Forgiving One Another
Why, What, Who, and How
1. Forgiveness is needed because believers don’t always get along. Sometimes we fight and quarrels arise.
2. Last week we looked at quarrels that arose in the early church.
a. Quarrels arose over widows being neglected.
b. Conflict and division around personalities.
c. Evidently some quarrels were so severe they went to court.
d. There were quarrels that resulted in church splits; sometimes over huge issues such as the gospel and doctrine; other times over foolish issues (who got the biggest slice of ham at the church dinner!)
e. Some quarrels resulted in divorce; broken friendships and broken fellowship.
f. Paul and Barnabus fought; Paul and Peter had a spat; Euodias and Syntyche fought; etc.
g. God’s Word reveals MANY quarrels among believers. The Bible speaks the truth. It does not sugarcoat anything to make Christians look good. Sometimes even godly men behave very poorly.
3. We need not spend a lot of time on the WHYS of forgiveness.
a. We are all too aware of WHY the command is given.
b. We are painfully aware of the kinds of quarrels that arise in life.
c. We saw in James 3:2 that in many things we ALL offend! All of us have been guilty of offending others… and we have all been offended by others.
d. We have a lot of experience in quarrels.
4. What we are not as experienced in is RESOLVING those quarrels in a Biblical manner.
a. Resolving quarrels does not always mean that I get my own way… or both parties will eventually see eye to eye on the issue.
b. Resolving quarrels does not mean that we will necessarily live happily ever after.
c. Resolving the issue Biblically MAY mean that we have to suffer a long time through it (longsuffering)… and that we may have to put up with a lot… (forbearing)…
d. And through all that longsuffering and forbearance… God is at work changing ME… even if the circumstances never change!
e. God works in us THROUGH the unfavorable circumstances that precipitated the quarrel to make us more like Christ.
f. We are going to see a little later on that quarrels come for a God given purpose… to put us to the test and help us learn to appreciate our forgiveness in Christ.
g. And if quarrels and controversy result in accomplishing THAT… it is WORTH putting up with it all… and suffering… even for a long time!
h. ALL things work together for good to them that love God… even quarrels among the saints can result in GOOD… IF we learn to forgive as Christ forgave us.
i. Quarrels initiate this… and if we are wise and Spirit filled… the end result will be Christlikeness manifested in YOU… whether or not the outward circumstances change.
j. God’s purpose for His people is not to transform our circumstances and make life in this world sunny and wonderful.
k. God’s purpose is to transform US into the image of His Son… and sometimes, that’s tough work… but WORTH it!
l. How much do you love Christ? How much do you want to see HIM magnified and glorified in and through you? Then how much are you willing to suffer? How much are you willing to bear? How much are you willing to forgive?
m. All of this is a test of our love for Christ.
5. So WHY do we need to practice forgiveness?
a. Because quarrels WILL come; therefore, we need to learn to forgive. It is God’s means of resolving quarrels… and so making peace.
b. More importantly, we are to forgive because God SAID so.
6. This comes in the form of a command, though not in the imperative.
a. It is SIN NOT to forgive another…
b. Matt. 6:12-14 – if we don’t forgive others, God will not forgive us! (family – relational forgiveness)
c. If we refuse to forgive, we too are living in sin… just like the party that sinned against us! We are no better than they!
d. If we refuse to forgive, we are holding a grudge, and that is sin… harboring SIN in our hearts and God will not hear our prayers.
e. We are walking in darkness and have no fellowship with God… even if we FEEL justified in our actions.
f. A refusal to forgive carries with it serious consequences.
g. That’s another reason WHY we should forgive.
7. An unforgiving spirit opens us up to satanic attack! We give the devil an open door! (II Cor. 2:7-11)
a. Holding grudges against others leaves us wide open for the devil to have an advantage over us.
b. Paul warned the assembly of the awful consequences of NOT forgiving a brother—even the one who had so grievously sinned and marred the testimony of Christ.
c. If he repents, forgive him… and if the whole assembly refuses to forgive, then the whole assembly is in sin.
d. If we DON’T forgive, malice will fester in our hearts and pent up emotions will lead to other sins… our hearts will be full of the sins mentioned in vs. 8-9.
• We have left the door wide open for our adversary.
