“Asking the Father for Forgiveness” Part 3
Matthew 6:12, 14-15
INTRODUCTION What is the Meaning of Matthew 6.12.14-15 Part 3
Matthew 6. Simon Wiesenthal was a young Jewish man working in a Polish architectural office when Hitler’s Nazis invaded his homeland. From 1941 until the end of the war in 1945 he was imprisoned in Nazi concentration camps. He survived, but 89 of his relatives did not.
After the war he wrote a book called The Sunflower: The Possibilities and Limits of Forgiveness. In that book he relates an odd but haunting experience. At one stage Wiesenthal and some fellow prisoners were given the job of removing garbage from a hospital for wounded German soldiers. As they did so they would pass the cemetery housing German soldiers who had died. The graves were covered with sunflowers, something Wiesenthal envied knowing he would probably be buried in a mass grave under a pile of other Jewish corpses.
One day a nurse approached him as he was on garbage detail at the hospital. She asked him to follow her, and led him into a hospital room containing a wounded soldier. He came across a man whose face was covered in bandages, with openings cut for mouth, nose, and ears. He was dying.
The man started to speak. “My name is Karl…I joined the SS as a volunteer. I must tell you something dreadful…. Something inhuman. It happened a year ago… Yes it is a year since the crime I committed. I have to talk to someone about it, perhaps that will help.”
He grabbed Wiesenthal by the hand, holding him tightly so he could not get away. “I must tell you of this horrible deed – tell you because…you are a Jew.” Karl told of atrocities too savage to repeat, of hatred and rage directed against Jews. Then he turned to Simon Wiesenthal and said “In the last hours of my life you are with me. I do not know who you are. I know only that you are a Jew and that is enough. I know what I have told you is terrible. In the long nights while I have been waiting for death, time and again I have longed to talk to a Jew and beg forgiveness from him. I know what I am asking is almost too much for you, but without your answer I cannot die in peace…I beg for forgiveness…”
Simon Wiesenthal, an architect in his early twenties, now a prisoner, stared out the window at the sunlit courtyard. He watched a bluebottle fly buzzing the man’s body.
“At last I made up my mind,” Wiesenthal says in The Sunflower. “And without a word I left the room.” Unforgiveness. Be reminded, Jesus forgave while being crucified…Stephen while being stoned to death. You say, “Well, what about me?”
For the last time, let’s read Matthew 6:12, 14-15
Matthew 6:12, 14-15 12 ‘And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. …[the explanation is given now in verse 14. Why is it that we are to ask for forgiveness based on how we forgive others?] 14 “For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 “But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.
So I ask: Can a true disciple of Jesus go out into eternity with unforgiven sin? “if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.” That is the question we’re answering today. Since Jesus said, “But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions…” Can a true disciple of Jesus go out into eternity with unforgiven sin?
Conditional Divine Forgiveness: The Necessity of Forgiving Others
Let’s observe the text…
Observing the Text
Notice, there is a relationship between divine forgiveness (God forgiving me) and human forgiveness (me forgiving others). What is the relationship?
1. First, v.12, “Forgive us just as we forgive others.” In other words, “forgive us to the extent that we forgive others.” It’s not the manner in which you forgive, but it’s whether you do it or not. It’s simply a matter of forgiving or not forgiving. Jesus explains, v.14 “if you forgive, your heavenly Father will forgive. If you do not forgive, your Father will not forgive.” To the extent that you forgive, that’s the extent to which the Father will forgive.
2. Second, forgiveness here is conditional. That’s a third class conditional statement in the Greek language, and it communicates what will happen if, at any time, the condition is met. It is a true condition. If this, then this.
Therefore, divine forgiveness is conditional. You are required to forgive each other. If you do, God will forgive you. If you do not forgive others, you will not be forgiven.
But because we have an uneasy feeling about this, we must make some qualifications.
