The Theological Basis for Forgiveness

Discussion in 'Baptist Theology & Bible Study' started by swaimj, Jul 9, 2009.

  1. swaimj

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    There are many passages in the NT that deal with forgiveness. The ones that I can think of deal with forgiving fellow believers who are in the body of Christ ("forgiving one another even as God for Christ's sake has forgiven you" comes to mind). But, what about unsaved people. What is the theological basis for a Christian to forgive an unsaved person. For instance, when a murder takes place and the victim is a Christian, we often see the family of the victim making statements of forgiveness toward the murderer. What is the theological rationale for this?
     
  2. Tom Bryant

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    Matthew 6:14-15 - [COLOR=windowtext !important]"For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.[/COLOR] [COLOR=windowtext !important]But if you do not forgive others , then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.[/COLOR]

    Luke 23:33-34 - When they came to the place called The Skull, there they crucified Him and the criminals, one on the right and the other on the left. But Jesus was saying, [COLOR=windowtext !important]"Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing."[/COLOR] And they cast lots, dividing up His garments among themselves.

    I would think that the issue of forgiveness is not just for saved to saved, but for us to forgive anyone who has wronged us even before they ask and even if they never ask, which is what the Lord Jesus did. Because forgiveness frees us to worship and serve God without bitterness.

    Personally, I marvel at the grace of God that works in a family when they forgive the murderer of their loved one. I like to think I would be able to do that, but I am not too sure. :tear:
     
  3. swaimj

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    Thanks, Tom, for your reply. I agree with you that Christians should forgive others, whether they are saved or not. Llet me be clear about that. I'm simply asking about the theological reasoning that brings us to that conclusion. The verses you cite are helpful, but I think they still leave us with some questions.
    For instance,
    This verse gives us a bad consequence for not forgiving (God will not forgive us). Yet, what is the positive reason that we should forgive. Is it that we will be forgiven? Are we saying that we forgive others so that we will be forgiven? That is problematic because it implies that we can do something to earn or to deserve forgiveness. That would nullify grace. So, given this verse, what is the reason that we should forgive? I'm not sure there is a particular verse that answers this question. I think we have to connect some dots theologically to arrive at a conclusion. Or am I missing something?
    Then, there's this verse
    Here, Jesus does not actually forgive those who are crucifying him. I think that it is actually impossible for him to grant forgiveness to a person who is actually still committing the crime (they were nailing to him to the cross, if I remember the context) and who is unrepentant (they were not even conscious that they were doing anything wrong). Because of this circumstance, Jesus does not grant forgiveness (though he certainly had the authority to do so as he did so in other places in the gospel, causing great scandal), rather, he commits the transgressors to the Father's judgement and requests that the Father forgive them. The logical question then, is, did the Father forgive them? If not, why not, and if so, on what basis?
     
  4. Me4Him

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    2Co 6:14 for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?

    Lu 11:17 Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and a house divided against a house falleth.

    Can hate/love exit in the heart at the same time???

    Mt 22:37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.

    38 This is the first and great commandment.

    39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

    40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.
     
  5. swaimj

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    Me4Him, thanks for your post. Honestly, I didn't follow what you are trying to say.
     
  6. Me4Him

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    If someone does something that offends you, and you hold a "Grudge" against them,

    That grudge "prevents" you from loving them.

    Our sin offends God, but even while sinners, God still loved us and Jesus died for us,

    And to "show the love of God", we have to do the same.
     
  7. Deacon

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    Tom got it right but missed the 'proof text'.
     
    You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you!
    In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven.
    For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike.
    If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that?
    Even corrupt tax collectors do that much. If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even pagans do that.
    But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.

    Matthew 5:43-48 NLT

    We forgive others (extend them grace) because God forgave us (extended his grace to us).
    As God's children, we are to be like him.

    Rob
     
  8. swaimj

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    Thanks for the reply deacon. I don't think your proof text (your term) argues specifically for forgiveness, though. Two observations lead me to this conclusion. First, the passage does not actually speak of forgiveness. It speaks of loving and being kind, and certainly we should be loving and kind to the unsaved. However, the passage does not say that God forgives everyone. Consequently, while God in His actions shows us an example of love and kindness to all that we are to follow, he does not set an example of forgiving all that we are to follow, at least not in this passage.
    My second observation is a comment on this, your statement:
    This statement alters the analogy of the passage. In the passage God acts toward sinners in a way that we are to repeat. However, your statement cites an action of God toward us that we are to repeat. As I mentioned earlier, Christians are certainly to forgive other Christians and the scriptures clearly state that we are to do so because God forgave us, but this instruction, in every place that I can think of where it is stated, is an instruction for believers to believers.
     
  9. swaimj

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    Me4Him, thank you for your clarification. I find this statement to be interesting:
    Those who hold to a limited atonement would contest what you are saying here, I would think. "God loved us and Jesus died for us" is a statement directed only to the elect for Christ did not die for the non-elect. In this understanding, the atonement does not provide salvation or even the possibility of salvation. This position leaves us still without an example from God of forgiveness for the unsaved. Without that, I still find it difficult to show that we as Christians are to actually forgive the unsaved.

    On the other hand, if one holds to a general atonement, in which there is a genuine offer of salvation even to the non-elect, then we have a clear pattern from God of at least an offer of forgiveness to an unsaved person.
     
  10. Deacon

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    Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy.
    … be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.
    Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are his dear children
    Ephesians 4:23,32; 5:1 NLT
    (also see Col 3:12–13!; 1 John 4:19).

