Expositional commentary on Scripture using an inductive exegetical methodology intent upon confronting the lives of Christians with the dogmatic Truths of God's inspired Words opposing Calvinism and Arminianism, Biblical commentary, doctrine of grace enablement, understanding holiness and wisdom and selfishness, in-depth Bible studies, adult Bible Study books and Sunday School materials Dr. Lance T. Ketchum Line Upon Line: Faith and the Gift of Forgiveness

Monday, August 7, 2017

Faith and the Gift of Forgiveness

Faith and the Gift of Forgiveness

          There is really no Truth about God that impacts the lives of sinners that is more significant to us than God’s merciful and gracious forgiveness of our sins.  We know about forgiveness only through faith in God’s Word.  There is no empirical way we can know that our sins are forgiven and that the penalty of those sin are remitted except by reading the promises of God in His Word.  We accept this wondrous Truth about forgiveness of sin with very little comprehension of the magnitude of the gift.  In fact, the gift is most often just taken for granted and even more often abused. 
Forgiveness of sin is a supreme example of the grace of God to sinners.  God gives forgiveness freely to all that repent as often as they repent. 

        The abuses of God’s gracious gift of forgiveness are those false teachings that are contrary to what God promises.  There is an attitude permeating modern Christianity that radically cheapens the grace of God in the forgiveness of sin.  This abuse manufactures a false god that is passive about all sin.  In other words, in this false view of forgiveness, God understands that we are all sinners and that we really cannot help ourselves when we sin.  This is theological nonsense.  The fact is such an attitude about sin and God’s forgiveness of sin will not get forgiveness from God.  This attitude is akin to the thief asking forgiveness of his victim while he continues his larceny and felonious assault upon his victim. 

          People actually think they will receive forgiveness from God for such things as fornication and adultery while they continue in the very acts for which they think they are being forgiven.  These people are not pursuing holiness in the eyes of God.  These people are not hungering and thirsting after righteousness.  They just want to keep on lying, stealing, fornicating, hating, and manipulating thinking that as long as God is forgiving sin, all is well in Godville.  They have no conviction regarding their sin and no remorse.  This corruption is much more significant than just bad theology.  This is blatant unbelief!

1 Then said he unto the disciples, It is impossible but that offences will come: but woe unto him, through whom they come! 2 It were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he cast into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones {bad examples to children}. 3 Take heed to yourselves: If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him. 4And 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. 5And the apostles said unto the Lord, Increase our faith” (Luke 17:1-5).

          There are those that will argue that in Matthew 18:21-35, Christ did not mention repentance as necessary to giving forgiveness.  They then deduce that Matthew 18:21-35 over-rules Luke 17:1-5.  This is a deductive methodology and very poor Biblical exegesis.  The fact is, Luke 17:1-5 gives us the additional requirement that must be added to Matthew 18:21-35.  This is an inductive methodology and is proper Biblical exegesis. 

21 Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times? 22 Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven. 23 Therefore is the kingdom of heaven {Millennial Kingdom where Christ will reign as King} likened unto a certain king, which would take account of his servants. 24 And when he had begun to reckon, one was brought unto him, which owed him ten thousand talents. 25 But forasmuch as he had not to pay, his lord commanded him to be sold, and his wife, and children, and all that he had, and payment to be made. 26 The servant therefore fell down, and worshipped him, saying, Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay thee all. 27 Then the lord of that servant was moved with compassion, and loosed him, and forgave him the debt. 28 But the same servant went out, and found one of his fellowservants, which owed him an hundred pence: and he laid hands on him, and took him by the throat, saying, Pay me that thou owest. 29 And his fellowservant fell down at his feet, and besought him, saying, Have patience with me, and I will pay thee all. 30 And he would not: but went and cast him into prison, till he should pay the debt. 31 So when his fellowservants saw what was done, they were very sorry, and came and told unto their lord all that was done. 32 Then his lord, after that he had called him, said unto him, O thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all that debt, because thou desiredst me: 33 Shouldest not thou also have had compassion on thy fellowservant, even as I had pity on thee? 34 And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due unto him. 35 So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses” (Matthew 18:21-35).

