10 Now whom you forgive anything, I also forgive. For if indeed I have forgiven anything, I have forgiven that one for your sakes in the presence of Christ, 11 lest Satan should take advantage of us; for we are not ignorant of his devices. (2 Corinthians 2:10–11, NKJV)
The sinning Christian we read of in 1 Corinthians 5:1 was disciplined by the Corinthian church, and he repented of his sin (2 Corinthians 2:6-8). Now was the time for forgiving and rejoicing, not recrimination. Satan will seek an advantage against us, even when a Christian repents of sin. Therefore, we must always be alert for his subtle deceptions. We cannot afford to be uninformed and unaware of his strategies to entice us to sin. While we pray to our Father to not “lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one,” we must also equip ourselves with the whole armor of God and “be strong in the Lord,” to “be able to stand against the wiles of the devil” (Ephesians 6:10-11). When someone sins against us and hurts us, but then asks us for our forgiveness, we must fully and completely forgive (Matthew 6:14-15; 18:21-35). Otherwise, we are overtaken by sin, at the very moment we ought to be instruments of God’s mercy and compassion.
2 Then behold, they brought to Him a paralytic lying on a bed. When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, “Son, be of good cheer; your sins are forgiven you.” 3 And at once some of the scribes said within themselves, “This Man blasphemes!” 4 But Jesus, knowing their thoughts, said, “Why do you think evil in your hearts? 5 For which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Arise and walk’? 6 But that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins”—then He said to the paralytic, “Arise, take up your bed, and go to your house.” 7 And he arose and departed to his house. (Matthew 9:2–7, NKJV)
The “miracles, wonders and signs” of Jesus were not random and whimsical. There were clear purposes to His mighty works. By healing this paralyzed man, Jesus supplied proof that He indeed has the right and power to do an even greater work, the work of forgiving sins. When Jesus saw the faith of those who lowered this man through the roof to reach Him, He forgave the man his sins (Mark 2:3-4). When the scribes charged Jesus with blasphemy, so Jesus proved He has authority to forgive sins by healing the man. Therefore, one of the clear purposes of the miracles of Jesus was to prove that He is the “Son of Man” (the Messiah), who forgives sins (Mk. 2:10). A record of some of His signs have been provided “that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name” (Jno. 20:30-31).
For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. (Matthew 6:14–15, NKJV)
Jesus applies the principle of sowing and reaping to forgiveness. Just as we reap what we sow, God’s forgiveness of us depends upon our forgiveness of those who sin against us. Here is a fundamental truth to remember: the hypocrite will not be forgiven. In this context, Jesus has been addressing the problem of hypocrisy in one’s spiritual life, and now He returns to it (Matt. 6:2, 5, 16). How hypocritical and futile to think that we have God’s forgiven when we ask Him for it, yet we refuse to give it to others when they ask for ours. If we hold bitterness and resentment in our hearts toward one who asks our forgiveness, instead of freely and immediately forgiving them from our heart, we will not be forgiven by God when we ask Him to forgive us. Allow this truth to sink deep into your heart so that it shapes your readiness to forgive those who sin against you (Col. 3:12-14).
And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. (Matthew 6:12, NKJV)
When someone borrows money, the lender expects to be paid back – with interest. Could you imagine your lender forgiving your mortgage debt and releasing you from your obligation to pay? That is the figure used to describe the forgiveness of sins. Because of the blood of Christ (God’s grace) and our faith, God releases us from the debt that sin imposed upon us (Rom. 6:23; Eph. 2:8-9; Acts 2:37-38). Christians, the citizens of the kingdom of heaven, are taught to pray for forgiveness when we sin, being assured of God’s pardon (1 Jno. 1:9). A stipulation of forgiveness is hinted at here (and fully expressed in Matthew 6:14-15): “as we forgive our debtors.” How do you forgive those who sin against you? Do you forgive them from the heart (Matt. 18:35)? Fully, completely and continually (Lk. 17:3-4)? Begrudgingly? Bitterly? Not at all? We cannot successfully ask God to forgive us when we do not forgive those who sin against us. God will not give us forgiveness while we refuse to give it to others.
33 ‘Should you not also have had compassion on your fellow servant, just as I had pity on you?’ 34 And his master was angry, and delivered him to the torturers until he should pay all that was due to him. 35 “So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses.” (Matthew 18:33–35, NKJV)
Forgiveness does not necessarily come easy to us. Sure, we all want the mercy of forgiveness when we have sinned against someone. But, when the shoe is on the other foot, we are tempted with urges of pride, or anger, or vengeance or other sins that build barriers against showing mercy to those who hurt and harm us. In this parable (recorded in Matthew 18:21-35), Jesus make the unmistakable point that God will not forgive us if we refuse to forgive each other from the heart. Forgiveness requires humility, as well as an appreciation of the forgiveness we have received from the Lord. What a great way to be like our heavenly Father; to forgive others like He forgives us!
Do not grumble against one another, brethren, lest you be condemned. Behold, the Judge is standing at the door! (James 5:9, NKJV)
How unseemly it is when Christians grumble and groan against each other. Such complaints lead to condemnation; a sinful devouring of one another that reaches into eternity (Gal. 5:15). James reminds us that the judgment is near, and such sins against fellow Christians do not escape the sight of the Lord, who is Judge of all (Acts 17:31). James urges patient endurance when we are wronged (Jas. 5:10-11). The Scriptures instruct actions of reconciliation, not words and deeds that lead to barriers and burdens (Matt. 5:23-25; 18:15). Forbear and forgive, “if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do” (Col. 3:13). Forgive, instead of fomenting strife. Forbear with patient faith, instead of verbalizing complaints that condemn your soul. The Judge is at the door!
23 Therefore the kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. 24 And when he had begun to settle accounts, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. 25 But as he was not able to pay, his master commanded that he be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and that payment be made. 26 The servant therefore fell down before him, saying, ‘Master, have patience with me, and I will pay you all.’ 27 Then the master of that servant was moved with compassion, released him, and forgave him the debt. (Matthew 18:23–27, NKJV)
No doubt, the king in this parable alludes to God Himself and each servant, a disciple of Christ (see Matt. 18:21-22). Jesus illustrates how we must forgive each us with compassion or “from the heart” (Matt. 18:33-35). In Christ, God forgives sinners compassionately and completely. This is our pattern to follow in forgiving others. Forgiveness is about releasing a person from a debt they owe. God forgives our debt of sin. We must not refuse to forgive those who have sinned against us. If we do, He will not forgive us (Matt. 18:35). Have compassion, and forgive one another.