The Tree of Life is a weekly teaching summary.
The Tree of Life from the week ending 02/08/09
We have been studying the fact that we need to understand the essence of God if we are truly going to understand the theology of God’s perfect plan. We have seen that God, in His sovereignty, chooses to love freely without any strings attached. We have seen that in His eternal life God has loved us with an everlasting love (JER 31:3). If we are going to operate in the love of God, we must realize that God’s love does not increase or decrease like human love does. God’s love is Holy and unchangeable, God is incorruptible in His justice, and immutable in His righteousness. Divine love cannot be compromised by man’s sins, human good, evil or by any other function of the sin nature, including Christian degeneracy.
Who is a God like You, who pardons iniquity, And passes over the rebellious act of the remnant of His possession? He does not retain His anger forever, Because He delights in unchanging love. He will again have compassion on us; He will tread our iniquities under foot. Yes, You will cast all their sins Into the depths of the sea. You will give truth to Jacob And unchanging love to Abraham, Which You swore to our forefathers From the days of old. (MIC 7:18-20)
God has always known about our sins and failures, but His knowledge of these did not cancel His love. If you operate in God’s love, your system of thinking concerning love will be one with no boundaries towards those you are loving. Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you. Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma (EPH 4:32 – 5:2). We are to forgive each other. Having been forgiven leads to loving, and this leads to forgiving. Sometimes the best way you can lay down your life is to lay down your grievances.
The letter to Ephesians is very practical. You never get a mind boggling command without getting a very practical explanation of how to do it! But you did not learn Christ in this way, if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught in Him, just as truth is in Jesus, That, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth (EPH 4:20-24).Jesus Christ is the flashing forth of the essence of God. Jesus showed us how God loves, how God gives, and how God forgives. OK, how?
Therefore, laying aside falsehood, speak truth to each one of you with his neighbor, for we are members of one another. Be angry and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil an opportunity. He who steals must steal no longer; but rather he must labor, performing with his own hands what is good, so that he will have something to share with one who has need. Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear. Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you. (EPH 4:25-32)
With that, we have begun our study of: The Doctrine of Forgiveness.
Point 1, Definition of Forgiveness: Forgiveness means to give up resentment, excuse a guilty party, to release from payment, forget an offense, never bringing it up again not even to discuss it. The principle of legal pardon is no different from the principle of personal pardon and forgiveness. This means that if someone asks for your forgiveness, in honor, you forgive them. Then integrity and loyalty to doctrine demands that you forget whatever was done against you. It also means that you never recall what the individual has done to you. However, remember the principle: Arrogance has no ability to forgive. If you desire to know how many times you should forgive someone, our Lord answered that question: “If someone sins against you seven times a day, and returns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ forgive him. (LUK 17:4)
Point 2. The ultimate expression of forgiveness was the Cross of Christ.
The greatest illustration of forgiveness is the Cross itself, where all the personal sins of the human race were imputed to our Lord Jesus Christ. This was why our Lord screamed out, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” By His work on the Cross, the Lord Jesus Christ opened up the way for God the Father to forgive us! In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace (EPH 1:7). The fact is that your sins have been paid for, and the payment was the blood, or the saving work of Jesus Christ on the Cross. Therefore, ultimately when people sin, they sin against God. David said after he sinned in the Bathsheba and Uriah affair, “Against Thee, Thee only I have sinned, and done what is evil in Thy sight” (PSA 51:4). We do not have the right to remain angry, or bitter, toward someone who has legitimately wronged us, because Christ paid for that sin and they really have sinned against God! This is why not forgiving others is actually to sin against God.
Point 3. Scripture Passages on Forgiveness.
The pattern for such pardon and forgiveness is found in ISA 43:25 “I, even I, am He who blots out your transgressions for My own sake [because of My honor and integrity]. Furthermore, I will not remember your sin.” This pattern of forgiveness is applied to the believer as part of the Royal family honor code (COL 3:13). You do this because it’s to your own benefit! You can bear with people, tolerate them, and have patience with them. That may not benefit them at all, however it will greatly benefit you! Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other just as God in Christ has also forgiven you (EPH 4:32). This command describes the winner believer. He is tender-hearted, and forgives others on the basis of the fact that God has forgiven him (MAR 11:25; COL 2:13; 1JO 2:12). It is for His name sake that our sins have been forgiven.
