KINGDOM BIBLE STUDIES
"Teaching the things concerning the kingdom of God..."
TO BE THE LORDíS PRAYER
FORGIVE US OUR SINS
"Our Father which art in heaven...forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors" (Mat. 7:9.12). "Forgive us our sins; for we also forgive everyone that is indebted to us" (Lk. 11:4). "For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your Father will also forgive you" (Mat. 7:14).
May God grant that again today His Spirit will search our hearts and purify our lives as we meditate on the very familiar Lordís Prayer. In this message we continue the theme, "Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin (trespass) against us." Last month we looked at the manner in which God has dealt with the sins of the whole world through Jesus Christ our sin-offering. The question follows: What is the difference between the forgiveness we ask for in the Lordís Prayer and the forgiveness that is provided for the whole world of humanity through the sin-offering of Jesus, which forgiveness we personally realized when we first came to Christ for salvation? The answer is just this: One is judicial; the other is paternal. When Jesus died upon the cross He was the sin-offering for all men. The Judge of the universe accepted His sacrifice on behalf of all and from a judicial standpoint that act of pardon covered all our sins, past, present, and future, as Paul says, "By the righteousness of One the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life" (Rom. 5:18). Although the whole world is already fully and freely forgiven all their trespasses, this becomes experiential in our lives only when we respond to it, accept it, and live in the light of it.
It is like the Emancipation Proclamation signed into law by President Abraham Lincoln. As soon as President Lincoln signed the document every slave in America was free. All of them. They were one and all fully released from the dreadful tyranny of slavery. Their freedom was a legal and judicial fact. They were no longer slaves. But news traveled slowly in those days. There were black men and women chopping cotton on plantations in Georgia and Mississippi who had no knowledge of the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation. In their minds they were still slaves. So they continued to chop cotton and lived in the slave quarters. They thought like slaves. They felt like slaves. They acted like slaves. They lived like slaves. They suffered as slaves. Once the news of their freedom reached them, what if they couldnít believe it? What if it seemed too good to be true? What if they refused it? They remained slaves although legally they were free. They remained in bondage until they accepted freedom and adapted to it.
That is how it is with the whole world of mankind. All are forgiven. Their sins are atoned for. They are free. They are conciliated. God was in Christ conciliating THE WORLD unto Himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them. And God has committed unto us the word of the conciliation, we are His official representatives sent forth by His Kingdom authority to inform all mankind of their release and the power of God available to make it effective in their lives. God has a program for their rehabilitation. But we are heralds of an already accomplished reality. Our message is not just about what God can do ó it is about what God has done. God has forgiven the Adam man of all his trespasses!
Through acceptance of this judicial act we are transformed from slaves of satan, sin, and death to sons of the living God. Now, consciously being His children we can pray, "Our Father." From henceforth His dealings with us are not with slaves, but within the family circle. Our sins now are not merely the gross sins of the flesh of old Adam ó they are sins on another level, on a higher plane, under different circumstances and other conditions. They are sins against spiritual life, against the will of the Father for His sons, against His plans and purposes in our lives, against the ways of His Kingdom, and against the family of God. Sin now becomes a hindrance to our progress back into the image of God. When we were first forgiven of all our sins at the time of our salvation, we were forgiven of those things that separated us from God. But now, as Godís dear children, we are forgiven of those things that prevent our progress into the nature and character of our heavenly Father. Forgiveness now means cleansing from all impediments, removal of all hindrances and on-going conformation into the image and likeness of God. These two orders of forgiveness must be kept clearly in mind. Judicial forgiveness accompanies our salvation, whereas paternal forgiveness is within the family relationship and maintains the Father-son relationship. Only sons can pray, "Our Father...forgive us our sins, as we also forgive those who sin against us." It is the Fatherly forgiveness for which we ask in the Lordís Prayer.
Sin means "missing the mark" and our Father freely forgives us when we miss the mark. But none can deny that we profit from our mistakes by learning the value of the ways of righteousness. A brother shared a beautiful example of this in an incident from his youth. He said, "When I was 14, my dad made me responsible to open and close the windows on the greenhouse where he grew celery plants. At noon one sweltering day, Dad asked me how it had gone ó opening the windows that morning. I flushed. My stomach turned to knots. I had forgotten! I will never forget my Dadís reaction. He put his face on the table in a gesture of sadness mixed with horror. ĎOh no!í he exclaimed. Dad and I hopped in the car and sped to the farm. All the way I kept saying, ĎDad, Iím sorry. Iím sorry.í We arrived, finally. Dad swung open the doors, and the heat began to billow out. The thermometer read 160 degrees, and every plant was burned to a crisp. I had ruined his entire crop. Dad looked me straight in the eye and said, ĎSon, you made a mistake. But I love you, and youíre forgivení He never mentioned the incident again. And I never forgot to open the windows again!"
Stacy Wood has shared a powerful insight into the sins of sons. He says, "I would be a fool to say Iíve never sinned. The Bible says that should I profess not to have sinned I would be a liar (I Jn. 1:10). For me to say Iíve never sinned would be utter foolishness. I have sinned since I was saved. I have sinned since I received the Holy Spirit. I have sinned since I first prophesied and healed the sick. I have sinned since I received the call to sonship. But I can assure you of one thing ó I do not practice sin. ĎWhosoever is born of God,í the scripture says, Ďdoth not commit (Greek: practice) sin.í To sin is to miss the mark. That is the exact meaning of the Greek word HAMARTIA which is translated as sin. When I do sin or miss the mark I am not rejected by God. I do not lose my salvation. I do not lose my gift, calling or ministry.
