Calvary Road Baptist Church


My message from God’s Word this morning is on the topic of forgiveness. Because I will begin by reading a large number of verses found throughout God’s Word, I request that you close your Bible, set your smart phone aside, and listen as I read these important verses mentioning forgiveness.

However, first, allow me to rehearse to you the meaning of the Hebrew word so commonly used in the Old Testament (more than 600 times) and translated “forgive” in the first verse I will read to you, the first time forgive is found in the Bible. It means to lift, to carry, to take away, and when translated forgive has to do with taking away guilt, removing the burden of guilt.[1]

Genesis 50.17: “So shall ye say unto Joseph, Forgive, I pray thee now, the trespass of thy brethren, and their sin; for they did unto thee evil: and now, we pray thee, forgive the trespass of the servants of the God of thy father. And Joseph wept when they spake unto him.”

Exodus 10.16-20:  16     Then Pharaoh called for Moses and Aaron in haste; and he said, I have sinned against the LORD your God, and against you.

17     Now therefore forgive, I pray thee, my sin only this once, and intreat the LORD your God, that he may take away from me this death only.

18     And he went out from Pharaoh, and intreated the LORD.

19     And the LORD turned a mighty strong west wind, which took away the locusts, and cast them into the Red sea; there remained not one locust in all the coasts of Egypt.

20     But the LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart, so that he would not let the children of Israel go.

Joshua 24.19:  “And Joshua said unto the people, Ye cannot serve the LORD: for he is an holy God; he is a jealous God; he will not forgive your transgressions nor your sins.”

First Samuel 25.28:  “I pray thee, forgive the trespass of thine handmaid: for the LORD will certainly make my lord a sure house; because my lord fighteth the battles of the LORD, and evil hath not been found in thee all they days.”

Psalm 25.18:    “Look upon mine affliction and my pain; and forgive all my sins.”

Psalm 86.5:      “For the, Lord, art good, and ready to forgive; and plenteous in mercy unto all them that call upon thee.”

Psalm 130.3-4:   3      If thou, LORD, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand?

4      But there is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared.

Jeremiah 31.34:  “And they shall teach no more every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, Know the LORD: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the LORD: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”

Daniel 9.19:     “O Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive; O Lord, hearken and do; defer not, for thine own sake, O my God: for thy city and thy people are called by thy name.”

Turning now to the New Testament, we find the words forgive, forgiveness, and forgiven forty-six times, with the Greek word afihmi, used in 133 verses, sometimes translated by the words suffer, leave, or sent away. The Greek word means to dismiss or release something, to release from obligation, or to move away so as to cause a separation.[2]

Matthew 6.12-15: 12     And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.

13     And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.

14     For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you:

15     But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

Matthew 18.21-22:     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 the, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven.

Matthew 18.35:  “So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses.”

Mark 3.29:    “But he that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost hath never forgiveness, but is in danger of eternal damnation.”

Acts 5.31:     “Him hath God exalted with his right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins.”

Acts 13.38:   “Be it known unto you therefore, men and brethren, that through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins.”

Acts 26.18:   “To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me.”

Second Corinthians 2.7:    “So that contrariwise ye ought rather to forgive him, and comfort him, lest perhaps such a one should be swallowed up with overmuch sorrow.”

Ephesians 1.7:    “In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace.”

Ephesians 4.32:  “And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.”

Colossians 1.14:    “In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins.”

First John 1.9:    “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

We find in God’s Word that forgiveness is required to remove our guilt and the burden of the sins we have committed against our fellow man, and that God’s forgiveness of our sins makes it possible for fellowship with God to be restored and for communion to be enabled. What is tragically laughable in our day is this nonsense of thinking someone needs to forgive himself for wrongs done. Not true. You need to either forgive others or be forgiven by others. The notion that sin is dealt with by learning to forgive yourself is a fiction invented by small-minded people who seek to worship themselves instead of God.

As well, understand that there has to be a proper basis for forgiveness, since it is unjust to simply pretend that wrongs have not occurred, that damage has not been done, and that justice must not be vindicated. Of course, the basis for God’s forgiveness of sinners is the saving work of Jesus Christ on the cross of Calvary, with the basis for a Christian’s forgiveness of those who sin against us then being the forgiveness we have already received in Christ, Ephesians 4.32, as I just read:

“And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hat forgiven you.”

Allow me to now bring together what we have thus far read, to formulate a simple message titled “When The Hang-up Is Forgiveness.” Four main thoughts:


Taking the Word of God as true and recognizing from the numerous verses I have already read that the forgiveness of sins is part and parcel of the salvation provided for sinners who trust Jesus Christ, it is a true truth that the salvation of Jesus Christ includes the forgiveness of sins.

