Jesus told His astonished disciples that God’s standard for forgiveness was ten times that amount, minimum. Forgive your brother 7 times? No, try 490 times
The Bible is an amazing Book, from cover to cover and in both Testaments we are shown the true character and nature of the God of Abraham who created the whole world, the entire universe and everything in it. Upon reading it, we quickly learn that the two main attributes of God are love and forgiveness.
“Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. And they parted his raiment, and cast lots.” Luke 23:33 (KJV)
Shedding His own blood on the cross to pay for our sins, Jesus Christ with His dying breaths asked the Father to forgive the two thieves crucified on either side of Him. One asked to be forgiven and the other did not. Not only that, they mocked Him and spit in His face. Still Jesus asked for forgiveness for both men.
The apostle Peter was talking with Jesus and asked Him a great question. Peter turns to Jesus and says “how often should I forgive my brother who sins against me, would 7 times be enough?” Think about that, Peter is offering to forgive someone who has offended him 7 times, that’s pretty good, right? Wrong.
“Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times? Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven.” Matthew 18:21,22 (KJV)
Jesus told His astonished disciples that God’s standard for forgiveness was ten times that amount, minimum. Forgive your brother 7 times? No, try 490 times. Jesus was not speaking parabolically or metaphorically, He was speaking literally and actually.
OK, someone will say, that’s the New Testament, what about the Old Testament?
Glad you asked. In the Church Age, we call it the Age of Grace because we are saved by grace through faith plus nothing. And after we are saved, we are kept eternally secure by the same heavenly decree.
“That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus. For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” Ephesians 2:7-9 (KJV)
But in the Old Testament this is not the case. Believers in that time were kept ‘safe’ by having faith in what God told them to do, and then producing works to prove they believed what they professed to believe. This means that they had a conditional salvation which could be lost based on their works.
King Saul had God’s Holy Spirit and it propelled him to some amazing victories. But before he died, King Saul’s actions caused the Holy Spirit to leave him and he died in abject spiritual poverty and failure. God took His Spirit from King Saul, and Saul never recovered from that.
Then along comes King David, and he is the hands-down best king Israel ever had. So much so, in fact, that the Bible says that David was a man ‘after God’s own heart’. Wow, what a testimony, what an incredible honor for the God of the Universe to say about one man. Then that man fell into sin that was just as dark and black that anything King Saul did, but the outcome of the two men are radically different.
What was the difference? This was.
“[[To the chief Musician, A Psalm of David, when Nathan the prophet came unto him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba.]] Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness: according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions. Wash me throughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me. Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.” Psalm 51 (KJV)
When Saul sinned, he did not seek God’s forgiveness and restoration but was primarily concerned about holding onto his kingdom. When David sinned and was confronted by Nathan the prophet, he threw himself on God’s mercy and forgiveness. David knew that he could lose God’s Spirit just like Saul did, but he also knew that God’s main attribute was forgiveness.
“Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me.” Psalm 51:10,11 (KJV)
The Bible goes on to record that David was in fact forgiven by God, and remains one of the greatest characters in the entire Bible despite the fact that he committed fornication, adultery and murder. David threw himself on God’s mercy, just like the one thief on the cross in the New Testament, and like that thief he obtained the forgiveness that he sought.
The 3 most powerful words in the world
The title of this article tells you that there are 3 words that you can speak that are more powerful than anything else you could say. What are those 3 words? I think you already know by now, but just in case you don’t here they are:
“I forgive you.”
Hearing someone say ‘I love you’ thrills our soul like nothing else can, they are the 3 most beautiful words in English or any other language. But hearing someone say ‘I forgive you’ unleashes a spiritual power that comes straight from the Throne Room of Heaven itself.
For in those words are the power to cleanse, to heal, to reclaim and to restore.
Could you forgive a Nazi guard after watching your whole family die in a concentration camp?
Corrie Ten Boom, the Dutch Christian woman whose whole family risked their lives to save the Jews during the Nazi occupation of Holland, almost died in the Concentration Camps in Ravensbrück. Corrie and her family were taken there and she is the only one that lived through it.