"When you miss the mark, do you realize what is happening? YOU ARE TRYING TO HIT THE MARK! The idea of HAMARTIA, to miss the mark, speaks of a bullís eye. I pull an arrow back on the string of the bow, I aim at the bullís eye and let that arrow go. But I failed to correctly judge the wind or the distance or by some other human error the arrow goes to one side or the other and I miss the bullís eye. I sinned! I missed the mark. But ó inherent in my missing is the fact that I was trying! I didnít want to sin. I wasnít abandoned to sin. I had not given up and just lain down to wallow in sin. There was some principle of weakness within, something in my nature and will didnít work right, I didnít have full control over it, and I missed the mark.
"So, what shall I do? Take out another arrow. Find out which way the wind is blowing this time, lift my sights a little higher, steady my hand and seek to judge that distance ó aim and let the arrow fly. If I miss again Iím not practicing sinning ó Iím practicing hitting the bullís eye! I just keep on falling short. But I will keep practicing until I hit the center every time. Until then Ďthere is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesusí (Rom. 8:1). I donít have to live under condemnation because I miss the mark. Falling short is part of the process while I practice perfection. I do not practice sin, I practice perfection. I do not practice missing the bullís eye, I practice hitting the bullís eye. Mistakes are always made during practice sessions. Ask any prize fighter or professional ball player. You practice to make perfect ó but you miss the mark in the process. We fall short. That is why it is that in Christ Jesus there is now no condemnation.
"What happened is that sin passed upon all men by one manís transgression ó Adam. Adamís nature has been fully dealt with by the cross, but we still are having dealt with in us the weakness of our own flesh whereby we miss the mark. Adam has no power over me ó I can now train myself in Christ Jesus to raise my sights and learn to hit the bullís eye. Before Jesus I couldnít do anything but miss the bullís eye! Now, with Christ as the trainer in my inner life I can develop the godly skill to hit the bullís eye every time. The potential of the divine life is now within my inner son and I am learning to live out of the mind of Christ. The full ability to be perfect is now within me. We are learning how to manifest what we truly are. When a little child is learning to walk he is learning to fulfill an aspect of his full human ability. He will fall many times in the process. Is there any condemnation to the child for falling short? Do we spank the child for falling? Do we say, ĎBad boy, bad, bad, boy. If you keep falling down youíre never going to walk! Shame on you!í Not at all. He will keep practicing ó not practicing falling, but practicing getting up after he falls.
"Falling is not failure. Falling is an opportunity to get up and do it over and succeed. Failure is part of success. Itís built into the process. Itís the law of the scheme of nature. It reveals Godís wondrous ways. Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and the knowledge of God! Some who read these lines have a problem with stumbling, with falling, with failure to walk out the will of God in your life. Donít lie there and allow the adversary to accuse you. Donít lie there and beat yourself and say, ĎIím a failure. Iím no good to God. I canít make it into the Kingdom.í GET UP AND GO AGAIN! Remember ó YOUíRE NOT PRACTICING FAILING, YOUíRE PRACTICING SUCCEEDING!" ó end quote.
FORGIVE US OUR DEBTS
Now we come to a part of this petition which most men like to bypass. Their feelings are somewhat like those of the man who dodges into an alley when he sees a creditor coming down the street. Yet the petition plainly says, "Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors." How should we view our sins when we ask for their forgiveness? To get at the full implication of sin, we need to consider it in various lights. In scripture we find it designated by a variety of names, each of which suggests some peculiar quality of sin. Sometimes it is "missing the mark," as we have already shown. Sometimes it is a thing of "omission," at other times a matter of "commission." Sometimes it is an "offense." Sometimes it is a "side-slip" or "mistake." Sometimes it is "selfishness" or "self-will," demanding our own way. And sometimes it is just "fleshly folly." But when we confess we are helped by viewing them as debts.
"Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors." Though we are trying to hit the bullís eye, and God does not condemn us for the failing ó yet there is a valid reason why we are trying to hit the bullís eye. There is a great purpose in why we are now pressing onward to perfection. We cannot be content with the status quo. It speaks of myself and God in the same word. I am His child who, in sinning by living beneath my rights and privileges as a son of God, am not only defrauding myself, but I am most grievously defrauding and wronging Him who has redeemed me for His high purpose. "For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are Godís" (I Cor. 6:20). My sin not only affects myself ó it affects God and His Kingdom. And today you and I are in debt to God ó we owe Him something, and have not paid that obligation; we have not discharged our responsibility.
God has lavished us with blessings and benefits and instruments with which to show forth His glory in the earth; and when we sin these are abused, squandered or destroyed. In all our walk in the Kingdom of God we have been receiving at His hand ó and what have we rendered to Him again? The law of the Kingdom is just this: For all we receive, HE EXPECTS A RETURN. The word "debt" denotes that every act we do ought to be a dividend redounding to the glory of God out of the investment He has made in us. Man was created in the image of God to be the manifestation of the invisible God to the visible creation. He was the image of the invisible God made visible and given dominion over all things to reveal God and express His Kingdom on earth. We have been made partakers of His divine nature to fill all the universe with His holiness. We were given dominion over all realms, from the lowest of the low to the highest of the high, to rule for God and establish His Kingdom over all. The visible creation was to see and know and contact God in us.
So many Christians today are satisfied with merely an entrance into the everlasting Kingdom of our Lord and Saviour. Their eyes are blinded to eternal values, any efforts to lead them on to higher ground are rebuffed and resisted by a human reasoning that asks why one should waste time on "deep things" when they are already saved and filled with the Spirit and on their way to heaven. But salvation, while it is indeed the most astounding miracle of the ages, is the birth of a mere spiritual infant. There are many further steps that must follow this birth if one is to come into all the glories and the full heritage that is prepared for those who "follow on to know the Lord." And not one of us has come all the way up to our full privileges in Christ. There is great glory and heavenly wealth awaiting those who become fully matured and equipped for Godís ultimate purpose. Salvation is nothing more than the beginning of a never-ending, heavenly, God-kind of life. Then the recipient may become a heavenly billionaire, or remain a heavenly pauper. He may become a full-grown son in the God-family, or he may remain a baby spirit delighting only in an immature, childish eternal existence. Salvation is a free gift through unmerited mercy and favor: a new divine life begun by means of a new birth. But heavenly attainments of spiritual wealth and glory and usefulness are given to those who have salvation, and then go on to grow up into the "measure of the stature of the FULLNESS OF CHRIST" (Eph. 4:11-16). Salvation is a gift; but the high calling of God in Christ Jesus is a prize (Phil. 3:7-16).