          As Matthew 18:35 details, true forgiveness is from the heart.  In other words, true forgiveness requires full effort and total commitment.  To get an understanding of the scope of the unforgiving man’s debt to the king, we must understand that a common day’s wages at this point in history was one penny.  A person could sustain himself for one day on that wage.  A talent of silver is seven-hundred and fifty ounces worth one-hundred and eleven pennies each ounce.  Therefore, each talent he owed the King was worth 8,250 days of labor (or twenty-two years).  The total ten-thousand talent debt would require just over 220,000 years to repay.  Obviously, the intent is that the servant’s debt was far beyond his ability to ever resolve. 

          The intent of the parable is to show the way most people are unwilling to forgive others even when they have been forgiven an overwhelming and unreconcilable debt of sin.  Although no one can forgive sin but God, we can forgive others for the consequences their sins bring into our lives.  When people fail God, they also fail hundreds of other peripheral people with whom their lives intersect. 

          When God’s forgiveness is misrepresented in a way contrary to the inductive teachings of the Word of God, God’s character and nature is also misrepresented in very destructive ways.  One of these misrepresentations of God’s forgiveness is that God will forgive the unrepentant.  Verses like Christ’s prayer while He was being crucified are quoted to support this view; “Father forgive them for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34).

    The “them” here is national Israel.  This prayer of Christ while being crucified by apostate Israel is the fulfillment of Isaiah 53:12. Israel’s gross sin of having an innocent man, their own promised Messiah, framed and murdered was the last straw, yet God kept His promise to Abraham and did not completely cast them away as His chosen people (Romans 11:1-2). 

Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he hath poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors” (Isaiah 53:12).

          Therefore, Christ’s prayer, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34), is neither a prayer for the forgiveness of the remission of the sin penalty for salvation or the forgiveness for sins to restore a believer to fellowship with God.  Christ was praying for God to have mercy on the nation of Israel like Habakkuk’s prayer in Habakkuk 3:2; “in wrath remember mercy.”  God’s judgment was going to come on national Israel for what they did by crucifying the Messiah, just as it did in the book of Habakkuk. 

Can we even imagine the wrath of God upon this brutal, abusive treatment of His “only begotten Son”?  From a human standpoint, we can understand how wrath can overwhelm all other emotions or appeals to rationality.  Christ’s crucifixion appeal is an appeal from the Son to His Father simply for mercy in the midst of His wrath.  God’s wrath upon national Israel would extend throughout the time of the Gentiles to the second coming of King Jesus at the end of the seven-year Great Tribulation on Earth.  This prayer of Christ is answered in the thousands of Jews saved on the Day of Pentecost, as recorded in Acts chapter two, as well as thousands of others down through the centuries.  Even in God’s wrath upon national Israel, God mercifully retained a remnant of saved Jews (Romans 11:1-5), while the vast majority of Jews went the pathway of reprobation and willful, unrepentant rejection of their Messiah.
Asking for forgiveness presumes the acknowledgment and admission of wrongdoing.  To ask someone to give the gift of forgiveness should include a frank and full confession of the wrongdoing including the sin committed.  This communication should reflect an understanding of the pain the wrongdoing has inflicted upon the numerous individuals involved, beginning with grieving God.  Sin, any sin, grieves the Holy Spirit of God.  Confession acknowledges this fact.

Confession should include some degree of communication reflecting the pain the wrongdoing has caused to others as well.  Although we can only sin against God, those sins do impact many other people in our lives.  To fail to understand this is gross carelessness, or at least gross ignorance.
Ephesians chapter four is one of the strongest texts in the Bible teaching how God expects Christians to live their lives before God and in fellowship with Him and with one another.  The context is the vocational calling of all believers living as servant/priests before God (Ephesians 4:1-2).  In Ephesians 4:3, believers are told, “Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”  It might also be interpreted as, “Make every possible effort to guard the oneness {doctrine, purpose, practice of the faith} of the Spirit {unity with the Godhead} in the union {joint tie or ligament} of peace {reconciliation with God that is part of being sealed with the Spirit of God unto the day of redemption; Ephesians 4:30).

