If you do not forgive as is stated by Jesus in the Lord’s prayer (Matt. 6:12-15), then is your salvation nullified because it is stated, “If you do not forgive then neither will your Father in Heaven forgive you”?
I am writing this consideration as a response to a question that came up in our home group. We were in a discussion about Salvation and how secure it is once we have accepted Jesus as our Lord and Saviour. In other words, can we lose our Salvation in certain circumstances?
This is a very in-depth subject, but, for the main, I want to keep this discussion close to this specific question.
Here are 7 points that I want the reader to consider in this discussion.
God as revealed in Scripture is consistent and unwavering in His pursuit of humanity.
- It is His plan to save humanity.
- Old Covenant/New Covenant. When did they change over?
- Is God’s Grace enough?
- What happens when we don’t forgive?
- How are we forgiven?
- What happens when we forgive
1) God as revealed in Scripture is consistent and unwavering in His pursuit of humanity.
Scripture is constant in revelation, and must be taken in context and measured by The Covenant.
We look through the scriptures and see God dealing with people in many and varied ways. From Job to King David, Saul to Daniel, we will see attributed to God, everything from, wealth to famine, health and sickness, winning battles and losing battles. If we look at the circumstances then we will be a little confused. But God showed us in the Old Testament what He expected from His people. Israel was selected by God to enter into a Covenant relationship with Himself. The structure was laid down and in Deuteronomy, God says basically, “stay within these rules that I set before you, pursue and Worship Me only, and you will be blessed.” Deut. 28:1-13. “Walk away from these rules and My Worship and you will be at the mercy of death and corruption and not my protection.” Deut. 28:15-63.
God was nothing but consistent in His dealings with Israel, though He showed Mercy after Mercy for those who broke the rules, if they turned back to Him, even if they did fail. King David wrote so beautifully of this in the Psalms.
God carries this consistency into the New Testament, only, in the New Covenant He changes the requirement to access the blessings He promised, to one based not on fulfilling rules, but based wholly on what Jesus did on the Cross. The New Covenant.
I just want to quickly cover one thing. If you take a literal view of what is said in Matt6: 12-15, saying it is plain as day what Jesus meant, forgive or you won’t be forgiven, then you will have problems with other things that Jesus said as well. In Matt 18:8, Jesus clearly says, “if your hand or eye causes you to sin, cut if off or pluck it out”. I think we will quickly revise our literal interpretations of such a verse and seek to put it in context.
We have to be consistent with how we interpret scripture. The only way to do this is hold it up to the relationship that God established for us, that is The Covenant.
2) It is God’s Plan to Save Humanity.
There is nothing a man or woman can do to make themselves worthy for Salvation. In fact, the disciples of Jesus discovered this while talking to Him in Matt. 19:25-26. The disciples were shocked when Jesus said to them that “ it was easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a Needle than for a rich man to be Saved. The Disciples exclaimed to Jesus, “ Who then can be saved?” Jesus looked at them and said, “With man, this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
Salvation is impossible without a God who is willing to do the impossible to restore the relationship, and might I add, pay the price required for such a Salvation.
3) Old Covenant/New Covenant, When did they Change Over.
This is very important when considering the Scripture in Matthew that is causing us concern. We have to consider carefully what Jesus was saying and to whom, and at what point in time the change occurs from Old Covnant to New Covenant?
Let me be plain. Up until Jesus died on the Cross, the Old Covenant was firmly in place. Until the blood was spilt at Calvary, the New Covenant had not come into force. The blood spilt by Jesus was God’s signature on the New Covenant, and from that moment on, the Covenant statement that Jesus made on the Cross came into being. Luke 23:34 “Father, forgive them for they don’t know what they are doing”.
From that moment on, when we recognise the need for forgiveness, we look to the cross and find a new relationship (Covenant) based on what God did and committed himself to, not what we do. He paid the price and Jesus then said, “It is finished”. Saying, no more needs to be done for us to be forgiven. We just need to accept the incredible work of God’s Grace to be saved and forgiven.
So back to Matt. 6:12-15.
We have established that Jesus was still walking and talking in the Old Covenant, to proud Jews who considered themselves to be the custodians of the True God and His writings of the Torah and the Prophets.
These proud Jews were happy to take an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, or a life for a life, while they were waiting for the yearly sacrifice to be made for their sin. Jesus, stating to these Jews that if they didn’t forgive, they wouldn’t be forgiven, was not just radical, it could have been blasphemous in their eyes.
Jesus was showing them a different way of thinking. He was also reawakening the Jews eyes to the restoration of the Kingdom of God in which forgiveness to those who wronged you, was the Kingdom way.
These Jews would have understood this and they would have interpreted what He said in the light of the Old Covenant teaching.
