Posts Tagged ‘Forgiveness of Sins’
Having come face to face with my own sinfulness, my own lack of keeping the law of God, I have spent the last several months looking at the law and the gospel. While this is not new to Christianity, it is fairly new to me. I grew up in a church environment that was heavy on the law. You keep the law and God was happy. Break the law (which was often), God is now angry with you. The gospel was not the end but only a step to helping me keep myself clean. It was not Jesus period. It was Jesus who now enables me to keep the law and when I fail, back to the beginning.
We all sin. None of us are perfect. We read passages such as Romans 3:23 and acknowledge the universal sinfulness of mankind. But we miss the point that we are sinners ourselves. I am not arguing that we wake up each day thinking “what can I do today to violate the law of God” but we do sin. Whether we make sins into categories such as “sins of omission” and “sins of commission,” either way we do sin. Apart from grace, none of us can stand before a holy God. It is only through Christ that we can stand before a holy and totally pure God. The reason Christ died for my sins is not simply to enable me to be holy on my own power but He died because I am a sinner in need of forgiveness because I do sin (1 John 2:1-2).
Consider the command of Jesus in Matthew 22:37-40:
37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.
38 This is the first and great commandment.
39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.
Stop and consider how you are doing with that one? I’m not even good at it. I would love to say that I love God perfectly as Jesus taught. I would love to tell you that my love for God flows into loving my neighbor as myself. But the reality is that I fall way short of these two commands and Jesus said that law and the prophets hang on these two commandments. Do these and you’ll be perfect! But I don’t!
And thus the gospel comes into play. The law condemns me as a sinner (Romans 3:19) and the law teaches me that I need a Savior (Galatians 3:24). The law condemns me. The gospel saves me. The law shows me that I am a sinner (Romans 7:7). There is nothing wrong with the law of God (Romans 7:12) but the problem is me. I can’t keep the law. No matter how hard I try, I fail.
The gospel preaches peace to me. The law tells me to love God perfectly and my neighbor perfectly (Matthew 5:48). The gospel tells me Christ died for my sins and the sins of not loving God perfectly nor my neighbor as myself. The law tells me to love my wife as Christ loves His Church (Ephesians 5:25). The gospel tells me that Christ died for the sin of not loving my wife as Christ loves His Church (I am far from a perfect husband). The law tells me to pray, to worship, to evangelize, to give my money to the poor and to helping the kingdom of God, to do good to my neighbor especially of those of the household of faith, etc. but the gospel tells me that Christ died for my sins even the sins of not keeping the law perfectly.
Martin Luther taught two (and I would add a third) uses of the law. Lutherans debate the third use of the law. The three uses of the law are:
- For society, to curb man’s sinfulness.
- To condemn us a sinners and show us our need for salvation.
- To help the Christian in sanctification.
These three uses of the law are seen not just in the Bible but in life. Antinomians accept the first two uses of the law but not the third. I believe in preaching all three. Christians need to hear the law so that the Holy Spirit can help us in the process of sanctification. So for example a believer hears that we should pray (Luke 18:1; 1 Thessalonians 5:17). Prayer itself doesn’t justify us before God. We are justified only through Christ Jesus alone by grace alone though faith alone. Yet none would say that prayer is bad. Yet prayer can become a law. It was that way for me. I once held that a person should pray for 2 hours a day or God was not pleased. Prayer became a law and gospel for me. But prayer is not the gospel. The gospel is the death of Jesus for our sins and His resurrection for our justification (Romans 4:24-25; 1 Corinthians 15:1-4). Thus Jesus died for my sin of prayerlessness. Does this mean that I should not pray since Jesus died for my sin of prayerlessness? By no means! The key is to see prayer as flowing from my forgiveness and not from the law. I pray because Christ shed His blood for me (Hebrews 4:14-16).
This holds true of any law. The law if holy and good (1 Timothy 1:8-11). The law shows me how far I am far from the perfection of God. But the gospel shouts to me that I am accepted in the Beloved. I am holy before God because of Christ (Hebrews 10:10, 14) and not by my works. The law tells me to pursue holiness (Hebrews 12:14; 1 Peter 1:15-16) and this is good. The gospel tells me that I am accepted in Christ Jesus who bled and died for my sins (Romans 5:6).
