Newtown Bible Church

Disciples Prayer: God's Gracious Pardon, Pt. 2 (Matthew 6:12, 14-15)

4 Reasons why forgiveness is essential to the Christian life.

Because of the Reality of Sin

*Because sin exist there is the need for forgiveness.

Because we need God’s forgiveness

(A) We all need God’s forgiveness to be saved, set free, released from the penalty and curse of the Law. This is Judicial forgiveness which comes at the point of repentant faith in the Person, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. This is justification by faith alone.

The person who is in Christ no longer need fear hell and eternal judgment, but is in permanent spiritual union with Jesus Christ, and thus with the Father and the Holy Spirit. As a Christian, you have been adopted into the family of God, sealed by the Holy Spirit, and will ultimately be glorified in heaven. Nothing can separate you from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus the Lord.

(B) Until glorification and the full experience of our redemption in Jesus Christ believers have an ongoing battle with sin - sin that dishonors God, sin that breaks our fellowship with and others, and sin that causes us repeatedly to go to God in confession and the request, “Please forgive me for ____.”

It is this 2nd aspect of forgiveness, the forgiveness of God as our Father, the continual daily cleansing from the consequences of sin, and restoration in our relationship with God (cf. John 13).

(3) Because forgiveness is essential to unity and growth.

Brings us to the 2nd half of the Lord’s statement: “as we have forgiven those indebted to us” - it is coming to God in prayer asking Him to treat us in the same way that we treat others.

(A) He does not mean that salvation rest on the work of forgiveness; this would deny all that God has revealed (“justified by faith” “by works of the Law shall no flesh be justified in His sight”).

Even in the OT year of Jubilee in which every 50th year all debts were cancelled, slaves set free, property returned, the grounds for such release was God’s work of redemption on their behalf: Deut. 15:15 “You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the LORD your God redeemed you; therefore I command you this today.”

Remember that you & I were once slaves to sin. Your forgiveness of others is not to earn anything from God - you cannot - but is from gratitude, thankfulness, and loving obedience for what God has already accomplished for you in Christ.

Christians should be the most forgiving people in the world, because we are the only one’s who truly understand forgiveness.

(B) The assumption is that before coming to God to ask for forgiveness, you have already forgiven and been forgiving in your own heart and toward others - and God knows.

He means that you and I are to go to God in sincerity of heart, with the understanding that He is omniscient - (6:4) “The One who is seeing in secret.” He sees everything, He knows everything, even the thoughts and intentions of your heart.

You are saying, “Father, I want you to search out my heart, to know me, and though I am not perfect I want you to treat me in the matter of forgiveness in the way I treat others.” To come to God like this immediately exposes any sin, self-righteousness, and hypocrisy that is residing and hiding and lurking in the dark corners of our heart.

(C) Thirdly in order to pray “forgive us our debts as we forgive those indebted to us,” - you and I must understand what it means to forgive another person.

Therefore, it is important to be very practical, and to distinguish between the attitude of forgiveness and the act (or, transaction) of forgiveness.

(A) The attitude of forgiveness is an eagerness to forgive (**Mark 11:25-26 [note: the Lord has already dealt with the other side of this coin in Matt. 5:21-26]).

But, here in Mark, it is a matter of what you & I may have against another. Note also, it is an imperative, i.e. A command. In other words, to not have an attitude of forgiveness toward another is sin.

Beloved, this is so important for you and I to grasp. We are to be like God: Ps. 86:5 “For you, Lord, are good and ready to forgive, and abundant in lovingkindness to all who call upon You.” (cf. Luke 15:17-24).

So, the attitude of forgiveness means you are not bitter, holding a grudge, or holding on to secret anger, but truly desires what is best for that person and still seeks to meet their needs (Rom. 12:19-21).

Beloved, of all the people in the world, Christians are to be marked by love for one another, and love is no more clearly seen than in our eagerness to forgive one another (**Eph. 4:31-5:2).

(B) The action of forgiveness is what happens when sin is acknowledged and forgiveness is sought. God does not forgive sin apart from repentance, and neither can Christians.

God shows kindness to His enemies (Matt. 5:44-45), and so should we, but He does not forgive them of their sins.

If there is no repentance, no acknowledging of sin on the part of the offender, then there is no transaction of forgiveness, and the intimacy of relationship cannot be restored until the sin is dealt with (Lk. 17:3-4 [TURN TO]).

You and I, while not being bitter (Eph. 4:26-27), are nonetheless to withhold intimate fellowship. To speak peace and restoration too soon removes the element of conviction and the consequences of that person sin and only encourages furthers hardness of heart.

Let me ask you a question, when you sin and fail to confess it and forsake it before God, what happens in your relationship to God? Is it like David in Psalm 32 “You hand was heavy upon me … my strength wasted away as with the fever heat of summer”?

Do you not experience a removal of a sense of God’s presence and blessing? A removal of fellowship with Him?

I ask you again, does this not then weigh heavy upon your heart and make you long to be restored and reconciled in your relationship to Him? Does it not compel and drive you to deal with the sin in your heart? Does it cause you to fear His discipline and His chastening of you for that sin?

It is this very experience that confirms you as being a child of God, that affirms your salvation - that you hate sin and love Christ; that you long to rid yourself of anything that breaks your fellowship with Him. *I ask you, is that true of you? Do you know the experience that I’m speaking of?

It is this reality that is behind the command to exercise church discipline (Matthew 18:18-20).

Note: the Jesus is not talking about every single sin, but those that are habitual, destructive to relationships, destructive to the unity of the body, to the testimony of the church.

Side Note, language is important: not “I’m sorry,” [please understand, I am not talking about general mistakes, but actual sin] but “Please forgive me, for ____” - let me tell you this is much more biblical and humbling.