Jesus said in verse 14, “For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your Heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others for their transgressions, your Heavenly Father will not forgive you.”
As soon as they heard the word “transgressions”, the Jews would have understood He was referring to the “Law”. The only way for transgressions to be dealt with was for the sin created by the transgression of the Law, to be laid on the scapegoat by the priest, as stipulated in the Mosaic Covenant.
If they did not forgive the transgressor, it would be like crossing your fingers and renouncing the forgiveness that was provided by God.
The “Kingdom of God” is built on forgiveness and its incredible power to release people from the bondage of sin.
So clearly Jesus was not referring to the New Covenant but pointing to its power.
4) Is God’s Grace Enough?
John the Baptist saw Jesus and said, “Behold the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the World”. John 1:29.
John, though being under the Old Covenant, saw Jesus for what He was about to become, the Lamb of God, that would take our sin, all sin, past, present and future, and set it aside so that mankind was able to appropriate righteousness, not of his own, but based on Faith. Rom. 3:22-26. In order to have righteousness, you have to have forgiveness.
If this forgiveness is based on Faith in what Jesus has done on the Cross, and not our actions/works, then there is no power great enough by anyone who accepts Jesus as Lord and Saviour that can render what God has done null and void. He paid so great a price to establish this redemption that merely being imperfect and holding unforgiveness in our hearts will not overshadow God’s great forgiveness toward us.
The only way to lose your forgiveness and salvation is having heard the message of God’s grace toward us, choosing to turn our back and reject the forgiveness offered and by blaspheming the Holy Spirit in the process. This is a conscious act of rejection, not a moment of doubt or an inability to forgive someone because of hurt that we haven’t been able to deal with as yet.
If you accept that Jesus died on the cross for your sin, you are saved and forgiven.
5) So, What Happens When We Don’t Forgive?
If we can’t lose our Salvation, then what happens if we don’t forgive?
To understand this, we need to go back to the New Covenant.
Jesus established a New Kingdom, which He referred to in the Gospels. A place where God is made King. In order to be King, we need to make Him King. In other words, we must use our God given “Power to Choose” and begin to make Kingdom choices. The Kingdom is based on the Covenant cut by Jesus, so there are blessings and promises that are available to the believer if they choose God’s way in their life. These are an inheritance which will flow to those that allow the Holy Spirit to shape the choices they make, and a fruit will grow in their lives as per Gal. 5:22-23.
So if a believer chooses not to forgive, then because it is not what the Holy Spirit would prompt you to do, you then will reap the fruit of unforgiveness in which you will lose the inheritance of the Kingdom in that area of your life, that is, you will loose your peace, your joy, kindness, gentleness etc. You will not lose your Salvation, because it is inherent to God’s work of the New Covenant.
In other words you are cutting yourself off from the flow of the richness of Gods life into yours.
6) How are We Forgiven?
Rom 8:1 “Therefore, there is NO condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus”.
This incredible statement comes after Paul has basically stated, paraphrasing, “I know what I should do, but I don’t do it”. We know that we should forgive, but some of us, for whatever reason, can’t at this time. Ok, it’s not God’s way, but He will not condemn us if “we are in Christ Jesus”. This is a Covenant statement. As soon as the words have left our mouths, “I accept you as my Lord and Saviour, Jesus I believe in you”, YOU ARE “ IN CHRIST ”. ALL condemnation is gone from God Himself and He reaches out His hand and raises you up to live in Him. We are Forgiven. Nothing will change that.
Now to live in the fullness of abundant life, we should forgive. If we can’t, God knows it will hurt us, but He will gently encourage us to forgive others because He knows it will unlock the flow of His life into our lives.
Similarly, if we lie, get angry, steal, disobey the Law, are jealous or lustful, all these things will block the flow of Gods life into our lives.
We need to lay all sin in our lives at the Cross and choose God’s way of living to release the life, the fullness of His life.
7) What Happens When We Forgive?
This is the most incredible part about God’s forgiveness to us is, He forgave us first; He didn’t wait for us to do it first.
As forgiven people, we have the freedom to forgive first. In doing so, we bring God’s Kingdom to Earth. It has been said “we are no more like God than when we choose to forgive”.
If you want to open the door to Kingdom Living, forgive everyone, everyday and thank God for the forgiveness freely given to you.
So in summing up. What Jesus said in Matt. 6 was very specific to the Old Covenant listeners to whom He was talking. Salvation and forgiveness is God’s business. He paid the complete and total price for your and mankind’s forgiveness. Nothing we do will negate it. It was paid for in blood.
Now, choose to forgive, so God’s life might flow out of you into this world and be an agent of Grace in a world that cries out for God’s reality.
©2012 Peter MacDonald Dunlop ACT Australia