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Bible verses about Forgiveness
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Forgiveness is one of the chief characteristics we must have if we are to become literal children of God in His Kingdom. God has positions of teaching and authority prepared for us (John 14:2; Revelation 5:10). Because these positions come with great power, we must have a heart ready and willing to forgive and forget mistakes. Those coming out of the Great Tribulation will make many mistakes, just as we have in coming out of this world. We will need to have a nature willing to encourage and forgive.

In this world it is easy to see that a major cause of conflict is an unwillingness to extend forgiveness. The crisis in Bosnia, smoldering for many years, finally burst into flame. The rivalry between Arab and Jew has lasted for centuries. In this country the conflicts between North and South, the Hatfields and the McCoys, management and labor, and many others have raged with neither side being willing to forgive. At home the lack of forgiveness causes family problems to arise over and over until divorce or violence erupts.

How does God view this hardhearted lack of forgiveness? Does He take it lightly? If we lack a truly forgiving heart, could it cost us our salvation? Jesus tells us to pray:

And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. . . . 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 6:12,14-15)

John O. Reid
Forgiveness


 

We can learn several principles from the Parable of the Unforgiving Servant:

1. Our sins are great.

2. God abundantly forgives.

3. Offenses committed against us are comparatively small.

4. We should abundantly forgive as our Master does.

5. If we do not, God will be justly angry and punish us.

We have nothing to pay toward our indebtedness. Therefore, God's forgiveness of our sins is nothing less than a gift, one that rests on the foundation of the finished work of Jesus Christ. Because Christ died to pay the penalty for sin, God can wipe clean the record of our spiritual indebtedness and establish a relationship with us.

Martin G. Collins
Parable of the Unforgiving Servant


 

Genesis 20:17-18  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

How long did God forbear with converted Abraham? We are talking about the "father of the faithful"! Verse 17 takes place after everything was all cleared up between him and Abimelech.

How long did it take them to notice that all the women in Abimelech's house were barren? At least a couple months. God did not strike him down for his lie. He gave Abraham a chance to repent, to confess both to God and Abimelech what the truth was, but he never did it. So finally God stepped in, giving Abimelech a dream that told him he was keeping His prophet's wife, and he had better give her back.

Notice God's forbearance. Not only did He do this over a long time, but He kept Abimelech from defiling Sarah. He also kept Abimelech from killing Abraham for lying to the king. God worked everything out. It could have been an awful situation. Isaac might never have lived, because Isaac is not born until the next chapter. God also shows His forbearance with Sarah - call her "the mother of the faithful" - because she was in on the lie. Yet, she is mentioned in Hebrews 11 as one of the heroes of faith.

Perhaps the most astounding fact is that this was the second time that it had happened! Genesis 12:10-20 records that the same thing occurred between Abraham and Pharaoh fifteen or twenty years earlier. How long did God forbear with Abraham? Fifteen or twenty years! He had given Abraham a couple of decades to repent of this sin, but he did not do it - so God tested him again. Eventually, Abraham did repent, but there was a fifteen- or twenty-year period in which God forbore with him in this problem to help him grow in character.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Forbearance


 

Exodus 12:12-13  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The blood was a sign to the death angel to "pass over" their homes when it went through Egypt. Because of it, Israel's firstborn were saved, while Egypt's firstborn died.

The yearly ritual of Passover represents the death of Jesus Christ, who was God in the flesh. The innocent lamb had to be without blemish because it represented the only Man who ever lived a perfect, sinless life. Jesus Christ was the Lamb of God who gave His life and shed His blood so that we may be saved from eternal death by paying the penalty for our sins. Through faith in His sacrifice, we receive forgiveness of sin and come into a right relationship with God. Because His life was worth more than all human life combined, His sacrifice paid the price for all sin. He redeemed us from the penalty that the breaking of God's law imposes and freed us to live righteously.

Earl L. Henn (1934-1997)
Holy Days: Passover


 

2 Kings 22:16-17  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

At this point, six years into Josiah's reformation, God informs the young king that the people were only giving lip-service to his efforts. Their hearts had not changed; they had not truly repented and turned to God. He is, however, a merciful God, slow to anger, quick to forgive; the terrible price will not be paid just yet.

Mike Ford
Josiah


 

2 Chronicles 15:1-2  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

God's Word expands on this principle—that we are judged as we judge others—in other places. Thus, He says to be very careful in judgment when imputing motives to people whose hearts we are not able to read. We can say things about them that God knows not to be true. When we do so, we are judging them on the basis of our "insight."

Jesus also tells us in the Lord's prayer that we will be forgiven as we forgive. So we can see another principle here, that faithfulness and loyalty are a two-way street.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Why Three Kings Are Missing From Matthew 1


 

Job 38:4  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The terms "morning stars" and "sons of God" are biblical names for angels, who express joy when events in God's plan unfold. Not only God but also angels are thrilled when a sinner repents of his worldly ways. Prayer for forgiveness brings about joyous repentance and restoration of righteousness in a person's life.

Martin G. Collins
Joy


 

Psalm 51:1-2  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

In the depths of his godly sorrow over his sins, David understood that it was the washing of His Creator that was needed for him to be cleansed of his transgressions of God's way of life.

In the book of Psalms, David expresses profound details of his relationship with his Creator. He looked forward to his Savior coming to fulfill the purposes of cleansing and restoration. David understood that His God was working to open the gates to everlasting life for human beings who would be cleansed and made whole, perfected as children of the great God.

Recall in Psalm 23 that David concludes his description of his relationship with his Shepherd, his Creator, by declaring that he would "dwell in the house of the LORD forever" (Psalm 23:6). David looked forward to eternal life, understanding that it would take God washing him and cleansing him of his sins to allow him to come into this inheritance.

Staff
Purge Me With Hyssop


 

Psalm 51:7  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Woven into the fabric of the Psalms are many of the very words that Jesus Christ used Himself during His life on earth, including some of the final words He uttered before His death. The understanding that David possessed, a gift and blessing that the Eternal gave to him, is further evidenced in Psalm 51:7: "Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow."

Here, David again refers to the spiritual washing required for his cleansing. He makes a deliberate request of God to wash Him, knowing that only the cleansing power of Almighty God can make a man clean and pure. Though his sins have covered him in filth and stained him to the very roots of his being, the washing power of God makes a man whiter than snow.

In our understanding of the symbolism of colors, "snow-white" is considered the ultimate in white, the whitest of white, as pure and unsullied a white as possible. David's expectation was that God's cleansing power would exceed even that ultimate white - "I shall be whiter than snow." We can only relate this to absolute spiritual, moral perfection, the very state in which Almighty God exists. The wording expresses that the scrubbing God could give him would permit him to exist in that absolute, ultimate state of perfection.

At the beginning of verse 7, David makes the deliberate request of God to purge him with hyssop. Hyssop is an interesting choice as a cleansing agent. It is an herb, a species of marjoram and member of the mint family, and some Bible versions actually refer to it as "marjoram." It has long been considered an aromatic and medicinal herb, anciently indigenous to western Asia and northern Africa, including regions of the Middle East. The hyssop plant grows just under three feet in height, producing clusters of variously colored flowers. In ancient times, it grew naturally in rocky crevices, and people cultivated it on terraced walls.

The short, cut stems of the plant can be gathered into bunches, and in the Old Testament, these bunches were used for ritual purposes. The most spiritually significant of these uses is recorded in Exodus 12:22. Moses has just given the instructions for the killing of the Passover lamb, and he continues with some further instructions that must have been rather startling for those participating Israelites:

And you shall take a bunch of hyssop, dip it in the blood [of the Passover lamb] that is in the basin, and strike the lintel and the two doorposts with the blood that is in the basin. And none of you shall go out of the door of his house until morning.

It is important that we consider all the aspects of this event. During repeated requests by Moses for Pharaoh to allow Israel to leave Egypt, Pharaoh had continually refused to let God's people go, and the nation had endured nine plagues of cataclysmic consequences. The economy of the nation was largely in shambles. Crops were ruined, and disease had run rampant.

Since the third plague, God had also made readily visible a clear distinction between the captive nation of Israel and the Egyptians, in that the Israelites in Goshen had been spared much of the devastation that had ruined the rest of Egypt. By the use of the blood of the sacrificial lamb, God was about to make a final, absolute distinction between these two nations that would never be forgotten.

