30 Minute Gospel Music Hymn Sing
Forgiveness in the Bible is a “release” or a “dismissal” of something. The forgiveness we have in Christ involves the release of sinners from God’s just penalty and the complete dismissal of all charges against us (see Romans 8:1). Colossians 1:14 says that in God’s beloved Son “we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” The Amplified Bible translates the last phrase like this: “the forgiveness of our sins [and the cancellation of sins’ penalty].” God’s gracious forgiveness of our sin is to be the measure of our gracious forgiveness of others (Ephesians 4:32).
I myself prefer the King James Bible over all the other versions.
To some people, forgiveness may seem like weakness or letting an undeserving person win, but it has no connection to weakness or even to emotions. Instead, forgiveness is an act of the will. Forgiveness is not granted because a person deserves to be forgiven. No one deserves to be forgiven. Forgiveness is a deliberate act of love, mercy, and grace. Forgiveness is a decision to not hold something against another person, despite what he or she has done to you.
Forgiveness is an integral part of salvation. When Jesus forgives us, our sins, trespasses, iniquities, and transgressions are erased, wiped off the record. Forgiveness of sin is comparable to financial debt being erased. When Jesus said, “It is finished,” from the cross (John 19:30), He was literally saying, “It is paid in full” (tetelestai in Greek).
Jesus took the punishment we deserved, so, when God forgives us of our sins, we are free; we no longer live under that debt. Our sins are wiped out. God will never hold that sin against us (Psalm 103:12).
It is impossible to have salvation without forgiveness. Salvation is God’s deliverance from the consequences of sin. God’s salvation in Christ is the ultimate example of forgiveness. Have you accepted forgiveness from God?
What is forgiveness of others? Forgiveness is also an essential part of the life of believers. Ephesians 4:32 commands, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” Similarly, Colossians 3:13 says,
Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”
The key in both passages is that we are to forgive others as God has forgiven us. Why do we forgive? Because we have been forgiven!
The Bible tells us that we are to forgive those who sin against us. We keep no record of wrongs (1 Corinthians 13:5) but forgive as many times as necessary (Matthew 18:21–22). Refusing to forgive a person demonstrates resentment, bitterness, and anger, none of which are the traits of a growing Christian.
God promises that, when we come to Him confessing our sin and asking for forgiveness, He freely grants it for the sake of Christ (1 John 1:9). Likewise, the forgiveness we extend to others should know no limits (Luke 17:3–4). "If I do not forgive others, does that mean my sins are not forgiven?
Matthew 6 does not teach that our eternal destiny is based on our forgiving other people; however, it does teach that our relationship with God will be damaged if we refuse to pardon those who have offended us. The Bible is clear that God pardons sin by His grace based on Christ’s work on the cross alone, not on man’s actions. Our right standing before Him is established on one thing only—the finished work of Christ (John 3:16; 1 John 2:2; 1 John 4:10).
The penalty for the sin that is rightly ours is paid by Christ, and we obtain it by grace through faith, not by any righteous deeds of our own (Ephesians 2:8-9).
No one will be able to stand before God demanding that his sins be forgotten simply because he has forgiven others. Only when we are born again and given a new life through God’s Spirit by faith in Jesus Christ are our sins forgiven.
Therefore, Jesus is not referring to God’s initial act of forgiveness (reconciliation) that we experienced when we first believed the Gospel.
What He is referring to is the day-to-day cleansing we obtain when we confess our sins in order to restore fellowship with our heavenly Father—the fellowship which is interrupted by the daily tarnishing of sin that affects us all. This is not the wholesale cleansing from sin that comes with salvation by grace through faith, but is more like the foot-washing Jesus describes in John 13:10. The “whole body is clean,” He told the disciples, but their feet were dirty from their walking in the world.
Forgiveness in this sense is what God threatens to withhold from Christians who refuse to forgive others.
In Matthew 6 Jesus is teaching disciples how to pray and in doing so outlines how we are restored into intimacy with God whenever we have displeased Him. In fact, Jesus instructs us to build into our prayers a request for God to forgive us in the same way that we have forgiven others who have harmed us (Matthew 6:12).
If there are those we have not forgiven when we ourselves pray for forgiveness, then practically speaking we are asking God not to restore a right relationship with us after we sin. To emphasize the importance of restoring broken relationships with our brothers and sisters, Jesus states that asking for God’s forgiveness for one’s own sins, all the while withholding forgiveness from someone else, is not only bizarre but hypocritical. We cannot possibly walk with God in true fellowship if we refuse to forgive others.
To be sure, an unforgiving spirit is a serious sin and should be confessed to God. If we have unforgiveness in our hearts against someone else, then we are acting in a way that is not pleasing to God, making our prayers and a proper living relationship with Him difficult. God will not hear our prayers unless we also show ourselves ready to grant forgiveness. If we are harder than iron in this regard, Christ’s exhortation ought to soften us.
A second biblically plausible interpretation of Matthew 6:14-15 is that it is saying anyone who refuses to forgive others is demonstrating that he has not truly received Christ's forgiveness himself.
Any sin committed against us, no matter how terrible, is trivial in comparison to our sins against God. If God has forgiven us of so much, how could we refuse to forgive others of so "little"? Matthew 6:14-15, according to this view, proclaims that anyone who harbors unforgiveness against others has not truly experienced God's forgiveness. Both interpretations strongly deny that salvation is dependent on our forgiving others. Whether Matthew 6:14-15 is speaking of "relational forgiveness," or whether it is a declaration that unforgiveness is the mark of an unbeliever, the core truth is the same. We should forgive others because God, through Christ, has forgiven us (Ephesians 4:32).
It is wrong for someone who has truly experienced God's forgiveness to refuse to grant forgiveness to others. Do you know someone you hurt?
Do you know of someone you lied to or wronged? Can you go and tell him? Can you ask for forgiveness? If it is someone who is unsaved, opportunities open up to share Christ.