Today, unregenerated man is shooting rockets to the moon and distant planets, and boasts that he is going to use the planets as a launching pad to soar to the universes beyond. But man is simply getting in too big a hurry! He is striving to take over and rule what he has not fitted himself to manage. Man has not yet proved his ability to rule this planet, much less the worlds beyond. Man with his history of greed, lust, strife, treachery, wars, bloodshed, deceit and perversion has now stockpiled enough bombs to not only blow this earth to smithereens, but twenty more just like it! Shall God commit into the hands of corrupt, depraved human nature the rulership of the whole universe? God forbid! Man is reaching out to rule that which he has not qualified himself to rule ó and before it has been made lawfully his! But what mankind does not know is that if, through Christ, he first qualifies for the trust, it has been Godís intention all along to place not only the moon and Mars, but the WHOLE VAST, LIMITLESS UNIVERSE under his jurisdiction!
Now notice this passage in Psalm 8:3-6. "When I consider Thy heavens, the work of Thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which Thou hast ordained; what is man (how great he must be!), that Thou art mindful of him...Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of Thy hands; Thou hast put all things under his feet." And again in Hebrews 2:7-8, "Thou madest him (man) for a little while lower than the angels; Thou crownest him with glory and honor, and didst set him over all the works of Thy hands: Thou has put A-L-L T-H-I-N-G-S in subjection under his feet. For in that He put all in subjection under him, He left N-O-T-H-I-N-G that is NOT put under him!" You wonít quite grasp that at first. Itís too overwhelming! To be crowned means to be given kingly RULE. To be crowned with glory and honor is to be given such rule as Christ Jesus has NOW, and that is described in Hebrews chapter one as being the administrating, Ruling Executive over the ENTIRE UNIVERSE! Christ is now ruling over all things, for He overcame all things. And qualifying sons of God are his brothers, heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ, to inherit with Him, in due time, all that HE has now inherited! That is greater by far than a mansion over the hilltop or a cabin in the corner of glory land!
Let us continue the passage in Hebrews chapter two. "But now we see not yet all things put under man." Ah ó the universe is, then, NOT YET under man. But what do we at this present time see? "But we see Jesus...CROWNED WITH GLORY AND HONOR." And the next verse shows that Jesus is the Captain, the Leader, the One who goes before leading the way, bringing many sons to the very same glory that God the Father has crowned Him with! And men, if they will come to God and surrender unconditionally to Him and His Lordship, accepting His dealings, being transformed into His likeness, shall one day soon, at the unveiling of Godís sons, stand with Christ Jesus IN HIS VERY OWN GLORY AND HONOR! So that is the supreme heritage of man ó if he is willing! Man, and man only, of all the life forms God has created, has been given the incomprehensible privilege of actually being born into the God family, the Elohim, the universal ruling family of God. This family relationship is a GOD-PLANE relationship. What a matchless, supreme, awe-inspiring, breath-taking potential!
Sin, however, inwardized us. The response of Adam who walked with God, communicating with Him in the cool of the day, was: "I donít want to glorify God, I want to glorify myself." He became unthankful for Godís deposit in his life and trusting his low carnal wisdom more than the high wisdom of his Creator, he became a fool and exchanged the sovereignty of the universe for a kingdom of sticks and stones and creeping things. Thus, he robbed God by mis-appropriation of the glories given into his hands and, like the prodigal son, squandered all his inheritance. His embezzlement of Godís appropriation, diverted for his own pleasure and profit in the lowlands of the flesh, sent the whole race of mankind into bankruptcy.
Can you not see what vast and glorious riches are now given to us in redemption! Here man is restored to the inheritance forfeited by Adam. Jesus Christ came to bring to man again the richness and transcendence of Godís eternal purpose. Never has the earth been shaken with such a ministry as that of the firstbegotten Son of God. Never did mortal eyes behold such power. Never had ears heard such words of wisdom. Never had the oppressed found such judgment or sinners such mercy and grace. Never was nature moved by such authority. And then He died and arose amidst the rending of rocks, the darkening of skies, and the appearance of angels. He rose from the grave and walked again the lowly realms of earth in the sight of His disciples and before many witnesses who watched in awe as the glory of God enfolded His being and lifted Him to heaven in their sight. Then came the transforming glory of Pentecost as the Holy Spirit with the sound as of a mighty rushing wind fell upon the waiting company as they sat in holy expectation. Tongues of fire sat upon them all. It was not for show or excitement that the fire was manifested, but to transform men of weakness to men of power and change sons of men into sons of God.
Wonderful and glorious as those mighty acts of God were, I know by the spirit of wisdom and revelation that those great events were but a sample of the firstfruits of a greater day yet to come, and the infancy of an eternal maturity that will fill and govern all things. That beginning was the little stone that was cut out of the mountain that was to smite the image of this world system, growing larger and greater with the increase of many sons brought to glory to fill the earth with the knowledge of God and with the judgment and power of the Lord until all men bow before Him and all nations come to worship before His majesty. Then shall no man rob another, nor covet his neighborís wife, nor shed the blood of his brothers, nor shall the oppressed cry for vengeance upon the oppressor, for all the earth shall be filled with the justice, equity, judgment, knowledge, wisdom and truth of the Lord under the rule of Godís many-membered Christ.
With this blessed knowledge the apostle Paul prayed for the saints, "That...the eyes of your understanding being enlightened, ye might know what is the hope of His calling, and what the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power, which He wrought in Christ when He raised Him from the dead, and set Him at His own right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion..." (Eph. 1:18-21).