We must recognize that Egypt suffered the devastation at the hand of God because though it was a sophisticated, dazzling, world-dominating empire, it was also a wicked, idolatrous nation. The Egyptians were a people who openly flouted the natural evidence of a supreme Creator by worshipping a pantheon of idols and gods dedicated to their own passions and lusts. Egyptians regularly engaged in a frenzy of immoral and idolatrous celebrations, sporting events, fashions, and music all dedicated to gods of materialism and human gratification.

The plagues God meted upon the land of Egypt and its people were just as much attacks on her idols and lifestyle as they were punishments for the sins of her people. As just one example, the Egyptians worshipped the Nile River as a god, and when God turned its waters to blood, the life-giving nature of the river was destroyed, along with the power that the Nile River god supposedly possessed.

Thus, in this solemn Passover event of Exodus 12, God used blood of a different nature to represent the saving, life-giving power that only He, the almighty, eternal God, possessed. The sacrificial lamb of Passover symbolized the future Son of God, who would take upon Himself the role of the sacrificial Lamb of God (John 1:29). The shed blood of the Passover lamb symbolized the blood to be shed by the coming Messiah.

The bunch of hyssop was dipped into the blood, and per God's instructions, that blood was sprinkled or brushed on the doorposts and lintel of each home. The Israelites were then told to stay within those homes, separated from the Egyptian people and their normal routines. That night, there was to be no interaction or communication with any aspect of the Egyptian civilization. Their very lives depended on their following this command to the letter.

The sacrificial blood, sprinkled or smeared by the bunch of hyssop, graphically represented a separation and a protection of Israel against the deadly havoc that God wrought upon Egypt that night. The blood ceremonially cleansed and protected the people inside those homes against the plague of death that struck a people who practiced the filthy abominations of godlessness.

Later, in the books of Leviticus and Numbers, hyssop was used as part of sacrificial ceremonies. The hyssop was always tied into bunches for use in sprinkling the blood of the sacrificed animal. In some sacrifices, the priest sprinkled the blood onto the person making the sacrifice.

In Numbers 19, Moses gives instructions for one who is unclean due to touching a dead body. These instructions include taking a bunch of hyssop, dipping it into clean, running water, and sprinkling the unclean individual, his tent, and possessions. This example clearly connects the use of hyssop and clean water for cleansing.

Over the years, some have suggested that hyssop contains valuable antiseptic or cleansing properties that would "disinfect" the contaminated person or his possessions. This cannot be the point because such an idea contradicts the fact that God is the only Source of true purification. The biblical use of hyssop in the Passover, the sacrifices, and the ceremonial cleansing rituals was a constant reminder, painting a detailed picture of the washing, cleansing, saving, purification, and salvation from death itself that come only from the eternal God.

This is the kind of cleansing that David requested of God when he asked to be purged with hyssop.

Staff
Purge Me With Hyssop


 

Psalm 51:18-19  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Essentially, David is saying that the offering of an animal does not meet the price of forgiveness, but an acceptable sacrifice before God is a broken and contrite heart. An acceptable sacrifice is repentance, as it is giving up human nature, its own will, and obstinacy and pride. They have been suppressed and then replaced by humility. This is personally costly because it motivates one to submit his life to God.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Preparing to Be a Priest


 

Psalm 103:2-3  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The parallelism in verse 3 inextricably links the two clauses together so that they are nearly equal. Healing us of sickness is to God forgiving us of sin (see Mark 2:3-12 for the New Testament equivalent).

Even in His original promise to heal in Exodus 15:25-26, God shows a direct link between sin, disease, obedience, and healing (see Leviticus 26:14-16; Deuteronomy 28:15, 22, 27-28, 35; Psalm 107:17-20; Isaiah 19:22; Hosea 6:1). This, too, has a New Testament counterpart, James 5:14-15.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Sin Is Spiritual!


 

Proverbs 10:12  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The Soncino commentary remarks,

Hatred makes mountains out of mole hills, but love covers, or puts out of sight, and enables one to overlook insults and wrongs.

Adam Clarke comments:

[Hatred] seeks for occasions to provoke enmity. It delights in broils. On the contrary, love conciliates; removes aggravations; puts the best construction on every thing; and pours water, not oil, upon the flame.

Commentator F. C. Cook writes,

[Love] first hides, does not expose, and then forgives and forgets all sins.

John O. Reid
Forgiveness


 

Daniel 9:9  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Daniel begins to lay the groundwork of an appeal to God. "God, you are merciful." God desires to forgive. Even though we have rebelled, God's ear is still open to our cry of repentance.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Avoiding Superficiality


 

Daniel 9:15-19  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

At the end, Daniel asks God for compassion on them (and on the city and the Temple), that God would forgive and rescue them for His own name's sake. He asks for forgiveness so God Himself could be glorified by His people—because, as we are, we are not in a state to glorify Him. We need to be "turned around," personally and individually.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Avoiding Superficiality


 

Amos 5:21-24  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Israel's religion was going nowhere. The people were not righteous, moral, or just in their dealings with one another, so their playing at religion, though sincere, was despicable to God.

In the list of sacrifices in verse 22, the sin offering is not mentioned, suggesting that the Israelites felt they had done no sin that required forgiveness. This shows that they were not in contact with God; they had no relationship with Him. If they had, they would have been aware where they had fallen short, and they could have repented.

Amos includes three other offerings that the Israelites gave but God would not accept. Knowing what they represent gives us insight into how the people were falling short in their spiritual lives.

The burnt offering teaches total devotion to the Creator. It was completely burned up on the altar, typifying the offerer being completely devoted in service to God. This offering corresponds to the first four commandments, which show love and devotion toward God.

Similarly, the grain offering, also called the cereal offering, meal offering, or meat offering, teaches total dedication and service to man. It was offered in conjunction with the burnt offering. The grain offering typifies the last six commandments, which regulate our relationships and love toward our fellow man.

The peace offering represents one's fellowship upward to God and outward to man. It was primarily given in thanks for God's blessing. When this offering was made, God, the priest, the offerer, and his family and friends shared in a common meal and fellowship, as all these parties ate part of the sacrificed animal.

But from God's reaction to their offerings, it is clear that the people of ancient Israel were not devoted to God or to their fellow man. Nor were they in true fellowship with either God or man, and therefore they could not see their sins. They did not see the holiness of God and compare themselves to it. If they had, they would have seen that they needed to make changes in their lives, but in judging themselves solely against other men—an unwise thing to do (II Corinthians 10:12)—they felt no need for repentance.

They did not understand what God really wanted of them. They may have appeased their own consciences with their church attendance, hymn singing, and sacrifices, but they went home and continued to oppress and cheat and lie. True religion is

1) A relationship with God (Matthew 22:37). Without a relationship with Him, we cannot know Him or understand His purpose for us.

2) Submission and obedience to God as our part of the relationship (James 4:7-8). In offering to make the covenant with the children of Israel (Exodus 20-24), He proposed to them. They accepted their obligation—to obey Him—but they were unfaithful in fulfilling it. As the Israel of God (Galatians 6:16) and the future Bride of Christ (Revelation 19:7-9), the church must not fail as ancient Israel did.

3) Real love for God's truth (II Thessalonians 2:10). Israel neither loved nor sought God's truth.

4) Moral integrity (I Peter 3:8-12). Living in righteousness and holiness shows love toward God and man.

5) Social responsibility (James 1:27). Israel, as a nation of this world, had a responsibility to ensure that their care of their fellow Israelites was acceptable in God's eyes. The church, a spiritual organism, is not of this world, and as a body, has no responsibility at this time to change society—only ourselves. We must take care of our brethren within the church now, and we will have our chance to help this world in God's Kingdom.

These five points will not "buy" us into the presence of God, but rather they are five proofs that we follow true religion. Remember Jacob's dream. God chooses us and meets us at the foot of the ladder, making a difference in our lives. He gives us a way of life to follow, and we pledge to follow it. Thus, true religion is not a way to God but a way of living from God.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Prepare to Meet Your God! (The Book of Amos) (Part Two)


 

Matthew 5:7  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

English language dictionaries are of limited help in understanding this mercy's biblical usage. In English "mercy" is normally used to mean showing compassion, forbearance, pity, sympathy, forgiveness, kindness, tenderheartedness, or liberality or refraining from harming or punishing offenders or enemies. These synonyms give us some insight on this word; they all express how a merciful person might act. However, none of them specifically pictures what biblical mercy is because the scriptural concept is virtually untranslatable into a single English word.

