14 “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, 15 but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” (Matthew 6:14–15 ESV)
Jesus had one more thing to say about prayer before He addressed the subject of fasting. Remember, these instructions and commands were/are for believers in Christ. They are not instructions on how to become converted, or even how to remain converted. Rather, they are evidences that one is converted.
Today’s text refers to forgiveness. To forgive (ἀφίημι; aphiemi) means to dismiss a sinful debt incurred by someone against you. The debt may involve something said or unsaid, done or not done. Forgiveness means to leave the hurt behind and to not harbor bitterness, wrath, anger or evil speaking against someone (Eph. 4:31-32). While we may never forget, God calls us to forgive.
The call to forgive is based upon the prior truth that God has forgiven us. When we choose to not forgive, this affects our intimate fellowship with the Lord. How can we presume that God will forgive us our sins against Him as believers in Christ when we chose to not forgive those who have sinned against us?
“This is not to suggest that God will withdraw justification from those who have already received the free pardon he extends to all believers. Forgiveness in that sense—a permanent and complete acquittal from the guilt and ultimate penalty of sin—belongs to all who are in Christ (cf. John 5:24; Rom. 8:1; Eph. 1:7),” explains Dr. John MacArthur.
“Yet, Scripture also teaches that God chastens his children who disobey (Heb. 12:5–7). Believers are to confess their sins in order to obtain a day-to-day cleansing (1 John 1:9). This sort of forgiveness is a simple washing from the worldly defilements of sin, not a repeat of the wholesale cleansing from sin’s corruption that comes with justification. It is like a washing of the feet rather than a bath (cf. John 13:10). Forgiveness in this latter sense is what God threatens to withhold from Christians who refuse to forgive others (cf. Matt. 18:23–35).”
Jesus taught that an unforgiving spirit will impact our intimate fellowship with the Lord. We must resolve to never let that happen. We must let go of the hurt we all too often harbor against others. Instead, we are to forgive as the Lord has forgiven us.
Have you asked the Lord to forgive you today? Have you forgiven others? These two disciplines go hand in hand. By doing so, we glorify the Lord. Have a blessed day in the Lord.
Soli deo Gloria!