1. You can’t earn God’s forgiveness. It is not that when you forgive somebody else, God automatically forgives you. Divine forgiveness for all eternity is by grace through faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ.
2. And this passage is not teaching you can lose your salvation. Jesus is not teaching that if you do not perfectly forgive someone, then you will also not be perfectly forgiven and therefore eternally lost. When have you ever done anything perfectly in the eyes of God? Jesus clearly says that all of the Father gives to Him will come to Him, and He who comes to Him Jesus will by no means throw him out, John 6:37.
Jesus also teaches there are those who hear His voice and He knows them and they follow Jesus … Jesus gives eternal life to them and they will never perish and no one will be able to snatch them out of Jesus hand, nor the Father’s hand, John 10:27-29. Are you included in the “no one” statement? Are you a human being? Yes! Are you stronger than God? No! You can’t snatch yourself out of Jesus’ hand if you are in there. “No one” is able to do that, that includes you. Jesus simply makes no exception there; if wanted to make an exception, He clearly could have. So, Jesus in Matthew 6 is not teaching you can lose your salvation by failing to forgive someone perfectly.
TRANS: You can’t earn God’s forgiveness by forgiving others, you can’t lose forgiveness, once you’ve been forgiven.
3. And the third clarification is likely the most important: this is not talking about eternal forgiveness. This is talking about relational forgiveness. Allow me to distinguish between the two. Eternal forgiveness is when someone first trusts Christ and asks to be forgiven of all their sin.
Through their saving trust in the Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord grants them forgiveness of all their sins, past present and future. That’s what we could call eternal forgiveness.
Relational forgiveness is the daily asking for forgiveness from our heavenly Father so that there is nothing in between my soul and the Savior. As we illustrated it previously, if you have been bathed, you only need to wash your feet. If your feet are dirty, you need to wash your feet even after having bathed. 1 John 1:9, you need to confess your sins so that the Lord can forgive you of your sins and cleanse you from all unrighteousness.
Now, look at the verse…this is speaking about our daily, relationship with God…
Matthew 6:12, 14-15 12 ‘And forgive us our debts, as we also [ourselves] have forgiven our debtors….14 “For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 “But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.
Now, the question comes, how do we know that this is talking about our daily, relational forgiveness from God, and not our eternal forgiveness?
The reason for that is the context, the surrounding verses. “Forgive us our debts” is referring to our relational forgiveness. How do we know?
Reasons Jesus Speaks Here of Relational Forgiveness
1. First, look at the requests on either side of this request. First, verse 11 is a request for daily bread. Then in verse 13 is a request concerning are being enticed to sin. Both of these are daily occurrences. When we come to verse 12 then we can also presume this is speaking to our daily forgiveness. “Forgive us our debts.” So Jesus is speaking to daily, relational forgiveness because the verses on either side concern that as well.
2. The second reason that this is speaking to relational, or daily forgiveness, is the plural form of “debts.” Debts is plural, likely indicating the different sins that I commit in my life. When it’s in the singular form, I would expect it to refer to the entirety of my sin debt. But this is in the plural, leading me to believe that I have multiple daily sins that need to be forgiven.
Has someone who refuses to forgive a small sin debt been forgiven of an eternal sin debt?
However if we left it with just that understanding, that Jesus here speaks to relational forgiveness, we would be doing a great disservice to the broader context. We need to ask a further question, and it is this: Has someone who refuses to forgive the daily sins of others been eternally forgiven? Has someone who refuses to forgive a daily sin debt been forgiven of an eternal sin debt? If someone refuses to forgive a daily sin debt, have they been forgiven of an eternal sin debt?
Can a true disciple live their life not forgiving and therefore of not receiving God’s forgiveness? Can a true disciple of Jesus go out into eternity with unforgiven sin? Because he would have unforgiven sin if he did not forgive someone who sinned against him, albeit it would be unforgiven in a daily, relational way, not in an eternal sense. But it is unforgiven sin, nonetheless. So, can a true disciple of Jesus go out into eternity with unforgiven sin?
