31 Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. 32 And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you. (Ephesians 4:31–32, NKJV)
Bitterness is like acid eating through one’s heart. There is no room for compassion, kindness and merciful forgiveness in the bitter heart. The companions of bitterness are angry, resentful responses, evil words and ill will. Christians must put away all these things from their hearts. This can be done by recalling the kindness of God toward us in Christ. God could have been bitter toward us because of our sins against Him. But, His kind love forgives us in Jesus. There can be no room in our hearts for bitter resentment. Be kind. Be merciful. Forgive. That’s how God has treated you in His Son, Jesus Christ.
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)
Satan has devices, and we must understand them. If we fail to do so, he will take advantage of us, and lead us into sin. The word “devices” speaks more to the thinking, plans and purposes of the devil, than to the methods or tactics he uses to accomplish those plans (concerning his methods, see Ephesians 6:11). One of his purposes is to undermine peace and unity among Christians. Here, Paul identifies this device of Satan as an unwillingness to forgive a fellow Christian who has repented of his sins. The devil’s purpose is served when Christians are unwilling to reaffirm their love for a fallen Christian who is restored to Christ (2 Corinthians 2:8). When a fallen Christian is disciplined by the church, and brought to repentance, the devil will attempt to use this wonderful blessing to execute his disruptive plan. He tempts Christians to harbor ill will, bitterness and doubt toward the sinner to such an extent that, instead of confirming our love for him, some take a “hands off,” “wait and see” attitude before forgiving him. Such an approach prevents genuine forgiveness. It is not how Christ forgave us (Ephesians 5:31-32). It is a device of Satan; it is sin. We know how he thinks. Do not let him take advantage of you. He seeks your destruction.
1 Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. 2 Blessed is the man to whom the Lord does not impute iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit. (Psalm 32:1–2, NKJV)
Sin is real. So is God’s forgiveness. Sadly, many refuse God’s forgiveness because they refuse to acknowledge their sin and its spiritual impact on them. And so, they continue in sin’s sorrow. It need not be so. In today’s passage, the Spirit of God gave David three Hebrew words to use in contemplation of the blessedness of divine mercy: transgression, sin and iniquity. “Transgression” is a revolt or rebellion against God and His will. “Sin,” as used here, is an offense against God. “Iniquity” is perversity, moral evil, lawlessness. There is no blessing when we live in rebellion against God, offending His will with our evil attitude and actions. Sin causes eternal death, but God’s gift is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 6:23). “By grace, through faith,” God will forgive your sins in the Son (Ephesians 2:8). Jesus “gave Himself for our sins,” “the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God” (Galatians 1:4; 1 Peter 3:18). Admit your sins. Come to Jesus Christ in faith, do His will, and you will have the blessedness of God’s forgiveness (read Acts 2:37-41).
17 But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! 18 I will arise and go to my father, and will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you, 19 and I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me like one of your hired servants.” (Luke 15:17–19, NKJV)
Pride prevents repentance and salvation from sin. It is only when we realize the depth of our sin against our Father in heaven, that we become willing to entertain the thought of returning to Him in search of His compassionate forgiveness. God is always ready to give it. Just as a father whose child has wandered far away from him, wasting the blessings of the father’s love, God is always ready to receive and forgive the sinner who repents and abandons sin with a servant heart. There is no doubt that God compassionately forgives repentant sinners. The real question is, when we sin, will you and I humble ourselves before God, repent, and come to Him and cast ourselves upon His mercy?
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.
3 If You, Lord, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? 4 But there is forgiveness with You, that You may be feared. (Psalm 130:3–4, NKJV)
The Bible is very plain, that we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23). This makes it apparent that without God’s mercy and forgiveness, none of us could stand justified before Him. Only the sinless person would earn the right to be counted just before God on his own merits. Since all have sinned, that is a moot point. The gospel message is that God has purposed and provided a means of human redemption. God is abundant in loving kindness and will forgive all who call on His name (Acts 2:21, 37-41; 22:16). When by faith, the sinner confesses his faith, repents and is baptized for the remission of sins, his sins are forgiven. The forgiveness we have from God moves us to live with godly fear toward Him to live holy lives (1 Pet. 1:14-17). Let us always praise God for His mercy and fear Him for the forgiveness we have from Him.