Point 4, One of the greatest illustrations of forgiveness is found in the story of Joseph.
Joseph was thrown into the pit by his brothers because his brothers were jealous of him! Joseph was a victim of great injustice, he was sold as a slave, but it became a part of God’s perfect plan for his life! The world is filled with acts of injustice, and only the grace of God, and understanding our subject of forgiveness, can get you through. Joseph had a change of circumstances, but not a change of God’s grace support! Let’s take a quick look at what happened to Joseph:
1. Joseph was thrown into the pit by his brothers, which was a part of God’s plan for his life, which he failed to recognize (GEN 37:1-24).
2. Joseph was sold to a caravan, which just so happened to be coming by, and the caravan took Joseph to Egypt, God’s geographical will for Joseph (GEN 37:25-36)! He had a change of environment and circumstances but it did not hinder his spiritual growth.
3. Joseph then became a servant to Potiphar, who was an officer of Pharaoh, and Joseph learned that God can provide prosperity in any situation (GEN 39:2-6). Joseph was totally prosperous while a slave. That’s because God can bless you in one geographical area as much as in another geographical area.
4. Joseph was then tempted many times by his Potiphar’s wife to have sex with her, and he passed the test magnificently (GEN 39:7-10).
5. Mrs. Potiphar reacted against the rejection by Joseph and falsely accused Joseph of trying to seduce her, and this was a total act of injustice (GEN 39:11-18).
6. Potiphar believed his wife and threw Joseph into the dungeon for his second “pit” experience (GEN 39:19-20).
7. In GEN 40:1-4, Potiphar abuses his authority and gives Joseph double duties as a slave to two aristocrats in the Egyptian prison. The normal Egyptian policy was to give each aristocrat his own slave. If you are ever going to grow up spiritually, you must learn how to handle being mistreated by others!
8. However, in GEN 40:14-15, Joseph fails again by relying on man rather than the Lord and the two men both forget to help Joseph in his prison experience.
In GEN 45:1 Joseph’s brothers, unknowingly are begging Joseph for some food for the famine! After putting his brothers through certain tests, Joseph discovered that their attitude toward each other had changed. He saw that the brothers finally had love for each other and love for their father. Then Joseph could not control himself before all those who stood by him, and he cried, “have everyone go out from me.” So there was no man with him when Joseph made himself known to his brothers. And he wept so loudly that the Egyptians heard it, and the household of Pharaoh heard of it. Then Joseph said to his brothers, “I am Joseph! Is my father still alive?” But his brothers could not answer him, for they were dismayed at his presence. Then Joseph said to his brothers, “please come closer to me.” And they came closer. And he said, “I am your brother Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt” (GEN 45:1-4). This is truly an act of graciously forgiving each other. He brings their fears and worries right to the surface by stating what they lived in fear of, the fact that they sold him into slavery! “And now do not be grieved or angry with yourselves, because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life” (GEN 45:5). Notice, no bitterness, no resentment, just unconditional love and forgiveness! This is why Joseph has been promoted by God!
Joseph goes on to say, “For the famine has been in the land these two years, and there are still five years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvesting. And God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant in the earth, and to keep you alive by a great deliverance. Now, therefore, it was not you who sent me here, but God; and he has made me a father to Pharaoh and Lord of all his household and ruler over all the land of Egypt. Hurry and go up to my father, and say to him, thus says your son Joseph, God has made me Lord of all Egypt; come down to me, do not delay. And you shall live in the land of Goshen, and you shall be near me, you and your children and your children’s children and your flocks and your herds and all that you have. There I will also provide for you, for there are still five years of famine to come, lest you and your household and all that you have be impoverished. And behold, your eyes see, and the eyes of my brother Benjamin see, that it is my mouth which is speaking to you. Now you must tell my father of all my splendor in Egypt, and all that you have seen; and you must hurry and bring my father down here. Then he fell on his brother Benjamin’s neck and wept; and Benjamin wept on his neck. And he kissed all his brothers and wept on them, and afterward his brothers talked with him. (GEN 45:6-15)
Notice his humility as he says, don’t blame yourself, God has turned the curse into a blessing! Notice next what true and gracious forgiveness will do. So Joseph settled his father and his brothers, and gave them a possession in the land of Egypt, in the best of the land, in the land of Rameses, as Pharaoh had ordered. And Joseph provided his father and his brothers and all his father’s household with food, according to their little ones. (GEN 47:11-12). The principle is that when God blesses, and God promotes, the disasters, tragedies, and heartaches of life are all blotted out. So great is the blessing from God that the bad times are completely forgotten. When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, “what if Joseph should bear a grudge against us and pay us back in full for all the wrong which we did to him” (GEN 50:15).