The Greek word used in Matthew 5:7, eleemon, means essentially the same as its English counterpart, "merciful." However, in all likelihood Jesus spoke in Aramaic, and the idea behind His statement about mercy come from Old Testament—that is, Hebrew—usage and teaching. The word He would have used is the Hebrew and Aramaic chesed.

William Barclay's Daily Study Bible commentary on Matthew states regarding this word:

It does not mean only to sympathize with a person in the popular sense of the term; it does not mean simply to feel sorry for some in trouble. Chesedh [sic], mercy, means the ability to get right inside the other person's skin until we can see things with his eyes, think things with his mind, and feel things with his feelings.

Clearly this is much more than an emotional wave of pity; clearly this demands a quite deliberate effort of the mind and of the will. It denotes a sympathy which is not given, as it were, from outside, but which comes from a deliberate identification with the other person, until we see things as he sees them, and feel things as he feels them. This is sympathy in the literal sense of the word. Sympathy is derived from two Greek words, syn which means together with, and paschein which means to experience or to suffer. Sympathy means experiencing things together with the other person, literally going through what he is going through. (p. 103)

Much easier said than done! Having a sense of another's feelings to this degree is very difficult to do because we are normally so self-concerned, so aware of our own feelings, that sensitivity for others to this depth often requires a great effort of the will. Normally, when we feel sorry for someone, it is an exclusively external act because we do not make the effort to get inside another's mind and heart until we can see and feel things as he does. It is not easy to walk in another person's shoes.

The world, from which we have all come, is true to its nature; it is unmerciful. The world prefers to insulate itself against the pains and calamities of others. It finds revenge delicious and forgiveness tame and unsatisfying.

This is where we all begin. Indeed, all too often in the church, worldliness is hardly dormant, revealing itself in acts that show some degree of cruelty. Usually, these cruelties are delivered verbally, but all too frequently, brethren simply ignore the real needs of others.

The mercy Jesus teaches is not humanly derived. He says in Matthew 6:14, "If you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father also will forgive you." This occurs, not because we can merit mercy by being merciful or forgiving of others, but because we cannot receive the mercy and forgiveness of God unless we repent. We cannot claim to have repented of our sins if we are unmerciful towards the sins of others.

The truly merciful are too aware of their own sins to deal with others in sharp condemnation, so they constrain themselves to deal humbly and kindly with those in need. Nothing moves us to forgive others like the amazing realization that God has forgiven our sins. Mercy in God's children begins by experiencing His forgiveness of them, and perhaps nothing proves more convincingly that we have been forgiven than our readiness to forgive.

Recognizing God's mercy is a key element in motivating our expressions of mercy. Too many people today, even in the church, possess a "welfare mentality." They go through life with little or no gratitude, thinking they deserve the handouts of governments or private citizens. Ingratitude is vital to understanding this because, as long as one is unthankful, his thoughts will center on himself. The merciful person is sensitive to others' needs and takes action to supply them. An ungrateful person, though, insulates himself from others' pains because he is too focused on his own perceived miseries.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beatitudes, Part 5: Blessed Are the Merciful


 

Matthew 5:44  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

We might think for a moment, "Who are our enemies?" Many of us believe we have no enemies. However, an enemy might be someone we thought was a friend, a family member with a long-held grudge, or even a brother or sister in Christ. An enemy can be someone we feel does not like us and has hurt or mistreated us. Whether we consider them enemies or not, there is no denying their hostility. In the same verse, Jesus goes on to expand His list of hostiles: "Bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you."

We have probably all been through this particular trial and test as we grow to love one another as brethren. The church is just like a big family, where people can be hurt or feel mistreated in one way or another. Conflicts, misunderstandings, and slights—real or imagined—occur in every group of human beings, Christian or not.

It is very difficult to "love," "bless," "do good," and "pray" for a person who has hurt us deeply. It goes against our human nature to behave positively toward someone we feel deserves shame, censure, and punishment! Putting this principle into practice is a high hurdle for any Christian to clear.

Yet, as Christians, we know that forgiveness is one of the keys that Jesus taught for healing. Not only is it a teaching—it is also a command. Christ admonishes us to keep this charge in His model prayer in Matthew 6:12: "Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors." Alternatively, it could be said, "Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who have sinned against us" (see Luke 11:4).

Jesus comments further on this in Matthew 6:14-15: "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."

In Matthew 18:21-22, we find another example: "Then Peter came to Him and said, "Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?" Jesus said to him, "I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven." In other words, we must always be willing to forgive a brother.

Staff
The Tongue: Our Tool of Power


 

Matthew 6:12  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Jesus compares our sins to debts. We have violated our obligation of being obedient to God, and this exposes us to the penalty that results from that violation. To teach us the lesson of forgiveness, God bases how He forgives us by the forgiveness we extend to others!

Those who come before Him unwilling to forgive others cannot expect God to show them the love and mercy they desire. God will not show them the mercy and love they will not extend to others! If we forgive others when they injure us, our Father will forgive us.

How are we to conduct ourselves in forgiving others? We must forgive, even if the offender does not ask to be forgiven. We should treat the one who has injured or offended us with kindness, not harboring any grudge or speaking of that individual condemningly. We should always be ready to do him good if the opportunity arises. This is a tall order!

Why act this way when it goes so strongly against human nature? First, it produces peace. Second, it sets the example for the offending individual—and for everyone else—of what God considers right and proper.

Does forgiveness of a person fighting a recurring problem mean that we should place complete trust in him in the area of his problem? With many problems—poor money handling, gossip, lying, stealing, and sexual sins, to name a few—we need to see a track record of overcoming before considering him trustworthy, but we can still be understanding, forgiving, and encouraging.

John O. Reid
Forgiveness


 

Matthew 6:12  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Our sins are debts to God, which we, the debtors, cannot pay. God is willing to wipe our slates clean if we humble ourselves before Him. We ask for forgiveness for our sins, and by so doing, we acknowledge that there is no other way to get rid of sin but through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. When we forgive others, God can see His own image reflected in us. As His children, we must be willing to forgive no matter the affront. Jesus gives us the example to follow, as He was able to ask the Father to forgive those who were crucifying Him (Luke 23:34)!

Ted E. Bowling
Sticks and Stones


 

Matthew 9:10-13  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

In saying that He desires mercy and not sacrifice, Jesus is teaching that He prefers it when people practice mercy and not blindly follow ritual. He is not condemning the laws of sacrifice that He set up for Israel to practice until He fulfilled them, but explaining that He is more pleased with acts of forgiveness and kindness than strict external compliance to the law.

He is telling the Pharisees that, though they were exacting in keeping the letter of the law, they had completely missed its intent. In Matthew 23:23, He reminds them of this very point: "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone."

It is good and right to tithe to God, even to be exacting in our accounting, but not at the expense of the far more important matters of justice, mercy, and faith! These weightier matters are a Christian's priorities, so if a question of "What do I do?" ever comes up between practicing them and keeping the strict letter of the law, our judgment should lean toward these Christian virtues. If we can do both, all the better!

Jesus Christ is the personification of mercy. Exodus 25:17-22 describes the Mercy Seat constructed in the wilderness. Essentially, it was the golden lid of the Ark of the Covenant, on which were figures of two cherubim facing each other with their wings stretched out, covering the Mercy Seat. God, the pre-incarnate Christ, says in verse 22, "And there I will meet with you, and I will speak with you from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim which are on the ark of the Testimony." The Mercy Seat represented God in His dealings with sinful humanity, and the chief element He employs is mercy.

Now notice Romans 3:23-25:

. . . for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed. . . .

This passage tells us that Jesus Christ is our Mercy Seat, but the translators have hidden it. "Propitiation" (Greek hilasterios) in verse 25 is literally "place of conciliation or expiation" or "Mercy Seat." The Septuagint used hilasterios to translate the Hebrew noun kapporeth ("Mercy Seat"). This Hebrew word's root is kapar meaning "to cover" or "to conceal." This illustrates that the nature of God is to be merciful.

The apostle Peter writes in I Peter 2:21 that we are to follow in Christ's steps, thus as Jesus Christ is merciful, we also are to show mercy in our judgments.

John O. Reid
Mercy: The Better Option


 

Matthew 11:29  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

In Matthew 11:29, Jesus links meekness with lowliness: "Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle [meek, KJV] and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls." Ephesians 4:1-3 states:

I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness [meekness, KJV], with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

The King James version is correct, as the Greek text uses prautes. "Gentle" and "gentleness" are incorrect because in this context they are only an aspect of the meekness we should express in our dealings with others.