Interestingly, there is no corresponding concept of the forgiveness of sins present in any other religious belief system, such as Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, or secular humanism, because none of those religious belief systems recognize the crucial requirement of a perfect substitutionary sacrifice atoning for the sins of the guilty as the means of establishing the basis for forgiveness. Though they may make reference to forgiveness, especially as they come into contact with Christian influences, Hinduism, Buddhism, and very noticeably in Islam and secular humanism, is the perverse view of forgiveness simply being granted without any proper basis. Thus, the non-Christian concept of forgiveness is really the decision to pretend the offense did not take place, the damage was not done, the violation did not occur. Of course, that is both inconsistent with reality, and morally and ethically wrong because such a view of forgiveness is dishonest and unjust.

Thank God for the salvation which is found only in Jesus Christ, with the forgiveness of sins solidly grounded on the fact of sin occurring, causing damage, violating moral law, causing profound defilement, and the shed blood of Jesus Christ more than effectively providing the basis for addressing each of those issues and satisfying every moral, ethical, legal, judicial and spiritual matter in a satisfactory way without dishonestly pretending they did not occur. God’s forgiveness of the sinner who has come to believe in Jesus Christ is, therefore, real forgiveness as is not the case with any other religious belief system.


Please do not in any way misconstrue what I am asserting by questioning in your mind whether or not a willingness to forgive others is somehow a precondition for having your own sins forgiven by God when you come to faith in Christ. That is not what I am asserting because that is not true. Such a notion would certainly not be justification by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, rightly understood. Instead, it would establish some sort of precondition to justification that is not found in God’s Word. Romans 5.8 is very clear: “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”

The Word of God is extremely clear in this regard. Jesus Christ came to save sinners. In First Timothy 1.15, the Apostle Paul wrote, “This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.” As well, please recognize that Christ Jesus did not come into the world to save sinners who have stopped sinning. We find such a concept nowhere in God’s Word. Sinners, by our very nature, are always in some way sinning. Thus, having dispensed with my denial of what I am not suggesting, to disabuse anyone who might allow such thoughts to creep into your mind, let me assert that when forgiven by God you will forgive others. I am not suggesting that you have to intend to forgive others before you can be forgiven, since that would be tantamount to salvation by works. I am simply pointing out that with your own forgiveness from God is accompanied such a transformation of the soul that you will forgive others.

Consider Matthew 6.12-15:

12     And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.

13     And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.

14     For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you:

15     But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

In His model prayer, the Lord Jesus Christ is not suggesting that in order to be forgiven by God one must forgive men their trespasses. That is not at all what He is teaching, in consideration of the rest of the Bible shining light on the passage. He is actually showing His disciples that the forgiveness of their sins by God will certainly lead to their own forgiveness of sins committed against them by others, and that if they are unwilling to ever forgive those who have sinned against them; it is only showing they are without God’s forgiveness.

Therefore, when I assert that God’s forgiveness of your sins requires that you forgive the sins of others committed against you, I am not suggesting that you either earn or deserve God’s forgiveness based upon your willingness to forgive others. Neither are you qualified to become a Christian by your willingness to forgive others once you have been forgiven yourself. I am insisting that the forgiveness of God is such a moving and profound experience that you cannot but forgive others once you have experienced God’s forgiveness. Thus, real Christianity does not have room in it for an unwillingness to forgive, based upon the astounding and incomprehensible forgiveness that we glory in as those forgiven by God in Christ.


You do understand that unsaved people do not and cannot comprehend the great salvation that Christians have in Christ, and cannot fathom the glory, the majesty, and the magnitude of this aspect of our salvation known as forgiveness. It really is the lifting of a crushing weight, as the Hebrew word suggests, and the removal of guilt and consequence, as the Greek word suggests. It is really quite incomprehensible. Yet you who are unsaved think you know what it is all about. You think you have it figured out, every aspect of salvation and the Christian life, which is why you trust your conclusions regarding the advisability of immediately fleeing to Christ to escape the coming wrath of God. You look around and consider the Christians you know and you draw conclusions about them, that salvation is good for them but not (at least, not yet) for you, or that salvation is not at all good and that we Christians are poor, deluded fools, while you are wise and sage in your understanding of deep things.

Why else would someone not want Jesus Christ as his own? Why else would someone not want the burden and guilt of sins lifted? Why else would someone not want spiritual, eternal, life that is found only in Jesus Christ? Whether you have ever articulated this line of thinking or not, it is the justification for your present stance regarding the gospel and the forgiveness of your sins. With some of you, especially, this is the case. You want to be forgiven, just not very badly. Remember the first verse I read, where Joseph’s brothers wanted his forgiveness, only they did not want his forgiveness until after father had died and they felt his protection of them had vanished? Their appetite for forgiveness was proportional to their fear of brother Joseph’s power over them. As well, Pharaoh wanted God’s forgiveness, for a while. Then, later on, he didn’t so much care about God’s forgiveness.