Ah, God has invested so much in us ó and He DOES EXPECT A RETURN!
What return have I made? Do I have a clear, definite understanding of what I owe my heavenly Father? Have I done all I could, so that His will is done in me? Have I truly followed after, that I might apprehend that for which I also am apprehended of Christ Jesus? Have I mortified the deeds of the body that I might live out His life? Have I faithfully ministered to others of the riches so bountifully bestowed? When we sin there is something in our act for which we become liable to God. That is your DEBT. "Debt" is something we OWE. In relation to God it is something we owe to Him and have failed to pay. It stands for the increase He expects in us and from us. There are certain things we owe our heavenly Father. We owe Him reverence. Have we given it to Him? We owe Him obedience. Have we given it to Him? We owe Him service. Have we given it to Him? We owe Him our heartís best love. We owe Him the first place in our thoughts, desires and affections. We owe Him complete self-surrender. We owe Him the honor that accrues to a father from a faithful, responsible and accomplished son. Have we given it to Him?
DEBT! What a terrible word that is to every true and honest man! And the debt we owe God is one that cannot be expressed in the figures and currency of earth. It is a debt that money can never pay. I have heard sometimes of men who, when they have found themselves in financial difficulties, have called their creditors together and have said to them, "If you will but give me time, I will pay you all in full." And from time to time we read in our newspapers of honorable men discharging with interest debts they had incurred years before. Can we do something like that with this debt we owe to God? Can we work it off in the days and years that are to come? I cannot hold out to you any hope of doing that.
For all our debts, what does God demand of us? Are His demands anything like those of the human law of debt, of the law of ancient times that claimed the person of the debtor, and handed him over to his creditor, to be cut in pieces if he chose; to be sold with his family and effects, if he chose; to be chained to a life of slavery and drudgery, if such were the will of his creditor? Are we at least to suffer some penalty, to feel for a while something of the bitterness of that poverty brought on by the immensity of our debt to God? NO! All that is asked is, that we acknowledge the debt, and accept its remission. "Our Father...forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors!" To forgive sin is to blot it out. "I am He that blotteth out thy transgressions" (Isa. 43:25). The Hebrew word for "to blot out" alludes to a creditor, who, when his debtor has paid him, blots out the debt, and gives him a receipt marked "PAID IN FULL." But when our Father forgives the sins of His sons, He blots out the debt without our paying it and crosses it out of the debt-book. What grace! What matchless grace! That is the way of a father with his sons. That is the power and glory of the word the Lord Jesus has given us in this wonderful prayer of sonship, "Father, forgive us our debts." We must ask in all humility. The prayer is answered at once. The debt is canceled, freely and fully. Truly, there is now "no condemnation" in Christ Jesus!
FORGIVENESS ó TO SEND AWAY
What is forgiveness? The Greek word means "to send back," or "to send away." It is used in the sense of sending away as a matter of transfer, sending something from one to another. Related terms are "remission," "deliverance," and "liberty." These words all speak of the glorious work wrought by "the Lamb of God, which TAKETH AWAY the sin of the world." The pure Greek meaning of the word forgiveness is that sin is RELEASED, sin is DISMISSED ó sin get out of this life, sin get out of this home, sin get out of this church, sin get out of this city, sin get out of this nation, sin get out of this world! The blood of Jesus is better than the blood of bulls and goats, it doesnít just cover your sins, He removes your sin as far as the east is from the west! "I, even I, am He that blotteth out thy transgressions, for mine own sake, and will not remember thy sins" (Isa. 43:25).
Because this was not taught to us in our churches when we first came to the Lord, weíve been wandering around half maimed as Christians, not knowing who we are and thinking that God still remembers our sins. Men will not let you forget. Preachers, especially, will not let you forget. This is the good news ó when God forgives you He forgets it. Donít follow the example of ignorant men who wonít let you forget, donít let the adversary pull that number on you, for satan is the accuser of the brethren, and he accuses through men and he accuses you through you. You say, "But I sinned!" Yes, you did. You say, "But I failed God!" Yes, you did. You say, "But this is the one-hundredth time that I have flunked the same test!" Yes, it is. To which your heavenly Father responds, "Your sin is forgiven, remitted, released, sent away. Itís not in my ledger. I donít know what youíre talking about."
Sometimes there is a certain remorse for our sins brought by Holy Ghost conviction. That is the Holy Spirit prompting us to deal with the issue. Here is how you can tell the difference between Holy Ghost conviction and the devilís accusation. If the Holy Spirit is dealing with you about sin in your life, there is hope ó He is drawing you to God, to righteousness, peace and joy. If the devil is brow-beating you with condemnation, there is no hope ó you are drawn into a vortex of despair, hopelessness, shame and depression. Thatís how you can tell the difference.
The word forgive, as I have pointed out, means TO SEND FORTH, or to send away. There was a type of this action in the Old Testament at the time of the yearly atonement. The high priest laid his hands upon the head of the scape goat and confessed all the sins of Israel, putting them upon the goat. The goat was then led away into the wilderness by a man and left there, never to return to Israel. Through that action the people were to understand that their sins had been sent away.
There is an interesting and significant passage of scripture in Matthew 18:18, the words of Jesus. "Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven." The context of this passage has to do with how to deal with a brother that has transgressed against you. Weíve heard about binding and loosing ever since we came into the move of the Spirit of God. Jesus said to Peter, "Iím going to give you authority, and Iím going to let you bind and loose." And He called this binding and loosing the "keys" to the Kingdom. But let us notice the backdrop of this word about binding and loosing. It has to do with how to deal with a brother who trespasses against you. Jesus says, "Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother" (Mat. 18:15).