In Matthew 11:29, Jesus is explaining why we should embrace His way of life. As our Lord and Master, He is not harsh, overbearing, and oppressive, but gentle in His government. His laws are also reasonable and easy to obey; neither He nor they enslave. He emphasizes the gentle aspect of meekness toward others. From this, we begin to see why meekness must be a virtue of those who will receive the Kingdom and govern. Because God governs in meekness, His children must also.

Ephesians 4 teaches how to build and maintain unity within a more social context, and here, prautes appears with humility, patience, forbearance, and love. Paul demands that, for unity to be built and maintained, we should receive offenses without retaliation, bearing them patiently without a desire for revenge. We are, in short, to have a forgiving spirit. Without it, we will surely promote divisiveness.

The association of humility and meekness is natural, and is yet another facet of meekness. Whereas humility deals with a correct assessment of his merits, meekness covers a correct assessment of personal rights. This does not in any way mean a lowering of the standards of justice or of right and wrong. Meekness can be accompanied by a war to the death against evil, but the meek Christian directs this warfare first against the evil in his own heart. He is a repentant sinner, and his recognition of this state radically alters his relations with fellow man. A sinner forgiven must have a forgiving attitude.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fruit of the Spirit: Meekness


 

Matthew 18:15-17  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Understanding our frame, God leans toward mercy. Three times He repeats, "I will have mercy and not sacrifice" (Hosea 6:6; Matthew 9:13; 12:7).

He gets personal about it as well. In Matthew 5:7, Jesus names mercy as one of the primary beatitudes, or "attitudes to be in": "Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy." Here, in a very personal and positive setting, we begin to see mercy's cause-and-effect principle: Show mercy and you will obtain mercy.

Christ drew this principle from the attitude the unchangeable God has always maintained. Speaking of Him, the twin quotes from Psalm 18:25 and II Samuel 22:26 echo the beatitude: "With the merciful You will show Yourself merciful."

Not only is God of the mind to be merciful, He expects it of us, even requires it of us. Notice how the tenor of Micah 6:8 becomes more intense, though remaining positive: "He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?" This moves from a simple cause-and-effect principle to an absolute requirement.

We need to examine Matthew 18 in this light. With mercy and forgiveness in mind, Christ outlines His instruction on how to deal with those who sin against us. We show mercy by not escalating the problem beyond the sinning individual, if possible. Discuss it with him alone! We are not to bandy about anyone's sins. Doing so only makes it more difficult for the offender to swallow his pride and repent, for, by admitting his wrong, he is "losing face" with many who know the story. The object—never forget—is to gain our brother, not to gain vengeance or vindication for ourselves.

If the offender does not listen, then we are to take one or two other witnesses. Again, if at all possible, we should keep the situation from escalating beyond that. Do we like our transgressions spread all over the church? Only in extreme intransigence should we take the problem to the whole brotherhood, or to the ministry as their administrative representatives.

After this step-by-step instruction, Christ underlines the thought by showing that we should forgive—show mercy and extend grace—even up to 490 times a day to the same person (verses 21-22)! In other words, like God, our mercy should endure forever, since 490 times a day suggests "infinitely." It is almost impossible to offend that many times in such a limited period, especially if connected with real repentance.

Jesus then relates the Parable of the Unforgiving Servant who, though forgiven of enormous debt, threw a fellow servant in jail for not repaying a pittance. Christ then gives a stern warning: If you are merciless to your brother, expect like treatment from your heavenly Father. So, not only is mercy a good idea, God requires it, and severe penalties will fall upon us if we refuse to extend it.

James makes it even more emphatic! "For judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment" (James 2:13). The apostle links the fair and impartial judgment of God directly with mercy or grace, for one without the other spells death for every sinner.

Frequently, we may state our willingness to forgive a brother or sister—but "only if they apologize!" What magnanimous largesse! What unassailable righteousness! "If they grovel, I will deign to forgive." No, what sickening, superior patronization! Mercy or grace need not always be contingent on the offender's apology or repentance.

Did not Christ ask His Father to forgive his assassins, "for they do not know what they do" (Luke 23:34)? This was not some minor social infraction or everyday offense in life, but the crime of the ages! They were certainly of no mind to repent or feel any remorse, yet He willingly turned the other cheek, taking every despicable sin of all mankind on Himself in abject humility without a whisper of protest!

Staff
The Weightier Matters (Part 3): Mercy


 

Matthew 18:15  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Matthew 18:15 instructs us to deal honestly with a brother over an offense, and not to tell it to others. This is also a great challenge. When irritated or offended, the first thing we want to do is to talk about it! We want to receive encouragement, comfort, understanding, or just get it off our chests. It is critical, though, for us to temper our honesty with the loving attributes of God's Spirit, and solve our differences with words that heal, encourage, and enable greater affection to grow. Honesty may at times require forgiveness and forbearance that neglect and lying might let slide by.

Staff
Are You Sharp-Tongued? (Part Two)


 

Matthew 18:21-22  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Peter had a definite rationale for saying "seven times." The Jews had ruled that one could only be forgiven three times, but never a fourth. Realizing Jesus would show more mercy than the Jews, he must have thought seven times was more than fair.

Christ's response shows how important forgiveness is. "I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven" (verse 22). He means that we are not to limit our forgiveness to a specific number of times. As often as someone offends us and asks forgiveness, we should extend it. Further, even if he does not ask forgiveness, we should forgive him and treat him properly, setting the right example.

John O. Reid
Forgiveness


 

Matthew 18:21-22  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Forgiveness is a matter of mercy and conduct. The Jews taught that a man was to forgive another three times but not four. Peter more than doubles this, asking if forgiveness should be extended so far. Jesus' answer tells us we should not limit our forgiveness to any fixed number. As often as a brother injures us and asks forgiveness, we should forgive him (Luke 17:4). It is his duty to ask forgiveness. If he does this, we have a duty to declare that we forgive him and to treat him accordingly. Even if he does not ask for forgiveness, we are still not at liberty to take revenge, but we should treat him kindly and do him good. It is a Christian's duty to forgive others (Colossians 3:13).

Martin G. Collins
Parable of the Unforgiving Servant


 

Matthew 18:23-35  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Jesus, really wanting to drive home the importance of being forgiving (Matthew 18:21), tells the Parable of the Unforgiving Servant. The story relates how a king, settling accounts with his servants, finds that one owed him 10,000 talents. Barnes' Notes, written in the late 1800s, estimates the value at $15.8 million! Christ's point, of course, is that no one could ever repay this huge amount. Spiritually, we owe Him far more than we could ever repay.

Normally, the servant would be cast into prison and his family sold into slavery until all was paid. But when the servant entreated the king to have mercy on him, the king, "moved with compassion," forgave the entire debt!

The forgiven servant then found one who owed him 100 denarii or about $15. This petty debtor begged for additional time to pay off the debt, but the servant, without mercy, had him jailed until all was paid. The king's other servants heard of this and told the king.

We can learn several lessons from this parable:

1. Our sins are very great.
2. God has forgiven them all.
3. By comparison to the offenses we have committed against God, our brethren's offenses against us are small.
4. We should be so appreciative of being forgiven that we freely forgive others.
5. We must forgive from the heart, not merely in words. When we truly forgive from the heart, it is as if no offense had ever occurred.
6. If we do not forgive, God is justified in not forgiving us.

John O. Reid
Forgiveness


 

Matthew 18:25-27  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The indebted servant has no assets, so his master commands all that he has to be sold, including his wife and children. By ancient custom, a creditor could sell a debtor, with his family, into servitude for a time sufficient to pay a debt. Hearing this, the servant falls down before him in a seemingly humble and earnest manner, entreating him to have patience with him. The king sees his distressed condition and has compassion on his family, forgiving him of the whole debt. God's forgiveness of humble, repentant human beings is an act of mercy and compassion that we are to emulate (Zechariah 7:9-10; I Peter 3:8; Ephesians 4:32). Like this servant, we owe God more than we can ever repay.

Martin G. Collins
Parable of the Unforgiving Servant


 

Matthew 18:26-34  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

We desire others—especially God—to be patient and forgiving toward us in our faults, but do we practice the same attitude and conduct toward those whose faults offend us? Patience is a two-way street, and God clearly demands reciprocity. He expects us to pass His patience and forgiveness toward us on to others even as Christ did.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fruit of the Spirit: Patience


 

Matthew 18:28-30  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The heartlessness of the forgiven man—along with his utter disregard of his obligation to emulate the gracious example of his king—is sin. Compared to our offenses against God, the offenses that our brethren commit against us are small and insignificant. Since God has forgiven us so much, we ought to forgive each other of anything, large or small (Matthew 6:15). Grace bestowed puts the receiver under obligation to manifest the same grace to others. Even though a person receives forgiveness, it does not guarantee that he will be a better person, as this deceived world generally believes today (as seen in how ineffective leniency on murderers, rapists, and thieves is.)