• What havoc the devil can wreak, if we refuse to forgive a brother.
e. If we DO forgive, we open the door for the Lord to fill our hearts with the love of God… (Col. 3:14)
f. The command to forgive one another in the church goes way beyond the two parties involved. It can affect the whole church!
WHO: One Another
1. We saw in James 3:2 that we ALL offend. Therefore, we ALL need to listen to what God has to say about forgiveness.
2. We are to forgive one another.
a. This term is reciprocal.
b. Usually when quarrels arise, there is need for forgiveness on BOTH sides…
c. In most quarrels there is plenty of blame to spread around.
d. Usually both parties have said and done things that they should not have said or done.
e. Therefore Paul says that we are to forgive one another… mutual forgiveness.
f. Party A is to forgive party B and party B is to forgive party A.
g. Or (as is often the case in our homes) he has to forgive her; and she has to forgive him.
h. If the quarreling was reciprocal, then the forgiveness needs to be reciprocal: one another…
3. In particular, “one another” speaks of ALL of us as believers.
a. Church members – brothers and sisters in Christ.
b. One another extends to spouses; children; parents; neighbors; co-workers… One another includes a lot of people!
c. Believers of all ages. Men, women, and children.
d. We all offend. We all fight and quarrel at times… Yes, even in God’s family it is sometimes hard to get along…
e. Someone put it this way:
To live above with saints we love,
Oh, that will be glory!
But to live below with saints we know,
Well, that’s another story!
4. The kind of forgiveness Paul has in mind in this passage is forgiveness of one another.
a. He is not speaking of God forgiving us…
b. The context speaks of men forgiving other men… because of quarrels or complaints that arose… one against another.
c. So we want to keep our remarks today in this context.
A. Different terms
1. ἀφίημι – to send away;
a. Matt. 13:26 – Jesus “sent away” the multitude.
b. To let go from obligation toward oneself, to remit, e.g., a debt, offense, (Matt. 18:27, 32, 35; Mark 11:25).
c. Of sins, to remit the penalty of sins, i.e., to pardon, forgive.
d. It is translated “remission” of sins on occasion – sending them away.
2. ἄφεσις – to cause to stand away, to release one’s sins from the sinner. Forgiveness, remission.
a. This is another form of ἀφίημι … but the lexicons list them separately.
b. This kind of divine forgiveness required Christ’s sacrifice as punishment of sin, hence the putting away of sin and the deliverance of the sinner from the guilt AND power of sin.
c. This is the most common word for “forgiveness” in the epistles.
d. This term is almost always used of the sending away of sins. (12 out of 17 times.)
e. This is the term used of God forgiving our sins… not of men forgiving other men.
f. The concept of sending away our sins includes the following:
• Sending them away as far as the east is from the west… infinitely removed… (Psalm 103:12)
• Penalty is gone… the guilt is gone… the sin is removed! A separation of the sin and its penalty from the sinner has occurred.
• That’s what it means to be forgiven: our sins are GONE!
• This was pictured in the Old Testament by the goat sacrifices.
1. One goat was slain and its blood shed (picturing the price of remission of sins).
2. The priests laid their hands on the head of the other goat and it was released into the wilderness never to return (picturing the fact of imputation and that our sins are sent away… gone!)
Though not exclusively, these first two terms are used most often of God’s forgiveness of us.
• They therefore speak about judicial forgiveness which only God, the judge of the world, can grant.
• This speaks of sins being forgiven in GOD’S sight.
• Freedom FROM that sin (we were slaves to sin; forgiveness separates us from the sin.)
• It is not freedom IN sin or freedom TO sin. Forgiveness does not condone sin.
• Hence, there is no forgiveness if we continue in the sin.
3. χαρίζομαι – to bestow freely; to “grace”; to give graciously.
a. This is the term used most often of man forgiving man.
• This is the term used in Col. 3:13.
• It is used only rarely of God forgiving men.
• On a judicial level, human beings cannot forgive the sins of other men committed against God because in that sense, only GOD can forgive sins. (Mark 2:7 – ἀφίημι)
• But, on a relational level, we are expected to forgive others for the sins committed against us. This is what Paul commands in our passage in Col. 3:13.
• Ultimately, EVERY sin is a sin against God… even those sins against us are ultimately against God.