20 But ye have not so learned Christ {in contrast to the life of paganism where the lusts of the flesh are fanned and cultivated to their fullest expression}; 21 If so be {the hypothetical, or condition, is if the knowledge of Christ is real in a person’s life} that ye have heard him, and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus: 22 That ye put off concerning the former conversation {manner of living in pagan lasciviousness} the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; 23 And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; 24 And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness. 25 Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour: for we are members one of another. 26 Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath: 27 Neither give place to the devil. 28 Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth. 29 Let no corrupt {rotten, worthless} communication {primarily is referring to obscene conversing about perverse things} proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying {things that build others up in faith and holiness}, that it may minister grace unto the hearers. 30 And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption. 31 Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: 32 And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you” (Ephesians 4:20-32).

The “I Am Sorry” Fiasco

The “I am sorry” fiasco often is a mere expression of no real conviction that the failure just committed is actually sin.  We often here such nonsense as, “Johnny Goodchristian (or Jane) does it, therefore it must be acceptable.”  What you are hearing is a person proclaiming, “I have no convictions of my own.  I am living by the convictions (or lack thereof) of Johnny (or Jane) Goodchristian.”  This is justification of sin terminology.  It is not communicating a heart about what is righteous or any Biblical support.  The proper communication is, “I failed.  Please forgive me.” 

The word sorry means to feel sorrow, regret, remorse, to be mournful, or sad.  Yet, most of the time the “I am sorry” words do not reflect any of these things in any meaningful or practical way.  When this is the case, the expression “I am sorry” are just empty, meaningless words.  Some questions to such a person are required:

1. You say you are sorry, where are the tears?
2. Tell me, for what exactly are you sorry and what does that mean to you?
3. How did what you did (or failed to do) affect the lives of the people to which you are expressing your sorrow?
4. Have you asked the person to which you are expressing your sorrow how your failure has affected his life so that you can better understand the consequences of what you have done? 
5. Detail the consequences of your wrongdoing.
6. What are you willing to do to right the wrong you have created?
7. Are you just saying you are sorry or are you also asking for forgiveness?
8. What are you expecting if you are given the gift of forgiveness?

          Forgiveness is just as equally and as often misunderstood as it is taken for granted.  The remission of the death penalty upon sin is once and is for all sin, which in this context is general forgiveness; “The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23a).  This is the kind of forgiveness of sin involved in redemption.  Redemption is to pay the price of sin and buy the sinner from the bondage of sin, which is death.  Death is eternal separation from God.
          There are two different main Greek words translated “forgive” in the New Testament books.  First, there the Greek word aphesis (af’-es-is).  This Greek word is also translated “remission” on numerous occasions.  “Remission” is the better translation in that it is more consistent with the idea of redemption through the payment of sin by the Substitute.  In this use, relating to salvation, “forgiveness” refers to the release from bondage, imprisonment, or punishment.  It sets the guilty party free and treats him as if he has never committed the crime completely remitting the penalty.  Remission of the penalty is the primary focus of this word and remission should be the translation of the Greek word aphesis (af'-es-is) on every occasion.

          The second Greek word translated “forgive” is the word aphiemi (af-ee’-ay-mee).  It is always used for SAVED PEOPLE already within the covenant and relates to restoration to fellowship.  This is the kind of forgiveness that is the focus of this study.  Fellowship with God is what connects the believer’s life to God’s fount of blessing.  It is what the Bible refers to as “walking in the light” or walking “in truth.”  God can only bless our lives when we are in fellowship with Him. 

We forgive people to restore fellowship with them.  In other words, forgiveness is a personal commitment involving restoring broken fellowship with someone to once again be able to work together in harmony and unity for the cause of Christ.  Therefore, recognition of the failure and genuine repentance of the failure is essential to restore fellowship for a trusting working relationship between people.  Although forgiveness does not immediately restore trust, forgiveness does give the gift of a degree of trust intent upon increasing trust as the individual’s repentance is proven genuine.
          Christians talk a lot about forgiveness.  They expect God to forgive them without question and often without them repenting of the sins they have committed.  Many other times, they expect God to give to them the forgiveness that they are unwilling to give to others.  Unforgiveness of the trespasses of others against us is a sin that shuts the windows of heaven to God’s forgiveness of our trespasses against Him.