Martin G. Collins
Parable of the Unforgiving Servant


 

Matthew 25:34-40  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

When we show pity, compassion, and kindness to those in difficult straits, we are practicing the merciful attitude that God expects each of His children to exhibit at all times. Of course, He does not want us to be so soft-hearted that we become an easy mark for those who would take advantage of us, but He does want us to develop a keen sense of discernment that realizes when mercy is a better option than the strict application of rules.

Undoubtedly, each of us would lend a helping hand to another who was in physical need, but there are other situations in which a physical need is not apparent that also require us to extend mercy. Particularly, we need to learn to employ mercy in our dealings with each other on a daily basis. To put it into today's language, everyone has bad-hair days, and on some days, even a normally lovable person can be very difficult to live with.

Age differences lend themselves to misunderstandings. We may still carry prejudices that rear their ugly heads from time to time, causing friction. Oftentimes, we just do not think before we speak. Mistakes made in the past can seem to hang over us like a cloud and never go away, and thus we do not feel forgiven, affecting our attitudes. And of course, we all have different backgrounds and came from situations in which we perhaps lived our lives in certain shameful ways. Each of these problems can ignite trouble with our closest family members and friends.

The problem that all of us face in making righteous judgments is that we cannot see into the other person's heart; we do not really know their intentions and attitudes. We have a hard enough time understanding ourselves, let alone someone else! In Jesus' comments about judgment in His Sermon on the Mount, He cautions us about being too critical: "And why do you look at the speck in your brother's eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye?" (Matthew 7:3). Therefore, if we have to make a judgment call, it is far better to lean toward patience, forbearance, and mercy.

So, when we find ourselves offended by anyone, rather than responding in kind, we should apply the principle of giving a soft answer (Proverbs 15:1), turning the other cheek (Matthew 5:39), and extending tender mercies (Colossians 3:12).

Satan would like us to hang on to evil thoughts about another, to hold a grudge against a brother, or to arrive at church with a resentful attitude toward a fellow Christian, but Jesus Christ wants us to remember Matthew 18:35: "So My heavenly Father will [pass judgment against] you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses." Just as He forgave each of us from the heart, He wants us to learn to forgive others in the same generous, merciful way.

In my forty-plus years in the church, I have made almost all of the mistakes a person can make with his mouth, and realizing this, I have truly appreciated those who have extended mercy and forgiveness to me. They have taught me a great lesson by their spiritual maturity: that I, too, had better extend mercy and kindness to others.

What does God require of us? He tells us plainly in Micah 6:8: "He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you, but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?"

John O. Reid
Mercy: The Better Option


 

Matthew 26:51-53  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Jesus shows that retaliation intensifies and continues an evil and that the retaliator can be consumed by it. He acknowledges that He had the power to retaliate, but He held His peace, giving us the example to follow. Verse 54 explains that if He had retaliated, God's will would not have been done!

The spirit of retaliation must be aborted before it leads to murder. We should approach it in the manner Jesus exemplifies here. We must make an honest and sincere attempt to reconcile with an offended brother. If the person truly is a brother, he will forgive quickly and go on with life without a grudge (Luke 17:1-4).

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Sixth Commandment (Part One) (1997)


 

Mark 2:3-5  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Christ deals first with the spiritual problem—the forgiveness of sins—and then the physical problem—the physical affliction. Most people want it the other way around, putting greater emphasis on healing the physical ailment than fixing the spiritual problem. Solomon gives us the answer to which is more important: "The spirit of a man will sustain him in sickness, but who can bear a broken spirit?" (Proverbs 18:14). From God's perfect perspective, spiritual needs are always more critical than physical ones (Mark 8:36), so in this miracle, forgiveness precedes healing.

Jesus tells the paralytic, "Son, be of good cheer; your sins are forgiven you." Seeing his friends' faith, Jesus' first words to the paralytic offer simple encouragement: "Be of good cheer." His comforting support refers directly to the forgiveness of the sufferer's sins. The paralytic, troubled by sin that had caused or was causing his suffering, now had reason for optimism. Having our sins forgiven always brings a deep relief and joy, even if the physical affliction is not healed. David's psalm on the joy of forgiveness speaks of this satisfying comfort: "Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord does not impute iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit" (Psalm 32:1-2).

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Miracles of Jesus Christ: Healing a Paralytic (Part One)


 

Luke 1:77-79  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

No salvation is possible without forgiveness. Our Father cannot forgive our sins on the grounds of justice, and therefore He does so through His tender mercy. He has made Himself our God by giving us grace—undeserved favor. He passes by the transgressions of His people because He delights in mercy. He is so full of pity that He delays to condemn us in our guilt, but looks with loving concern upon us to see how He can turn away His wrath and restore us to favor.

Micah 7:18 adds, "Who is a God like You, pardoning iniquity and passing over the transgression of the remnant of His heritage? He does not retain His anger forever, because He delights in mercy." God is love, and love is kind, but perhaps our approach to His forgiveness has been prosaically legal. The Scriptures reveal that God does kindness with intensity of will and readiness of mind. He forgives with all His heart because He delights in mercy! He says, "I have no pleasure in the death of him that dies." God's nature works to give mercy, not punish; to create beauty, not destroy; to save, not lose.

Can we not see a lesson in this? Are we anywhere near God's image in this? How many of us, fellowshipping among God's people, are hiding resentment and bearing the seeds of bitterness against a brother because of some offense—or carrying a grudge, or filled with envy, or communicating gossip? Are these things acts of kindness? Does a forgiving spirit that delights in mercy enter into acts that destroy a brother's reputation and widen existing divisions?

One other phrase in Luke 1:78 shows the kind and tender nature of our God: "He visited us." God did not merely pity us from a distance, nor did He allow His compassion for us to remain as an unresolved, inactive feeling. David writes in Psalm 8:4, "What is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that You visit him?" But God did just that!

Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. For indeed he does not give aid to angels, but He does give aid to the seed of Abraham. Therefore, in all things He had to be made like his brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted. (Hebrews 2:14-18)

God has not merely pitied us from a distance, but He has entered into life, our life, on our level. The Creator stooped from His high and pure abode as glorious God, and veiled His divinity for an abode of animated clay. He assumed our nature, was tempted in all things like us, took our sicknesses, and bore our infirmities for the express purpose of being a merciful and faithful High Priest. He did not enter into our world and yet maintain a status superior to us. He truly walked in our shoes and still went about doing good.

Christ, Paul adds in Galatians 1:4, "gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father." Who knows how many individual acts of kindness—from the conception of the plan to its fulfillment—are contained within this simple statement?

This is the heart of God's nature. He generously and mercifully gives that others might benefit. Now, because of what He did, this nature is growing in us. By His Spirit He has taken His abode in us to enable us to work out our salvation, and as we yield, our lives are changing, gradually conforming to His image. He dwells in us despite all our provocations, stubbornness, neglect, and rebellions. How often we must disappoint Him, and yet as our High Priest and Intercessor, He stands ever ready to serve us with yet more kindness.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fruit of the Spirit: Kindness


 

Luke 7:36-38  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

This episode demonstrates a contrast between two attitudes of mind and heart. Simon, conscious of no need, had neither love toward Christ nor a desire for forgiveness. His impression of himself was that he was a good man in the sight of God and men. The woman, on the other hand, seems aware of nothing except her sinfulness and her great need of forgiveness. This resulted in mournful weeping over her destitution and love for the One who could fill her need.

Perhaps nothing shuts us off from God more firmly than human self-sufficiency (Revelation 3:17). It is a strange phenomenon that the more clearly we see our sins the better person we are. Perhaps the most damaging of all sins is to be conscious of no sin. The supreme lesson in this vignette is that the woman's attitude not only resulted in forgiveness but also played a major role in producing gratitude and loving devotion for Christ in her.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beatitudes, Part Three: Mourning


 

Luke 7:36-50  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The setting of the Parable of the Two Debtors is the house of Simon, a Pharisee, who had invited Jesus to eat with him. To show respect for Jesus, a woman stops in uninvited, but Simon calls her a sinner, one notoriously wicked, a prostitute (Luke 7:36-39). These three real people are reflected in the three fictitious characters of Jesus' parable (verses 41-42): a creditor, a debtor who owes 500 denarii, and another who owes 50.

The forgiving creditor represents Jesus Christ. The professedly righteous man owing 50 denarii represents Simon. The person in debt for 500 denarii represents the woman sinner.

Martin G. Collins
Parable of the Two Debtors


 

Luke 7:41-50  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The woman perceived a greatness in Jesus that motivated her to so abase herself. A proper sense of obligation works to produce a valuable Christian virtue—humility.

Notice her emotion, devotion, and seeming unconcern for public opinion in going far beyond the normal task of a slave. We can safely guess that Jesus had played a huge part in turning this woman from her bondage to sin. She may have first simply been among the crowds who were convicted by His messages. However, she thought deeply and personally on the difference between her life and His words. When she heard He was nearby, she rushed to Simon's home, ignoring the scorn of others to express her gratitude to the One who had set her aright.

Her deed expresses her love and gratitude springing from recognition of His greatness as compared to her unworthiness. She felt obligated to respond in a way so memorable that God recorded it for all humanity for all time to witness. Note that the Bible shows human lips touching Jesus only twice: Here and Judas' kiss of betrayal.

Now notice the contrast with Simon the Pharisee, who was evidently a man of some substance and a measure of aggression that resulted in him inviting the celebrated Jesus to his home. He was a man so self-concerned and inhospitable that he failed to offer Jesus even the customary services a host provided visitors to his home. Simon probably felt himself at least Jesus' equal, and his conclusion that He was no prophet perhaps indicates that he styled himself as Jesus' superior. He likely considered Jesus nothing but an interesting celebrity who could gain him recognition in the community for having Him as his guest.

His evaluation of himself in relation to Jesus produced in him no sense of obligation, and thus no gratitude, humility, or act of love, let alone common courtesy. Had he a heart at all? He was scandalized by this dramatic and arresting scene taking place at his respectable table.

While God considered her act of love to be so awesome that He had it memorialized as an eternal witness, Simon's perception of it only concluded, "She is a sinner." No, Simon, she was a sinner, and therein is a major clue to the reason for their differing reactions to Jesus. In Jesus' parable, Simon and the woman held something in common—something Simon did not grasp, but the woman did. Both were debtors to the same Creditor, and neither could meet their obligations, but Simon did not even see his indebtedness.

John W. Ritenbaugh
An Unpayable Debt and Obligation


 

Luke 7:42  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Simon admits that the one forgiven more would feel the most obligated and should love more. Jesus succeeds in causing Simon, by his own admission, to pronounce judgment on himself for misconstruing the woman's act, doubting Christ Himself, and dishonoring his guest.

All three people knew the woman had many sins, but Jesus' declaration that her sins were forgiven—in contrast to Simon's condemnation—conveys great love. She, in turn, responds by expressing lavish love upon Him. Christ was willing to forgive Simon as He did the repentant woman. However, while both debtors in the parable are forgiven, Luke gives no indication that Simon repented.

Martin G. Collins
Parable of the Two Debtors


 

Luke 7:44  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Christ wants Simon to realize that her loving and faithful attitude is what is required for forgiveness (II Corinthians 7:9-10). His emphasis is on the words "you" and "this." Jesus could discern Simon's attitude. Simon saw nothing but the woman's past reputation as a reckless, rejected, sleazy woman. Then Jesus delicately and graciously exposes Simon's callousness, hatred, and poor judgment. He also points out to him the depth of her repentance and faith. Her past may have been full of sin, but because of her genuinely repentant attitude, display of love, and obvious faith in Him (Hebrews 11:6), Jesus discerns a desire in her to change from her old ways and begin living God's way of life.

Martin G. Collins
Parable of the Two Debtors


 

Luke 7:47  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The person who knows he has been forgiven much feels more strongly obliged to the one who paid his debt than one who thinks his indebtedness and forgiveness are of little consequence. The one forgiven much feels obligated to live the way his Redeemer tells him he should.

Jesus is telling us that those most conscious of forgiveness will be the most fruitful of love. The depth, fervor, and growth of our Christianity depends perhaps more largely on the clarity of our consciousness of this contrast than upon anything else.

One can be very gifted yet not grow as much as one less gifted but more aware of his obligation to Christ. The latter will simply be more motivated. On the other hand, some come along like the apostle Paul, who was both greatly gifted and constantly conscious of his obligation to Christ.

John W. Ritenbaugh
An Unpayable Debt and Obligation


 

Luke 7:49  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Simon's guests are surprised to hear Jesus taking on the divine prerogative to forgive sin (see Luke 5:20-25). He says that it is her faith that brought forgiveness—not her tears, kisses, or ointment. His last comment to her is "Go in peace" or "Go into peace." She receives Christ's command to enjoy that peace and live in the full realization of the peace that passes all understanding.

We are all debtors in the sight of our just Creditor. All have sinned, so none of us has a way to discharge our debt on our own (Romans 3:23). Christ can forgive all who truly repent of their sins and turn to Him in faith (Acts 13:38-41). Through His willingness to take our debt and blot it out with His own blood, we receive the remission of our sins. Once freed from sin's oppressive debt, we must show our gratitude to Him by living in holiness and loving service to others, glorifying Him in a life of righteousness (II Peter 1:2-4).

Martin G. Collins
Parable of the Two Debtors


 

Luke 15:14-19  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The Parable of the Prodigal Son unveils a clear progression from awareness of pain arising from want and recognition of sin then on to sorrow for what he had become and done. Repentance, forgiveness, and acceptance were the fruit.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beatitudes, Part Three: Mourning


 

John 13:14  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The common explanation for this is that it teaches us to learn humility by doing good for others, by doing acts of service or kindness for our brethren. This is certainly a good lesson that we can take from Christ's example, but we can perhaps derive another from it.

In John's account, what did Jesus suggest that the washing of feet symbolized? He tells Peter that the washing of his feet symbolizes forgiveness of his sin to return him to a "clean" relationship with God. It is only logical to deduce that God expects nothing less from us in response to the sins of our brethren. In the section of the Sermon on the Mount on prayer, Jesus says: "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).

No doubt, God puts a very great emphasis on our relationships since our lives are to reflect His character. If we have begun to "put on Christ" (Galatians 3:27), would we be a good example of His love for us if we held grudges, hated our brother, or would not forgive another? Obviously, no. Putting on Christ demands that we "put off" these carnal destroyers of relationships and replace them with Christian virtues.

Peter asks Christ, "Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?" (Matthew 18:21). Christ's answer should give us a clue to how He feels about this issue. Peter had ventured a number he thought would be sufficient to establish his forbearance. Christ, though, pulls out all the stops, telling him that there is no set limit: "I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven" (verse 22). We are indeed fortunate and can be thankful that same unlimited forgiveness applies to us when we need God's mercy.

The following verses, Matthew 18:23-35, is the Parable of the Unforgiving Servant. The servant was deeply in debt to his master, and when he sought relief, his master forgave him his gargantuan debt. Then the tables turn. Another man owed him a small amount and could not repay it. Instead of following his master's example, the servant forgot the mercy he had just received and had the man thrown into prison!

Verses 34-35 sum up the story: "And his master was angry, and delivered him to the torturers until he should pay all that was due to him. So My heavenly Father will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses." The language Christ uses leaves little room for exclusions. He Himself, in the agony of crucifixion, says without reservation, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do" (Luke 23:34). His plea applies, not only to those who cried out for His death and nailed Him to the stake, but to all, past and future, who would be just as responsible as they were and need God's forgiveness. That includes everybody.

Bill Keesee (1935-2010)
Another Look at Footwashing


 

Romans 3:19-23  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

This passage shows us the foundation of understanding justification by faith and thus where we stand in the relationship. Paul explains that, regardless of who one is and what he has done that might be considered as righteousness, God owes Him nothing but death because "all have sinned." Sinners are those under the law, and the law condemns them, making them subject to its power to take the sinner's life. Each person's own transgressions against the law and God place him in that position.

Sin is something each sinner is responsible for, and once the individual has sinned and earned the death penalty, the sin cannot be forgiven simply because he does good to make up for it. God did not make him sin. A clear example is Adam and Eve: God obviously did not make them sin; each of them chose to sin. Romans 3:20 clearly states that no sinner can justify himself through law-keeping. The law's purpose is to make known what sin is.

