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Forgive to be Forgiven? - Forward with Back to the Bible - December 7

  • 2021 Dec 07

Forgive to be Forgiven?

December 7

Read Matthew 6:14-15 (ESV)

“For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”


In light of the whole of Scripture, is God’s forgiveness contingent on us forgiving others? If not, what could Jesus have meant by today’s verses?

Imagine that you are diagnosed with a terminal illness. There is only one known cure and it is only available from a single source. You are granted a prescription, you accept the treatment, take it and are cured! But you are surprised to discover that this company did not charge you for the drug and has gifted you with more medication than you could ever need. Thinking it must be a mistake, you contact the drug company only to find out that they are extra generous with this miracle medicine. They want the recipients of it to pass it on to others so they can be cured free of charge as well.

But, for some reason, this offends you. You don’t want to pass it on. In your mind, the people that you know who are sick with the very same disease that you once suffered from, are undeserving of the treatment that saved your life. Instead of passing it on, you decide to hoard it needlessly, denying others of the hope and joy that you have found in being cured.

Now, this is just an illustration and it isn’t a perfect one. But it can help us see the point Jesus was getting at in today’s verse. He says that if you forgive others for their sins, the Father will also forgive yours but if you don’t forgive the sins of others, God will not forgive your sins.

You may be thinking: wait, what? I thought forgiveness and salvation were a free gift from God! How is it a free gift if I can only receive it by forgiving others? Isn’t that promoting works-based salvation?

Let’s go back to the Bible to see what Jesus meant here. The Bible clearly states in multiple places that salvation and the forgiveness of sins are a free gift of God. Take Romans 6:23 for instance: “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Paul reaffirms this in Ephesians 2:8-9: “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not of your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”

When we see examples of Jesus healing and forgiving during His earthly ministry, He didn’t heal those who could afford it and He didn’t forgive people who deserved it. Rather, He offered healing and forgiveness free of charge to those He encountered.

And that is the point. Who are we, sinful humans that we are, to withhold that which has been given to us freely from God? We were sick with sin. We didn’t deserve forgiveness and there is no way we could ever repay Jesus for what He has done for us. Given that, what does it say about our hearts when we withhold forgiveness to others? When we do that, it is like receiving more than enough life-saving antidote only to hoard it because we deem others with the same condition as ourselves unworthy of it. It is despicable. And yet, you are likely guilty of it and I am guilty of it as well.

So, no, the forgiveness of our sins is not works-based. But remember, as we have been studying the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) the past few weeks, Jesus keeps driving home the point that He is more concerned with our hearts than anything else. If we are harboring unforgiveness in our hearts, we are in error! We need to confess, repent, and we need to forgive as we have been forgiven—freely and undeservedly.

Friends, we don’t earn God’s forgiveness by forgiving others. But if we have truly received His mercy and grace, we should be spurred on to offer forgiveness to those who sin against us. No, they won’t deserve it. But neither did you and neither do I. That’s the whole point.


Father, when someone else hurts me or angers me, it is hard for me to obey You and forgive them. But then I am reminded that my sin hurts and angers You. But still, You forgave me. In light of Your grace and mercy, who am I to withhold forgiveness to others? Forgive me for my unforgiveness, Lord, and help me to extend mercy to others as I have received it. Amen.

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