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Sun, Jun 15, 2014

38 - Forgiveness [b]

Matthew 6:14-15 by Robert Dean
"Forgive him? You don't know what you're asking. He doesn't deserve to be forgiven." Listen to this lesson to see that believers can't expect to be forgiven by God for what they've done wrong when they're refusing to forgive others. Learn about four categories of forgiveness and how Christ died for the sins of all mankind but that forgiveness is only applied when someone trusts in Christ as their Savior. Learn how many times Jesus taught that we should forgive others and see that at times there are consequences to our sins even when we're forgiven.
Series:Matthew (2013)
Duration:47 mins 48 secs

Matthew 6:14-15 
Matthew Lesson #038
June 15, 2014

We always need to remember that the context is important here. As Jesus is teaching to His disciples He is teaching within the context of the message that began with John the Baptist's ministry, is continuing in this early part of Jesus' ministry, and will be part of the ministry of the disciples as He sends them out and restricts their ministry to the house of Judah and the house of Israel. That is important because what we see in the initial stage of Jesus' ministry is that it is targeted to the Jewish people in light of Old Testament prophesies and promises related to the kingdom. So when John the Baptist showed up and said, "Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand" this was new revelation in the sense that it was suddenly saying that the promise that has been there since the Pentateuch is now about to be fulfilled. But there is a condition, and that is that the people have turned to God away from idols, away from their negative volition, and turned to God in obedience.

Jesus reiterated that and now has brought His disciples together to teach them related to the kind of righteousness necessary for the kingdom. It is not just a positional righteousness that is ours when we trust in Christ and are justified by faith alone, but the experiential righteousness that should follow that as a person who is a believer lives his life in obedience to God; fitting the pattern of the Old Testament Law that God would bring these blessings upon Israel if they walked in obedience to the Law.

So Jesus is giving this interpretation of the Law. In the whole context here it is important to understand within this message, the kingdom.

The view that I take on the Sermon on the Mount is called the interim kingdom view. That is, that the kingdom isn't there yet. But this is what believers should develop in their own lives spiritually, in view of the coming of the kingdom, in preparation for the kingdom. The disciples are living in a time when there is no kingdom yet, there is till sin on the earth. That is why in the Lord's prayer one of the petitions is, "Thy kingdom come". It is not there yet. The reason for emphasizing this is that when we get to the kingdom parables in Matthew chapter thirteen there is a lot of confusion over that. Jesus is teaching there about the characteristics of the interim period until the kingdom comes.

All of the kingdom parables relate to Israel. One of the great errors that we see among some pastors and among some dispensationalists is that they try to apply some of the things in the kingdom parables to the church. The parables focus on Israel because the offer of the kingdom is for Israel. It is a Jewish kingdom where the Messiah will come and rule and reign over the kingdom, over the land that God promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; and He will rule from Jerusalem. We have to keep that in mind in terms of why Jesus is teaching this. This is in light of this message that the kingdom of heaven is at hand; it is here.   

Part of this involves this prayer. A key element in the prayer is related to forgiveness. We see that there is a kingdom orientation to the prayer. We saw that God's name would be hallowed. It is specifically related to various teachings in the Old Testament that God would cause His name to be sanctified on the earth when Israel was restored in regeneration to the kingdom. So this has a future orientation: that this will occur only when the kingdom comes.

The second request: "Your kingdom come". The third: "Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven". That will only occur when the kingdom comes. Then there is a prayer for the present time to provide for us our daily bread, to sustain us logistically each day. And then the second petition is to forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors. We have seen that this idea of debt is an idiom within rabbinical thought that sin was considered to be a debt against God, and that forgiveness is a cancellation of debt. So this sort of economic concept is applied to the cancellation of sin. What is another word in our vocabulary describing salvation that is also an economic word? Redemption, the payment of a price. As God teaches us about what occurs in salvation He uses not only legal language, such as justification, but also economic language such as redemption and forgiveness in order to help us understand what happens at this time.   

In Matthew 6:12 there is the emphasis on forgiveness. The focus in the following verses is an expansion of why this kind of forgiveness of one another is important. Obviously Jesus, after giving this pattern for prayer, at the end goes back and reiterates and adds to what He had said about forgiveness, making a point about that that we should pay attention to.