Thus, some people want God’s forgiveness, they just do not want God’s forgiveness very much, especially when they learn of a characteristic that is associated with and that arises out of God’s forgiveness, which is a willingness to then forgive others. Believe it or not, there are some of you who want God’s forgiveness, at least a little bit, kinda. However, there is something that you cling to more than your willingness to have your sins forgiven. Take two people who love each other, be it two siblings, a parent and adult child, a married couple, or longtime friends. Though they love each other, being sinners, they have of course sinned against each other. Sometimes the sins they have committed against each other are far worse than sins they have ever committed against those they like and love far less. Yet, will he consider the gospel and the forgiveness of his own sins should he come to Christ? Yes, he will consider the gospel and the forgiveness of his own terrible sins, until he considers the sins against him committed by someone else who he really loves. You see, because his own refusal to forgive the person he loves is so much a part of their relationship, so much a part of who he is, and so entangled with this complicated love he has for that other person, he will not consider coming to Christ because he knows it will eventually result in the absolute necessity of forgiving that person who sinned against him. Why will he not come to Christ? Because he is unwilling to forgive someone else. Holding that grudge is, in his own mind, the only leverage in that relationship he has. If he forgives, he thinks he then loses all leverage in the relationship and the ability to control the other person with guilt or moral superiority. What happens when both parties cling to this fouled up approach? They agonize over the gospel without either one of them coming to Christ.

If you think I am contradicting what I said earlier about there being no preconditions to responding to the gospel, I stand by what I said before. There are no preconditions with God. However, when the sinner misconstrues that the forgiveness found in Christ is simply not worth it if he has to then forgive others, the obstacle to him coming to Christ is an obstacle that exists only in his own mind.


Ever wonder why, if holding a grudge and refusing to forgive is so advantageous in a relationship, the Lord Jesus Christ said on the cross, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do”?[3] There are reasons the Lord Jesus Christ advocated God’s forgiveness. As well, there are reasons the Savior would oppose any notion of you refusing to forgive others and thinking it is somehow beneficial to you not to forgive someone who has sinned against you:

Because, first, it attributes bad motives and poor wisdom to God. God is good, merciful, and loving. Additionally, He is profoundly wise. This means His ways are always right and always the best. However, the same cannot be said concerning your judgment or mine. “I don’t want God’s forgiveness if it means I have to forgive my wife.” What a foolish thing to say, or to think. The reality is that God’s forgiveness will so transform a man that he will want to forgive his wife, will be able to forgive his wife, and really will forgive his wife even if it means he loses whatever leverage to control her he thought he had.

Second, warped, wrong, and wicked because it does not take into account what accompanies God’s forgiveness. When a sinner comes to Christ and is justified by faith, God’s Word is abundantly clear regarding the transformation of his soul, his heart, and his mind. With respect to the soul of the sinner, it is cleansed in the blood of Christ and forgiven. With respect to the heart, it is made new to such a degree that God says He gives a new heart. With respect to the mind, God is said to renew the mind so the forgiven sinner becomes able to prove what is the good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God.[4]

Imagine a heart so depraved and perverse in its thinking that one might think refusing to forgive a loved one becomes an advantage in the relationship, when the reality is that it poisons their love for each other. Holding grudges and refusing to forgive someone you love is like a canker, a boil, an abscess in the relationship that makes real love for each other quite impossible. And don’t think you can remedy the problem by deciding to forgive the offending party on your own. That simply does not work, because forgiveness has to have a proper basis or it isn’t real forgiveness at all.

Only the Christian has the proper basis for forgiving someone who has sinned against him, as we have already seen. Our forgiveness of others is based upon the forgiveness we have received from God for Jesus Christ’s sake. We forgive as we have been forgiven. Therefore, the starting place for all real forgiveness is God’s forgiveness that comes to the sinner who trusts Jesus Christ as his own personal Savior. As the glorified Savior said to Saul of Tarsus on the road to Damascus: “To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me.”

My friend, do not allow your hang-up to hinder your response to Christ. Do not allow any grudge you hold toward another person to hinder your response to the free offer of forgiveness in Christ. Unwilling to let go of leverage? What leverage do you really have with a person who can simply grow tired enough of you to walk away forever? Thus, you have no real leverage with anyone who has sinned against you. You have only opportunity do to right after you have had wrong done to you. However, first things must come first, and God should be your highest and first priority. You have sinned against Him and you first need His forgiveness. Then and only then should you turn to those who have sinned against you. Then and only then will you truly want to turn to those who have sinned against you. Do not allow your distorted and misconstrued notion of forgiveness to rob you of the blessing of God’s forgiveness in Christ. That would be foolish, a foolishness you may be stuck with forever regretting.

[1] F. Blass, A Debrunner and Robert W. Funk, A Greek Grammar Of The New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, (Chicago: The University Of Chicago Press, 1961), pages 669-671.

[2] Bauer, Danker, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other Early Christian Literature, (Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press, 2000), pages 156-157.

[3] Luke 23.34

[4] Romans 12.2

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