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A Living Lesson on Forgiveness

Grace To You / John MacArthur
The Truth Network Radio
April 5, 2021 4:00 am

A Living Lesson on Forgiveness

Grace To You / John MacArthur

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April 5, 2021 4:00 am

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God forgives eagerly, totally lavishly when Jesus taught us to pray the best words that he could think of for us who have so great a need to be forgiven were the words forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against you don't forgive you.

Talking about forgiveness and today on grace to you.

John MacArthur's going to launch a series on that key aspect of Christian living. It simply titled forgiveness John before we came on the air. We were talking with some fellows and one of them mentioned the word forgiveness and I heard you say forgiveness. That's a novel thought and it's true that in these postmodern times. Forgiveness is a virtue that is in rare supply if you had to rank this topic. Forgiveness in terms of its overall value to a healthy relationship. Where would you put it, how vital is it. Oh that's easy as number one.

Every relationship breaks down at the point of forgiveness. You either have a relationship or you don't have a relationship based on whether you forgive somebody why because none of us is perfect. None of us is Christlike all the time. We will offend.

We do offend and is a fellow believer. You either forgive it or you hold a grudge.

If you hold a grudge.

There is no real relationship there. If you forgive that relationship is sustained in a marriage is not perfection that keeps the marriage together. Everybody's got weaknesses. Everybody's got issues.

It is simply the ability to forgive that sustains every relationship and here's the story that you have to go back to the parable Jesus told about the matter came to the king any yellow. This unpayable debt. No possibility of ever paying that debt. Any told the man you know he do anything work to do whatever you need to do and the man who represents Christ in the kingdom said not forgive you everything and then, inexplicably, that guy goes out finds a guy who owes them a small amount of money a few days work and strangles him and throws him into prison and and what there's a statement in there that says that the lectors in the Greek were angry and beat that man that there's a picture of unforgiveness where the Lord since his agents to meet a man for failing to forgive somebody who owed him a debt and hadn't paid it. I mean, isn't this Ephesians 4. Forgive as you have been forgiven.

Isn't this the whole point of the disciples prayer of forgive us our trespasses as we forgive others.

Then yet you just take a look at the take a big picture start with the evangelical world and ask yourself if there is a manifestation of the grace of for giving us sweeping across the evangelical world.

I don't think so and it's very likely that you don't even have that as a manifestation of typical life in your church people hold grudges, its deadly stuff. So you need to hear what the word of God says about forgiveness were going to give you a living lesson on it today from Scripture, yes, and it's a message. I encourage you to stay around for and friends throughout this study. John's going to show you characteristics and actions of a person who forgives and six reasons that should motivate you to be a forgive or reasons you may never have considered practical stuff and it starts right now, here's John. Of all of the human qualities that make men in any sense like God, none is more divine than forgiveness. God is a God of forgiveness. In fact, in Exodus chapter 34, God identifies himself in that way. Verse six says. Then the Lord passed by in front of him and proclaimed, this is the Lord speaking of himself, the Lord, the Lord God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness and truth who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin. He says I am the God of forgiveness that is who I am. Solomon said it is a man's glory to overlook a transgression. Proverbs 1911. Man is never more like God than when he forgives the theme of forgiveness is obviously throughout the Scripture emphasized, but there are some high points where we see the forgiveness of God in bold relief. One of them may be the most familiar is the story of the prodigal son from Luke 15, I'm only going to refer to it because I know you know the story well a father who had two sons and one of the sons was weary of being in the father's house and wanted to go and live on his own and take all of his inheritance and he did that left the house wasted all his substance in sin and then when he reached the low point of life wanted to come back and be only a servant in his father's house because being a servant in the father's house would be better than being what he had become that son was not unlike many sons, greedy, anxious to get his hands on wealthy have not earned so humanly foolish in the way that he spent it on fast living with those who exploited him and left him in misery when his money ran out, but slowly he came to his senses because he was dying of hunger and a pigsty that really mirrored his life.