This understanding of the law and the gospel has blessed me. It has brought some joy to my soul where joy has been lacking. For so long I have been full of pride, my own self-righteousness. I thought God was honored by my prayer life, my evangelism, my passion for God. Like Voddie Bauchman preaches, my works-righteousness muscle likes to flex. I would have, in the past, gladly acknowledged Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior and would have gladly told you that I was saved by His grace alone but in reality I was full of pride, thinking more highly of myself than I ought (Philippians 2:3). I would have preached Christ but my focus was not on pleasing Christ per se but on men seeing how much I “loved” Jesus. Oh how much pride was in my heart! Oh wretched sinner that I was!
But Christ died for me. Christ bled and suffered for my sins. Jesus gave His life for my sins and now I am forgiven not because I keep the law but because I can’t keep the law (Galatians 3:10). Christ suffered in my place, for my sins (Galatians 3:13-14). I am saved now not because I keep the law but because of faith in Jesus Christ who gave His life for my sins. What a blessing! What a Savior!
I have no problem with the law. The law is good. The law comes from our holy God. Yet too many Christians try to live the law. You will always be falling short. Always. You will never obtain holiness by the law. Even if you think (as I did) that I had obtained a level of holiness by my striving, inside (like me) you’ll know that you stand condemned because you can’t keep the whole law (James 2:10). I have no problem preaching the law and calling Christians to repent of not keeping the law. But the balance of this is the gospel. The answer to not keeping the law is not more law. The answer is the gospel. The law condemns us as sinners. The gospel comforts us by pointing to Christ who died for our sins (2 Corinthians 5:18-21).
Perhaps I am wrong on this. I don’t think so. I believe it’s biblically based. I know that this teaching has pushed me closer to Christ and not away. I still hate sin. I really do hate sin. I acknowledge that I do sin but I hate my sins. I am so grateful to God for giving me His Son for my sins (John 1:29). I stand condemned but Christ preaches to me no condemnation (Romans 8:1). Satan accuses me of sin and he is right to do so. But I trust in Christ alone for my salvation (Hebrews 7:25). Jesus has promised not only to save me from my sins (Matthew 1:21; Romans 6:1-4) but He has promised to keep me (Jude 24-25). I trust in Christ alone and not my works-righteousness before a holy God.
I know several brothers in the Lord who have sweet spirits. They are delightful to be around. They glow with love for others, are full of joy, and pour blessings onto others. I want that.
My own temperament is typically laid back, discerning (though I fear sometimes I am just plain critical), and often opinionated especially about theology. I am not argumentative contrary to what you might read. I don’t enjoy fighting. I would rather just talk. When I feel threatened, my face gets red (cursedness of being a white man). My boys have watched me debating someone and they always say that I look mad, that my face is red like fire.
I want a sweet spirit. I’m not sure how to cultivate that. I have prayed about this before. I want to be loving and kind.
When I was in full-time pastoral ministry, I was more or less a jerk. I admit that now. In those days I thought I was just being “biblical” and standing my ground for the truth. It was others who rejected God’s truth but not me! I heard a brother say once that it is better to be righteous than to be right. I wish I would have lived those words. I would use the pulpit to beat others up (not by name but by my teaching). I was right. Everyone else was wrong. I was not loving and kind. I was mean. No wonder I was “let go” from my position.
Having been out of “ministry” for over 10 years now, I see my errors. I am not writing this for sympathy or to beat myself up. I am done doing that. I am writing to confess before the Lord my desire to be like Him. Yes at times the Lord can be angry but His anger is not based on sin or pride. The Lord’s anger is a pure hatred of sin.
This leads me to the gospel. I look back at my past 20+ years of being a Christian and I see all the sins I have committed, all the times I have failed the Lord. I see how I failed him while I was serving in full-time pastoral ministry. Yet I am so grateful that He never gave up on me. The Lord Jesus could have cast me aside (as I would have long ago) but He has not. Jesus has been faithful to me. He has provided for me and for my family. Most of all, the Lord Jesus has been my Savior through all this. The Lord knows how many times I have prayed Psalm 51:1-2 or 1 John 1:9? The Lord knows how many times I have failed Him yet He has never failed me (2 Timothy 2:13).
