In Matt 6:12, we read, “And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.”
Being human guarantees people will sometimes hurt you intentionally or unintentionally. When people hurt us, it isn’t easy to forgive them. Our hurt is real, we have genuine pain, and we feel justified in seeking revenge. But the Bible says we dont get to seek revenge; we have to forgive, which can be very difficult, but it is a choice between heaven or hell for us. We can choose to hold on to unforgiveness and end up in hell, or we can choose to forgive and end up in heaven. This is why the Bible says in Matt 6:12, if we do not forgive them, God will not forgive us. If God does not forgive us, we are not saved. Forgiveness is difficult, but it is crucial for our salvation.
Even though all of this is true, there is a lot of confusion regarding forgiveness. Some see forgiveness as fellowship and trust, so if you dont trust someone or you dont fellowship with them, you have unforgiveness in your heart. Telling someone they have unforgiveness if they refuse to trust a person who hurt them needs to be examined to see if it is Biblical.
If we read Matt 6:12 in Greek, we understand forgiveness means surrendering our desire for revenge and trusting Yehovah to avenge us. We forgive when we trust Yehovah to uphold His law, and we trust Him to avenge what has happened to us.
What law? The law of Moses. We forgive when we trust Yehovah to uphold the law of Moses, and we trust Him to avenge what happened to us.
In the law of Moses, we find 100s of commandments telling us how to relate to our spouse, friends, employer, government, and the society around us. 1. John 3:4 says sin is lawlessness, so when someone sins against us, they have broken the Mosaic law one way or the other. Because we have all at one time or another broken the law, and we have been forgiven for it when we repented back to the law and accepted Christ, Matt 18:21-35 says we do not have the legal right to punish someone for their sins against us.
We forgive when we trust Yehovah to uphold the law, and we know if He upholds His law, He will avenge what has happened to us.
So now we understand what forgiveness is, but how do we forgive? How do we trust Yehovah to uphold the law of Moses? By trusting His judgment on how to punish those who have hurt us.
First, we have to understand what sin is, according to the law of Moses. In the law, sin can either be intentional or unintentional. It can be a severe sin like murder or a less severe sin like theft. Sometimes we are even allowed to sin if choosing not to sin would result in losing a life or physical suffering.
We see this exemplified when it comes to murder and the Shabbat. If someone intentionally murders someone, they have to pay with their own life. If someone accidentally causes the loss of life, they do not have to pay with their own life. It is a sin to work on the Shabbat or to make others work that day. But if not working on the Shabbat or not making others work causes human suffering, you have to choose to violate the Shabbat to preserve life. Is it still a sin to violate the Shabbat if you have to do so to protect life? Yes, but it becomes an unintentional sin because your motive was not to violate the Shabbat. Your motive was to preserve life. Is it still a sin to cause another person’s death by accident? Yes, but it becomes an unintentional sin because your motive was not to murder someone. Up until 70 AD., all accidental sins could be atoned for in the temple, and they were forgiven by repentance. The temple is gone, but the Bible says in the book of Hebrews, Yeshua is right now in the heavenly temple atoning for our unintentional sins with His Blood. So now we who are saved atone for our accidental sins by repenting and renewing our faith in the Blood of Yeshua.
This also shows us how we are to judge other people’s sins against us. If it was unintentional, we must accept that Yehovah might not inflict very severe punishment on them.
But what about intentional sins?
Intentional sins, or high-handed sins, are sins committed with the intent of angering Yehovah. At one time or another, we had all done this before we got saved. We knew what was wrong to do, but we did it anyway because we wanted to provoke God into a response. The law of Moses does not permit atonement for someone who committed an intentional sin. So before Jesus died on the cross, if someone committed a deliberate sin, they had no way of atoning for what they had done. When Jesus died on the cross, the book of Romans says that for the first time in history, Yehovah made it possible for deliberate sins to be atoned for. So for the first time in history, someone who had committed an intentional sin could have their relationship with Yehovah restored. But as we read in Hebrews 10, this is a one-time offer. If you accept the Blood of Jesus for your sins and go on deliberate sinning, there is no turning back; you will be eternally lost. This is why the Bible says someone born of Yehovah is unable to sin, meaning they cannot commit intentional sins.
If someone sins intentionally against us, we know Yehovah’s punishment will be so much more severe than if they sinned unintentionally.
So trusting Yehovah to uphold His law is trusting Him to make the right decision on the severity of punishment, even if we might disagree with it. Somebody might have hurt you so deeply that you feel like almost giving up, but if Yehovah sees that what they did was unintentional, He will not punish them as severely as if it had been intended. This might be difficult for you to accept, but if you want to be forgiven for your sins, you have no choice but to accept it.
If someone sins unintentionally, they are forgiven when they repent of their sins and renew their faith in the Blood of Yeshua (Jesus.) When that happens, the relationship between them and Yehovah is restored and He can once more have fellowship with them.
This shows us that we are only to have fellowship with someone as long as they repent. If there is no repentance, then there is no fellowship. But even though there is no repentance, we still have to trust Yehovah to uphold His law and not be tempted into taking the law into our own hands.
If someone sins intentionally, calls themselves a Christian and refuses to repent, Paul says we are not even to eat with such a person.
This shows us that if a person refuses to repent, we cant have fellowship with them at all.
So what is forgiveness?
Forgiveness is what you do when you decide not to take the law into your own hands, but instead, trust Yehovah to uphold His law and make the correct judgment on the severity of punishment. Biblical forgiveness is not the same as fellowship. We are only to trust in someone and have fellowship with them if they have repented of their sins and prove their repentance in a changed life.
Has Yehovah forgiven you?
Even though you are saved and have repented from lawlessness, the Bible says you will continue to sin unintentionally. There could be many reasons you commit unintentional sins, some we discussed earlier in this sermon, but it could also be a lack of knowledge. Perhaps you are doing something wrong, but you dont know yet that what you are doing is forbidden in the law of Moses.
Repent of what you are doing, quit breaking the law of Moses, and renew your faith in the Blood of Yeshua. Then you will be forgiven, and your fellowship with Yehovah is restored.
Yehovah bless you.