Then came the awakening. He said my father's servants live far better than I and I will arise and go to my father, it seems, in the story of the prodigal son that the young man did not expect forgiveness.

He only expected some kind of mild tolerance.

All he wanted was the chance to say to his father.

I've been up bomb and I just am not worthy to be your son any longer but could you just make me a slave. I know I've forfeited ever being a son, but could I just be a slave. All I really want is a roof over my head and all I want is a little better food than pig slop so we started on the road back and it is then that Jesus teaches us how to forgive the father didn't even wait for the sun to get there.

He ran to the sun when he saw him in the distance. His words were not unkind. The Bible says he fell on his neck and kissed him repeatedly so Jesus tells us what the heart of forgiveness is like it is eager, not reluctant, it doesn't even wait for the sinner to arrive. In fact, when you see them coming far away, you run the medium and you embrace him and kiss him and when he starts to say he's sorry you hardly listen to that you don't even give them time to finish. You just embrace him, love him, put them in your best outfit put a ring on his finger get the best meat out of the freezer, cook up the best meal you can put together start the music rejoice with your friends and proudly invite everybody to come to the celebration of your son that has come back from that story we learn how God forgives eagerly, totally lavishly, and is it any wonder on the basis of that when Jesus taught us to pray the best words that he could think of for us who have so great a need to be forgiven were the words forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us was words really put our feet to the fire. They tell us that God's forgiveness of us is based on our forgiveness of others you know forgive you don't get forgive. Now when Paul was in his first Roman imprisonment.

He wrote several letters, namely Ephesians, Colossians, Philippians, we call those the prison epistles because they were written from prison and imprisonment from which Paul was later released and then later on another imprisonment in which he been martyred, but the first imprisonment in Rome was the location at which point Paul wrote these well-known epistles, particularly Ephesians and Colossians interest us because they are tied into this little letter to Philemon in both Ephesians and Colossians. There is a major emphasis on the matter of forgiveness.

I want to show that to you. So take your Bible for just a moment and look at Ephesians chapter 4 verse 32 and here the apostle Paul says to the Ephesian believers and of course this was a circular letter that that went all over Asia minor, but he says to all of them and to us. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted is the same principle, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you in Colossians chapter 3. This letter written to the church at Colossae and also circulated to the church at Laodicea, and no doubt others. Chapter 3 verse 13 he says we are to be bearing with one another and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone, just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you not to pull all of these together you get that very clear idea that God is a forgiving God and you are to be forgiving people.

That's basic Lord has forgiven all of us.

All of our sins and therefore Paul says we should forgive each other and if we don't were going to be chastened by God that's plain and simple. The message now this principle is given very clear perspective.

In Matthew 18, and I want to take you there were going to do all of this to get us right into Philemon.

I want to show you in Matthew 18. How this principle is illustrated in a parable. Matthew 18 Peter says to the Lord of so many sins against me.

Verse 21 and I forgive him.

How many times do I do that seven rabbi said three so Peter thought he was being very generous. Jesus said in verse 22. Matthew 18 I do not say to you, up to seven times but up to 707. In other words, you forgive as many times as someone sins against you. Just keep on endlessly forgiving and then he tells a parable that makes the point and it's it's a parable that depicts God and the sinner.

The King and the parable is God, the man who owes the big debt is the sinner. The kingdom of heaven, then verse 23 may be compared to a certain king, that's God who wished to settle accounts with his slaves. When he had begun to settle them, there was brought to him one who owed him 10,000 talents.

That's an unpayable debt, massive debt, he could never pay since he didn't have the means to repay, his Lord commanded him to be sold, along with his wife and children and all that he had repayment to be made. The debt was too much to pay but if all these people were sold into slavery. At least the king could get something man obviously had defrauded him probably was one of those servants who was a tax collector and hula that charge over great sums of money and had defrauded the king and now lost it all, and had no means to pay any said well if I can get what I will get what I can. So sell all of his family into slavery and at least give me that display therefore verse 26 falling down prostrated himself before him, saying, have patience with me and I'll repay you everything that a right heart had a willing spirit even though he couldn't of done it. His intention was right Lord of that slave felt compassion and released him and forgave him the debt. That's God in the sinner when the sinner comes before God and is convicted about his unpayable debt he's convicted about his sin and God tells him you have you have no means to pay me, you should be sent to hell.