At this point the action, or transaction of forgiveness takes place and that sin is then put away biblically.

Is 43:25 “I, even I, am the one who wipes out your transgressions for My own sake, and I will not remember your sins.” 38:17 “for You have cast al my sins behind Your back” [beautiful picture]; Ps. 103:12 “As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.”

You have sometimes heard the phrase “forgive and forget.” However, this is both unbiblical and unrealistic. If you say to someone, “I forgive you,” then you are making a commitment to forgive them as God has forgiven you. You are making a commitment to: (1) Never mentioned or bring it up to that person again to use it against them; (2) Not mentioned or brought up to another person; (3) Will not dwell on it, but when you are tempted to roll it over in your mind, you will immediately put it away.

Here’s the point: Forgiveness is active and not passive. It is a choice we make to forgive or not forgive, it is not something that just happens. To not forgive like this causes of division in the church and relationships.

This I last one is most certainly the hardest of the three, because nobody can see the inner thought of your heart - nobody, that is, except God whose eyes are continually gazing into the recesses of your hear that you sometimes may think are hidden to all but yourself.

Hebrews 4:13 “And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do.”

(C) How much should we forgive? Well, you can stop forgiving when we have forgiven as much as God has forgiven us in Christ. How much has God forgiven you? How often does God forgive you? That’s how much you and I are to forgive one another.

The words, “I just can’t forgive them,” should never come from the lips of a Christian’s mouth. And it really means, “I won’t forgive them.”

Our ability to be patient, merciful, and forgiving others is directly related to our awareness of our own sinfulness and need of grace. If you don’t think yourself to be such a great sinner, if you are not continually aware of, confessing, hating, and dealing with your own sin, then you will find it hard to be forgiving toward others.

It manifest a heart of self-righteousness, pride, spiritual blindness, and if consistent enough it could be evidence of being unregenerate.

LK 7:40-47 provides a good illustration here - those who know how much they have been forgiven, love Christ more deeply and in return can forgive more easily.


*Now come to our 4th and final point in why forgiveness is essential to the Christian life: (1. Reality of sin 2. Need God’s forgiveness 3. Essential to unity & growth 4. …)

(4) Because forgiveness marks a true believer.

(14-15) “For if …” [READ]. As we come into this section of verses let me first make a few observations.

(A) Jesus uses a stronger term for sin, “transgression,” [overstepping bounds of righteousness] although it is essentially synonymous with “debts.”

(B) Jesus broadens the scope of those within the radar of our forgiveness by using the term (avnqrw,poj), which speaks of men in general.

(C) Notice also that the phrase “for if” is introducing a conditional (if .. Then) statement that further explains v. 12.

Now, the fact that he singles out this one petition strongly underscores its importance in the mind & heart of God.

The major question that attends these verses is this: is Jesus talking about a believer? In other words, Is He saying that our failure to forgive others means that a person is not a child of God? Possibly. Let me explain.

(A) I believe here He is talking, primarily, about those in the kingdom. The main reason I believe this is because of His use of the term “Your Father,” which in the Sermon is consistently implies that those being spoken of are in the kingdom.

In what way doe He not forgive a Christian?

Those who will not show forgiveness are cutting themselves off from the forgiveness of God. God will condone sin (Ps. 66:18 “If I regard wickedness in my heart the Lord will not hear”) - is a basic principle in our relationship with God. No matter how much you may weep and pour your heart out to God, He will not forgive you, He will not be gracious toward an unforgiving child.

(B) Though Jesus is here specifically referring to believers it does not meant that there is not also a warning that to fail to exercise forgiveness as a pattern of one’s life is a dangerous path.

7:21 “Many will say to Me on that day, “Lord, Lord, didn’t we … and I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you. Depart from Me you who work lawlessness.” Some will make it all the way to judgment, who had a form of godliness although they knew nothing of its internal, transforming power; they were not inwardly broken by the gospel, trusting in Christ, and willing to do the will of the Father. They were not willing to forgive.

Beloved, salvation begins with humility before God (18:1-5). And salvation brings a transformation - now it is not perfection and in the end only God knows the heart - if a person does not model the pursuit of righteousness in their life, or specifically, if a person is marked by a habitual, characteristic attitude of pride and unforgiveness then you have no reason to be assured that God has done a regenerating and saving work in your heart.

Love for the brethren is basic Christianity and evidence of the Spirit. The greatest example of love is forgiveness (1 John 1:5; 2:3; 3:7-14).

It is pride and hypocrisy to go to the Lord and ask for forgiveness and expect Him to respond in mercy and not be willing to extend that same forgiveness to some one else. And believe me that person’s sin against you does not even come close to the degree that your sin is to an infinitely holy God. No one could ever sin against you or me to the degree that we have sinned against God, and you or I could never forgive another as much as God has forgiveness us in Christ.

A key parallel text [we will end here]: Matt. 18:21-35 [WALK THROUGH PARABLE].

Some hold that the debt is for mercy, however, it is hard to get that from the text. True the parable is teaching about mercy and its importance as an evidence of kingdom life. However, to give the term an entirely new meaning does not seem justifiable.

If that were the case, the Lord could easily and naturally in the flow of the parable said something like, “Until you should learn to have mercy,” but He did not. He said until, “you should pay back all that you owe.”

Here, the Lord is emphasizing the consequences of not showing mercy. Also, James 2:13.

So, the Lord teaches us to pray, “forgive us our debts, as we have forgiven those indebted to us.” And so confirms the reality of sin, the need to constantly seek God’s forgiveness, that there is not unity or spiritual growth among God’s people without forgiveness, and it is one of the surest marks of regeneration.

The Lord has taught us, now may we, by His grace, walk in it.


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