    I. We are to forgive others (brothers) because we imitate God who forgave us.

    II. Forgiveness is our general attitude but there are limits.
    (See Matthew 18:21-35)

    Bringing these both together is a familiar and powerful passage,

    The LORD passed in front of Moses, calling out,
    “Yahweh! The LORD!
    The God of compassion and mercy!
    I am slow to anger
    and filled with unfailing love and faithfulness.
    I lavish unfailing love to a thousand generations.
    I forgive iniquity, rebellion, and sin.
    But I do not excuse the guilty.
    I lay the sins of the parents upon their children and grandchildren;
    the entire family is affected—
    even children in the third and fourth generations.”
    Exodus 34:6-7 NLT

    III. God is the perfect forgiver; we imitate him imperfectly.

    It’s wrapped up well in the conclusion of a study of the Greek word aphiēnai in the TDOT.

    Rob
     
    #10 Deacon, Jul 11, 2009
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 11, 2009
  11. Aaron

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    Love. . . . .God is love. Love beareth all things.
     
  12. Deacon

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    I'm bumping up against this theme today as I study Psalm 69 for class tomorrow.
    Psalm 69, an imprecatory psalm ('Curse' ) and is adapted quite a bit by various authors in the NT.

    You know of my shame, scorn, and disgrace.
    You see all that my enemies are doing.
    Their insults have broken my heart,
    and I am in despair.

    If only one person would show some pity;
    if only one would turn and comfort me.
    But instead, they give me poison for food;
    [Matthew 27:34]
    they offer me sour wine for my thirst.
    [John 19:28-30]

    Let the bountiful table set before them become a snare
    and their prosperity become a trap.
    Let their eyes go blind so they cannot see,
    and make their bodies shake continually.
    [Romans 11:9-10]
    Pour out your fury on them;
    consume them with your burning anger.
    Let their homes become desolate
    and their tents be deserted.
    [Acts 1:20]

    To the one you have punished, they add insult to injury;
    they add to the pain of those you have hurt.
    Pile their sins up high,
    and don’t let them go free.

    Erase their names from the Book of Life;
    don’t let them be counted among the righteous.
    [Rev 3:5; 20:15; 21:27]

    Psalm 69:19-28 NLT

    Would their changing of the curses into the blessings of grace effect how we apply forgiveness today?

    Rob
     
  13. HankD

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    If we take the whole counsel of God into account there is a condition for forgiving another brother/sister

    Luke 17:3 Take heed to yourselves: If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him.
    4 And if he trespass against thee seven times in a day, and seven times in a day turn again to thee, saying, I repent; thou shalt forgive him.

    Matthew 18
    21 Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times?
    22 Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven.

    Just as God's forgiveness has not limits, neither should ours but repentance is the basis (humanly speaking).

    HankD​
     
  14. swaimj

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    Deacon, the verses you cite seem to confirm the problem I have stated. The Ephesians passage speaks of forgiving brothers. I don't dispute that we should do this. The question is, how do we forgive unbelievers. The Exodus passage seems to confirm God's judgement on the unrepentant. How is it that we are to forgive people whom God is not forgiving.

    As for imprecatory Psalms. I do not believe that grace contradicts or cancels out what David is saying in these Psalms. There is a legitimate place for going to our heavenly father an expressing our anger and raw emotion to the injustice(s) we suffer.

    Aaron said
    This says nothing about forgiveness. It is wrong to extrapolate from this statement that God unconditionally forgives all sin. He does not. That conclusion would be universalism.

    HankD said
    We really don't need the "whole counsel of God" to conclude that we should forgive our brother because we have multiple direct statements that instruct us to forgive our brother. This is not the question. The question is, how and why do we forgive an unbeliever who sins against us and is unrepentant?
     
  15. Aaron

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    Forgiveness is not a characteristic of love?

    I agree. Who suggested anything as absurd?

    Your question was, how can the family of a murder victim forgive the murderer? I answered it.

    Perhaps you should rephrase your question.
     
  16. Aaron

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    How? love

    Why? love

    Maybe you should define "sins against us."
     
  17. swaimj

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    No. This is not the question. It is an illustration of the question, but it is not the question. But, let me ask you Aaron, does God unconditionally forgive the murderer?
     
  18. Aaron

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    God will have mercy upon whom He has mercy, and the mercy He shows is unconditional. I guess I don't know what you're asking.

    How do you define un-forgiveness?

    a) Harboring resentment, ill will or bitterness
    b) Administrating justice
    c) Seeking revenge
    d) All of the above


    How do you define forgiveness?

    a) Releasing resentment, ill will or bitterness for kindly affection
    b) Staying punishment
    c) Bearing the cost and not seeking compensation or restitution
    d) All of the above
     
  19. swaimj

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    But what about the person on whom God does not shower his mercy? If God does not forgive this person, what is the theological rationale for the believer to forgive this person? This is the question. This is the topic of this thread.
     
  20. DHK

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    Forgiveness is conditioned upon those who ask for it.
    As Hank quoted:

    Luke 17:3 Take heed to yourselves: If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him.
    4 And if he trespass against thee seven times in a day, and seven times in a day turn again to thee, saying, I repent; thou shalt forgive him.

    Only those who ask for forgiveness will be saved, when the trust Christ as Savior. They must ask first. We don't believe in universalism.
    If a person is disciplined out of a church we wait until he repents before he can be forgiven and allowed back into the church.
    What good is it to either forgive or ask for forgiveness if there is no change of heart first.

    On the other hand when a Christian's forgiveness for others is directed to God it may be unconditional, such as Stephen's was. Stephen asked God: Acts 7:60 And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge.
    --But he wasn't asking personal forgiveness from the Pharisees.
    John the Baptist wouldn't forgive the Pharisees unless they brought evidence of repentance from their sins. But while in jail he may have prayed to God and asked forgiveness on their behalf.
     

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