Exploring Forgiveness

In the last post we discussed the daily need of receiving and extending forgiveness. My thoughts have gravitated toward this theme over the last few months and I would like to explore it with you in the next few posts. For now, I will focus on the theme as we find it in the New Testament.

A few reasons why this theme is worthy of careful attention.

  1. Forgiveness is central to the gospel
  2. Forgiveness reveals rich truths about God
  3. Forgiveness is one of our greatest needs
  4. Forgiveness is a matter of eternal life and death
  5. Forgiveness is to be the unexceptional posture of the Christian
  6. Forgiveness is intended to be the ethos of the church
  7. Forgiveness is one of the most difficult commands to obey
  8. Forgiveness contains tremendous motivating power for the Christian
  9. Forgiveness is not always clearly defined or understood
  10. Forgiveness touches the most important relational areas of our lives

When Luther was translating the Bible into German he placed only one phrase in capital letters. It was the phrase “forgiveness of sins” in Romans 3:25. He stated that it was the “chief point” and the “center point of this epistle and of the entire Scripture, also of the Old Testament.” Let’s spend some time looking at why he would make such an assertion in these next few posts.

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4 comments

  1. How about: being forgiving is necessary for being forgiven? Matthew 6:14 For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.

    That seems to put a pretty high priority on forgiving. How do you interpret this?

    1. Good point. Yes, this does put a high priority on forgiving. I think the text is plain though sometimes we try to skirt around it. Certainly we must interpret Scripture with Scripture, but we must also let each text have its own voice. Forgiving others here is necessary for being forgiven. Other texts do point to us knowing forgiveness first before we are capable of extending what is envisioned here, but that does not impact the emphasis. Your thoughts?

  2. Well, this may be softening the intended impact of the verse, but I’d say people would generally interpret this to mean: If we are hard-hearted and unforgiving to others then the love of God is not in us. Therefore, our sins have not been forgiven. That’s not to say that, as true Christians, we don’t struggle with extending forgiveness. But I think if we are truly communing with God, at least periodically, we will have those moments when we are reduced to tears and brokenness over the mercy and grace God extends to us. We know/feel His love despite all of our shortcomings. And in that process, we are softened towards others.

    This passage, in Matt. 6, directly follows what is called the Lord’s prayer. I don’t think people generally understand the phrase ‘Forgive us our debts AS WE ALSO have forgiven our debtors’ to mean: Forgive me the way I forgive others. Again, a serious priority placed on being forgiving.

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