• We have no right or capacity to forgive on a vertical plane… but only on the horizontal…
• But on a relational level, we ARE to forgive one another.
b. Defined by Strong’s: to show one’s self gracious, to give graciously, give freely, bestow; to grant forgiveness, to pardon.
• This is a form of the word for “grace”… literally “gracing one another.”
• The term means to “grace” someone… to shower grace upon someone. To shower unmerited favor upon another.
• Rather than demanding justice and a fair payment, we shower grace… unmerited favor.
• Thus, it has a rather broad meaning, and it is possible to “grace” someone in many different ways.
c. The context has to determine what KIND of gracing is meant.
• Luke 7:21 – to the blind he “gave” sight. He graced the blind with sight.
• Luke 7:41-42 – forgiving a debt of money owed… that was a grace gift. (They had nothing to pay!)
• Philemon 22 – Paul was “freely given” to them as a gift… Paul was a grace gift to them… they were graced with his presence.
d. This term is translated “forgiven” in Col. 2:13 – and in relationship to our sins.
• There it obviously means to forgive sins… and is so translated. It is here used of GOD forgiving our sins.
• God “graced us” concerning our sins! He pardoned them.
e. The term is used in Col. 3:13 and is translated “forgive.”
• If any man has a quarrel with another, instead of showering one another with daggers and harsh words, we are to shower them with grace!
• And just to make it crystal clear what kind of “gracing” Paul is speaking of, the same term is used later in the verse: “even as Christ forgave you.”
• It is used 2 times in Eph. 4:32 and both times translated “forgive.”
• When someone sins against us… we are to respond by showering them with grace… gracing them.
f. But what if they have been unbelievably cruel to me? What if they have sinned grievously against me? What if they don’t deserve to be forgiven? God’s command still stands: shower them with unmerited favor! Forgive them…
g. And the present participle in Col. 3:13 indicates that we are to CONTINUE to shower grace upon them!
4. Exactly what does it MEAN to forgive someone who has wronged me?
a. Note that we are to forgive AS we have been forgiven… in the same manner that God forgave us, we are to forgive others. That helps DEFINE forgiveness for us.
b. How did God forgive our sins against Him?
• He removed them from us as far as the east is from the west. (Ps. 103:12)
• He threw them behind His back. (Isa. 38:17)
• He blotted them out. (Isa. 43:25)
• Thou wilt cast all their sins into the depths of the sea. (Micah 7:19)
• When God forgave us, He separated our sin and guilt from us… they are sent away… gone.
• Sin has been separated from the sinner… removed forever… gone.
c. God REMEMBERS our sins no more. (Heb. 10:17)
• Be careful here! God is omniscient!
• God uses language of men that we might understand.
• When God forgives us, He doesn’t FORGET like we forget… (burnt out brain cells… old age…)
• God knows all things always. Information is never deleted from His memory.
• BUT, when He forgives us, He CHOOSES not to bring our sin to His remembrance.
• It is an act of His will.
• This is HOW we are to forgive others.
• We might not actually forget the offence… at least not right away. That might take much time… but the forgiveness is to be granted right away!
• When we forgive a brother who has sinned against us, we are to cast their sin in the sea… bury it… and CHOOSE not to bring it to our mind again… ever!
• And if it DOES pop into our mind, (the flesh LOVES to bring it up), cast it out…, refuse to dwell upon it… re-bury it… 490 times if necessary!
• AND when God forgives us, He never rubs the sin in our face… the sin is GONE… there is NO condemnation… He doesn’t dig up old offences and remind us of them… over and over again… to hurt us or make us feel guilty.
• He treats us as if the offence had never occurred. (Isn’t God gracious?)
• That’s how we are to forgive too.
5. Forgiveness is not something we FEEL. It is something we GIVE.
a. The term forgive in Col. 3:13 means to grace… to give freely…
b. Forgiveness is something we choose to GIVE to another… regardless of merit… it is a gracious giving…
c. In volatile situations with grievous offences, feelings get hurt—a lot! Wounds are etched deep into the soul. The hurt can last a LONG time.
d. If the offending party says he repents, how can I forgive that person… what if I don’t FEEL like forgiving them? Wouldn’t I be acting like a hypocrite to say “I forgive you” if I don’t feel any forgiveness?
e. Not so! Forgiveness can be granted completely independent of feelings. God doesn’t tell us what to feel; He tells us what to DO.
f. In fact, it is possible to use our feelings as an excuse NOT to forgive a brother, when God clearly commands us to do so!
g. When God commands us to forgive a brother, He expects us to OBEY… regardless of how we feel.