What kind of relationship is Jesus dealing with here? Is it vertical or horizontal? Itís horizontal ó itís people to people, man to man, brother to brother. Itís not vertical ó between man and God. Heís dealing with people in their relationships one to another. He says, "If you have a falling out with somebody, even if itís their fault, go fix it." Then He says, "If he will not hear you, take one or two others, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established; and if he wonít hear them, tell it to the church ó the assembly of believers. After that, if he refuses to hear the church, let him be to you as a heathen and a publican." Now hear this! The very next words are: "Verily I say unto you, whatsoever you shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever you shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching anything that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them" (Mat. 18:18-20).
Jesus is obviously talking about forgiveness, for there follows immediately these words: "Then came Peter to Him and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times?" First Jesus is talking about a falling out with a brother, and how to deal with it. Then He talks about binding and loosing ó you can bind or loose the situation according to how you deal with it. Then He continues on with that great word about forgiving a brother who sins against you four hundred and ninety times in one day! You see, my beloved, binding and loosing has to do with lateral relationships.
Binding and loosing has to do with unity and harmony between brethren. The key word in Matthew 18:19 is "agree". "If any two of you shall agree on earth as touching anything...it shall be done ." The Greek word is SUMPHONEO. Any time you have SUM it means "in fellowship or in harmony with" and PHONEO means "a sound or a voice." From this word comes our English word SYMPHONY. Have you ever been to a symphony? Have you ever heard the musicians when they are tuning up? It sounds terrible! But, once they get all tuned up, what beautiful harmony! There is no more irritating sound than dissonance. Much of what is called "music" today would be best characterized as "harmonic dissonance." Dissonance is a clashing. Jesus wants His brethren to be a symphony. "If any two of you shall harmonize ó sumphoneo." Christ wants His body to harmonize, He wants us to come into symphonic agreement. In this context He is talking about binding and loosing.
Binding and loosing has to do with forgiveness. Jesus gave us the Lordís prayer. He concluded it with this glorious Doxology: "For Thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory for ever. Amen." Then immediately He said something else. He didnít talk about the Father; He didnít talk about heaven; He didnít talk about what all the baby Christians want to talk about ó blessings and healings and deliverances and miracles. He didnít even talk about the kingdom or sonship. He immediately began to talk about forgiveness. Why did Jesus come to planet Earth? That is not hard to figure out: He came to show us the Father. And the Father has a heart of mercy, a heart of reconciliation, a heart of love. "For God so loved the world, that He gave His Son." God knew that we couldnít find Him or get to Him, so He came to us. When you first met God, how did you meet Him ó on what basis, in what mode? You needed to be forgiven. You needed to be freed. You needed to be delivered. You needed to be loosed.
If you look at all the scriptures on binding and loosing you will find that they all refer to something altogether different than the interpretation placed on them by the preachers. You talk about binding and loosing and immediately people think about demons, principalities and powers, sickness and disease, or they think about money. Every time I have been in a meeting where something has been bound or loosed, it has dealt with either demons or money. And you can do that! We can take authority and "bind" and "loose" in those areas ó there is a truth there. Demons will listen to you and you can move finances around in the realm of the spirit so that it will manifest in your pocket book. But the primary, essential meaning of binding and loosing, the meaning the firstborn Son of God put upon it, in every context, is talking about forgiving. Let this truth be indelibly inscribed upon your mind and in your heart ó binding and loosing has to do with forgiveness ó either binding people to their sins, or loosing and liberating them from their sins!
The Greek word for forgiveness (APHESIS) rendered "remission," "forgiveness," or "deliverance" comes from the preposition APO which means "up and away from" meaning to be delivered up and away from and out of the prison house. It means to be released or let out of prison. It means to "let one go free." So if I bind my brother by unforgiveness I retain his sins; if I loose him by forgiveness I remit his sins. Not only do Godís ministers have that authority, but every individual believer has that authority. That is why when you see a brother overtaken in a fault "Ye which are spiritual should restore such an one in the spirit of meekness" (Gal. 6:1).
There are those who think of forgiveness as no more than an escape from punishment. It is the remission of a penalty. But forgiveness goes far deeper than that. The story is told about a lawyer who pleaded the cause of a client of his who was accused of murder. Through his impassioned appeal the jury brought in a verdict of "Not Guilty." The accused man upon whom the shadow of the electric chair had been falling was allowed to go free. In his gratitude he hurried to his attorney, in order to thank him. But the man that had saved his life drew away in disgust, saying, "Off with you; you are guilty as hell." This man went free, but he was not forgiven. Reminds us of O. J. Simpson, does it not? Although he was acquitted of the crime of murdering his wife, Nicole, millions of people still believe he is guilty and they have not forgiven him. They charge it to his account. They harbor feelings of resentment, rage, disgust, animosity, and hatred toward him. The emotion of loathing arises in their hearts with every thought of him. They would like nothing better than to see him pay the uttermost farthing. It troubles them that he has "gotten away" with murder. He is free but unforgiven ó even by many Christians! And even by some who call themselves sons of God!
Forgiveness, then, is something more than a way of escape from the consequences of our sins. It is an attitude toward the sinning one ó a "sending away" of his guilt, and a "sending forth" of mercy, love, reconciliation, acceptance and fellowship! If by the Holy Spirit of Godís Love you have forgiven O. J. Simpson, you could play a game of golf with him without once thinking an unkind thought about him or bringing the subject of his trial up. Forgiveness means to cease to feel resentment against; to give up a claim on account of; to grant remission of an offense, debt, fine or penalty. To forgive means that we release the other person, that we accept the loss that has come to us from their offense, and let them go free. In forgiving we actually bury our own wrath at their sin and resolve this through love, refusing to make them feel our wrath and extending to them acceptance, love and fellowship. To forgive is to affirm the worth of others, to recognize that they are far more important than the offense, and to transcend the issue in accepting and confirming them. It means we must rise above our feelings about the hurt we have sustained. In love we reach beyond the offense to the person; in grace we free the other. And that is what God has done for the whole world!
