“And forgive us our debts, As we forgive our debtors.”
And forgive us our debts,
Prayer for spiritual needs is also important. This is a prayer that Jesus could not pray.
A “debt” is something we owe. The word “debts” is a commercial term for financial debt. Matthew uses it here figuratively for sin.
As we forgive our debtors.
The word “as” introduces an analogy. Acceptance of forgiveness from God implies that we extend forgiveness to others.
A forgiving person understands and executes the principle of grace towards others.
If people wrong us, they do not have to come crawling to us for forgiveness. A grace-oriented person forgives and forgets. He does not hold a wrong against the other person. Why? Because he is the subject of grace himself.
The Father forgives us on the basis of Christ’s death for our sins. Because we have been judicially forgiven by God, we are able to functionally forgive others.
And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you. Eph 4:32
I appreciate what you have to say about a forgiving person, but Matthew 6:12 operates on a principle exactly opposite that of Ephesians 4:32 and Colossians 3:13. In the one the forgiveness you exercise is based upon the forgiveness God has extended to you. In the other the forgiveness God extends to you is determined upon the forgiveness you extend toward others. I would like to know how you can harmonize the two without sacrificing the text itself.
Arlie, thanks for your comment. One is a positional forgiveness that we have forever because of our standing in Christ. The other is a practical execution of forgiveness toward others. In other words we apply practically what is true of us positionally.
Arlie, I believe personal fellowship with God is in view here rather than our relationship with Him. The principle behind Co 3 and Ep 4 passages is that we are to extend our personal fellowship to others based on how we were positionally forgiven by God. In the Mt passage the issue is primarily for Israel (as the church does not begin until Ac 2) but the principle is still for believers in the church. We cannot withhold forgiveness and expect to be in daily fellowship with God.
I appreciate your reply–it is similar to other explanations I have accessed. But I would prefer an understanding that is generated by the text of Matthew 6:12 and not by a theological construct. I agree completely with your comments on Col 3 and Eph 4, but this verse says the opposite. I am skeptical about the 'fellowship' explanation (theological! rather than exegetical) even though it is taught by many fine evangelicals. What is a person's situation who does not have forgiveness? Can you answer that with Scripture and not with a theological construct?
Arlie, thanks for your contribution to this blog. Your issue is indeed a genuine and theologically perspicacious issue. Sorry for the delay in getting back to you as I have been in meetings for the last couple days.
There is an offense in this passage that is perceived as a “debt” (trespass, conscious transgression). The debt is something we owe God and is calculated as “sin” in the parallel passage (Lu 11:4). Believers cannot operate in fellowship with God with sin in their lives. If we do not deal with our sin we are in debt to God, a debt of fellowship with Him.
The prayer here is qualified by “as we also have forgiven our debtors.” The point is that we are dysfunctional if we seek forgiveness when we have not forgiven others. Withholding forgiveness is a serious issue with God because we are not seriously dealing with our own sin/s. We need the spirit to receive forgiveness and to give forgiveness.
The words “we also” is emphatic in the Greek giving focus to forgiving to those who seek forgiveness. "Have forgiven” is more than resolution to forgive; the person seeking forgiveness must first forgive those who sinned against him (good intentions are not good enough).
It is the “debtors” who are forgiven, not the “debts.” Obviously both are involved but it is the person on whom the emphasis falls in this passage. There is a possibility that the debt may be monetary or other obligations. Here, however, the debt is to God which involves sin. Interpersonal forgiveness on the human level affects our interpersonal relationship with the Father.
Although the believer has status quo forgiveness via the finished work of Christ. We can add nothing to that. However, absolute cleansing needs to be applied on a regular basis. That is why we need to “confess” our sin. God is “faithful and just to forgive” us our sins committed on a regular basis (1 Jn 1:9). The reason God is faithful to forgive is that “the blood of Jesus His Son keeps on cleaning us from all sin” (1:7). Our positional forgiveness is applied also on an issue-by-issue basis.
All forgiveness whether positional or practical rests on the principle of grace. A forgiving disposition or action never earns God’s favor or pardon. Forgiveness in and of itself is based on the work of Christ, not ours. Forgiveness in this passage is a condition that must be met for the grace of God to work, not that there is any merit in the condition. There is no merit in faith although faith is a condition for salvation. “To believe” is a transitive verb and a transitive verb requires an object. It is the object of our faith that saves us, not our faith per se. Thus, the issue of forgiveness here is a family issue, not forensic or judicial forgiveness. The point is not that our forgiving is a necessary means to earning God’s forgiveness. This is an evidence of personal forgiveness.
You have written much to which I could respond, but I don't want to write a book here. (I am writing a paper on Matthew 6:12 because of a request.) A person who never has divine forgiveness on the 'positional' level is not saved and will not enter heaven. What is the outcome for a believer in Christ who never receives divine forgiveness on the interpersonal/parental/fellowship level because he has failed to forgive another person who has sinned against him? I realize that this is extreme, maybe theoretical, but in virtue of our text it is a possibility. I ask this question in order to establish clarity.
Arlie, I agree with you that a person who does not have forensic, positional forgiveness is not a Christian. My only point is that there is an experiential aspect where we apply our position to our lives. For example, the first two chapters of Colossians deal with positional truth and the last two with experiential truth. The first three chapters of Ephesians deal with positional truth and the last three show how we are to live out our positional truth.
Forgiveness is one of the foundation where Christian life is built. Forgiveness leads to assurance of salvation, we can rest assure that we are saved once we are assured by Holy Spirit that our sins have been forgiven. Forgiveness is another step toward justification. Once we are forgiven we are justified. That means we are condemned no more. When God forgive us he forget as well. He say he remember our sins no more. Why do we seek forgiveness? When we know we are wrong. Do we expect others who have done wrong to us to ask forgiveness from us? No we don’t. If we do so we will hold grudge in our hearts, and that is sin. If God forgave us, who are we to not forgive others? It is same as: we received the gospel do we with hold back? We share even to those who persecute us. Similarly, when it comes to forgiveness we forgive others unconditionally as God did to us.
I think it’s a bit much to say that if a saved believer has been hurt and struggled a great while with forgiveness, then that person became “not saved.”
It is not chemistry, it is about relationships, grace, and growth.
Jesus makes a very strong statement. “If you don’t forgive, you won’t be forgiven.”
But Is it about forensic soteriology?
We know experientially and psychologically that if you hold a resentment, it will destroy your spiritual life. And if you hold a resentment, you cannot have a clean conscience yourself.
It has to do with enjoying conscious contact with God.
You can’t enjoy Him and hold a grudge at the same time.
That has been a hard lesson for me to learn. It did not cost me my salvation, but many many years of pain.
I do not have to question whether I was saved or not for the time that my grudge surfaced and I wouldn’t let it go.
But I robbed myself of enjoyment of His presence.
He didn’t pull my card and disqualify me as one of my sheep.
I did. In my experience.
When the roll is called up yonder I’ll be there.
Attention to that roll from down here is not ours to consider.
What is ours is to cling to Christ, and enjoy hiim.
And His Holy Spirit convicts me by these texts that when I become aware of resentments I hold, I must flee them like crack cocaine, because they are as pernicious and addictive, and they have no rightful place in me, because my surname is Forgiven.
David, I am not sure whether your question is directed toward me or others. Would you clarify? Thanks