Saturday, 1 October 2016
And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you. Ephesians 4:32
Q: How did Christ forgive you? Think about that and this will be addressed as we go on.
In this verse, Paul contrasts the words of the previous verse. Instead of bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking, we are to be –
- Kind to one another. The Greek word translated as “kind” “describes what God defines is kind – and therefore also eternally useful! ‘We have no adjective in English that conveys this blend of being kind and good at the same time’ (M. Vincent).”
- The word is used only twice in the NT, here and in 1 Peter 3:8. It is a combination of the words “good” and “guts.” The visceral organs were considered the seat of emotions, and so the guts are used as our modern term “heart” is used.
- Forgiving one another (qualified by “even as God in Christ forgave you.”) To be forgiving is to overlook that which offends, setting it aside and not picking it back up again. When an offense occurs, how we deal with it will define how Christ-like we ourselves are becoming.
The question above now needs to be addressed, because it is a part of the words which Paul has given us for the rule and guide of our lives. And so, “How did Christ forgive you?” There are several aspects which scholars focus on. Each of them is correct and should be applied in our forgiveness.
- Forgiveness should be unmerited. If someone comes to you and asks pardon, you should be willing to give it without strings attached. God forgave us in Christ without any strings attached. He simply cancelled our sin debt.
- Forgiveness should be complete. If someone comes to you and asks pardon, you are to completely forgive them of their offenses. In Christ, God has forgiven every sin without exception.
- Forgiveness is to be permanent. When pardon of an offense is requested, it is to be forgiven and forgotten. It is not to be taken up again at a convenient time in order to require more of the person. It is to pushed out of the mind and forgotten.
Having said these things, this verse is one of the most abused verses in Scripture by those who want to lord the precept of forgiveness over others. There is a common element to each of the three points mentioned concerning forgiveness (and any others that may be considered) which is almost always overlooked. John Gill makes the immense mistake of stating the following in his analysis of this verse –
“…that is, fully and freely, and from their hearts; and so as to forget the offences, and not to upbraid them with them hereafter; yea, they should forgive them before they repent, and without asking for it, and that for Christ’s sake…” John Gill
The question is, “How did Christ forgive you?” The answer is, “I asked Him to forgive me, and I was forgiven.” There is an action following an action. And yet, people overlook the obvious and state that we must forgive everyone, unconditionally, and at all times, and even before they acknowledge their offense. This is not how God forgave us in Christ. To state that it is leads to the heresy of universalism. God forgives all sin potentially; He does not forgive all sin actually. Only when one comes to Him through Christ are they then forgiven.
There is not a blanket waiver of all sins which has been unconditionally handed out to humanity. Rather, there is a blanket waiver which must be received by the offender. Never let any person tell you that you must forgive everyone without conditions because it is what Christ has done. That is absolute heresy. When someone who offends you comes and asks for pardon, you are to pardon them. But until they come to you for pardon, they cannot actually be forgiven; only potentially. Get your boxes right and don’t be a Christian “punching bag” for the depraved of the world to beat upon you at will.
Life application: Forgive others as Christ has forgiven you. To understand what this means, re-read the comments above.
Lord God, thank You for the forgiveness which is found in Christ Jesus my Lord. It is unmerited, complete, and permanent, and it came by a simple act of free-will when I realized I was an offender against You. In my confession, You have freely and fully forgiven me. Now give me the desire to tell others about Your goodness. May all understand that Your forgiveness is not unconditional, but it is already available. By a simple acceptance that Christ died for us, any and all can be saved. What a great God! What a marvelous offer. Thank You for the forgiveness which is found in Christ Jesus my Lord! Amen.