; o Not to bring up the incident again and use it against the other person; o Not to talk to others about the incident (gossip); and o Not to allow the incident to stand between you and the other person or hinder your personal relationship with them When am I commanded to forgive others? When they sin and haven t yet repented o This is attitudinal or heart level forgiveness, when you unconditionally forgive immediately in your heart in order to prevent sinful anger, resentment, bitterness, etc., from developing (Mark 11:25; Luke 23:34; Col 3:13; Heb 12:15). In a sense, this is an internal forgiveness between you and God where you release the sinner from judgment and entrust him to God. This is the first step in being willing to grant transacted forgiveness and reconcile the relationship if the sinner repents (Matt 18:12-14, 15-17; Luke 17:3-4). We cultivate this type of forgiveness by knowing, meditating on, and applying the truths of the gospel the way God forgives us (Matt 18:21-35). o If needed, go directly to the sinner to show him his fault between you and him... to win him over (Matt 18:15), to rebuke him (carries an attitude of tentativeness) so he will repent and you can forgive him (Luke 17:3-4), and to restore him gently (Gal 6:1). o Repeated failure to repent should invoke the process laid out in Matt 18: o Grant them forgiveness in your heart (as mentioned above), making commitments to God to not become angry, resentful, bitter, etc., while you position yourself to grant verbal, transacted forgiveness when they repent. When they sin and have repented, asking for your forgiveness (Luke 17:3b-4) o Begin (as always) with attitudinal or heart level forgiveness. o Verbally grant transacted or granted forgiveness. This is the first concrete step toward reconciliation and restoration of your relationship. Not only after you judge that you have seen sufficient fruit of repentance (Luke 17:3-4) Not when you think you have enough faith (Luke 17:5-6) Not when you finally feel like it and your emotions have calmed down (Luke 17:7-9) It is simply a matter of obedience to God (Luke 17:10) 8. How should I respond when someone asks me to forgive them? Verbally grant them forgiveness and reconcile the relationship by faith, just as Christ has done for you. Like God, decide, declare, and promise, because of Christ: o Not to dwell on the incident; o Not to bring up the incident again and use it against the other person; o Not to talk to others about the incident (gossip); and o Not to allow the incident to stand between you and the other person or hinder your personal relationship with them. 4 As needed, continually renew your promises and repent of any violations. We are prone to slip back into unbiblical thinking and practice. Make an ongoing effort to remain forgiving. 3 Ken Sande, The Peacemaker, pp Ibid. Page 3 of 6

4 9. How should I seek forgiveness when I ve sinned against someone? Ask for forgiveness! Make it a yes or no question. Here are some examples of confessing and asking for forgiveness. I was wrong when I spoke harshly to you Sunday during lunch. I sinned against God and against you. Will you please forgive me? With God s help I am working on being more gracious in my speech. Would you please pray for me about that? God has convicted me of stealing office supplies from our workplace. Specifically, I have been taking pens, notepads, and sticky tabs for several months now. That is wrong; I have sinned against God, against you, and against our company. Will you please forgive me? I will also pay for the materials I have taken, and I will not steal from our company again. I understand that you have a right to fire me over these offenses, but I hope you will give me another chance to prove myself a trustworthy employee. I have something I need to tell you. The other day I gossiped to you about Bob. I was wrong to do that. Will you please forgive me? Bob is a fine man; I had no business talking about him that way. Please don t think less of him because of the things I said to you. I am working hard not to talk about others behind their backs. Nothing good comes from that. HOW TO OBEY THIS COMMAND: Love: Determine to please and obey God by being willing to forgive one another in the same way God has forgiven and still forgives you (in an ongoing fashion). Know: it is very humbling to ask forgiveness of someone. The better you know people, the easier this will be. Distancing yourself from others will only impede this. Speak: you must ASK for forgiveness. You must STATE that you forgive others. It is helpful to declare the promises you are making so the other person knows them and you are more accountable to keep them. Do: there are promises to keep when you forgive others. They can be easy to violate or forget, so give yourself some homework so you keep them. Write them on a piece of paper (no names) or whatever you need to do to be reminded of them. CONCLUDING THOUGHTS: Forgiveness is anything but natural; it is a grace-powered activity that begins in our hearts and requires God s ongoing help. Our heavenly Father has been gracious to provide us with the perfect model and motive for forgiving others: the way and reason He forgives us. That is the gospel, and we must not forget this! It is not enough to simply say, I forgive you. We must mean it from our innermost being, making promises to the sinner and ourselves so we stay on track and don t sin ourselves. Again, this requires God s gracious help. May we love Him and one another enough to strive to obey this important command from our hearts... by His grace. Page 4 of 6