I do not think so. Turn to 1 John 1:6-7. A true disciple of Jesus can’t go out into eternity with unforgiven sin, first because …
Each person is living in one of two conditions…
1 John 1:6–7 6 If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth [not a disciple of Jesus] 7 but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.” And the Greek could read this way: And the blood of Jesus His Son keeps on cleansing us from all sin.
Either you do not practice the truth, i.e., you are not a disciple of Jesus and you are not forgiven. Or, you walk in the Light, Jesus Christ, you live in Him and His blood keeps on cleansing you from all sin.
Can a true believer go to heaven with unforgiven sins? If you live in Christ, His blood keeps on cleansing you, and so can a Christian have unforgiven sin? I don’t think so.
Second, …turn to Matthew 5 for this one…Second, Jesus, in the Sermon on the Mount, does not assume that everyone listening to Him are His true disciples. That would include Jesus teaching on prayer, as well. Not everyone listening to Jesus’ teaching on prayer has eternal life, and He knows it.
Remember to whom Jesus speaks. Matthew 5:1, when Jesus saw the crowds, His disciples came to him… He is speaking to the crowds and his disciples. Then, flip to the end of the the sermon in chapter 7… Matthew 7:28 says when Jesus finished His sermon, the crowds were amazed at His teaching. The crowd of people consists of those who are lost and redeemed.
And so, back in Matthew 7:21, Jesus can say to many in the crowd that day, “not everyone who says to me, “Lord, Lord’ will enter the kingdom of heaven… And they will say, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name cast out demons, and in your name perform many miracles?.’ “And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you, depart for me you who practice lawlessness.’
Clearly not everyone Jesus is speaking to has received eternal forgiveness. And that includes Jesus’ teaching on prayer. And by the way, for all you who haven’t come to a saving knowledge yet, you aren’t forgiven of your sins since you don’t forgive others!
And regarding whether someone can lose their salvation, it doesn’t say in Matthew 7:21, “I knew you and then I didn’t know you.” What does it say? It says, “I never knew you.” Clearly there was never a time when Jesus did know them in a saving way. They were not, as a verse we referenced earlier says, they were not his sheep, they did not hear his voice, they did not follow Him, and so Jesus did not know them. Because those who hear Jesus’ voice they follow him and Jesus knows them and He gives them eternal life, and no one can snatch them out of My hand, He says.
And Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, as we noted at the beginning of this series, is evangelistic. He is attempting to get people to understand that they are lost! Looking with lust is heart adultery. Anger at a brother is heart murder. And so you have to have a righteousness that surpasses pharisaical righteousness, the highest works-based righteousness available in order to be in Jesus’ kingdom. Jesus is trying to get people to understand their lostness without Him.
And so when Jesus says what he does, back in Matthew 6:14-15, that jars people on purpose to get them to understand that they are lost! As if somebody says that he is going to try to follow all of Jesus teaching, comes to this prayer and says to himself, “I am going to pray this prayer!” And he begins his journey praying this prayer and comes to this request of forgiveness… And he realizes that he actually does not forgive others and so he himself is not forgiven! It’s evangelistic, Jesus is exposing our lostness!
So, can a true disciple of Jesus go out into eternity with unforgiven sin? I don’t think so… 2 reasons so far…First, true disciples do not walk in the darkness, the only other option is that they walk in the light and the blood of Jesus keeps on cleansing them from daily sins. Second, the context of the evangelistic Sermon on the Mount tells us that Jesus is speaking to the crowds, with a mixture of saved and lost people. Because not everyone listening to Jesus’ sermon that day is a true disciple, we can’t assume that Jesus is only teaching true disciples in this prayer. He is convicting lost people as well through this prayer. This verse is not, therefore, teaching that true Christ-followers will go out into eternity with unforgiven sin because they failed to forgive someone. Jesus is attempting to convict lost people for their lack of forgiveness and is explaining that true Christ-followers forgive. AGAIN: Jesus is attempting to convict lost people for their lack of forgiveness and is explaining that true Christ-followers forgive.
