Pastor David L. Brown, Ph.D.
We are living in an increasingly reprobate culture and one of the key characteristics that a culture is reprobate is the proliferation or increase of people who refuse to forgive. Testimony of this truth is found in Romans 1:28-32. The key word I point you to is implacable found in verse 31. This is a translation of the Greek aspondos (as'-pon-dos; 786) which means, as noted in the defined King James Bible one who is unappeasable, irreconcilable and or relentless. The word describes someone who refuses to lay aside enmity or consider terms of reconciliation. Hence it is describing someone who will not forgive! Refusing to reconcile, refusing to forgive, refusing to lay aside bad feeling is a mark of reprobation. The New Testament directs believers to forgive! Why? Because Christ has forgiven us! Ephesians 4:32 "And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you." I remind you that Christ himself practiced what is preached in the New Testament (Luke 23:24) as did the first New Testament martyr, Stephen (Acts 7:59-60). Therefore, we must follow their examples and not surrender to the spirit of the age. In light of this, I want to examine the Bibles teaching on forgiveness.
FORGIVENESS is, choosing to pardon, remit, or overlook the mistake, fault, offense, hurt or injury of the offender without demanding, a penalty, punishment or retribution.
Forgiveness is "never free," though it can and should be freely given to others. Let me explain. When a person is forgiven, the one who extends the forgiveness chooses to accept the pain of the offense and foregoes the right of retribution or retaliation. The one doing the forgiving PAYS the price. He or she endures the hurt and suffers the sorrow in order to forgive you.
Paying the price for forgiveness can best be illustrated by the forgiveness God extends to us in Christ. The blood Jesus Christ shed on the cross pays the payment for your sins. Since Christ paid the price for our sins, God does not demand that the punishment we deserve be carried out, if Christ is our Savior. The work of Christ on the cross is sufficient for the Father to forgive all our sins. Colossians 2:13-14 And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses; 14 Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross; God the Father forgives us in Christ. In light of that, He expects us to forgive others. When you choose to forgive others, you will discover the cost is worth it. You receive from God the strength to carry out the actual forgiving. The love of God brings healing into your life, renewed relationships, and release from bitterness and bad feelings. Some other wonderful things happen, you identify with the character of God and are better able to understand the sacrificial act of forgiveness. There is new freedom released in forgiveness. The bonds of unforgiveness, bitterness, anger, resentment and depression are broken.
Understanding What Is Included In Forgiveness
Psalm 32:5 "I acknowledged my sin unto thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid. I said, I will confess my transgression unto the LORD; and thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin."
The Hebrew word translated "iniquity" means evil, guilt, crime, or fault. Now, consider what David, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, was saying in that verse. God forgave him the "evil, guilt or fault" of his sin. In other words the portion of the episode that violated God's standard of holiness is pardoned, removed, forgiven. You are declared NOT GUILTY because of Christ's payment and God's mercy & grace.
So what is the application? When you forgive someone, you pardon their evil, crime, or fault. You let them off the hook. You treat them as if they were not guilty. You follow God's example and extend them undeserved grace and mercy. You are saying, "I choose to release you from guilt. I do not hold you guilty."
Hebrews 8:12 "For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more."
The word "remember" (3415) is a translation of a Greek word (mnestho) which is in the emphatic, future negative tense in the Greek. That means you could actually say, "...their iniquities I will NEVER, EVER remember again! This idea is seen over and over again in the Scriptures in passages such as Isaiah 44:22, Micah 7:19, Hebrews 10:17.
But that does NOT mean that our all knowing God is suffering from amnesia. Dr. Clark Martin points out that, "Once the guilt is gone...in God's eyes the event is no longer sin." God will never use the believer's sins against him in the future. Romans 8:1 says "There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus..." Verse 33 & 34 says, "Who shall lay anything to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather that is risen again, who is ever at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us." John 3:18 says "He that believeth on him is not condemned..." Read John 5:24 "...He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life; and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death into life."
I'm glad I am saved because God will never use my sins against me in the future. He has forgiven me. I will never be condemned. That is true for every born-again believer here this morning. BUT, if Christ is not your Savior, you will have to pay for your sins. That payment is separation for God for eternity in Hell. Wouldn't you rather receive Christ as your Savior and have your sins forgiven?
So how can we apply this to our own lives? It is humanly impossible to wipe a major offense from your mind. But when you do forgive someone you can make a commitment not to use their offence against them in the future. Further, you won't talk to others about the person's offence to put him in a bad light. That is what 1 Peter 4:8 "And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins."
Psalm 103:12 "As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us."
When the Lord forgives us, he does not relive the hurt we caused Him when we sinned against Him. That is gone. That is good advice to those of us who forgive others also. Refuse to allow your mind to "relive" the hurt of the offense. If you catch yourself reliving the hurt, remind yourself that you have forgiven that person and pray that the Lord will forgive, bless and bring the offender to Salvation or restoration.
What Forgiveness Does Not Include
Someone said, "Forgiveness begins in the inner person as he chooses to forgive before the offender repents." That's true! You could call this the attitude of forgiveness. God has this attitude and Romans 5:8 shows it. "But God commendeth (demonstrated) his love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." God has already made forgiveness available to us in Christ. It is not his desire that any die and go to Hell (2 Peter 4:8). It is his desire that we see our need for forgiveness and come to Christ.
By the same token, we should forgive those who have offended us. Not because they deserve it, but because of the example God has given us and for Christ's sake.
Forgiving someone in your heart prevents bitterness and resentment from building up and keeps us from sinning. Forgiveness enables you to be open and pray for the person who has offended you, so that if his/her heart is convicted and they come to you and confess and ask for forgiveness you can say "I forgive you" and mean it. Yet, while it is important to forgive others in your heart, it is not wise to say to someone -- "I forgive you for hurting me" if they do not ask your forgiveness. This could encourage a repeat of wrong behavior. Though you must forgiven an in your heart, that forgiveness is not complete until they do their part and ask your forgiveness.
Luke 17:3-4 "Take heed to yourselves: 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."
Is there any recourse if there is no repentance? Yes, Matthew 18:15-17; Romans 13:1-4
It is true that when God forgives, he takes away the guilt and the eternal condemnation caused by our sins. Yet, often we are faced with the natural consequences of our sins for weeks, months, years or the rest of our lives!
The reason for this is that God has established laws by which he governs his creation. There is the law of gravity. What goes up, must come down. Suppose you were up in the hay loft and decided you needed to get down quickly and you jumped. As you did it, you realized it was higher than you thought, so you quickly prayed, "God, forgive me for breaking the law of gravity." You would still hit the ground.
The law of sowing and reaping is like that. Galatians 6:7-8 expresses this law pretty well. If you sin, you can expect consequences, even if you ask forgiveness.
You might say, "Man, I've sown a lot of bad seed. I'm saved! I won't be going to Hell. I've been released from guilt. Thank God for those blessings! But is there anything I can do about the bad seed I've planted?
Yes! You can pray for strength and wisdom. God can see you through the consequences and work all things together for good (Romans 8:28).
In conclusion, Christ must be your Savior if you are to experience God's forgiveness. Then, as a believer you must know what forgiveness is and practice forgiving others.
Practicing forgiveness each day will keep bitterness away (Hebrews 12:15).
Colossians 3:12-14 "Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; 13 Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye. 14 And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness."