And take…the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Ephesians 6:17
Volume XII, Number 36 September 13, 2009
In this issue:
Sin is real, universal and deadly. It alienates us from God as well from one another. Since “all have sinned” and “the wages of sin is death”, we all need God’s forgiveness (Rom 3:23; 6:23). God is ready to forgive us as He did the paralyzed man: “When He saw their faith, He said to him, ‘Man, your sins are forgiven you’” (Lk 5:20).
God’s forgiveness of sinners is:
1) An expression of His great love: “love covers a multitude of sins” (1 Pet 4:8; Prov 10:12);
2) Driven by His compassion: “Then the master of that servant was moved with compassion, released him, and forgave him the debt” (Matt 18:27); and
3) Embodies His mercy: “according to His mercy He saved us” (Tit 3:5). Were it not for the redemptive forgiveness obtained through the blood of Christ we would perish is our sins (Eph 1:7; 2:1-7).
Forgive is translated from the Greek word aphiemi that means “to send forth, to send away” and denotes “to remit, forgive” (Vine). Forgiveness is “a dismissal, release” from the debt of sin: “Then the master of that servant was moved with compassion, released him, and forgave him the debt” (Matt 18:27; cf. 6:12).
Divine forgiveness is available to all sinners, but it is only obtained by those who will come to God seeking His forgiveness. The father of the wasteful son in Luke 15 was ever ready to forgive his son, yet the son had to both come to himself and return to his father seeking mercy before he actually received his father’s forgiveness (Lk 15:17-24). Likewise, sinners will not be forgiven merely because God is a merciful God. If that were true all would be saved since God “is not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Pet 3:9). Sinners desiring to be forgiven must “come to a knowledge of the truth” by hearing, believing and obeying the gospel of Christ (1 Tim 2:3-4; Rom 10:17; Acts 10:34-35). Sinners will not be forgiven unless they believe and obey His gospel plan of salvation (hear and believe the gospel, confess faith in Christ, repent of sins and be baptized, Rom 10:17, 9-10; Acts 17:30; Mk 16:16; Acts 2:38, 41).
God is also ready to forgive Christians when we repent and confess our sins to Him: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 Jno 1:9).
The forgiveness we have from God is the pattern to follow in forgiving others. The apostle of Christ taught: “And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you” (Eph 4:32). Yet, the forgiveness we earnestly desire from God seems at times to be so difficult for us to give one another. This ought not to be so. Indeed, Jesus said our forgiveness depends on us forgiving others: “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” (Matt 6:14-15).
We need forgiving moments in our lives – moments when God forgives us and moments when we forgive one another. Forgiving moments cleanse the soul and renew the heart. Forgiving moments affirm God’s love for us and our love for one another. Forgiving moments express compassion and activate mercy (Matt 5:7).
Consider these “forgiving moments” recorded in the Bible:
1) David’s forgiveness. King David had lusted and committed adultery with Bathsheba. He had further sinned by covering up his guilt with lies and eventually murder. But, his sin was not hidden from God (2 Sam 11). God’s prophet Nathan exposed David’s sins and rebuked him face to face (2 Sam 12:1-12). David did not attack God’s messenger nor did he offer excuses to defend himself. He confessed, “I have sinned against the Lord” and the Lord forgave the iniquity of his sin (2 Sam 12:13; Psa 32:5). The moment of forgiveness came when David acknowledged his sins to God (Psa 51:3-4). Is there sin in your life? You cannot hide it from God. Your forgiving moment will only come when you do as David did: “I acknowledged my sin to You, and my iniquity I have not hidden. I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the LORD,’ and You forgave the iniquity of my sin” (Psa 32:5).
2) Christ on the cross. There are two stirring moments on the cross when Jesus shows and teaches us about forgiveness. First, Jesus shows us the full measure of God’s forgiving heart when, after being mercilessly treated and hung on the cross to die, He said “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do” (Lk 23:34). How shall we ever forgive others unless we show the same heart that is ready to forgive even the most despicable crimes against us? These sinners would actually obtain forgiveness by repenting and being baptized” (Acts 2:37-38; 3:17-19). Still, God’s ready heart to forgive made their forgiving moment possible. Like Jesus, we must put on a heart of compassion and forgiveness (Col 3:12-13). We must not treat others with suspicion, contempt and disdain. Brother devouring brother in the name of God must cease (Gal 5:13-15)! The Son of God was ready to forgive His murderers, and we must be ready to forgive those who sin against us (Matt 6:12).