Such attitude and action can only result in acceptance, true, total, unqualified acceptance. Such acceptance springs from understanding of the deepest kind. How beautiful is forgiveness; how redemptive its nature; how glorious its magnanimity! No one can exercise it without becoming at once of a larger mold. All that is little and mean shrinks away from the forgiving spirit. But if forgiveness be beautiful because of its magnanimity, how much more beautiful because of its Godlikeness! This beauty is seen in Jesus on the cross. When He was hanging there, an object of pain, rejection and brutality, He voiced forgiveness: "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do." Forgiveness was a way of life for Him. It permeated His entire spiritual and mental outlook. It colored all His attitude and emotion; He was forgiveness.
Ah, the glory of forgiveness! The wonder of having oneís sins "sent away"! Oh, sweet deliverance! Think of all the prodigals who have come, so weary and so footsore, so sick, so disgraced, so stained, from the far land and the swine, for whom there has still been the best robe and the rejoicing welcome. Think of all those polluted souls who have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Think of poor cheating Jacob, who became Israel, a Prince with God. Think of David, the murderer and adulterer, to whom God yet restored the clean heart and the free spirit. Think of cursing and swearing Peter, think of savage, persecuting Paul, who yet became chief among the apostles. Think of the penitent thief upon the cross; the rough jailer; the thievish runaway. Think of the ignoble, swindling publicans; think of the harlots, the common infamy, out of whom He cast the seven devils of sensuality, and who were not pushed back when they wept upon His feet. These entered into the Kingdom of Heaven before priests and Pharisees, because it is the helpless, who know their helplessness, to whom Christ came.
...AS WE FORGIVE
After a person is forgiven, you cannot lay any charge against him. You cannot bring any accusation. "If God be for us, who can be against us," the apostle asks. If God has chosen and has affirmed His presence within a vessel, who am I to judge? I gain no power by putting another person down.
In asking for forgiveness, our sins are likened to unpaid debts; the act of forgiveness is likened to the canceling of those debts. And in presenting this plea, we are told that Godís remission of sins is conditional upon our willingness to remit others freely the uncanceled debts they owe us ó the trespasses or offenses they have committed against us. Through the sin-offering of Jesus God has already forgiven the whole world all their trespasses against Him. Therefore, all are assured of the opportunities of blessing and life in Godís great plan of the ages. But now we come to another principle ó the Fatherís forgiveness of His sons within His Kingdom, and our relationship to men who trespass against us. And we are taught to pray, "Forgive us our sins, as we forgive them that trespass against us."
It would be hard to find a more pregnant sign of the greatness of a son of God than this little phrase, "as we forgive them that trespass against us." In the sin offering we see God as the standard of manís action; but here we are taught to regard man as the standard of Godís action. Jesus does not bid us pray, "May we forgive our debtors as Thou, Father, hast forgiven us." Rather, "Forgive us...as we forgive!" Here our Fatherís forgiveness is conditioned on our forgiveness. An impulsive religious man is tempted to exclaim, "I, for one, will not pray this prayer. I do not want to be forgiven by God as I forgive people who wrong me. I want to be forgiven in a larger, grander, fuller, more glorious way. I conceive of a love of God beyond and infinitely and forever above all human love with which I might presume to compare it. God is bigger than man. And I conceive of a forgiveness of God so spontaneous, full and free, so perfect and divine, that the attempt to compare it with my poor limited human forgiveness borders on blasphemy. If I am asked to pray for forgiveness from God because I have already forgiven the one who has transgressed against me, then I flatly decline. I do not care to accept, much less to plead for, a blessing from the hands of a God whose blessing is withheld until a sinning man like me sets the example of magnanimity. I conceive of a God whose first name is Love, a God whom Jesus bids us approach with the words of tender affection on our lips, ĎOur Father,í a God who gives and loves to give. I conceive of a God who is mindful of me when I forget Him, who cares for me when I miserably fail Him, who, as often as I wander away from Him, draws me back to Himself. And I refuse to offer a prayer that is dishonoring to Him. My God, the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, will not wait to bless me until I have risen to heroic heights. His mercy is over all of His works."
It must be admitted that there is logic and force in the objection. Is Godís goodness no greater than ours? Is the human heart the measure of divine beneficence? Does Godís impulse of mercy wait the stirring of our own? Must we be good before He will be? If it is wrong for us to wait to be gracious until someone else is gracious, why is it right for God? While God is God, can He be content to keep back the gifts of His grace until I am gracious? Will He really wait for me to forgive before He will show Himself forgiving? It is hard to believe that this is the meaning of the prayer. It is clear we need to have this prayer revealed to us. And, to go back to our religious objector who contends, "I want a forgiveness from God that is unconditioned by my own," the proper answer is, "You cannot have it. In the nature of the case you cannot have it. And your demand for it proves that you do not understand the path of sonship, nor do you know how forgiveness works!"
We would be wrong to assume, because Jesus said that God would not forgive us unless we forgave others, that God is temperamental, insisting on His own way merely for the sake of getting His own way. Such a conception of God would be unworthy of the God revealed by the personality of the gentle, tender Jesus. You see, precious friend of mine, we are not dealing here with unregenerated men or with religious men or with babes in Christ. The Sermon of the Mount is the principles of the Kingdom of God; it is the very essence of sonship. God is dealing with us as with sons. God does not require sinners to forgive in order to be forgiven. God does not demand of spiritual babes that they forgive as a condition for forgiveness ó but He does require it of SONS. He is teaching sons His own nature, that they must forgive, and how to forgive. It is a great and glorious lesson in the school of sonship. It is training in the ways of the Father, in the principles of His Kingdom. Just as a boxer must be trained to a degree far surpassing those who merely attend the fight, so sons of God, His government of Kings and Priests destined to rule and bless all things and creatures, must be taught and trained in the ways of His heart and purpose.