The gospel teaches me that yes I am a sinner. No doubts there (Romans 3:10-18). Yet in Christ Jesus I am saved and forgiven and declared righteous before a holy God (Romans 3:22-27). My salvation is not me saving myself from myself but God saving me from Himself (2 Corinthians 5:18-21). The gospel teaches me that my temperament can be transformed but only by the work of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). In my flesh, I cannot please God (Romans 8:8). No matter how much I try, I will never be perfect, will never do enough to please God (Isaiah 64:6). The gospel teaches me that Jesus alone is my salvation (1 Corinthians 1:30-31) and He alone is my mediator before the Father (Hebrews 4:14-16; 7:25). I am not lost today only because of the grace of God given freely to me in Christ Jesus my Lord (Romans 6:23).
I am so thankful for these small reminders of the faithfulness of God. I am far from perfect. Very, very far! But I trust in the perfect Savior who can save me perfectly (Philippians 1:6).
Thank you Lord Jesus for Your salvation and Your forgiveness! Where would I be without You?
The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.
– 1 Timothy 1:15
I find comfort in reading in the Bible that I am a sinner and that Christ came to die for me and my sins (Galatians 1:4). I know many people read the Bible looking for “keys” to a deeper life, keys to victory, keys to a happier marriage, keys to a stronger prayer life, etc. but I read the Bible looking for my sins. I want the mirror of God’s law to show me my ugliness and my sins so that I can repent and be refreshed (Acts 3:19-20; 1 John 1:9). There is something wonderful about seeing God’s holiness in the light of my sins. There is something beautiful that comes from confessing my sins.
Psalm 32:15-18 reads:
15 The eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous
and his ears toward their cry.
16 The face of the Lord is against those who do evil,
to cut off the memory of them from the earth.
17 When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears
and delivers them out of all their troubles.
18 The Lord is near to the brokenhearted
and saves the crushed in spirit.
When the Spirit of God confronts me about my sins, I love it! I really do! It shows me His great love for me, that He would not leave me as I am. Hebrews 12:7-11 reads:
7 It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? 8 If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. 9 Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? 10 For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. 11 For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.
Notice verse 10. The Lord disciplines us so that we might share in His holiness. Amazing!
Tonight I could sit here and write all about my sins. I don’t need to. The point is not about me. The point is about why I need Jesus and you do as well. If Jesus came to save only the righteous, none of us would be saved (Romans 3:10-18). I have met people who think they never sin after getting saved but I have found that they were mostly prideful, arrogant, condescending, and full of their own flesh. They focused so much on themselves “not sinning” that they lost sight of their sins. I am not advocating living in blatant sin but I am calling us to recognize the truth that Jesus came to save sinners. Of course there is truth that those whom He saves become saints in Him (1 Corinthians 1:2). Jesus saves us out of a life of sin (1 Corinthians 6:9-11). That I know but He is also still saving me out of a life of sin. Sin is not out of me yet completely nor is it out of you. Let’s face it, we like sinning. No, we love sinning. That is why Jesus had to die for us. Because we enjoy sin.
And that is why I need Jesus. I like sinning. I don’t want to like it. In fact, I want to hate it. Yet I find that I enjoy sinning. I have sinned in many ways. I have let many people down over the years. Those who know me best know I am not perfect. I never confess to be. Oh there was a time I thought I was all that. Not anymore. I see my sins. I know my sins. I hate my sins.
It’s funny how people think that we Christians are suppose to be perfect. I have yet to meet a perfect Christian. I have met arrogant Christians. I have met prideful Christians. I have been those myself. Yet I have never met a perfect saint. Every person I have known who truly loved Jesus needed Him. They knew it. I knew it. Jesus knows it. Even the godliest people I have known, once you get close to them you can just smell the flesh. They hate it. I hate it. Jesus still saves them.
So here I sit writing at nearly 2 AM in the morning. I can’t sleep. I am pondering the truth that Jesus loves me and died for my sins. Yet I still struggle with sin. I recently had lunch with a godly man and I asked him how about sanctification. I want to be holy, I told him, but I struggle to be holy. I see my sins and I see how far I am from being like Jesus. Yet I still want to be holy (1 Peter 1:15-16). So how can I be holy? His reply: look to Jesus and love Him and obey Him. He died for you while you were still a sinner (Romans 5:8). His love hasn’t changed since the day I first believed the gospel and He saved me.