• We are not to wait until we FEEL like forgiving.
• That day may never come.
• When you tell your son to pick up his messy room… and he said, “I don’t feel like it,”—that’s not an acceptable answer! How would you respond? Do you wait until he FEELS like it, or do you expect him to obey?
h. If our brother sins against us, we confront him, and he says he repents, then we are to forgive as God forgave us… not because we FEEL like it, but because God said so!
i. We are to BURY the issue… and CHOOSE to bring it to remembrance NO MORE. At that point, it is a dead issue, never to be dug up again.
j. If it is forgiven, it is GONE… If we grant forgiveness, when we say, “I forgive you,” we are giving our word that we will not bring up that issue again. Period.
k. That’s what forgiveness means.
B. Jesus on Forgiveness
1. Matt. 18:21-22 – Cf. what Christ said about the need for ongoing forgiveness.
a. Jesus had just taught about how to deal with a brother who sins against you. (vs. 15) (You’d be surprised how EASILY many offences can be cleared up—often they are misunderstandings)!
b. Peter mulled over in his mind what Jesus had just said.
• If you go to that brother with your complaint against him… and tell him how he sinned against you, and he HEARS you (responds in a right way – by apologizing)… then you have gained a brother. The relationship is restored. Forgive him—the quarrel is over.
• Perhaps Peter had a particular issue in mind… of a brother who sinned against him. We don’t know whether Peter had an actual or hypothetical case in mind we don’t know for sure.
• Perhaps there was a brother who had sinned against Peter, and Peter began to think through what Jesus said.
• What if I go to that brother, and he repents and I forgive him… and then he turns around and does it again? What then!?
• That is not an unrealistic hypothetical!
c. Peter wanted to know just HOW longsuffering he should be with a brother who sins against him. If I forgive him once, what if he does it again?
d. So Peter suggested to Jesus 7 times.
• He no doubt thought be was being gracious, magnanimous, and patient.
• If this sin occurred once, and then he did it again, one would naturally question the sincerity of the “so called” repentance on the part of the offending party. I sure would.
• It’s hard to believe someone who sins against you, apologizes, and then turns around and does it all over again!
• Peter probably thought he was bending over backwards to be gracious in being willing to forgive a brother 7 times! Surely that is showering grace upon him!
• He may have expected Jesus to praise him for being so longsuffering!
• Maybe he expected the Lord to lessen the number to 2 or 3 times…
e. But Jesus responded by saying, 70 times 7! (490 times!)
• That probably let the air out of Peter’s balloon.
• The Lord was trying to elevate Peter’s concept of grace… and of longsuffering… and of forgiveness.
• God’s threshold for being forbearing, longsuffering, and showering grace is far above ours; as far as heaven is above the earth.
• What Jesus was saying, in earthly, human terms we could grasp, that there is no limit when it comes to forgiving others… and showering grace upon them!
f. While it is relatively easy to mentally grasp what Jesus said… it is incredibly difficult to apply it to a real life situation.
• Put yourself in such a place—where someone sins grievously against you… and you have confronted the brother 100 times for the same issue…
• Every time you confront him, you get the same response: I’m sorry. I repent. Forgive me… and the next week he does it all over again.
• Jesus said we are to continue to forgive him.
2. There is a difference between believing him and forgiving him.
a. If I forgave someone for sinning against me, and he did it over and over again… sometime before the 490th transgression, I think I would realize that he’s not being honest!
b. We are commanded to forgive him; we are not commanded to believe him.
c. Forgive means that we willingly choose not bring up the offence forgiven…
d. Our gut feeling may tell us that this guy is taking advantage of the situation… that he has not genuinely repented… that there isn’t one ounce of sincerity in him.
e. However, we walk by FAITH… not by gut feelings.
f. We are to do what God’s Word tells us rather than what our feelings tell us…
g. Gut feelings can be wrong; God’s Word is perfect.
h. So even if deep down in my gut I don’t believe him, God says to forgive him… 490 times and beyond.
i. If he wants to play games, let him. But MY responsibility is to obey God no matter what.
j. God will not judge me for what the other person does… or whether he was genuine or not. But God will judge me for how I respond to the Scriptures. (Did I obey or not?)
