Forgiveness, Part 2

Forgiveness is such a challenging concept that the only one who can truly succeed at it is God. Forgiveness on our part requires that we submit to the authority and power of God. Only by doing so can we truly forgive. This article talks about seven aspects of forgiveness. In Part 1, I wrote about the first two: Forgiveness is hard and Forgiveness hurts. You can download the entire article as a PDF at the end of this blog entry.

3. Forgiveness costs.forgiveness

The sin of man was of infinite proportion and thus atonement requires an act of infinite love – better known as grace.

Eph. 2:8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.

In her anger, this wife may have given some thought to killing her unfaithful husband. In fact, God had this same reaction. Adam, and all persons born thereafter, suffered death because of Adam’s sin (Rom. 5:12-21). However, even before He created, God made allowance for even that and appointed the Son to die in our place. It doesn’t keep us from dying, but it does remove the penalty associated with death, making it possible for us to enter into the presence of God.

1 John 4:10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us (the idea being that He loved us first) and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

When a man and a woman or a husband and a wife say, “I love you,” their commitment should include such an idea as God taught us by His actions:

Eph. 1:7 In Christ we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace.

When we say to each other, “I love you,” or when we vow before witnesses “for better or for worse,” this should be our confession:

“No matter what happens – even when I am offended and repulsed by your worst behavior – I will make the sacrifice for reconciliation, no matter the cost. My desire for you will always outweigh your transgressions. Should you step back or even step away, my first move will be in your direction. Because I love you, I give to you that which means more to me than anything else in the world – myself.”

After all, that is the model God set for us.

John 3:16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son (which means that God gave Himself), that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

4. Forgiveness is not tolerance.

Where there is sin, there must be forgiveness for the sinner, but there must never be tolerance for the sin. We are called to love one another, but we are commanded to abhor sin (Rom. 12:9).

When a person persists in a sinful practice or condition, those who love them are not obligated to tolerate their sin.

In one of his sermons, John Piper pointed out two things that forgiveness is not. [1]

  • Forgiveness is not the absence of anger at sin. It is not feeling good about what was bad.
  • Forgiveness is not the absence of serious consequences for sin.

In other words, the person in a marriage relationship that is offended by the other person’s infidelity has no obligation to wink at the sin of their spouse or to fear confronting it.

When a church member falls into sin, the church is not obligated to tolerate their sin or their presence when that person is unwilling to repent and abandon their sin.

Matt. 18:17 …if (after a person has been confronted with his sin) he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a non-Jewish person and a tax collector.

In other words, the church, when it has exhausted all means of reconciliation and restoration, has the authority to look upon that person as if he or she were a lost person, in spite of their profession of faith.

Breaking fellowship with someone who persists in sinful behavior or practices is not the same thing as unforgiveness. The person who persists in their sin has already chosen their own separation from others by their participation in the sin.

Sin has consequences. The Bible says, “The wages of sin is death.” In other words, whenever there is sin, something dies – faith, trust, respect, relationships, and sometimes, even people.

5. Forgiveness calls for confrontation.

A person found in sin has no right to argue that no one has the right to confront them about his or her sin. Again, Matthew 18 defies that argument, as does the entire Scripture.

In Numbers 20, when Moses struck the rock in anger instead of speaking to it in obedience to God’s instructions, God judged him publicly and refused to allow Moses to lead the people into the land of promise.

In 2 Samuel 12, following David’s adultery with Bathsheba and his conspiracy to have her husband killed in battle, Nathan the prophet confronted David to his face and in public, advising David that his blatant adultery was evidence that David “despised the word of the Lord.”

In Galatians 2, Paul tells how he confronted Peter “to his face” and apparently before witnesses when Peter refused to sit with non-Jewish believers at a meal, pointing out to Peter that his sin did not just affect him, but that he was leading others to practice the same hypocritical behavior.

In Acts 5, Peter confronted Ananias and Sapphira face to face and in front of witnesses when it was proven that they had lied, not only to the church, but to the Holy Spirit.

6. Forgiveness requires restoration.

Now, in light of all that I said in numbers four and five above, I must once again appeal to the mercy and grace that God has demonstrated toward us and to plead with all of us that we deal with one another in that same mercy and grace.

Eph. 4:32 Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. 5:1 Therefore (in so doing) be imitators of God, as beloved children. 2 And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

We must keep in the forefront of our minds that in spite of everything else that may happen, the ultimate goal of everyone involved in conflict – whether in a marital relationship or in the church – is not confrontation, but always restoration.

Gal. 6:1 Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.

James 5:19 My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, 20 let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.

7. Forgiveness is obedience.

At the end of Matthew 18, after the master had confronted the unforgiving servant,

Matt. 18:34 …in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt. 35 So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.

John Piper

The reason (we are to forgive) is not because we can earn heaven or merit heaven by forgiving others, but because holding fast to an unforgiving spirit proves that we do not trust Christ. If we trust him, we will not spurn his way of life. If we trust him, we will not be able to take forgiveness from his hand for our million-dollar debt and withhold it from our ten-dollar debtor. [2]

Charles Spurgeon

To be forgiven is such sweetness that honey is tasteless in comparison with it. But yet there is one thing sweeter still, and that is to forgive. As it is more blessed to give than to receive, so to forgive rises a stage higher in experience than to be forgiven. [3]




[2] Ibid.




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