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Understanding What Forgiveness Means

©2007 OAIM

Matthew 6:14-15 "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."

Does this mean that unless we forgive others of their sins that our sins will not be forgiven and that we cannot enter into heaven unless we forgive others of their sins?

To answer this question, let me use a hypothetical scenario. Let us say that you did something really bad to me and I told you that I forgive you. There
would be no need for me to tell you that I forgive you unless you asked for forgiveness. In order for you to ask me to forgive you, you would have to have acknowledged that you did something bad or it would not even cross your mind to ask me to forgive you. However, you would not even be aware that I had already forgiven you before you were to ask.

There would only be three reasons to not ask me to forgive you. The first would be that you didn't believe you did anything bad to me so therefore there would be no need to ask.

The second could be that you felt so guilty and felt that it was so bad that I could not possibly forgive you so therefore you would not ask because you would feel you were not worthy of being forgiven and deserved to be punished.

The third could be that you know what you did was wrong and wanted to ask for forgiveness but would be afraid that I would not accept your asking for forgiveness and that would stem from not being able to withstand the thought of being rejected after opening up your heart.

In all three of those possible reasons, none would have anything to do with the fact that I had already forgiven you. Even if you felt there was nothing to be forgiven for, the forgiveness is already there. Even if you did not feel worthy of being forgiven, the forgiveness is already there. Even if you feared being rejected, the forgiveness is already there. The only thing stopping you from knowing that you had already been forgiven would be because you had not asked but that would have nothing to do with the fact that I have already forgiven you.

Another way of putting this would be unbelief. You would not believe that I have forgiven you so therefore you would not experience my forgiveness that would set you free from your fears and guilt. Now what would be the reasons you would not believe that I had forgiven you and what proofs could I render that would convince you that I have already forgiven you? (Now keep in mind that I am only talking of forgiveness as humans towards humans.) The only "proof" I could render is to say I forgive you and it would be up to you to either believe I had or I had not. If I said I forgave you yet I really didn't forgive you, then I would be a liar. It would soon be evident that I have not forgiven you if I were to keep throwing it up in your
face and reminding you of what you did to me.

Forgiveness is not forgiveness if strings are attached. Strings such as, do such and such in making up for what you did to me and then I may forgive you is not forgiveness. Conditional forgiveness nullifies the very definition of the word forgiveness. Forgiveness cannot have strings attached because strings involve either restitution or revenge. To say I'll forgive you after you have made restitution or after I have had revenge is not forgiveness but rather this would be pay back for the wrong done to me and forgiveness is not even in the picture.

This now takes me to the references where Jesus said if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive you your trespasses.

We need to remember that Jesus had not gone to the cross yet. He was addressing a general audience and specifically the Jews according to the law. Under the law, it was do this and this then this and this will be according to your works. The Sermon on the Mount was not intended to be a new set of laws that Christians were to adhere too as implied in many circles. Jesus was expanding on the laws and the Sermon on the Mount was a sermon of condemnation and not of comfort. Yes, the things Jesus spoke of are good things in how man should treat one another but there is not a person alive who would have heard the Sermon and not be convicted of their sins and to not be aware of the impossibility of living up to what Jesus preached. The
intended results of the Sermon on the Mount were for man to say, "then who can be saved"? (Matt.19:25, Mark 10:26, Luke 18:26) After having received the intended results, Jesus' response was "what is impossible for man is possible with God". Within that response was the only hope that man had as it would be God who would make the impossible possible.

None of the Jews, Gentiles or disciples fully understood exactly who Jesus was and did not understand what he came to do until after his death, burial and resurrection. They did not even understand the significance of the last supper when he said, "This is my body which is given for you" and "This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you". The New
Testament is what replaced the Old Testament. Instead of forgive and you will be forgiven and unless you forgive you will not be forgiven was replaced with, he has forgiven all our sins so that we may have eternal life. We then can forgive others as we have been forgiven because he first loved and forgave us.

1John 4:10 & 19 "Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins." "We love him, because he first loved us".

Ephesians 1:7 & 4:32 "In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace." "And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you."

There are many churches that claim to be New Testament churches that still live under the Old Testament. Taking the things Jesus said under the Old Testament and applying the laws to the church is where the error always comes in. The New Testament did not come into effect until after the death, burial and resurrection of Christ. The cross is the dividing line between the Old and the New and many churches still teach as if Jesus had not gone to the cross. In other words, they are on the wrong side of the cross and thereby have nullified the reason and the purpose of the sacrifice of Christ and the good news of the gospel of Christ had become only more bad news.

Now go back to what I said about forgiveness in the beginning and apply those same things towards God. God is not a man that can lie and we need to just believe when he said; "it is finished" and offers eternal life to whosoever believes. God demonstrated his love and forgiveness upon the cross and all that is left for man is to believe.



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