So tonight I issue this call to all who know me: you know I am a sinner. You know that I sin. Yet that is why I need Jesus. I am not perfect. I am not a perfect father. I am not a perfect worker. I am not a perfect saint. I am not a perfect “deacon” (as a guy at work calls me). I am a sinner in need of a Savior. I thank God for sending such a Savior. I cannot earn His forgiveness (Titus 3:5). My salvation is based on the Lord Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:8-9) and He alone is my salvation and assurance before a holy and just G0d (1 Corinthians 1:30-31).
The Son of Man came to seek and save the lost (Luke 19:10). That is me.
1 John 2:19 is a cornerstone passage for those who hold to unconditional eternal security and even those who hold to perseverance of the saints. This verse is said to teach that those who go out from us (from Christians) proves they were never said to begin with. I differ with this view in that I see 1 John 2:19 in context speaking about false apostles or in this case antichrists who claimed to be apostles like John but their teachings proved they were not apostles. They went out from among us (apostles) but they were not of us (apostles); for if they had been of us (apostles), they would have continued with us (apostles). But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us (apostles).
My question here is when do we know they are not one of us from the eternal security view? At what point can we declare, “Never saved to begin with?” I have even heard many exponents of eternal security teach that a person might be living in sin and the Lord will either discipline them to bring them back to Christ (Hebrews 12:3-11) or He will even allow them to die before they completely apostatize (1 Corinthians 5:4-5; 11:29-31). I have heard eternal security teachers teach that a person living in sin can still be saved and so we are not to judge someone harshly. They point to the examples of David or Samson as proof that a saint can live in gross sin and still be a child of God.
I have often said that eternal security leads to antinomianism. How can it not? The idea that we must be holy is not a true teaching among eternal security teachers. Yes they preach holiness (1 Peter 1:15-16) but they often make statements contrary to holiness teaching such as “we all sin every day” and they view Romans 7 as the highest form of Christian living. Further, they teach that sin has no effect on the believer so they ignore the Bible’s call to forsake sin (1 John 2:1-2). They instead teach that nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus even though we are warned over and over again not to get a hard heart, not to go back to living in sin, not to forsake Christ. We are called to perseverance but these teachers teach preservation of the sinner.
This is not a perfection teaching. I am not advocating that Christians are sinless or that we can obtain sinless perfection though some in the past have advocated such a position. The Trinitarian hero Athanasius of Alexandria held to perfection. He taught that saints of God in the Bible had obtained such a state such as Job or Noah. While I am not advocating that position, I simply point out that Athanasius is viewed as a hero today despite his teaching on perfectionism. I believe that Christians do sin. I know. I sin. I don’t wake up and seek sinning. I don’t want to sin. I don’t try to sin. But I have sinned. I am thankful for 1 John 1:9 (which would be pointless if sin has no power over the disciple of Christ).
My point here is not to rail on eternal security. I know godly people who believe in this doctrine. I have also known people who used the doctrine for their own flesh. I have known men who justified pornography by claiming eternal security. I have known men who committed adultery by claiming eternal security. I have seen churches ignore church discipline because its possible that the sinning person is truly saved and just needs the Lord’s discipline to come back to faith. I have seen people “walk the isle” and say “the sinner’s prayer” and be told that they are saved and bound for heaven and are now eternally secure no matter what. I have heard preachers tell people that they can even become an atheist and God will drag them into heaven kicking and screaming that they don’t want to go.
My point here is to simply ask the probing question, “When is someone deemed never saved to begin with?” The lines seem blurred. You could read Revelation 21:7-8 and ask a person who holds to eternal security if these people are not going to heaven and they will likely say, “No they are not.” “But what about saints who do these things? Are they still saved or are they never saved to begin with?” “Well that is tough. Only God knows a persons heart. We can’t judge them. We must leave that to God.” “So are these people who do the things in Revelation 21:8 saved?” “No.” “But you just said that people who do these things might be saved?” “Well yes we can but we shouldn’t and if we do, it might show that we are not saved to begin with.” “Can you do these things if you wanted to?” “Yes I could I suppose.” “Would that make you lost?” “No because I am eternally secure!” “Well would that prove you are not saved to begin with?” “No I am eternally secure!” “But what about others who do these things, why are they not eternally secure?” “They possibly are! God knows!” “But you said that Revelation 21:8 are lost since they go to hell.” “Yes they are but Christians can do these things too.” “Should Christians do them?” “No” “Why does it matter if they are eternally secure as you claim?” “Because if a person does them they might not be truly saved.” “But what about their eternal security? It doesn’t sound very eternal nor secure?” “Those who are saved will persevere until the end for God keeps them but if they don’t persevere, they were never saved to begin with.” “And if a person does the things in Revelation 21:8 are they proving they are not saved to begin with if they claim to be a disciple?” “Well only God knows.”