5 Scriptures Referenced Ps 51:4 Against You, You only, I have sinned And done what is evil in Your sight, So that You are justified when You speak And blameless when You judge. Isa 43:25 I, even I, am the one who wipes out your transgressions for My own sake, And I will not remember your sins. Isa 53:10 But the LORD was pleased To crush Him, putting Him to grief; If He would render Himself as a guilt offering, He will see His offspring, He will prolong His days, And the good pleasure of the LORD will prosper in His hand. Jer 31:34 They will not teach again, each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying, Know the LORD, for they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, declares the LORD, for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more. Matt 6:12 And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. Matt 6:14-15 For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions. Matthew 18:12 17 What do you think? If any man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go and search for the one that is straying? 13 If it turns out that he finds it, truly I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine which have not gone astray. 14 So it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones perish. 15 If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother. 16 But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that BY THE MOUTH OF TWO OR THREE WITNESSES EVERY FACT MAY BE CONFIRMED. 17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. Matthew 18:21 35 Then Peter came and said to Him, Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times? 22 Jesus said to him, I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven. 23 For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves. 24 When he had begun to settle them, one who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him. 25 But since he did not have the means to repay, his lord commanded him to be sold, along with his wife and children and all that he had, and repayment to be made. 26 So the slave fell to the ground and prostrated himself before him, saying, Have patience with me and I will repay you everything. 27 And the lord of that slave felt compassion and released him and forgave him the debt. 28 But that slave went out and found one of his fellow slaves who owed him a hundred denarii; and he seized him and began to choke him, saying, Pay back what you owe. 29 So his fellow slave fell to the ground and began to plead with him, saying, Have patience with me and I will repay you. 30 But he was unwilling and went and threw him in prison until he should pay back what was owed. 31 So when his fellow slaves saw what had happened, they were deeply grieved and came and reported to their lord all that had happened. 32 Then summoning him, his lord said to him, You wicked slave, I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. 33 Should you not also have had mercy on your fellow slave, in the same way that I had mercy on you? 34 And his lord, moved with anger, handed him over to the torturers until he should repay all that was owed him. 35 My heavenly Father will also do the same to you, if each of you does not forgive his brother from your heart. Mark 11:25 Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father who is in heaven will also forgive you your transgressions. Luke 7:42 43 When they were unable to repay, he graciously forgave them both. So which of them will love him more? 43 Simon answered and said, I suppose the one whom he forgave more. And He said to him, You have judged correctly. Page 5 of 6

6 Luke 17:3 10 Be on your guard! If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. 4 And if he sins against you seven times a day, and returns to you seven times, saying, I repent, forgive him. 5 The apostles said to the Lord, Increase our faith! 6 And the Lord said, If you had faith like a mustard seed, you would say to this mulberry tree, Be uprooted and be planted in the sea ; and it would obey you. 7 Which of you, having a slave plowing or tending sheep, will say to him when he has come in from the field, Come immediately and sit down to eat? 8 But will he not say to him, Prepare something for me to eat, and properly clothe yourself and serve me while I eat and drink; and afterward you may eat and drink? 9 He does not thank the slave because he did the things which were commanded, does he? 10 So you too, when you do all the things which are commanded you, say, We are unworthy slaves; we have done only that which we ought to have done. Luke 23:34 But Jesus was saying, Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing. And they cast lots, dividing up His garments among themselves. Acts 8:22 Therefore repent of this wickedness of yours, and pray the Lord that, if possible, the intention of your heart may be forgiven you. Rom 4:7 BLESSED ARE THOSE WHOSE LAWLESS DEEDS HAVE BEEN FORGIVEN, AND WHOSE SINS HAVE BEEN COVERED. 2 Cor 2:7 so that on the contrary you should rather forgive and comfort him, otherwise such a one might be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. 2 Cor 2:10 But one whom you forgive anything, I forgive also; for indeed what I have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, I did it for your sakes in the presence of Christ, Gal 6:1 Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted. Eph 4:32 Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you. Col 2:13-14 When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions, having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. Col 3:13 bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. Heb 12:15 See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled; Jas 5:15 and the prayer offered in faith will restore the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up, and if he has committed sins, they will be forgiven him. 1 John 1:7 9 but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. 8 If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 2:12 I am writing to you, little children, because your sins have been forgiven you for His name s sake. Page 6 of 6

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