It is not that our Father forgives us because we forgive others. And it is not that our Father sits in His heaven with a scowl on His face saying, "If you donít forgive, well, then, Iíll show you. I wonít forgive you, either!" What we see here is a great spiritual principle, an unalterable divine law inherent in the Kingdom of God. It is the nature of God, the way of His manifestation. Our forgiveness of others is not the condition of Godís willingness to forgive us; it is the condition of our ability to receive the forgiveness of our Father. It is simply a matter of how things work in Godís economy. It is like the water in the faucet. If you donít turn on the faucet, the well or reservoir will not supply more water. It is not that the reservoir says to the faucet, "If you donít run water into the lavatory I refuse to run water into you." No, that is not it at all. The faucet is the channel by which water is supplied to the lavatory. The reservoir, on the other hand, is the source from which the water is supplied to the faucet. There is an order here; the order involves a flowing. If the faucet causes the water to flow to the lavatory, the reservoir automatically provides an unfailing supply of water to the faucet. ITíS ALL IN THE FLOW!
In the same way God and we are connected. As sons of God we are His supply of mercy, love, forgiveness, reconciliation and redemption to mankind. We are the faucet, God is the reservoir. Forgiveness flows not only to us, but through us. We are Godís channel. When we dam up the channel, refusing to forgive and bless men, we stop the stream. The flow ceases. So the forgiveness and mercy of God are unable to flow into our lives due to an obstruction, because of a hindrance. Our unmerciful attitude becomes a barrier between us and the outflowing of Godís goodness. If our hearts are filled with unforgiveness for another, how can the forgiveness of God come in? Forgiveness and unforgiveness cannot exist together any more than a number can be a plus quantity and a minus quantity at the same time. Therefore do we pray, "Forgive us...as we also forgive!" When we forgive the hindrance is removed and there is again a free flow of mercy and blessing both to us and through us. That is the law of the Kingdom. Itís all in the flow!
Norman Elliott illustrated the truth this way. Suppose someone went to an athletic coach and said that he wanted to be a runner; and suppose this young person insisted upon carrying a heavy stone round with him. The first thing the coach would do would be to tell him to let go of the rock. Perhaps the imaginary conversation would be something like this: "Fine. I can make you a runner, but first of all youíve got to let go of that rock." "I canít do it. Iíve carried it round with me for so long that Iím used to it. It is part of me." "No, Iím sorry, youíve got to let go of that rock if you want to be a runner." "Youíre being temperamental! You just want to do it your way. I want to be a runner but I want to keep my rock." "No, it canít be done that way. Either drop it or I wonít teach you." "There you go again. You keep saying I wonít. Youíre temperamental!" "I only say ĎI wonít,í as another way of saying that I am not able to make a runner of you while you insist on keeping a heavy stone. To be a runner you have to get rid of every weight that is unnecessary. It isnít that I donít want to help you. You make it impossible for me to help you."
As God is Love, as love is the law of the Kingdom, we make it impossible for that love and goodness to invade us when we are unmerciful and unforgiving. We have closed the doors to the outflow of God. We must permit God to flow into us before He can flow out from us. What He is and what He does must become experiential in order for it to be dispensed through us. And now, though it may seem we have traveled a long way around to reach the point, we see the absolute propriety and justice of this prayer: "Forgive us...as we forgive." As sons of our heavenly Father we cannot be forgiven on any other terms. Peace, harmony, hope, joy, mercy, goodness, tenderness, love ó these represent the heart that forgives. Resentment, antagonism, bitterness, disharmony, hatred, selfishness ó these represent the heart that refuses to forgive. This is the heart which God cannot forgive among His sons, and in His Kingdom, not because of any indisposition on His part, but because the heart cannot receive forgiveness. We pray to be forgiven as we have already forgiven, not because our forgiving spirit entitles us to the forgiveness of God or wins Him to a grace like our own, but because now we have come into a condition of heart in which forgiveness can effect an entrance and have its perfect work.
Must God wait to be gracious until we are gracious? Is our grace, mercy and love the measure of His own? No; but until we have the spirit which forgives we have not the spirit which can be forgiven. If it were possible for us to receive love from God and give out hate to men; if we could be joyous towards Him and sullen to our neighbors; if we could accept from Him tenderness, compassion and love while we continued to walk in arrogance, hostility and disdain of our fellow men, it would be because we lived in a world whose order was immoral and corrupting. Nothing of the kind is possible in Godís great Kingdom. We are only darkening counsel by words without knowledge. And so we pray, as Jesus taught us, "Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us."
"The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because He hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; He hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord" (Lk. 4:18). This is where Jesus went into His home town, His home synagogue, and announced His Jubilee ministry of deliverance. Note particularly the word deliverance and the term set at liberty. "Deliverance" or "set at liberty" is translated more often as "forgiveness" or "remission." The Greek word has the metaphor or word picture in it of opening up a prison door and the captive walks out free ó released. It relates especially to the year of Jubilee when all the slaves are set free and all debts canceled.
So what God does is let us out of prison. When we donít forgive people we not only keep them in prison, we also lock ourselves up with them. This should help us understand some of the teachings of Jesus. He talked about people being thrown into prison and turned over to the tormentors until they paid their bill. Do you really know what He meant by the Spirit? You will be "bound up" until you forgive. Jesus said you will go to jail and you wonít get out until you have paid the last farthing. Why? Because the mission of the sons of God is to set creation free. There is a great and universal law in creation and society ó only a free man can set a man free! Youíve got to know youíre forgiven before you have power to forgive. When you know youíre forgiven you can go forth in the right spirit and everywhere you go you can serve and you can bless. And when you make mistakes and miss the mark you will be forgiven in return! God is not concerned about how much Bible we know or how much revelation we have. I would rather meet someone who canít read or write whose spirit is right ó whose life is flooded with love, mercy, goodness and the power of God. Iíve learned some of the greatest things I have learned in God from men and women who never graduated from high school ó and some of them missed it by a long shot. But they had walked with God and were filled with the wisdom and knowledge of the ways of the Lord. Paul was a brilliant man, he was a scholar indeed, and a lawyer versed in the law, but he said he was taught this message by revelation of the Spirit.
