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FAQ ABOUT FORGIVING OTHERS

October 21, 2017 Leave a comment

 

Dr. Mike Johnston

 

Being forgiven of our sin and given a standing of righteousness before God is a prerequisite for Heaven. But is forgiving others a foregone requirement for salvation like many have led us to believe? Scripture studied in context teaches it is not!

Jesus prayed: And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors (Matthew 6:12), and Paul wrote: And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you (Ephesians 4:32).

I don’t see how it could be any more clear. Horizontal forgiveness (man forgiving man) is predicated upon and patterned after vertical forgiveness (God forgiving man).

 

What part does forgiveness play in a Christian’s salvation?

Again, bear in mind that forgiveness restores relationships. You can’t have a relationship with a person where unforgiveness reigns. Webster defines forgiveness as follows: “the pardon of an offender, by which he is considered and treated as not guilty.” This is precisely what happens through redemption in Christ:

 

  • We are born sinners and thus are separated from God (Isa. 59:2; Rom. 5:12).
  • We cannot go to Heaven while God holds these sins against us. We must obtain forgiveness which is offered through Christ’s blood (Eph. 1:7) to all who personally go to God through Jesus for it. It is not automatically extended (Rom. 10:9-10, 13; John 6:37).
  • We all continue to sin after we are saved and need forgiveness; not for redemption, but for restoration. Again, we are required to go to God and confess our sins in order to receive forgiveness and cleansing (1 John 1:8-9). It is not automatic.

 

Aren’t we told that if we don’t forgive we won’t be forgiven?

Yes. However, the teaching is taken out of context and misapplied causing undue guilt and self condemnation. Here is the verse often quoted in support of this: For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses (Matthew 6:14-15).

Here is the teaching in context: If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him. And if he trespass against thee seven times in a day, and seven times in a day turn again to thee, saying, I repent; thou shalt forgive him (Luke 17:3-4).

I don’t see how this could be any clearer. If he repents forgive him, regardless of how many times he repeats his offense. If he turns to you again and repents, honor the request and be restored to the relationship. That is the stipulation from Christ. The problem is that when quoting the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 6:14-15), the entire truth is not represented regarding forgiveness. The fact is that in every Scriptural instance where forgiving others is presented, it must be interpreted within the context of Christ’s teaching that forgiveness requires repentance. Anything else is not rightly dividing the Word of Truth (2 Tim. 2:15).

 

Are there examples in the Bible to prove what you are teaching?

Absolutely! I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish (Luke 13:3).

  • God is angry with the wicked every day (Psalm 7:11). The unforgiven aren’t given a free pass into glory they are judged and sent to the Lake of Fire for eternity (Rev. 20:15).
  • Jonah preached to Israel’s enemy Nineveh, if they didn’t repent they would be destroyed.  They did repent and were temporarily spared (Jonah 3).
  • David wrote what we call imprecatory Psalms where He invoked God’s wrath on his enemies (Psalm 7, 35, 55, 58, 59, 69, 79, 109, 137 and 139). While some water this down, the fact is, David was a man after God’s own heart, so was he wrong?
  • Jesus excoriated the Pharisees throughout His ministry for being hypocrites and sinners (Matt. 23). Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels (Matthew 25:41). They weren’t forgiven because they hadn’t repented.
  • Paul complained about the problems Alexander the coppersmith caused him in his ministry right up until his final days (2 Tim. 4:14). If blanket forgiveness was in order, wasn’t Paul in danger of not having his sins forgiven as maintained by some today?
  • A quick look at the souls under the altar in Heaven cried out for vengeance unto the Lord. Instead of rebuking them for their unforgiving attitude, they were given white robes signifying purity and righteousness (Rev. 6:9-11; 19:8).
  • The tribulation is filled with judgments against men who refused to repent (Rev. 9:20-21; 16:9, 11).

 

But didn’t Jesus and Stephen ask God to forgive those who murdered them?

Yes (Luke 23:34; Acts 7:60). However, it wasn’t  meant as an exoneration of their sin (see Luke 12:47-48), or they would have been saved in a manner inconsistent with Scripture (Luke 13:3; John 3:16-18). Greek scholar AT Robertson says Jesus was asking that the sin not be placed on the soldiers who were merely obeying orders, but directly upon the powers who ordered it. Vincent renders Stephen’s words: “fix not this sin (permanently) upon them.” If it were, they would not ever be able to be saved. It is in this light forgiveness was requested.

 

How do we respond to someone who hurts us?

Go to them. If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him (Luke 17:3). The moment we are aware of a strained relationship, we need to initiate reconciliation (Matt. 5:22-24). “The goal” says Gary Inrig, “is not to express anger or get something off our chests, but to bring about repentance, restoration, and reconciliation.” [1] However, not every person you humbly approach in this manner will be receptive or restored. Pride will continually produce in them the fruit of the flesh, which is impervious to your love and is never good (Ga. 5:19-21).

Pray for them. Bless them that curse you, and pray for them which despitefully use you

(Luke 6:28; see also Rom. 12:14, 20). In Joseph we see the pattern given for not holding a grudge. He saw things from the divine perspective and God rewarded him. How much different his life and our world have been if he would have given his brothers what they really deserved for selling him out like they did, or for Potiphar’s lying wife for falsely accusing him?

As you know, we are far from perfect, and frankly we all struggle in some area. Obviously unforgiveness haunts you since you requested this info. While this subject is spoken of often in Scripture, the flesh cannot produce anything that comes close; in fact, it seeks retaliation and vengeance. God says: Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord (Rom. 12:9). The best brotherly advice I can offer is that you pray for reconciliation, take whatever humble steps you can to achieve it, and wait upon God to bring it about. In the mean time, let go of all bitterness or it will eat you alive: Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled (Hebrews 12:15).

For further study, please write to RBC Ministries – POB 2222 – Grand Rapids, MI 49501-2222 and request What is True Forgiveness? #HP071

[1] RBC BOOKLET: What is True Forgiveness?

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