Matthew 6:13 NASB "And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. [For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen."]

If you are using a NKJV or KJV of the Bible the end of verse 13 reads: "For yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen." But if you are using a NASB, NIV, or any of the modern translations, then that phrase is not there at all—or it is there in brackets. They say the oldest and best MSS do not contain this. That reflects a view of textual criticism that the oldest is the best. I challenge that, and a number of people have challenged that. I think the superior view of understanding differences in the text is the view called the Majority Text view, which is the view in the majority of documents, all things being equal, is more than likely the correct reading.  

Matthew 6:14 NASB "For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you."

He is talking about forgiveness and uses the word PARAPTOMA, which is translated trespass—violation of a command, violation of the Law. That is clearly used as a synonym for debt, as we saw back in v. 12. 

Matthew 6:15 NASB "But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions".

We see here an important truth. That it is not just a matter in terms of forgiveness of our sin, confessing our sin, but if you harbor mental attitude sins of bitterness, anger, resentment, revenge motivation toward someone when you are coming to the Lord in prayer, then your confession of sin is immediately nullified by your lack of forgiveness of others. Matthew 6:12 NASB "And forgive us our debts, as..." i.e., in the same way as, just like "… we also have forgiven our debtors."

The word for forgive: the verb APHIEMI is used here is two forms, the past tense and the future tense. This word means to forgive, to cancel, to wipe out. It means in some sense to forgive a debt. In the past we have studied this in terms of four categories of forgiveness that are taught in the Scripture.

The first has to do with forensic forgiveness. Forensic is a legal term that has the idea of having to do with a legal issue. This is how we describe positional or absolute forgiveness that takes place in relation to God. If is defined as forgiveness directed toward God where the justice of God cancels the debt of sin for all mankind without distinction. This is related in Colossians 2:12-14—the handwriting (or, certificate) against us is wiped out at the cross. At the cross all sin for all mankind was paid for.

The second category of forgiveness is positional. This applies as the application of forgiveness to only those who are believers, only those who trust Christ. What we see in the first category is that everybody in the world, whether they ever accept Christ or not, has their sins paid for at the cross. That is also referred to as unlimited atonement. But it is not applied or realized in the life of an individual unless they believe in Jesus. The instant you believe in Jesus your sin is positionally and totally forgiven in relation to God. We refer to this also as positional truth, positional forgiveness, or positional righteousness because of our position in Christ. Ephesians 1:7; Colossians 2:14.

Then we have experiential forgiveness in 1 John 1:9. This is what happens when we confess our sin. We are forgiven in terms of our day-to-day experience.

The fourth category is relational forgiveness. This has to do with forgiving one another.

Colossians 1:14 NASB "in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins." What does redemption mean? It means to pay a price for something. Jesus' death on the cross was a violent form of death because it was a penal death. The way that theologians have described the atonement is a penal, substitutionary death. It is a punishment. His punishment on the cross in terms of His physical death is a picture of something else that is happening in the spiritual realm, i.e. that God is judging and punishing Him for the sins of the world.

The appositional phrase is "the forgiveness of sins. (An appositional phrase is a second phrase that explains a term used previously) This is talking about what happens in terms of the redemption that we have in Christ. Redemption is an economic term meaning purchase; forgiveness is an economic term meaning to wipe out or cancel a debt. The same thing is said in Ephesians 1:7.

Colossians 2:13 NASB "When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions

This is an important verse to understand. It is difficult to translate it into English in a way that captures the grammar in the Greek, because it is loaded with participles and you have to understand how these participles relate to the main verb.

"He made you alive together with Him"—that is the main verb, talking about our regeneration. Everything else that is said in vv. 13 & 14 has something to do with describing how God regenerated us, or the circumstances surrounding our regeneration. In v. 13, "When you were dead" or, "You being dead". This is a concessive participle describing the circumstances that occurred at the time that we were made alive with Him. We could translate is, "Though you were dead, even though you were dead, when you were dead, or while you were dead. When or while would be a temporal sense, though would be a concessive sense. Both of those are true and would emphasize the fact that at the time we were saved, first we were spiritually dead in our sins and trespasses—it uses those two terms in Ephesians 2:1; here he uses trespasses and the uncircumcision of the flesh, which is an idiom for sin as well as being unsaved. So he is saying that (first we were spiritually dead, then we were regenerated) at that time while we were spiritually dead God made us alive together with Him.