9 After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Anchor10 Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Anchor11 Give us this day our daily bread. Anchor12 And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. Anchor13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen. Anchor14 For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: Anchor15 But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matthew 6:9-15).

In understanding the gift of forgiveness, it is extremely important to understand what we are gifting to a person when we agree to forgive.  What does giving forgiveness involve?

Ø  Forgiveness is the commitment to yourself and the offender, not to dwell on the offense which is forgiven.
Ø  Forgiveness is the promise not to raise the issue again to the offender, to others, nor to yourself.
Ø  Forgiveness is the desire to deal with the offense as past history; not as a present condition.
Ø  Forgiveness is the promise to avoid holding the offense over the offender’s head.
Ø  Forgiveness understands the need to work at forgetting the offense.
Ø  Forgiveness is something granted, not felt.

If a person understands forgiveness, he understands he is making an extreme commitment to the person being gifted forgiveness.  The person receiving the gift of forgiveness should also understand that the gift he is receiving in one of the greatest gifts he could ever receive from another person.  Forgiveness is grace exemplified!

Forgiving Yourself?

          This is terminology that comes out of the psychobabble of modern Psychology.  There is no such thought ever expressed anywhere in the Bible.  People should continue to have remorse and guilt for the sins they have committed because the consequences of their failure continue to be borne by those they love long after the sin is forgiven.  These feelings of remorse and guilt are spiritually healthy.  These feelings of remorse and guilt are continuing reminders that no man is an island unto himself.  The choices of our lives impact the lives of others and often so in very negative ways. 

The “Forgive them in your heart” fiasco

          Here is more psychobabble of modern Psychology.  This is not Biblical terminology.  This is just another way of justifying giving the gift of forgiveness to unrepentant people.  The obedient, compassionate Christian should WANT to give forgiveness because he has been forgiven so much so often by God.  However, even God does not gift forgiveness to the unrepentant.

Biblical terminology is found in the admonitions of Scripture about not being hateful or wanting revenge.  The spiritual Christian should petition the Spirit of God to help with feelings that stir the sludge pit of the cesspool of unrighteous emotions towards those who have hurt us or greatly offended us.  If these feeling are not dealt with Biblically, at the very moment they arise in our hearts, they will soon begin to fester and pollute every aspect of our souls.  Bitterness, wrath, and hatred will begin to eat at the inner man like cancer in the soul.  Therefore, God commands us in Ephesians 4:31 to, “Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice.”  These things listed are the enemies of everything righteous and good.  When a believer gives them opportunity to reside in the heart, he is giving “place to the devil” (Ephesians 4:27).  Every believer must be overly cautious about his soul becoming the soil for the “root of bitterness” (Hebrews 12:15).

Receiving forgiveness from God is an expression of faith.  In other words, we know by faith that God gives the gift of forgiveness because He promises that He will do so (I John 1:9).  However, simply because God forgives the sin, that does not mean that all the consequences and influences of that sin will be removed from history.  Like polluted water flowing downstream, the sin will continue to defile and corrupt even though it has been forgiven by God. 

This is the substance of the history of Solomon’s numerous failures recorded by him in whole book of Ecclesiastes.  Living with knowledge of the spiritual consequences of our numerous failures in life upon the lives of those we love will be one of the greatest burdens of eternity.  Only those that truly understand this reality can truly appreciate Revelation 21:4. Then, we will finally see the full ramifications of God’s gift of forgiveness!

1 And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea. 2 And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. 4 And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away” (Revelation 21:1-4).

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Numerous studies and series are available free of charge for local churches at: http://www.disciplemakerministries.org/ 
Dr. Lance Ketchum serves the Lord as a Church Planter, Evangelist/Revivalist. 
He has served the Lord for over 40 years.

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