Do you see the circle of eternal security? It doesn’t produce the assurance of one’s salvation. I have often argued that if a person is seeking Christ, we have no fear (1 John 4:18). Jesus said that if we abide in His teachings, we are His disciples (John 8:31-32). As disciples, we have no fear (Romans 8:38-39). Those who abide in Christ know that He is their high priest, their salvation, their security (2 Peter 1:10-11). I fear the Lord because He is holy God (Romans 11:20-22). I stand in awe of His grace toward me (Romans 6:1-4). His grace teaches me to hate my sin (Titus 2:11-12). God’s grace doesn’t give me a license for sinning (Jude 4).
True security is found in persevering in Christ. True security is not found in teaching people that sin has no power over them. We must teach the people of God to hate their sins, forsake their sins, confess their sins, and examine themselves (2 Corinthians 12:21-13:5). Holiness is the heart of God (Hebrews 12:14). We are holy in Christ and being made holy though Christ (Hebrews 10:10, 14).
May the Lord help us all to hate our sins, forsake our sins, kill our sins, and confess our sins. Our sovereign Father is faithful to help us (1 Corinthians 10:13) and He is faithful to forgive us when we sin (1 John 1:9). May we run daily to the Lord Jesus and remain faithful to Him always.
Romans 4:25 reads,
“Who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.”
Jesus gave His life for our sins. He died a cruel, unjust death at the hands of sinners. Yet Jesus did this for our sins (Isaiah 53:4-6). His blood was shed so that we could have peace with God (Ephesians 2:14). His blood was shed to wash away our sins (Ephesians 1:7). He committed no sin yet He bore our sins (1 Peter 2:22-24). 2 Corinthians 5:18-21 reads,
18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
He died to take away our sins (John 1:29) and in Him alone do we find forgiveness of our sins (John 14:6; Acts 4:12; 1 Timothy 2:5-6; Hebrews 9:22, 27-28; 10:10, 14; 1 John 2:2).
Yet the resurrection is key to this forgiveness. Without a resurrection, there is no forgiveness. This is the point of Paul the Apostle in 1 Corinthians 15:16-19:
16 For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.
But since Christ has been raised from the dead (Matthew 28:6; Mark 16:6; Luke 24:6-7; John 20:1-10; 21:24-29), we have the blessing of knowing that our sins are truly forgiven. This is not merely God ignoring our sins or simply by-passing His just law to forgive us just by the waving of His hands but this is true forgiveness. Jesus took my place on the cross. It was my sins that He bore. He died in my place and He stood condemned for me.
And how do I know this? Because of Romans 4:25! Jesus was raised for my justification before a holy God. My only hope for salvation, my only assurance of my forgiveness before a holy God is the blood of Christ that He shed on the cross. The Father raised Christ from the dead by the power of the Holy Spirit (Romans 1:4; 8:11) and showed that the Father had accepted the sacrifice of the Son. Jesus was crucified for my sins and He was raised for my justification. Now I have peace with God because of Christ Jesus and because of Christ alone (Romans 5:1).
What a glorious truth is the resurrection of the Lord Jesus!
1 John 1:9
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
I appreciate the words of Adam Clarke on this verse:
If we confess our sins – If, from a deep sense of our guilt, impurity, and helplessness, we humble ourselves before God, acknowledging our iniquity, his holiness, and our own utter helplessness, and implore mercy for his sake who has died for us; he is faithful, because to such he has promised mercy, Psalm 32:5; Proverbs 28:13; and just, for Christ has died for us, and thus made an atonement to the Divine justice; so that God can now be just, and yet the justifier of him who believeth in Jesus.
And to cleanse us from all unrighteousness – Not only to forgive the sin, but to purify the heart.
1. Sin exists in the soul after two modes or forms:
(1.) In guilt, which requires forgiveness or pardon.
(2.) In pollution, which requires cleansing.