How does God do that? What are the mechanics in that regeneration process? What other things happen at the time we were saved? The next phrase in English just says, "He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our trespasses". But that is another participle there. What he is stating is when he says, "He forgave you all trespasses", that describes something as well in relation to the main verb because it is an adverbial participle. So it would be, "He made your life together with Him by forgiving you all trespasses. That would make sense; when or because would make sense as well. In other words, He doesn't regenerate us without dealing with the sin.

That is important because when we talk about forgiving one another it is not just ignoring or overlooking of sin. The sin has to be dealt with. If you just ignore or deny the fact that there are problems and you never address the problems, those problems are just going to repeat themselves over and over again. Forgiveness has to face reality and say, well there is a problem. Just as you and I have to confess our sins to God and receive forgiveness, in personal relationships there needs to be a recognition of someone has offended us or sinned against us, we can't just say, Oh well, I am just going to forgive you. They have to be talked about and discussed and resolved, otherwise you just end up aiding and abetting their continual sin patterns. 

Here we see that regeneration is directly related to the forgiveness of our sins. That would be the positional forgiveness. The forgiveness of all sins is talking about the fact that God wiped out these trespasses at the cross. I think that is what this is saying. How can God regenerate us right now? Because He had already forgiven or wiped out all of my trespasses at the cross.

Colossians 2:14 NASB "having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.

Participle, probably causal: "having canceled". He forgave us all trespasses because He cancelled those sins. When did He cancel those sins? When we believed? No. It goes on to say, "having nailed it to the cross". That happened in AD 33. He cancelled it when He took that and when He nailed it to the cross. That refers back to that initial forensic forgiveness that occurred when Christ objectively paid the penalty on the cross. Then that forgiveness is applied to us positionally when we are regenerated, when we first trust in Christ as savior. At that point we realize that forgiveness. Then we have to move on from there is terms of our experiential forgiveness or confession of sin, and also forgiving one another. 

This word "cancelled" is a word that means to blot something out. That is also a word that is used in times of economic context. It is used in Acts 3:19 where Peter is preaching to the Jews on the temple mount again: "Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away [blotted out], in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord". Blotted out is the idea of wiping out something. It is also used idiomatically for a debt. It is used in Revelation 21:4, "and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes". The word that is used there is based on the Greek word ALETHO, which originally meant to rub something out, and it came eventually to mean the cancelling of a debt.

So what we have seen is three words that are used in relation to forgiveness—APHIEMI, the word we are most familiar with and used, for example, in 1 John 1:9. This is an economic word and is used that way in Matthew 18:32 where in the parable the wealthy landowner says, "I forgive you all of that debt." CHARIZOMAI is another word that is used. It is used in Ephesians 4:32 for forgiving one another. This is a word emphasizing what lies behind forgiveness, which is grace; being gracious, showing grace or favor or kindness to someone. And then there is EXALEIPHO, which means to wipe something out. It came to mean to plaster over or to rub something out completely; also used for forgiveness.

A parallel passage to the one we are looking at is in the Gospel of Mark where we have the Lord teaching this again in a different context. It is not in the context of the Sermon on the Mount but He says the same thing. Mark 11:25, 26 NASB "Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone…" If you are harboring mental attitude sins of anger, resentment, bitterness, revenge, jealousy. "… so that your Father who is in heaven will also forgive you your transgressions." It is not saying that our forgiveness from God is dependent upon our forgiveness to others. It is saying that if you are sinning, if you are harboring sin in your mind, and you are saying, God forgive me of my sin, you are still sinning at the same time. 

Mark 11:26 ["But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father who is in heaven forgive your transgressions."] This is a second time that Jesus teaches this same principle: that you have to forgive one another. Confession and being in fellowship with God isn't always just a matter of dealing with God in our vertical relationship. If things aren't right horizontally with other people we have to deal with that as well. We have to deal with it at the very least in terms of our mental attitude sin dynamics. In an NIV or NASB or some of the other modern translations Mark 11:26 is either in brackets or it is not even in your text. That is, again, because it is not in a couple of the older MSS. But it is in the majority of MSS. The verbiage here only differs from the verbiage in Matthew 6:15 by the phrase "in heaven".   

