Sermon: Forgiveness Guaranteed
Scripture: Matthew 6:12
In this week’s lessons, we see the connection between the Christian’s continuing need of forgiveness from God, and our need to forgive others who wrong us.
Theme: Forgiveness for Believers
Most Christians will immediately see the need for the distinction between the two types of forgiveness. Unfortunately, there have always been some Christians who have felt that sin could be eradicated in the Christian during this life. And since they generally apply this to themselves, they therefore come to believe erroneously that they at least no longer need this forgiveness. This is wrong, of course, and the fact that the Lord Jesus Christ directed all of His disciples to ask for forgiveness refutes it.
We must get one great principle straight. When a sinful human being becomes a Christian, he does not cease to be a sinner any more than he ceases to be a human being. Oh, he has a new nature planted within him by God, and the new nature does not sin. The new nature will constantly lead him along the paths of holiness if he will yield to it. But the Christian also has a sinful, fallen nature that he will never eradicate and that he will carry with him to the grave. This old nature will get him into trouble repeatedly. Every time it breaks out he will find that it also breaks the fullness of his fellowship with God. What is the Christian to do in these circumstances? Well, the Bible teaches that he is to return to the Lord again and again to confess his sin and to ask for forgiveness and cleansing. If we neglect to do this, we will lose all of the joy of salvation. If we ask for forgiveness, we will enter increasingly into the joy of a deepening fellowship with God.
Moreover, this will involve our attitude toward others. For we shall not experience the fullness of God’s forgiveness toward us, according to Jesus, unless we extend the same forgiveness to those who have wronged us. Thus, two verses further on, Christ says, “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” (vv. 14-15).
Why is this so? Well, it is not because God waits for us to earn His forgiveness by forgiving others. We can never earn any of God’s favors. It is simply because we cannot truly ask for forgiveness unless our heart is right regarding other people also. God does not work by halves. He will not allow us to come to Him confessing half a sin while hanging on to the other half. It must be all or nothing. Thus, if we confess our sin, that confession must of necessity involve a forgiving attitude toward others. Dr. Harry Ironside was one who knew this, and he wrote correctly on this passage,
In the government of God as Father over his own children our forgiveness of daily offenses depends upon our attitude toward those who offend against us. If we refuse to forgive our erring brethren, God will not grant us that restorative forgiveness for which we plead when conscious of sin and failure. This, of course, has nothing to do with that eternal forgiveness which the believing sinner receives when he comes to Christ. It is the Father’s forgiveness of an erring child, which must of necessity take into account the attitude of the failed one toward other members of the family.1
Jesus said, “Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.” This certainly means, among other things, that we are to pattern the scope of our own forgiveness upon God’s.
1H. A. Ironside, Matthew (Neptune, NJ: Loizeaux, 1948), 65.
What important principle do we see in today’s study?
Why do we need to extend forgiveness to other people?
Application: How have you experienced the blessings of forgiving another person? Describe how it impacted your relationship with God and with the person who wronged you.
Key Point: Jesus said, “Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.” This certainly means, among other things, that we are to pattern the scope of our own forgiveness upon God’s.
For Further Study: Download and listen for free to David Garner’s message, “The Power and Practice of Forgiveness.” (Discount will be applied at checkout.)