3. There is another element that enters into forgiveness between brothers: REPENTANCE.
a. Luke 17:3-5 – Here the Lord speaks of the same scenario: a brother who sins against you multiple times.
b. But here Jesus AMPLIFIES what He meant in Matt. 18 by “if he HEARS thee, thou hast gained a brother.”
c. HEARING implies more than the vibration of eardrums! It is often used as a synonym for obedience… IF he hears the complaint against him, acknowledges his sin, and repents.
d. Notice, repentance is required if forgiveness is to be granted.
• We are not required to grant forgiveness UNTIL the offending party has acknowledged his sin and repent.
• However, even if he does not repent, we are not to harbor ill feelings, malice, hatred, or hold a grudge.
• We are to maintain a spirit of forgiveness and grace, regardless of the response of the other party.
• Their poor behavior is never an EXCUSE for us to harbor ill will or to hold a grudge.
• God wants us to be godly and Christlike regardless of how others treat us.
• I Peter 2:19-23 – be willing to suffer wrongfully if need be… and COMMIT the whole situation into God’s care.
• We need to be continually READY to forgive… as the Lord is ready and waiting to forgive all men!
e. Notice also (in Luke 17) that this sin occurs 7 times in one day! That’s hard to believe the sincerity of his repentance! There is no time for fruit of repentance to be manifested.
f. We CANNOT judge his heart. We cannot know for sure if he is sincere.
g. But if he SAYS (words only!) he repents, we are to forgive him. (Maybe not believe him, but forgive him… and treat him as one who is forgiven.)
• In other words, he doesn’t have to PROVE himself to you or me.
• We are to take him at his word… even if he sins 8 times a day!
• We are not to demand evidence of repentance… (not if we are to forgive him 7 times a day)!
• Granting forgiveness is not based on the other party’s behavior… We are to take him at his word.
h. If he SAYS “I repent,” we are commanded to grant him forgiveness… bury the offence… choose to never bring it up again… and treat him as if it never happened. Ouch!
• Talk about putting yourself in a vulnerable position…
• Talk about turning the other cheek… being utterly selfless…
• Talk about allowing yourself to be defrauded…
• Forgiveness incorporates ALL of that…
• But mostly, it is the LIFE of Christ being manifested through us… as we forgive others AS He forgave us!
• WE (self) couldn’t do that. It requires a new kind of life… a life that is dead to self… dead to the world’s way of doing business… and a life that is hidden away with God in Christ… a life energized by the power of the resurrection…
• When THAT kind of forgiveness is granted, it is obvious that something supernatural is working in our midst… and what a testimony to the power of Christ in our lives when we obey.
• What could be more like Christ than to forgive… to shower grace upon undeserving sinners who have harmed us, hurt us, offended us, trampled over us, treated us cruelly, viciously, maliciously…
• What could be more like Christ – who when He was beaten, spat upon, whipped, mocked, then taken to Golgotha where the Roman soldiers were in the very act of nailing Him to the cross, He cried out, Father forgive them, for they know not what they do!
i. If he SAYS “I repent,” we are commanded to grant him forgiveness… bury the offence… choose to never bring it up again… and treat him as if it never happened
j. These are difficult words to digest. We are likely to gag a bit at these words. They are arresting, surprising, startling, puzzling, and downright painful. No wonder the apostles then asked the Lord to increase their faith! (Luke 17:5)
• We need FAITH for that…
• We need to really TRUST God in those situations.
• The offending party who sins against us 7 times a day may be taking advantage of us… and playing games.
• We are to grant forgiveness and TRUST God to take care of that person. God will… in His time and in His way. Nobody ever plays games with God and wins.
• We need to believe that and trust God… trust and obey.
To REALLY understand forgiveness, contemplate the CROSS.
· There, God provided forgiveness of sins for the whole world.
· Have YOU received forgiveness of sins? It is available to you… offered to you… by faith. (Col.1:14 – In Him)