Third and briefly, Mark 11 teaches that forgiveness is first-base Christianity. That chapter is about a symbol for Israel, a fig tree. Jesus miraculously withers that tree. That story gets interrupted when Jesus’ drives out the money exchangers which are in the temple. The narrative style of interrupting a story teaches that the Old Testament way of approaching God in the temple by religious Jews exclusively will be no more and it will be replaced by a radical faith in God expressed through prayer and forgiveness of others.
Mark 11:25 “Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father who is in heaven will also forgive you your transgressions.
What replaces the OT approach to God in the temple? Trusting God and forgiving others. Forgiving others therefore is first-base Christianity. A true disciple of Jesus will forgive others.
Lastly, on why a true disciple of Jesus can’t go out into eternity with unforgiven sin is found over in Matthew 18. Please turn to Matthew 18.
We were in this passage a couple of weeks ago and only referenced a few verses of the parable of the unforgiving servant.
We read vv. 23-27 last week.
Matthew 18:23–27 23 “For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves. 24 “When he had begun to settle them, one who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him. [=150,000 years wages…that’s a picture of your need for eternal forgiveness from God, you can’t pay back that debt…] 25 “But since he did not have the means to repay, his lord commanded him to be sold, along with his wife and children and all that he had, and repayment to be made. 26 “So the slave fell to the ground and prostrated himself before him, saying, ‘Have patience with me and I will repay you everything.’ [that’s not a saving response to God, since you can’t pay your forgiveness] 27 “And the lord of that slave felt compassion and released him and forgave him the debt.
That is scene 1. Scene 2…
Matthew 18:28–30 28 “But that slave went out and found one of his fellow slaves who owed him a hundred denarii [that’s just a little over 3 months wages]; and he seized him and began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay back what you owe.’ 29 “So his fellow slave fell to the ground and began to plead with him, saying, ‘Have patience with me and I will repay you.’ [Same statement as the first slave, but this time this slave actually could make it right…this is relational forgiveness] 30 “But he was unwilling and went and threw him in prison until he should pay back what was owed.
Now, scene 3…we’re introduced to the fellow slaves…
Matthew 18:31–35 31 “So when his fellow slaves saw what had happened, they were deeply grieved and came and reported to their lord all that had happened. 32 “Then summoning him, his lord said to him, ‘You wicked slave, I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. 33 ‘Should you not also have had mercy on your fellow slave, in the same way that I had mercy on you?’ 34 “And his lord, moved with anger, handed him over to the torturers until he should repay all that was owed him. 35 “My heavenly Father will also do the same to you, if each of you does not forgive his brother from your heart.”
Is the unforgiving slave a Christ-follower? Can a true disciple not forgive and therefore not receive God’s forgiveness?
Can a true disciple of Jesus be forgiven of a huge sin debt and then not forgive others of their small sin debts? I don’t think so, and the language in the parable here makes the point for us, I believe.
First, is the unforgiving slave’s claim to be able to repay the debt he owed. Verse 26, “I will repay you everything.” But he could not pay an eternal debt. That does not sound like a saving response to the gospel. We would expect, “have mercy on me” not “just wait a little bit and I’ll repay you.” When the second slave uses that same phrase, he actually could pay back what he owed. So the unforgiving slave is not a true disciple.
Second, the unforgiving slave is not described as a righteous. Verse 32, the Lord calls him a “wicked slave.” The word “wicked” there is used to refer to people who are not Jesus’ disciples. For example, the Lord causes his sun to rise on the evil (same word translated wicked) and the good. Another example…a bad [that’s the word wicked…a bad] tree produces bad fruit, the Pharisees are a brood of vipers, who are “evil.” “Wicked” describes the Pharisees. An evil generation craves for a sign, there are wicked spirits, but angels will come forth and take the wicked out from among the righteous.