When she got out, she began to speak in local churches in Europe recounting the horrors of the Holocaust, and telling people about the love and forgiveness of God. One day, in 1947, she came face to face with a former Nazi guard, and he had a ‘nuclear bomb’ of a question to ask her. Listen to Corrie tell it in her own words:
Betsie and I had been arrested for concealing Jews in our home during the Nazi occupation of Holland; this man had been a guard at Ravensbrück concentration camp where we were sent.
Now he was in front of me, hand thrust out: “A fine message, fräulein! How good it is to know that, as you say, all our sins are at the bottom of the sea!”
And I, who had spoken so glibly of forgiveness, fumbled in my pocketbook rather than take that hand. He would not remember me, of course–how could he remember one prisoner among those thousands of women?
But I remembered him and the leather crop swinging from his belt. It was the first time since my release that I had been face to face with one of my captors and my blood seemed to freeze.
“You mentioned Ravensbrück in your talk,” he was saying. “I was a guard in there.” No, he did not remember me.
“But since that time,” he went on, “I have become a Christian. I know that God has forgiven me for the cruel things I did there, but I would like to hear it from your lips as well. Fräulein”–again the hand came out–“will you forgive me?”
And I stood there–I whose sins had every day to be forgiven–and could not. Betsie had died in that place–could he erase her slow terrible death simply for the asking?
It could not have been many seconds that he stood there, hand held out, but to me it seemed hours as I wrestled with the most difficult thing I had ever had to do.
For I had to do it–I knew that. The message that God forgives has a prior condition: that we forgive those who have injured us. “If you do not forgive men their trespasses,” Jesus says, “neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses.”
I knew it not only as a commandment of God, but as a daily experience. Since the end of the war I had had a home in Holland for victims of Nazi brutality.
Those who were able to forgive their former enemies were able also to return to the outside world and rebuild their lives, no matter what the physical scars. Those who nursed their bitterness remained invalids. It was as simple and as horrible as that.
And still I stood there with the coldness clutching my heart. But forgiveness is not an emotion–I knew that too. Forgiveness is an act of the will, and the will can function regardless of the temperature of the heart.
“Jesus, help me!” I prayed silently. “I can lift my hand. I can do that much. You supply the feeling.”
And so woodenly, mechanically, I thrust my hand into the one stretched out to me. And as I did, an incredible thing took place. The current started in my shoulder, raced down my arm, sprang into our joined hands. And then this healing warmth seemed to flood my whole being, bringing tears to my eyes.
“I forgive you, brother!” I cried. “With all my heart!” – from ‘The Hiding Place‘
How could Corrie forgive the Nazi guard after watching her whole family die in Hitler’s concentration camps? And so soon after being released from there! Remember, it was only 1947 and the memories would still be quite raw and searingly fresh. But you just read her testimony, didn’t you? Maybe you need to go back and read it again.
Corrie could forgive the Nazi guard because she claimed to know God, and the greatest attribute of God is His awesome willingness to forgive those who ask Him for forgiveness. That means that we not only need to forgive those who have wronged us, we must forgive those who have wronged us.
“Wherefore I say unto thee, Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little. And he said unto her, Thy sins are forgiven.” Luke 7:47,48 (KJV)
When Corrie reached deep into her soul that afternoon and forgave the Nazi guard, two amazing things happened. First, he was relieved of his guilt for the wrong he had done and was set free. Second, Corrie was also set free from the heavy baggage of bitterness and resentment she had been carrying around with her since her time at Ravensbrück.
It’s great to know how to rightly divide the Bible as we are commanded to do, and it’s a wonderful thing to know and understand the intricacies of prophecy. But when you’re ready to leave the ‘farm team’ and play in the ‘big leagues’, you will find it will all hinge on your ability to love the unlovable, and to forgive the unforgivable. Restoration follows next.
“Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted. Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.” Galatians 6:1,2 (KJV)
When you forgive someone, two people are set free.