Once a person sins, everything is seemingly stacked against him. The sinner can in no way make up for what he has done. Therefore, since justification cannot be claimed as a right due to his keeping the law, if a person desires to be forgiven, the only alternative is that justification must be received as a gift.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Living By Faith and God's Grace (Part Two)


 

Romans 3:20  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

To be justified means to have our past sins forgiven and to have righteousness imputed to us. The apostle is saying that there is no way anyone can receive forgiveness of past sins by obeying the law. Present obedience does not do anything to wash away past iniquity. There has to be some other manner for sinners to receive forgiveness of past sins if they are to have hope of entering God's Kingdom.

Earl L. Henn (1934-1997)
Saved By Faith Alone?


 

Romans 3:20  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Salvation cannot be obtained by simply repenting and deciding to obey God's laws. Merely keeping the law will not justify anyone. Being justified means having one's sins forgiven and coming into a right relationship with God.

Earl L. Henn (1934-1997)
Basic Doctrines: Salvation


 

Romans 5:1-2  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

One can justifiably say that this expression of God's faithfulness is the pivot upon which turns His whole purpose for humanity. God calls and then through His goodness leads us to repentance (Romans 2:4). I John 1:9 then adds, "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."

Since Christ has come and died that we might be pardoned and cleansed, God's faithfulness is part of His grace. He would not be faithful to His promises, His past acts in Christ's works, or His calling that has sounded in our ears unless, when we obeyed the call and confessed, He allowed us to enter into the full possession of His pardoning grace. In other words, our forgiveness and cleansing, the receiving of favor from Him, is a product of His faithfulness.

God's faithfulness in these areas has far-reaching, practical ramifications for us. That God is faithful means that His character is unchangingly consistent. The unalterable structure of the universe consists of both justice and forgiveness. God never acts in contradiction of Himself, and in all experiences we may depend on Him to be unalterably just and forgiving toward us. Because He is faithful, He can be the central and most important object of our faith. Could we trust a god if we were never sure what he would do?

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fruit of the Spirit: Faithfulness


 

1 Corinthians 15:20-23  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Jesus Christ, the first of the firstfruits, willingly gave His life so others may receive forgiveness of sin. He was a holy, sinless sacrifice, and three days later, He was the first person resurrected to eternal life! In this, He fulfilled the symbolism of the wavesheaf offering.

Earl L. Henn (1934-1997)
Holy Days: Pentecost


 

Galatians 2:18  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

To paraphrase, Paul says, "If I repent and am mercifully forgiven by God through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, thus killing or destroying the old man who did all of those sins, and then I go back to that way of life again, I am the one that is at fault—not Christ. I make myself a transgressor. It is not Christ or His way of life that makes me this way or promotes sin in me. Not at all!"

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part 26)


 

Galatians 3:2-3  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Those who say that Paul's words mean that one does not have to obey God in order to receive His Spirit simply do not understand what he was talking about. They also do not understand the circumstances that the apostle was addressing. The main problem in the churches in Galatia was that people were being taught that they could be justified—have their sins forgiven and be brought into a right relationship with God—by lawkeeping. The people's minds were being turned away from faith in Jesus Christ. Paul was reminding them that the only way anyone can receive forgiveness of sins is through faith in Christ's sacrifice.

To drive his point home, Paul reminds the Galatians that they did not receive God's Holy Spirit by lawkeeping while ignoring faith in the sacrifice of Christ. He points out that, without faith in the sacrifice of Christ, no one can be justified, no one can be forgiven of sins, and no one can be given the gift of God's Holy Spirit.

This does not negate the fact that there are still basically two requirements for receiving God's Spirit, namely, repentance and faith in Christ. Both of these requirements must be met before one can receive the Spirit. Repentance involves turning from sin and turning toward obedience to God's commandments.

Earl L. Henn (1934-1997)
Is Obedience Required Before Receiving God's Holy Spirit?


 

Galatians 3:12-14  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Even though the law can guide a person in the right way to live, and even though it describes the character of God, it also condemns and brings one guilty before God through an awareness of sin. However, it does not possess the power to forgive, to justify, or to give life.

It takes a living Personality—the Giver and the Enforcer of the law—to forgive, to justify, and to give life. The law can do nothing to reverse the condemnation—the curse—once it is incurred through sin, but Christ took the curse upon Himself so that we do not have to bear our own punishment. The Father, in His mercy, permits His death to apply for us. He forgives and justifies us, if we accept Christ's death on our behalf with true repentance and faith.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part 26)


 

Ephesians 1:6-7  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

"Redemption" implies the payment of a ransom. We have been redeemed or bought back.

"Through His blood" reminds us that making the New Covenant cost Him His life (I Corinthians 11:25).

Forgiveness here suggests "to be loosened from bondage." The Greek word-picture is of somebody who is tied up by cords or ropes. Have we, as Christians, been loosened from a political entity, as the Israelites were redeemed from Egypt? No. Were we in bondage to another human being? No. Have we been freed from sin? Yes, that is what held us in bondage. The word translated "sins" is paráptoma, which indicates deviations from the right path. We have been held in bondage by our deviations from the right path, but now we have been loosed or freed from that bondage according to His grace.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Awesome Cost of Salvation


 

Ephesians 2:1  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

"Dead" means "as good as dead" because of sin. The wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23). When God forgave us, He in effect gave us life because the death penalty had been hanging over us.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Satan (Part 3)


 

Ephesians 2:8-10  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Notice first how this chapter begins: He has made us alive (Ephesians 2:1). Paul makes sure that we understand that it is God who gives what we spiritually possess. As for verse 8, it does not matter whether we believe that the pronoun "it" refers to grace or faith; both are gifts of God.

Grace is God's kindness to us, shown or demonstrated by His revealing Himself to us. It might help to think of this in reference to God revealing Himself to Moses in the burning bush before He sent him to Egypt. If God did not freely purpose on the strength of His own sovereign will to reveal Himself, neither Moses nor we would ever find Him. If a person cannot find God on his own, how could he possibly have faith in Him? Satan has deceived us so well that men have only the foggiest idea of what to look for.

Faith—with God as its object—begins and continues as part of His gift of kindness. The gift includes His calling, the granting of repentance, the sacrifice of Christ for our forgiveness, and His giving of His Spirit. It is a complete package of many individual gifts. The gospel is the medium that provides knowledge of the objects of the faith He gives, that is, what we believe and trust in. Paul, perceiving these gifts as a package, uses "grace" as its label. In verses 9-10, he advances to the logical "next step" in God's purpose.

Our works in no way jump-start the process of justification, sanctification, and glorification. All our works, beginning with repentance and continuing through our period of sanctification, depend directly on the freely given kindness and faith God provides. Our God-ordained good works are the result of our response to the gift of faith that God gives. Works, then, are the external evidence of the unseen, internal faith that motivates them. A person could not do them unless God had given the gift of faith beforehand. Good works follow, they do not precede.

II Corinthians 5:17-18 confirms this: "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. Now all things are of God who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation." This corroborates that it is God working in the person. His work is termed a "new creation." Since nothing new creates itself, we are the workmanship of another. We are God's workmanship. In sum, because of what God does, we cooperate and produce works that He ordains.

The apostle Paul adds to our understanding in Philippians 2:12-13: "Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure." He is not saying that we should work in order to obtain salvation. These verses indicate the continuing use of something one already possesses. They suggest carrying something to its logical conclusion, which is for us to live lives worthy of the gospel, doing the works God ordained, as in Ephesians 2:10.

In Romans 9:9-19, Paul, using Jacob and Esau's pre-birth circumstances as a foundation, provides a clear illustration to show that from beginning to end, the whole salvation process depends upon God's involvement. Jacob, representing those called into the church, received God's love in the form of gifts designed to prepare him for the Kingdom of God. To Esau, representing the uncalled, God has simply withheld His love for the time being.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Christian Fight (Part Four)


 

Ephesians 2:11-13  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The blood of Jesus Christ secures forgiveness and redemption for us when we believe and bring forth fruit fitting repentance because His sacrifice is of sufficient value to cover the sins of the whole world. I John 2:2 says, "And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world."

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Offerings of Leviticus (Part Seven): The Sin and Trespass Offerings


 

Ephesians 4:2-3  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

With admonitions like these, we step into the intimate personal relationships within a congregation or family. They show that unity depends more upon the exercise of the members' moral qualities than the structure of the institution. Paul shows in Ephesians that the life we are called to live is characterized by five qualities: humility, meekness, patience, forbearance, and love, the last of which embraces the preceding four and is the crown of all virtues. Each of these qualities enables us to act in mercy and live at peace. God's Spirit empowers us to use these qualities to overcome the ill will and the bitter, passionate rages that lead to clamorous slander, destroying reputations.

