Forgiveness is the topic of our continuing study on Sunday evenings. It is such an important topic that I feel it is necessary to devote a fair amount of time to explore it. We have looked at the questions of how we should respond when someone mistreats us and how we should respond to a brother who sins against us. Tonight I want to answer the following question concerning forgiveness.
Do I forgive a person who hasn't asked my forgiveness? In other words, is forgiveness unconditional? Let me tell you that a number of folks would answer this question "yes". But as in every other area of the Christian life, we do not determine our behavior based on popular opinion, but on the teaching of the Word of God. Let's see what the Word of God says about this critical question.
I. Forgiveness is Conditional
A. It is based on the person's response.
1. We looked at this passage last week - lets look at it again.
2. Note: Luke 17:3
3. Does the person who confronts forgive in any case? (no, only if the person repents)
4. Forgiveness is a promise.
a. When we say that forgiveness is a promise, that means it is a transaction between two people
b. So in this passage, the forgiveness is conditioned upon the person's response
B. Because God's forgiveness is conditional.
1. The message of the gospel includes the need of repentance.
(LUKE 24:47) "AND THAT REPENTANCE AND REMISSION OF SINS SHOULD BE PREACHED IN HIS NAME AMONG ALL NATIONS, BEGINNING AT JERUSALEM."
(ACTS 17:30) "AND THE TIMES OF THIS IGNORANCE GOD WINKED AT; BUT NOW COMMANDETH ALL MEN EVERY WHERE TO REPENT:"
2. Both passages say that men and women have to do something before being in right relationship with God - they have to repent.
3. The Bible teaches nothing about forgiveness without repentance.
C. Because God commanded us to deal with each other conditionally.
1. Consider the example of Church discipline.
2. Note: Mt. 18:15-18
3. The steps of church discipline
a. Go to person alone, if he hears, you've won him (forgive).
b. If not, go with one or more, if he hears, you've won him.
c. If not, take him to the church, if he hears, you've won him, if not, he is disciplined.
4. Once again, the forgiveness here is clearly conditioned on the person's repentance.
II. What About Passages That Seem To Teach Differently?
A. Note: Luke 23:33-34
1. Some would say that Jesus unconditionally forgave those who crucified Him.
2. There are several problems with this.
a. Jesus wasn't speaking to them.
b. We must distinguish between what is said in a prayer and what is being said to another person.
3. It would contradict Rom. 10:14-17
a. Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God
b. We wouldn't want to stretch the words of Christ on the cross to mean that these people were going to heaven even though they had not repented and believed!
4. It would make the cross irrelevant.
a. If forgiveness could be given regardless of the response of the other person, why die on the cross?
b. The entire message of the Bible is that God made the provision for salvation, but that man had to repent and believe.
c. Apart from that, there is no forgiveness!
5. What was the meaning of His words?
a. He was praying that they would be brought about to a position of repentance.
b. That is exactly what happened on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2.
(ACTS 2:23) "HIM, BEING DELIVERED BY THE DETERMINATE COUNSEL AND FOREKNOWLEDGE OF GOD, YE HAVE TAKEN, AND BY WICKED HANDS HAVE CRUCIFIED AND SLAIN:"
c. The result of the message is that 3000 people repented and believed.
B. Jesus' instruction in Mark 11:25.
(MARK 11:25) "AND WHEN YE STAND PRAYING, FORGIVE, IF YE HAVE OUGHT AGAINST ANY: THAT YOUR FATHER ALSO WHICH IS IN HEAVEN MAY FORGIVE YOU YOUR TRESPASSES."
1. In what sense are we to forgive according to this verse?
2. Anyone who has already asked our forgiveness but we haven't granted it.
3. God is calling on us to have a "willing to forgive" spirit toward those who haven't yet (and may never) asked our forgiveness.
4. We should pray that God would bring about forgiveness in that person's life through proper means (similar in this respect to Jesus' prayer on the cross)
III. How does this apply to us tonight?
A. Be forgiving.
1. It's possible for us to get so wrapped up in forgiveness being conditional that we miss the point.
2. We must ask ourselves, are we a forgiving person?
a. Do we promise (and carry out) not bringing the issue back up to the person's face...
b. Would the folks around us say that we are a forgiving person? (or are we always dredging up the past?)
B. Have a forgiving spirit.
1. Toward those who have not (and may never) ask our forgiveness.
a. Can you think of a person who wronged you but hasn't asked your forgiveness because: - that person has passed away - you are no longer in contact with that person - you confronted the person but they refused to ask forgiveness?
b. What kind of thoughts do we have toward that person? - are they forgiving thoughts or bitter thoughts? - we may need to ask God's forgiveness for our failure to have a forgiving spirit
C. Be asking forgiveness
1. Since forgiveness is conditional, then we better be sure that we are meeting that condition.
2. That means going to others in repentance.
D. Be seeking forgiveness
1. In the sense of going to individuals who have wronged us.
2. We must help others satisfy the condition.
3. Exception: (I love my wife)
(1 PET 4:8) "AND ABOVE ALL THINGS HAVE FERVENT CHARITY AMONG YOURSELVES: FOR CHARITY SHALL COVER THE MULTITUDE OF SINS."
Do you know the forgiveness of God in your life tonight? If not, come. Christians, are we growing in the area of forgiveness? God calls upon us to forgive others. Are we ready to forgive others? Do we have a forgiving spirit? Are we practicing forgiveness?