Jesus would teach things in many different ways, times and places, and not always in the same order. Sometimes He added things; sometimes He subtracted things, but that is what He taught. We can see the emphasis that He puts on it by going to these parallel passages.

Matthew 18:21 NASB "Then Peter came and said to Him, 'Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?'"

How many times do we do it? There are some people who just seem to take advantage of us. Some people just seem to continue to disrupt our lives with the same problems and offenses over and over again.

Matthew 18:22 NASB "Jesus said to him, 'I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven'." 490 times! Jesus isn't saying that we need to keep a ledger. This is an idiom for endlessness; always forgiving the other person. It should be without limit.

Then He gives a parable. Notice how the parable begins.

Matt 18:23 NASB "For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to…" These parables always relate to Israel. He is teaching within a framework where He is talking to the Jews about the kingdom. Secondly, when the kingdom is postponed because they rejected the kingdom message He is talking about principles that are in effect during that interim period until the kingdom finally comes in. At this point they really don't understand much about the church, although just earlier in this passage Jesus uses the term "church" for the first time in the Gospels. But it also has the idea of assembly so the fact that he is alluding to a future institution probably went right past the disciples at this point. "… a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves."

Matthew 18:24 NASB "When he had begun to settle {them,} one who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him." This was a tremendous amount of money. It was a debt that just could not be paid back. [25] "But since he did not have {the means} to repay, his lord commanded him to be sold, along with his wife and children and all that he had, and repayment to be made." The servant begs him have patience and says he will eventually pay it back.

The king knows he will never pay it back, but there is something about the way this servant begs him to let him stay that he responds to. He cancels the debt completely. [27] "And the lord of that slave felt compassion and released him and forgave him the debt."

The servant is forgiven this tremendous amount of money. Then he goes out and one of the other servants owes him just a small amount, the equivalent of a day's wage; something that can be paid back probably within a year. This fellow servant comes to him and begs him to be patient with him and says he will pay it all back. But the servant who has just been forgiven the enormous amount refuses to forgive the debt or even to let him work it off, and has him cast into debtors' prison. He treats him very harshly and not graciously at all. The other servants are naturally upset about this and tell the king. The king calls the servant a wicked servant, rebukes him for not forgiving the very small debt owed to him and then turns him over for punishment.  

Now some people try to make every detail in a parable walk on all fours and make sense. That is not the way parables work. Who are the torturers? There are some people who try to make this some sort of purgatory. There is no purgatory in the New Testament. This servant ahs already been forgiven. He is not having to work off his debt anymore, and that is analogous to the believer who is already forgiven. In verse 34 Jesus is just being dramatic and using hyperbole to emphasize that there are going to be consequences to the believer who doesn't forgive another believer for his sin against him. We are to deal with them in grace, in kindness and in love; otherwise there will be consequences and God will bring divine discipline disciple into the life, both now and at the judgment seat of Christ perhaps there will be loss of rewards.

That is the emphasis there, but again what this is emphasizing is the importance of forgiving one another. This isn't something optional. It is not something that is separate and distinct from our ongoing walk with the Lord in terms of experiencing forgiveness for sin (1 John 1:9) but that it is related to it. One caveat I want to put on this is that there is a distinction between forgiveness and consequences. God often forgives us and completely wipes out the consequences. Other times when we sin and confess the sin God forgives us but we still have to reap the consequences for those sins. That is what happened with David after the sin with Bathsheba. There were four different consequences to that sin, the first of which was the loss of the child.

When we forgive others there are times when somebody does something against us, maybe it is the first time or the tenth time, and we say I'm not going to be able to deal with that in my life. I forgive you but the consequence is that I don't have anything to do with you in my life, or maybe there are other consequences. This is how forgiveness works, it doesn't mean we just wipe it out and act as if nothing happened. Sometimes we can do that, but some things are serious and we can't do it that way.

The reality is that forgiveness in Scripture is important. It relates to our grace orientation and our humility. If we are not forgiving one another then we are not really grace oriented. The two are integrally and intimately connected. It also relates to our ongoing fellowship, and that is the point that Jesus is making in the Lord's prayer.