Such ill will and rage hardly promote kindness, compassion, and acting in grace toward each other. "Acting in grace" is an acceptable translation of the Greek word, charizomai, rendered "forgiving" in Ephesians 4:32. Acting in grace catches the essence of how God has acted toward us and our sin against Him. And because He has forgiven us, we are commanded to forgive each other (Colossians 3:13).

Mercy begins with the way we feel about or toward each other and moves toward merciful acts. God loves us and has an outgoing concern for us. If God so loves us, then we ought to love each other (I John 4:11). Thus, we are bound to forbear with one another and act kindly, in mercy. Anybody focused on himself as the center of the universe will have a difficult time thinking kindly of others, and unity will be difficult, if not impossible. It is no wonder, then, why so much divorce occurs, as well as division in other areas of life. A focus on the self does not allow much room for humble, kind, and compassionate thoughts of service for others.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beatitudes, Part 5: Blessed Are the Merciful


 

1 Timothy 1:12-15  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

This proves that late in his life as an apostle, Paul was still keenly aware of the enormity of what he had been forgiven. He probably purposely kept this memory alive so as not to take any chance of losing his sense of responsibility. He understood human nature well, not wanting to risk losing the proper perspective that Christ had given him at the beginning. Rather than carry it about as a burdensome load of guilt, he used it as a realistic recognition of his indebtedness to Christ for what he had been forgiven and what had been accomplished since that time.

John W. Ritenbaugh
An Unpayable Debt and Obligation


 

Hebrews 4:16  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Because God is faithful, the strength to be faithful is promised to us. Forgiveness, access to His throne, and the promises of His Spirit and that no trial will be greater than we can bear—combined with His declaration that He works in us both to will and to do—assure us that faithfulness can be produced in us when we yield as faithful servants.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fruit of the Spirit: Faithfulness


 

Hebrews 5:13-14  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The Hebrews had to be reminded in the strongest of terms that the just shall live by faith, and that God was not pleased with those who turned and ran in the day of battle. We do not want to allow ourselves to get in that fix. Nor do we want to become discouraged, thinking we will never measure up to what God requires of us and think, "This task is too hard."

Jesus, indeed, warned that the way is narrow and difficult, but it is not impossible because God has promised never to give us something that is too hard for us. God plays the game, as it were, according to the abilities of each individual. Though there is a standard against which everyone is judged, everyone is judged fairly—according to their natural ability and according to the gifts that God has given to them. Also, "to whom much is given, from him much will be required" (Luke 12:48).

So no one can look at his neighbor and compare himself with him, because no one knows exactly where the other person stands. There has to be some tolerance of and patience with one another. We must have an attitude of forgiveness, even of encouragement. We have to do whatever we can that might help the other person make it into the Kingdom of God. That is part of our responsibility.

Besides the fact that we know those things, there is also the "great cloud of witnesses" that is mentioned in Hebrews 12:1. That is, those who have gone before and are witnesses to us that God is faithful. How are they witnesses? They finished the race, and are awaiting the resurrection! God has given us witness of their lives, and how and why they made it. This witness illustrates His involvement in their lives.

He has recorded those things so that we can understand that God will deal with us in a merciful way. He has not called us to lose us but to save us. He is able to do what He sets His hand to do. We are in good hands—the best! We are in the most secure position that we could possibly be. That "great cloud of witnesses" witnesses to us that, if they did it, we can do it too.

So there is no need to get discouraged, even though the way for each of us is just as hard, just as difficult, as it has to be. He tells us in His Word that He will do far more—over and above what we can even begin to think that He is capable of doing—to ensure that we will be saved.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Conviction and Moses


 

Hebrews 9:15-17  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Christ did this so that we can serve God. Thus, in order for us to serve God personally, we must be close to Him. Sin separates! What does sin do to relationships, either with humans or with God? It divides. When a person steals from another, do they become closer? If a spouse commits adultery, does that bring a married couple closer? No, it drives them apart. If a person covets something belonging to another person, does their relationship blossom? Sin separates.

Above all, it separates us from God. How can we be close to Him as long as we are sinning? Something had to be done, first of all, to bridge the gap: The sins had to be forgiven. Therefore, Jesus Christ, when He qualified by being blameless, voluntarily offered Himself to be the sacrifice that would overcome the division.

Before He did this, knowing He would die, He made out a will. He said, "When I die, those who take advantage of My death will inherit what I have inherited." The inheritance is to be in His Family! With it goes all the other promises: the promises of the Holy Spirit, eternal life, all the gifts, continual forgiveness, etc.

Whatever is needed, He will supply it. He will continue to stand between God and us, for a priest is one who bridges the gap between different parties to bring them together. He is saying, "When I am resurrected, I will always stand in the gap and be there when you need Me, and I will administer the Spirit of God."

Being brought close to God not only enables us to serve Him, it also enables the Father to serve us. Because we are in His presence, He can distribute to us the gifts than enable us to continue. Christ, then, is shown to be the Sacrifice for forgiveness of sin; the Mediator of peace between God and us; the Testator who died, passing on the benefits to us. These benefits work to remove the flaw, allowing us to keep the terms of the New Covenant.

We can then have a sustained and wonderful relationship with God. We can have His laws written on our hearts (Hebrews 8:10) and so be transformed into His image, qualified to share the inheritance of the promises with Him because we are like Him.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace and Law (Part 13)


 

Hebrews 10:4  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

This is why the animal sacrifices had to be done over and over and over again. Not one sin has ever been forgiven in the history of mankind—from Adam and Eve on—because a sacrificed animal shed its blood. All the sacrifices did was to make people aware that they were breaking the Ten Commandments or the statutes and judgments.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part 17)


 

Hebrews 10:5-7  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

He explains that, when He came into the world, God provided Him with a human body, thus enabling Him to be a sacrifice. He carries this thought further by saying that God did not desire the Levitical offerings to serve as the means of forgiveness and acceptance before Him. Rather, God sent Him into the world to fulfill His will—to be the sacrifice for mankind's sins.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Offerings of Leviticus (Part Six): The Sin Offering


 

1 John 1:8-10  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

John is instructing us about the obligation we have due to receiving atonement through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Forgiveness does not remove from us the obligation to keep the commands of God. The law of God is not done away once we are under the blood of Jesus Christ. His death paid for our past sins. Though His death will pay for sins committed after our original forgiveness, we are urged not to break God's laws. Sinning without serious regard and deep appreciation for Christ's death brings us into danger of committing the unpardonable sin (Hebrews 10:26, 28-29). A disciplined and robust effort to obey God's commands witnesses to Him the depth of our appreciation for the grace He gives through Christ.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Offerings of Leviticus (Part Six): The Sin Offering


 

1 John 3:5  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The Word came as a man to die for the forgiveness of our sins (hamartia) without regard to classification! Hamartia is the general word used throughout the New Testament to describe sins of all kinds; it means "to miss the mark" or "to fail to reach a standard." Thus, John is saying that Christ's sacrifice covers all transgressions of law, whether or not we consider them to be physical or spiritual in nature.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Sin Is Spiritual!


 

1 John 5:16-17  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

"A sin which does not lead to death" is one that is genuinely repented of and for which forgiveness is available because the attitude of the sinner is meek and truly sorrowful. A person may have this attitude, yet still sin on occasion out of weakness, ignorance, bad judgment, or even inadvertently. Both greater and lesser sins can fall under this category. Earlier in the book, the same apostle writes:

If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (I John 1:8-9)

Our genuine confession admits to God that we are guilty of breaking His law and seek to be cleared of it by Christ's sacrifice. This true repentance leads to a fierce desire not to sin and to building righteous character. God thus lifts the penalty of the second death, and once again, we, by His grace, are back on the road to salvation.

The sin that John calls a "sin leading to death" is what others know as "the unpardonable sin." Again, both greater and lesser sins can lead to the attitude that causes someone to commit an unforgivable sin. Such a sin is deeply reinforced by the attitude of the sinner—an attitude that denies Jesus Christ as Savior, that flagrantly hates his brother, and refuses to obey God's laws and statutes. Rebellion and defiance set this sin apart from others!

Martin G. Collins
Are Some Sins Worse Than Others?


 

Find more Bible verses about Forgiveness:
Forgiveness {Nave's}
 




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