We forgive because God forgave us

March 30, 2009

by Pastor Sven Johansson, Grace Apostles Lutheran Church, Cokato

The doctrine of the forgiveness of sins is very often misunderstood. When there is a matter of dispute or misunderstanding, we must look for the answer in the Bible.

The chief doctrine in Christianity is justification by faith. “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves; it is a gift of God.” Eph 2:8. “In whom we have redemption through his blood the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace.” Eph. 1: 17

Where is the misunderstanding? We cannot, and do not earn God’s forgiveness of our sins by our forgiving, but forgiveness of sins is given to us by God as a gift of grace. Faith alone saves.

The Bible speaks about this in a parable about a slave who owed an enormous sum of money to his master (Matt 18:23-35). The slave would never have been able to repay the loan in his lifetime, and so, he was commanded to be sold with his wife and children. This was an unbearable situation for the poor man so he pleaded with his master, promising he would repay everything.

His master felt sorry for him and forgave the loan. Think of it, a million dollar loan, or more, that was wiped out completely. Not one single payment had to be made from that moment on.

We could easily think this man was content and overjoyed for having such a merciful master. Not so. This man, whose large loan had been forgiven, had borrowed a small sum of money to a fellow slave. He demanded his money paid back immediately, seizing him and choking him. There was no mercy given. and he was thrown in prison since he was not able to pay.

Eventually, the master heard about what had happened and he was very angry and disappointed. “You wicked slave. I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. Should you not also have had mercy on your fellow slave, in the same way that I had mercy on you?”

This parable teaches us that it is impossible for anyone to be saved only by confession of sin, even if he were to confess all his sins to every person. Rather, it is the merit and righteousness of Jesus received by faith that purifies the heart and conscience.

We have a gracious and loving God. He does not wish anyone should perish. That is why he sent His Son as a gift to pay for the enormous burden of sin we owed Him. None of us were able to pay him back, but He forgave us all, even though not even one of us deserved it.

The innocent blood of Jesus still today has power to cleanse. This is the important matter, that we are saved through reliance on the Christ who has come, has suffered, and is now glorified.