D. Forgiving to Be Forgiven
or Forgiving Because We’re Forgiven (v. 14-15)
14 For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, 15 but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
This passage finishes with Jesus reiterating a point from His prayer about being forgiven and forgiving others. On one level, a clear reading of this text says that if we want to be forgiven by God, we must forgive others. This is most certainly true. But, as I explained above, I think this finds it’s roots in the fact that someone who doesn’t forgive really isn’t asking for forgiveness. But, at the same time, I think it ought to be pointed out that we can only forgive because we have been forgiven by God through Christ. Thus, if we don’t forgive others, we are giving the kind of bad fruit that evidences an unregenerate (that is, unsaved or unchanged) heart. And the unregenerate person is most certainly not forgiven by God. I think Jesus says this because He wants to drive home a point. And that point is that forgiveness flows both in and out. The same goes for grace, mercy, and compassion. To be shown mercy but never show mercy, to be shown grace but not to show grace, to be shown compassion but never show compassion are all signs that the reality is not present in you. In a sense, I think this is one way we “work out our salvation with fear and trembling” (see Philippians). To bring it all together, I think that Jesus is emphasizing this to point to the sin in our lives. And a prayer to God that doesn’t recognize our sinfulness, ask for forgiveness, then ask for empowerment to spread the mercy and grace we’ve been shown to others is really no prayer at all. And the only way to have forgiveness is through Christ. Therefore, to offer a prayer that God will hear and honor, we must be clothed with Christ as well as live like Christ.
E. Final Conclusions and Generalizations
1) Christ’s disciples are assumed to be people who pray. Whatever else we may draw from this passage, Jesus flat-out assumes that prayer is expected of the Christian.
2) As much as prayer is meant to exalt God, it is meant to humble us.
3) The length of a prayer is not nearly as important as the heart of the person praying. In every word we speak to God, we ought to be humble, honest, and to the point.
4) God is pleased to receive prayers that are offered in this manner.
5) We should never pray in such a way that we seek praise for ourselves either from others or from ourselves.
6) This passage doesn’t say anything about what we should expect from God in prayer. In fact, it seems to suggest that when we pray, we speak to God, not the other way around. That may be possible, but this passage doesn’t address it.
7) When we ask for things, we should ask for things that glorify God, that destroy our sinful selves, and that help us to depend on God alone for every single thing.