There are four essential matters in forgiveness, for which we often fail. We will discuss them. There are two categorical essentials in the matter of salvation – basic but general matters – which are not properly emphasized. We will also emphasize them. After the general discussion of the subject, we will add three concluding considerations.
FOUR DIFFICULT ESSENTIALS
(1) Admitting we are wrong and asking forgiveness. It is hard on our pride and self-esteem as well as the image others have of us. An inflated sense of our own importance requires us to protect our image and influence as much as possible, even when we know it is faulty and undeserved (Romans 12:3, Galatians 6:3).
(2) Seeking and accepting forgiveness when we do not feel we deserve it, or when we do not intend to repent and make necessary changes. The last part of the statement is valid. Hypocrisy is pointless. Pretending to repent and change is not enough – you will probably be found out and then your situation will be worse. But feeling one does not deserve and should not ask forgiveness is not a valid response.
Sometimes one may think he has not been punished enough and should suffer more before he can be forgiven. We may see ourselves as unworthy, but only because we see ourselves through our own or some other human’s distorted senses, and not through God’s eyes and desires for us.
No matter what one has done and no matter how often one has done it, the God of love and life desires to forgive and save and will do so for one who believes and obeys Him – one who genuinely repents and changes and stops doing the wrong thing.
The patient and loving God offers as many chances as one needs and rejoices when His offer is accepted (2 Peter 3:9 and 15, Luke 15:7 and 10).
(3) Forgiving others when they admit wrong and ask forgiveness. Some will not forgive until the guilty person has suffered enough and they themselves judge as to how much is enough. Some seem to have the idea that God will not forgive those who sin against us unless and until we forgive them. That is absolutely not true. God will forgive them when they meet His conditions – including repentance and asking the offended one to forgive as well as asking Him to forgive. But are we aware that even when He is willing to forgive others who sin against us, He will not forgive us unless we forgive them too?
(4) Forgetting the things that have been forgiven. Forgetting requires not bringing up past offenses or in other ways holding them against the forgiven person.
The common, though perhaps unconscious, response is to keep things in memory but “on the back burner,” just in case of a repeat performance or some other indiscretion.
Many who are sinned against get historical. Not hysterical but historical, calling up every mistake of the past and putting it on the table with the present mistake.
The matter of memory plays a part in accepting forgiveness, also in forgiving ourselves. One may have some neurotic or pathological guilt, not believing that anybody else – not even the Lord himself – can forgive sins such as he has committed.
Like Isaiah, we get a glimpse of the Holy God and we feel undone, unclean, not worthy to be allowed to exist, expecting the Holy God to destroy us (Isaiah 6:1-5). But the lesson to learn from Isaiah is that God can cleanse, forgive, save and use as His ministering servants those who submit themselves to Him.
TWO GENERAL REQUIREMENTS FOR SALVATION
By way of clarification, we are not talking about God’s plan of salvation or implementation of God’s plan in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. We are concerned here with our own personal part, doing our part so that God can do His part for our salvation.
(1) The first basic requirement for salvation is being forgiven of personal sin. The unforgiven are not saved and cannot be. Do not say that our sin is God’s fault. God has no need to be forgiven for anything. He has never done anything wrong. Nor can anybody convict Jesus Christ of any sin (John 8:46).
There is not one human other than Jesus who ever lived that did not and does not sin (Romans 3:10, 23). Even Christians sin (1 John 1:1-4, 7-9). I reiterate the point: the unforgiven are not saved and cannot be.
(2) The second basic requirement is obeying the gospel, which is required from every person who wants to be forgiven. Faith in God, His Christ, His Spirit, His words and His works is essential (Hebrews 11:6).
Repentance is essential too, not only sorrow and regret or remorse for one’s sins, but also ceasing from the sin and correcting the damage done when possible. Repentance is a death to the prior sin one has committed (Romans 6:1-2).
One has not really obeyed the gospel until he allows himself to be baptized into Christ, immersed in water in the likeness of the burial and rising to life of Jesus Christ (Romans 6:3-4, Galatians 3:26-27). God will add to the church, the spiritual body of Christ, all those and saved by obeying from the heart His doctrine and gospel (1 Corinthians 12:13, Romans 6:17, Acts 2:41 and 47).
SCRIPTURES TO CONSIDER
Matthew 6:12-15: From the model for praying, Jesus taught the disciples that in the prayer we are to recognize God as Father and ourselves as His people.
Notice also that receiving what we ask may require giving the same to others who ask. The evil one, Satan, is the enemy of our souls. We should not be enemies of God or enemies of the souls of others.
Luke 17:1-5 and Matthew 18:15-17: An important addition and explanation is provided about the need and frequency of forgiveness for those who sin against us. We are allowed to accuse and rebuke those who sin against us. If the sinner repents, forgive him. If may also be understood as when. If implies that the condition must be met – only if he repents can he be forgiven.
If he does not repent but is forgiven anyway it makes repentance irrelevant. When concerns the timing of your response to the repentance – when he repents, forgive him. At the time of his repentance he should be forgiven.
Even when you cannot know if his repentance is genuine, his word will eventually be supported or disproved by his actions. If he is a repeat offender rebuke him again and forgive him again if and when he repents again.
There is no end to forgiveness when it is based upon repentance. You can be willing to forgive and perhaps forgive those who sin against you, but it does not change their status with God. Encourage them to repent so that God can forgive them.
Ephesians 4:31-5:2a: The motivation for forgiving others is specified. It is if and because we have been forgiven by God in Christ that we are willing and know how to forgive others. It is because we love as the Lord loves. It is also because we want to be identified as true children of God, true disciples of Christ.
THREE IMPORTANT CONSIDERATIONS
(1) God will not forgive those who refuse to obey the gospel (Hebrews 5:9; 1 Peter 4:17-19).
(2) God will not forgive Christians who will not repent and live faithfully according to the commands of Christ, which includes their treatment of others (James 2:13; Matthew 6:15).
(3) Lastly, those who know what they should do but refuse to do it cannot be forgiven or saved. They have no hope of being saved until they do what God requires (Ephesians 2:8-14, 22).