God has conciliated the world unto Himself and has committed unto us the word and the ministry of that conciliation (II Cor. 5:18-20). The old-order method of evangelism was to get a bullhorn, go out on the corner, and tell people how sorry they are and that they are going to hell, and how much they need to come to your church. They took one look at you and me and saw how obnoxious and sorry we were, and they said, "If thatís religion, I donít want any, thank you." You see, precious friend of mine, the world is hungry for joy, for peace, for hope, for life, for reality. They will go out and get drunk for a month looking for some kind of solace, some kind of meaning to life.
THE MINISTRY OF FORGIVING SINS
Jesus offended the religious sensibilities of the men of His day by claiming for Himself divine prerogatives. Thus, when a paralyzed man, carried by four friends, was lowered through the roof before Him, He astonished everyone by saying to the man, "Son, thy sins be forgiven thee" (Mk. 2:5). The scribes thought to themselves, "Why doth this man thus speak blasphemies? Who can forgive sins but God only?" The reaction of Jesus is interesting and significant. He did not say, "You are wrong. Men can forgive sins as well as God." Nor, "I am not really forgiving this manís sins, but only assuring him that God does so." He assumed that the scribes were right in thinking of forgiveness as a divine prerogative, and went on from there. He pointed out that it is easy to say, "Thy sins are forgiven." But it is also easy to say to a paralytic, "Take up thy bed, and walk." Then He went on: "But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins," he said to the sick of the palsy, "I say unto thee, Arise, and take up thy bed, and go thy way into thine house." And immediately he arose, took up the bed, and went forth before them all.
The message is clear. It is just as easy to say, "Thy sins be forgiven thee," as to say, "Take up thy bed and walk." One is no harder than the other. In either case it must be the authority of the Spirit within. If man has power to heal, he also has power to forgive sins. I have seen lame men leap for joy when some man has spoken to them the wonderful words, "Jesus Christ maketh thee whole ó arise and walk!" I have seen it with my own eyes. Therefore, I ask you, as Jesus asked, "Is it any harder to say Thy sins be forgiven thee!" This is written that you might know that the sons of men have power on earth to forgive sins!
Many years ago, when I was a youth evangelist still in my teens, the Lord powerfully spoke this word into my heart. It was in the days of the great Latter Rain outpouring of the Spirit of God. I was preaching in a meeting in Saint Augustine, Florida. After the ministry one night several people had come to the front for prayer. There was a particular lady who had come seeking salvation. I had spoken and prayed with her, but she continued on praying and darkness and dejection were written like a mask over her countenance. She was struggling with her sins and acceptance of Godís forgiveness. The joy of sins forgiven had not swept into her soul. Suddenly the Spirit sprang up within the minister of the church. He shot across the platform like a bullet from a gun. He laid his hands upon the woman and thundered the command, "In the name of Jesus Christ ó thy sins be forgiven thee!" There was immediate release ó her hands shot up, her expression changed, joy flooded her countenance, assurance bloomed like a flower of spring in the garden of her heart, and praise and worship flowed through her lips to the Lord. Salvation in that moment became blessed reality. In that same instance the Spirit witnessed prophetically within my heart: THERE IS A MINISTRY OF FORGIVING SINS!
A. C. Dixon wrote: "ĎAnd when He had said this, He breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost: whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them...í The disciples had the right to pronounce the remission of sins. On what condition? ĎAnd when He had said this, He breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost.í If under the breathing of the Holy Spirit, they speak Godís words of power, they pronounce the remission of sins in the name of God and by the authority of God.
"D. L. Moody had many friends among the high officials in the United States. Governors came out to hear him preach. When he was holding a meeting in one of the American cities, the Governor of the State sent for him and said, ĎMoody, I have decided to respond to the petition of a great many people to pardon a celebrated criminal, whose name you have doubtless seen in the papers. I would like you to go down to the States Prison and convey it. You are offering pardon to all sinners; I would like you to take my pardon and deliver it to this man.í Mr. Moody said, ĎI took the legal document from the Governorís hand. I went to the States Prison and showed it to the Warden. He called into the chapel all the prisoners; and standing before them all I said, ĎI have a pardon for one of you. I do not know you by face, but here is the name.í Oh, what breathless interest! How they leaned forward! They scarcely breathed at all, those five or six hundred men, wondering, ĎIs it for me?í Mr. Moody read the legal document, and when the name of the man was mentioned, there was something like a shriek came out of the crowd. It was almost more than he could bear. He was in for life, away from his wife and children; and when the pardon was read, it just overwhelmed him.
"The Governor, who had the legal right to pardon, gave the document to Mr. Moody. Then Mr. Moody went and announced the pardon to the man, in the name and with the authority of the State and of the nation. The Governor had remitted, and Mr. Moody remitted by announcing the Governorís remission. It came into personal touch with the man through the medium of Mr. Moody. And that is what I do in the name of God" ó end quote.
We are a Kingdom of Priests after the Order of Melchizedek unto our God and Father. We are the Ambassadors of the Kingdom of Heaven on earth. And we are called to mediate Godís forgiveness to Godís world. We must do more than preach forgiveness, more than merely declare that Godís forgiveness can be had on terms. We must become the agents of that forgiveness. In Godís name and in His power and by the Spirit of Christ, we must forgive the sins of men. Broaden your view! We are to become the active agents of Godís forgiveness to creation. Hallelujah! What a Calling! What a Day!
To be continued... J. PRESTON EBY [HOME] [KINGDOM RESOURCES]