Forgive or Not Forgive? There is No Question
Only God can forgive sins (Lk 5:21), and only by the blood of Christ are the sins of God’s elect people forgiven (Mt 1:21; 26:28; Eph 1:7). There are no more comforting words to the Christian than, “Your sins have been forgiven (Lk 7:48).”
Jesus Christ had the authority, during His earthly ministry, to forgive sins (Mt 9:6; Mk 2:10). This is because He is the God/man, having been given authority in heaven and earth, by His Father (Mt 28:18). King Jesus grants repentance to the Israel of God and the forgiveness of sins (Acts 5:31; 11:18).
Sin is all pervasive. We inherit it from Adam (Rom 5:12–21). It is the very nature of the natural man (1 Cor 2:14; Eph 2:3), for every inclination of the natural man’s heart is to sin (Gen 6:5). All men everywhere are called to repent of their sins (Acts 17:30), both of the intentions of their hearts (Acts 8:22) and of their lawless deeds (1 Jn 3:4).
The forgiveness of sins is integral to the Gospel message proclaimed (Lk 24:47; Acts 13:38). As it is written, “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds have been forgiven, and whose sins have been covered (Rom 4:7).” We steward this wonderful message because in Christ, we have redemption through His blood (Eph 1:7). This means Jesus bought His bride, the church (Eph 5:25), back from the slave market of sin, for a price (1 Cor 6:20; 7:23), which was in the currency of His precious blood (1 Pet 1:19).
Grace is that which God does for His elect (He saved us — Titus 3:5), redeemed, regenerate ones, who are entirely forgiven (Col 2:13). The application of forgiveness occurs when God pours out His Holy Spirit in our hearts (Rom 5:5), causing us to be born again of God (1 Pet 1:3), as His adopted children (Rom 8:15, 23), whom He loves (1 Jn 3:1). Without the shedding of Christ’s blood, there is no forgiveness (Heb 9:22), and without its application by the Holy Spirit, Christ’s offering is no effect (Ex 24:8; Heb 9:19; 1 Pet 1:2).
Having been forgiven of all our sins, it is to the glory of Jesus’ name (1 Jn 2:12). Christians must continue the course, fighting the good fight of faith (1 Tim 1:8; 6:12; 2 Tim 4:7). Because of the weakness of our flesh, we still sin, although sin no longer reigns dominant, as it did before grace (Rom 5:21). Now, we confess our sins knowing that God is faithful and just to forgive us of our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 Jn 1:9).
We pray in faith, confess in earnest, knowing we have offended our first love, but with full confidence of forgiveness (Jas 5:15). Christ died once for our sins (Heb 10:18). The church, Christ’s beloved bride, shares together in the glorious status (forgiven). Therefore, just as the Lord forgave you, so also you should forgive your brother or sister in Christ (Col 3:13).
Forgiveness is not an option, nor is it a suggestion. There is no question about forgiveness for the Christian. We are to be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven each saint (Eph 4:32). Here is the spirit of love and unity, which knits the body of Christ together. When we forgive, we exemplify Christ (Lk 23:34) and His humility (Phil 2:5–11), in suffering loss at the hands of His brethren, rather than living in conflict. Joseph is our Old Testament illustration (Gen 45).
When there is conflict in the church membership, and the parties reconcile, forgiving one another, then everyone in the know should share in and honor that forgiveness (2 Cor 2:10). Harboring grudges is not Christian. We receive grace, freely, and we should be conduits of that same grace toward others, in the family of God, who are likewise being sanctified, by the very same Spirit of Christ (Acts 26:18). All believers in Christ share in the same eternal inheritance, reserved for us in heaven (Acts 10:43; 1 Pet 1:4).
Retaining sins, in the form of a grudge, is serious (Jn 20:23), especially considering the economy of forgiveness Jesus taught Peter (Lk 17:4). What is seventy times seven? The point is to forgive everyone, everything. The Word of God is effective in bringing correction, reproof, and rebuke (2 Tim 3:16). The Holy Spirit convicts in this way (Lk 17:3).
Christians pray for forgiveness, testifying that we have already issued forgiveness to our brethren (Lk 11:4). We have so much to be forgiven that love burgeons when we release those who have offended us (Lk 7:47). To bear a grudge affects not only our relationship with our brother, but it will hinder our relationship with our heavenly Father (Mk 11:25–27). Simply put, it is utterly imprudent not to forgive your brother, from the heart (Mt 18:34–35).
Christian, you know there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Rom 8:1). Will you be like the devil, and serve our Lord Jesus Christ, as an accuser of the brethren, before the throne of grace where you were totally forgiven? God’s economy is simple: forgive and you are forgiven; or don’t forgive and you are not forgiven (Mt 6:14–15). Christians forgive in full, from hearts filled with love and thanksgiving for what Christ has done for us. Wretched is the man who has been forgiven, but who rejects the command to forgive his brother. Don’t be that man.
Spokane Valley, Washington
October 2, 2022