In all of the years of seeing how God has blessed Joseph they still have not learned a thing! Joseph’s brothers have learned absolutely nothing from the principles which are found in the life of Joseph. The brothers are believers, but they are loser believers! Furthermore, they are actually making their own unhappiness! They had one of the greatest illustrations of forgiveness before them, but they still did not learn! They actually think that Joseph will do to them what they have done to him! The brothers judged Joseph by assigning to him their own flaws, their own sins, and their own weaknesses. You see they are losers, and that’s exactly what they would do. They would not have forgiven anyone for doing to them as they had done to Joseph. Remember what are our Lord said, “Therefore, however you want people to treat you, so treat them.”
So they sent a message to Joseph, saying, “your father charged before he died, saying, ‘Thus you shall say to Joseph, please forgive, I beg you, the transgression of your brothers and their sin, for they did you wrong.’ and now, please forgive the transgression of the servants of the God of your father.” And Joseph wept when they spoke to him.
Notice that Joseph wept! Why did he weep? Well, first of all they attacked his motives and maligned his character and they still have not learned that Joseph is a man with character and integrity! They had so little understanding of God’s matchless grace.
Then his brothers also came and fell down before him and said, “behold, we are your servants.” But Joseph said to them, “do not be afraid, for am I in God’s place?” (GEN 50:18-19)
Joseph was in the place God had for him in life! You see, Joseph long ago had put the matter in the Lord’s hands! Notice his grace orientation, Joseph has no intention of ever seeking revenge. He is a visible hero, a spiritual champion! He is functioning under doctrinal orientation, plus grace orientation! Joseph forgave them long ago! Joseph did not feel threatened by his brothers, or by the injustices of the past. Joseph did not take vengeance upon his brothers. He was not in any way handicapped because he had a difficult childhood, and a disastrous youth. Environment is not the issue; the issue is God’s timing. Joseph knew the principle of PSA 130:3-4, “If thou, Lord, shouldst mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? But there is forgiveness with thee, that thou may be respected.” Joseph knew the principle of PRO 16:6 “By grace and truth iniquity (faults, evils) is forgiven.” To have forgiveness toward others we’ve got to know God! It is through occupation with the Lord Jesus Christ that we develop a capacity to forgive. Usually when people are offended, they harbor resentment and will not forgive! This was not true about Joseph! So we see the powerful bond between love and forgiveness, and how the source of that lies in the nature of God.
Now one of the Pharisees was requesting Him to dine with him, and He entered the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. And there was a woman in the city who was a sinner; and when she learned that He was reclining at the table in the Pharisee’s house, she brought an alabaster vial of perfume, and standing behind Him at His feet, weeping, she began to wet His feet with her tears, and kept wiping them with the hair of her head, and kissing His feet and anointing them with the perfume. Now when the Pharisee who had invited Him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet He would know who and what sort of person this woman is who is touching Him, that she is a sinner.” And Jesus answered him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” And he replied, “Say it, Teacher.” “A moneylender had two debtors: one owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. When they were unable to repay, he graciously forgave them both. So which of them will love him more?” Simon answered and said, “I suppose the one whom he forgave more.” And He said to him, “You have judged correctly.” Turning toward the woman, He said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave Me no water for My feet, but she has wet My feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You gave Me no kiss; but she, since the time I came in, has not ceased to kiss My feet. You did not anoint My head with oil, but she anointed My feet with perfume. For this reason I say to you, her sins, which are many, have been forgiven, for she loved much; but he who is forgiven little, loves little.” Then He said to her, “Your sins have been forgiven.” Those who were reclining at the table with Him began to say to themselves, “Who is this man who even forgives sins?” And He said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” (LUK 7:36-50)
Point 5. There are actually two types of forgiveness which have to do with your relationship with God.
