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.
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!
11 In Him you were also circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the sins of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, 12 buried with Him in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead. 13 And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses (Colossians 2:11–13, NKJV)
The apostle of Christ treats physical circumcision as wholly inferior to “the circumcision of Christ,” which takes place when the sinner is “buried with Christ in baptism.” Cutting off the foreskin of flesh was but a figure of what really happens in the circumcision of Christ – a cutting off of sins performed by divine hands. God performs a spiritual operation when the sinner is baptized; He cuts away the sinner’s sins and gives newness of life (Rom. 6:4). It is indisputable that the circumcision of Christ (the cutting away of sin) takes place when the sinner is buried with Christ in baptism (v. 12). The result is forgiveness of sins (v. 13). This spiritual circumcision is real; as real as the sinner upon whom the operation is performed. Without this operation of God the sinner remains dead in sin. With it, he or she is forgiven and alive with Christ.
36 Simon Peter said to Him, “Lord, where are You going?” Jesus answered him, “Where I am going you cannot follow Me now, but you shall follow Me afterward.” 37 Peter said to Him, “Lord, why can I not follow You now? I will lay down my life for Your sake.” 38 Jesus answered him, “Will you lay down your life for My sake? Most assuredly, I say to you, the rooster shall not crow till you have denied Me three times.” (John 13:36–38, NKJV)
Jesus was headed for Golgotha (the place of a skull), there to die a disgraceful death for the sins of the world, and afterward to enter His glory (John 17:4-5). Peter would follow Jesus in life, and in his death he would glorify God (John 21:18-19). But for now, as Jesus was on His way to Golgotha, Peter’s overconfidence would be betrayed by fear and doubt, leading him to deny even knowing Jesus (John 18:15-18, 25-27). And so, we learn to be careful not to become self-righteous and arrogant in our faith. We learn of God’s amazing forgiveness, for Peter went on to be a great apostle of Christ. And, we learn that even when we grievously sin, the Lord will receive us back and use us for His purposes. So, let us follow Jesus in faithful obedience, nothing doubting. He will lead us to heaven, the place He has already gone.
18 Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear Him, on those who hope in His mercy, 19 To deliver their soul from death, and to keep them alive in famine. (Psalm 33:18–19, NKJV)
God’s careful, caring eye is constantly on those who fear Him and put their hope in His mercy. He does not forsake the faithful, who “fear God and keep His commandments” (Eccl. 12:13). He is our life source, both in times of abundance and in times of need. Even more than providing for our physical life, God is our only hope for mercy and spiritual life in the wasteland of sin. Trespasses are forgiven and souls are refreshed with living water by His Son, Jesus Christ (Jno. 7:37-38). If you are struggling with the pain and desolation of sin, then put your faith in Jesus and your hope in God. Come to Christ by faith, and “take the water of life freely” (Rev. 22:17). The Lord watches over all who fear Him and hope in His mercy. In Christ, we are “heirs according to the promise” (Gal. 3:26-29).