Clearly, a wicked slave is somebody who is not righteous, who has not been declared righteous, who is then not a true disciple of Jesus Christ. The wicked, unforgiving slave is just that wicked, he is not righteous.
And the third reason that this slave is not a true disciple of Jesus is because of the punishment that he underwent in verse 34. Out of anger, the Lord of that slave hands him over to the torturers. And that word for “torture” has the same root, or it is spelled almost the same as the word for torture in Luke 16 when the rich man is in hell being in torment. That word also describes the horrific judgments throughout the book of Revelation including the judgment of the lake of fire in Revelation 20:10. This therefore would be the tortures of hell, only to be experienced by someone who is not saved.
Clearly, the unforgiving slave is not a Christ-follower. So, can a true disciple of Jesus be forgiven of a huge sin debt and not forgive others of their small sin debts? No! True disciples of Jesus forgive others when they sin.
Taking that understanding back to Matthew 6 is now quite helpful.
If you do not forgive others, the Father will not forgive you. Why? Because you are showing that you are not a follower of Jesus, that you are a wicked slave and you haven’t made a saving response to the gospel and that you deserve to be submitted to the torturers of hell. Only those who confess Christ and repent and trust Him are His followers. And those who have been forgiven all that debt, do forgive!
Implication: What does that tell us? Do you refuse to forgive someone? Yes? Are you living in Jesus Christ? No!
You’ve exaggerated their offense against you and you have minimized your own debts against God. “Well, at least I never did what they did….” OR “But can you believe what they’ve done to me?” ‘K…will you forgive them?’
“But you don’t understand, my husband, wife, brother, sister, parents, church member, they’ve….” ‘They’ve what, done something less than crucify you? Done something less than stone you?” The Lord can give you grace to forgive them! If you are following the Lord, He gives that kind of grace to help you forgive them! Are you willing?
That’s why we went over what we did last week, on how to forgive. And have you refused to forgive them and you’re here this week? Jesus says…
Matthew 5:23–24 23 “Therefore if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering.
If you refuse to forgive a small sin debt, be prepared for the torturers, you wicked slave!
The apostle to the Gentiles, sent directly by Jesus Christ, says…
Ephesians 4:32 32 Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.
CONCLUSION What is the Meaning of Matthew 6.12.14-15 Part 3
If you know the forgiveness of God in Jesus Christ and you know that you have been forgiven of mountains upon mountains of debt, you will forgive others. This is a Christian. A Christian is somebody who has been forgiven and so they forgive others. Somebody who does not forgive others, their relationship with the Lord is suspect! Do they really know the Lord if they refuse to forgive?
Maybe you are here this morning and you are struggling with bitterness over the past. You’re bitter over family relationships or friends who have doublecrossed you. Maybe siblings or church members, past or present. Forgive! Follow the counsel from last week and forgive!
You say, “I can’t!” The Lord has compassion on you and will give you grace, keep asking Him! He knows you feel trapped in your bitterness! He will give you repentance! Talk to the Lord and beg of Him to help you to forgive that person who has done you wrong.
And take a look at the cross! The Lord of glory who created you who has loved you, he came to earth … He was betrayed by his friend, Judas Iscariot. His own friend betrayed him into the hands of his enemies to be crucified! But willingly and gladly he went to that cross, dying for you, paying your sin debt, crying out, “It is finished!”
He suffered that cruel rugged cross the mockings and the scourgings, the nails, and the wrath of God, all for you! And the third day, raised in His body. That actually happened! Will you repent and receive God’s forgiveness? And then will you forgive others? May the love and mercy of God constrain you to do so! If you need help with this or anything at all, please let me know.
Come to Jesus out of your bondage#344…, slavery to your sin and unforgiveness of others. Find the freedom and relief of following Jesus.
344, Jesus I come