First, there is salvation forgiveness for eternal life. And when you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He [God the Father] made you alive together with Him [Jesus Christ], having forgiven us all our transgressions (COL 2:13). The first phrase is a reference to spiritual death prior to salvation for the Gentile unbeliever. The second phrase is for the Jewish unbeliever. Circumcision was supposed to be a religious advantage under the Mosaic Law, but that advantage is gone during the Church-age. The blotting out of our pre-salvation sins is explained by ISA 43:25; ISA 44:22;COL 2:14. The certificate of debt against us goes back to all our personal sins programmed by God the Father into the divine decrees in eternity past. God has taken our sins out of the way from being a barrier to having a relationship with Him. This is salvation forgiveness for the eternal state! It qualifies us for a resurrection body in the eternal state.
The second type of forgiveness is post-salvation forgiveness for your spiritual life in time. “If we acknowledge our sins, he is faithful and righteous, with the result that he forgives us our sins [known sins] and purifies us from all wrongdoing[unknown sins]” (1JO 1:9). Here we have the Greek word “aphiemi,” used for the forgiveness of post-salvation sins. “Aphiemi” means to remove guilt, release from penalty and give righteousness. It is the word used in MAR 2:10, where our Lord said, “The Son of man has power to forgive sins” So it means to remove guilt, release from penalty and give righteousness.This means that those believers who are guilty have not experienced God’s forgiveness. That’s because divine forgiveness removes sin, and the effects of sin and then imparts righteousness. In EPH 1:7 we are told that this all comes from grace, “we have forgiveness according to the riches of His grace” (we don’t deserve it or earn it). This type of forgiveness was prophesied in the O.T.. InJER 31:34, “for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.” It is also noted in Heb 10.
Sin is forgiven experientially in time by acknowledgement (1JO 1:9). He has not only provided forgiveness for sin, but also forgiveness for the guilt that we experience when we do sin. “I acknowledged my sin to Thee, and my iniquity I did not hide; I said, I will confess my transgressions to the Lord”; and Thou did forgive the guilt of my sin. Selah. (PSA 32:5). This is experiential forgiveness for the perpetuation of your spiritual life. When you choose to sin, you destroy your spiritual life until you rebound. Rebound (naming our sins to God) restores the filling of the Holy Spirit and recovers our fellowship with God. This forgiveness cancels many of the repercussions of sin and restores the status of your spiritual life. This forgiveness qualifies you to continue your spiritual life and to fulfill two power options, the filling of the Spirit and doctrinal orientation. Sin causes the repercussions of divine discipline from the Supreme Court of Heaven. However, when we name our sins to God the Father, the repercussions of sin are cancelled, and all cursing is turned to blessing. Therefore, there are two kinds of forgiveness: One related to time (1JO 1:9). The other one is related to eternity (JOH 3:36). Both kinds of forgiveness are based on the salvation work of Christ on the Cross.
Why are there two types of forgiveness? Jesus Christ was judged on the Cross for all sins of human history. However, there are two categories of sin in human history for which he was judged, pre-salvation sins and post-salvation sins. The human race is divided into two categories, believers and unbelievers. All pre-salvation sins are forgiven at the moment we exercise a one time positive option faith in Jesus Christ (JOH 3:18, 36). All post-salvation sins are forgiven at the point of using the rebound technique (1JO 1:9). Because all sins were judged on the Cross, the solution to pre-salvation sins in the status of spiritual death is faith in Christ. Because all sins were judged on the Cross, the solution to post-salvation sinning in the status of carnality is solved through the rebound technique. In the both cases, we use non-meritorious volition and all the work is done by God. God has only one way of forgiving sins- His way is simply to name and cite it!