The other forgiving moment on the cross was when Jesus forgave the thief who hung next to Him. This man had previously joined in the mockery of Jesus (Matt 27:44). But facing certain death, he later repented and asked the Lord to remember him in His kingdom (Lk 23:39-43). Jesus, who had authority on earth to forgive sins, used His power to do so (Mk 2:5, 10). Jesus will use His power to forgive sinners today according to the terms of His will, the New Testament (Heb 9:15-17). His testament says to be forgiveness sinners must believe He is the Christ and confess Him as Lord (Rom 10:9-10), repent of sins (Acts 17:30) and be baptized for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38-41). Have you followed the Lord’s will to have your moment of forgiveness?
3) The weeping woman of Luke 7. Her reputation preceded her – everyone knew she was a sinner, including Jesus. But His reaction to her was very different from the reaction of Simon the Pharisee (who had invited Him to dine at his house). Jesus saw the woman’s tears of sorrow falling on His feet as expressions of a heart broken by the weight of sin. As she wiped His feet with her hair and anointed them with fragrant oil Jesus saw a heart that was hopeful, desiring redemption and release from sin’s pain and death. When Simon saw the woman’s expression of godly sorrow and humbly service he reacted with contempt and unbelief (Lk 7:39). Nevertheless, Jesus responded to this woman’s faith with full forgiveness, and to Simon’s arrogance with a lesson on mercy (Lk 7:44-50). Her forgiving moment teaches us to have a heart that knows the burden of our own sin and a heart of faith that comes to Jesus for forgiveness.
A probing question for us concerns how we treat people who have actually sinned against us, as well as how we treat those who we think are sinners. Does our conduct more closely conform to how Jesus treated the sinner or how Simon thought about her? When we know someone has sinned do we gossip about them, spreading hurtful and unmerciful rumors that hinder efforts to save the lost? When we suspect someone of sin and error do we jump to the worst possible conclusion and form our opinion of them based on our arrogant assumptions? May it never be so!
This woman had sinned against Jesus, yet He responded to her contrite heart with merciful forgiveness, not vile contempt. Along with Simon, we must remember we too are sinners in need of forgiveness (Lk 7:47).
When we forget our own need of forgiveness we will not forgive those who sin against us. Were it not for God’s forgiveness in Christ we would all be lost in our sins. The depth of God’s loving forgiveness of us must compel us to seek the forgiving moment when others sin against us. Holding grudges is not from God and those who do so will be lost. We must always “be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you” (Eph 4:31-32).
"Disagree without being Disagreeable"
I remember hearing this often in my early years as a Christian. Noting that we can “disagree without being disagreeable” was said as part of sincere offers to have open Bible study and discussion between disputants. It was not (and ought not to be) said as a compromising accommodation to error, but as an earnest invitation to let the Bible be the final word in all things concerning life and godliness so that we may be united in truth (Isa 1:18; Acts 17:11).
We have lost a large measure of civility in American politics and society in general, and in the Lord’s church. Regardless of your political persuasion, the outburst by Rep. Joe Wilson of South Carolina during President Obama’s speech to Congress Wednesday night was an example of emotions overruling courtesy. Wilson was quick to apologize to the President for yelling “You lie”, and the President accepted his apology (“Rep. Wilson's 'Lie' Yell Boosts Rival, Sparks Backlash”, Susan Davis, http://online.wsj.com).
Courtesy in the midst of disagreement is not an easy thing to do. Then again, who said treating others as we want to be treated would be effortless (Matt 7:12)? We must “have regard for good things in the sight of all men”, and “if it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men” (Rom 12:17-18).
Brethren, we are not “standing for truth” when we misbehave toward those in error. It is notable that Paul warned against biting and devouring while using ironic emphasis against the circumcision binders (Gal 5:11-15). You do not have to be a disagreeable person to stand for the truth; indeed, you must not be. Press the point of truth, but not at the expense of your honor and integrity (Rom 2:21-24; 2 Tim 2:24-26).
“A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. The tongue of the wise uses knowledge rightly, but the mouth of fools pours forth foolishness” (Prov 15:1-2).
Created by Chuck Sibbing. 09/11/2009
The Spirit's Sword is a free,
weekly publication of the Mt. Baker church of Christ, Bellingham, WA