2. Guilt, to be forgiven, must be confessed; and pollution, to be cleansed, must be also confessed. In order to find mercy, a man must know and feel himself to be a sinner, that he may fervently apply to God for pardon; in order to get a clean heart, a man must know and feel its depravity, acknowledge and deplore it before God, in order to be fully sanctified.
3. Few are pardoned, because they do not feel and confess their sins; and few are sanctified or cleansed from all sin, because they do not feel and confess their own sore, and the plague of their hearts.
4. As the blood of Jesus Christ, the merit of his passion and death, applied by faith, purges the conscience from all dead works, so the same cleanses the heart from all unrighteousness.
5. As all unrighteousness is sin, so he that is cleansed from all unrighteousness is cleansed from all sin. To attempt to evade this, and plead for the continuance of sin in the heart through life, is ungrateful, wicked, and even blasphemous; for as he who says he has not sinned, 1 John 1:10, makes God a liar, who has declared the contrary through every part of his revelation; so he that says the blood of Christ either cannot or will not cleanse us from all sin in this life, gives also the lie to his Maker, who has declared the contrary, and thus shows that the word – the doctrine of God is not in him.
Reader, it is the birthright of every child of God to be cleansed from all sin, to keep himself unspotted from the world, and so to live as never more to offend his Maker. All things are possible to him that believeth; because all things are possible to the infinitely meritorious blood and energetic Spirit of the Lord Jesus.
I was reading Matthew 6:12 today and this verse is one of those verses that hits you hard. The text reads (NKJV):
“And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.”
Adam Clarke wrote this about this verse and his words are worth reading and re-reading to allow them to sink into our hearts:
Verse 12. “And forgive us our debts” – Sin is represented here under the notion of a debt, and as our sins are many, they are called here debts. God made man that he might live to his glory, and gave him a law to walk by; and if, when he does any thing that tends not to glorify God, he contracts a debt with Divine Justice, how much more is he debtor when he breaks the law by actual transgression! It has been justly observed, “All the attributes of God are reasons of obedience to man; those attributes are infinite; every sin is an act of ingratitude or rebellion against all these attributes; therefore sin is infinitely sinful.” Forgive us.-Man has nothing to pay: if his debts are not forgiven, they must stand charged against him for ever, as he is absolutely insolvent.
Forgiveness, therefore, must come from the free mercy of God in Christ: and how strange is it we cannot have the old debt canceled, without (by that very means) contracting a new one, as great as the old! but the credit is transferred from Justice to Mercy. While sinners we are in debt to infinite Justice; when pardoned, in debt to endless Mercy: and as a continuance in a state of grace necessarily implies a continual communication of mercy, so the debt goes on increasing ad infinitum.
Strange economy in the Divine procedure, which by rendering a man an infinite debtor, keeps him eternally dependent on his Creator! How good is God! And what does this state of dependence imply? A union with, and participation of, the fountain of eternal goodness and felicity! As we forgive our debtors. It was a maxim among the ancient Jews, that no man should lie down in his bed, without forgiving those who had offended him. That man condemns himself to suffer eternal punishment, who makes use of this prayer with revenge and hatred in his heart. He who will not attend to a condition so advantageous to himself (remitting a hundred pence to his debtor, that his own creditor may remit him 10,000 talents) is a madman, who, to oblige his neighbour to suffer an hour, is himself determined to suffer everlastingly! This condition of forgiving our neighbour, though it cannot possibly merit any thing, yet it is that condition without which God will pardon no man. See Matthew vi. 14, 15.
That God places this condition upon forgiveness, that we forgive others as well, is powerful. Am I a forgiving person? Do I forgive others as Christ has forgiven me (Colossians 3:13)? Jesus has forgiven me of so many sins yet am I unwilling to forgive others who may or may not have sinned against me?
In Matthew 18:21-35 Jesus places a further condition upon our forgiveness by teaching us in a parable that we must forgive others. In this case, the once forgiven servant is bound and delivered to the torturers (v. 34 NKJV). Obviously then Jesus places much upon our standing before God with our standing with other people.
One further point as we read in 1 Peter 3:7 that our prayers may be hindered because of our relationship with our spouse. God places much emphasis upon our human relationships in relation to Him. To merely have forgiveness from God without granting forgiveness to others is unheard of for the disciple of Christ.