You should pay whatever you can pay even though you could never pay me what you owe me.

That's what hell is. By the way it's it's spending forever paying what you could pay which never does pay the debt you folio because you've affronted God so greatly as one who rejected his son, but this king is compassionate when he sees the man's willingness he forgives in the debt. Now here comes the point the slave went out, he just been forgiven. He found his fellow slaves who owed him 100 in area I one of them as 100 days wages, not a major debt, he seized and began to choke him, saying, pay back what you owe and the people who would be listening to Jesus, tell the story at this point would be absolutely outraged, so his fellow slave fell down and began to entreat him say, have patience with me and I'll repay you. He was unwilling however, but went through them in a prison until he should pay back what he owed.

This is unthinkable. Here's a man who's been forgiven a massive debt and turns right around one forgive somebody a small debt when his fellow slaves saw what happened, they were deeply grieved and came and reported to their Lord all that it happened and summoning him as Lord said to him, you wicked slave, I forgave you all that debt because you asked me should you have mercy on your fellow slave, even as I had mercy on you. There's that principle you want mercy from God. You show mercy you want forgiveness from God. You will be forgiving and is Lord over the anger handed them over to the torturers until he should repay all that was owed him. Social my heavenly Father also do to you if each of you does not forgive his Brother from your heart, what, what a story. What a story that parable is so severe that there are many people who concluded the principal Jesus teaches couldn't possibly apply to a Christian, but it does because the man who wouldn't forget the slave was a forgiven man that is God. It already forgiven him.

He is a child of God. But what it tells us is that the Lord will sometimes deal very harshly with his own children who will not forgive someone else whom the Lord loves he disciplines, and every son he scourges.

Hebrews 12 says in one of the reasons he disciplines and scourges us and makes life very trying and difficult is because we have an unforgiving heart toward some Christians in order forgive. That is the principle taught in Scripture that is the principal illustrating the character of God in the parable of the prodigal son and that is the principal illustrated in this parable to be true of every believer. This is a matter I think not only of blessing and fellowship with God. But it's also a matter of the assurance of salvation. Thomas Watson wrote many years ago. Very interesting statement. He said this, we need not climb up into heaven to see whether our sins are forgiven. Let us look into our hearts and see if we can forgive others. If we can, we need not doubt that God has forgiven us. Thomas Adams wrote, he who demands mercy and shows none ruins the bridge over which he himself must pass so there is a principal in Scripture, and that is this your never more like God than when you forgive and such forgiveness should come easy because you have been forgiven, and if you do not forgive, then you will put yourself in a position to be chastened by God severely of the priority of forgiveness is not only given in Scripture and principal. It's not only given in Scripture. In the parable, but it is given in Scripture in the personal terms, and it's in the book of Philemon. Let's look at here in the shortest letter of Paul's inspired writings is the major issue of forgiveness laid out not principal, not in parable, but in a personal case prodigal son not a true story, the king and the servants, not a true story.

Those were simply parables fabricated by Christ to make a point.

This a true story never going to see the principal flesh out, let's read the first three verses, Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother, to Philemon, our beloved brother and fellow worker and to Appia, our sister, and to our campus. Our fellow soldier and to the church in your house. Grace to you and peace from God our father and the Lord Jesus Christ. This is a very typical Pauline introduction begins with the word Paul H. Letters always started with the name of the one writing, which makes a lot of sense to get a long letter to have to fumble through all the pages to find out who it's from. Never in ancient times they always started with the name of the man or the woman who authored it, it signals then that this is from the apostle Paul. You can imagine that one Philemon got this letter and he saw Paul his adrenaline started to flow his heart began to beat more rapidly because Paul was not only the great apostle that everybody knew about and Paul was not only the one who had the sense founded the very church at Colossae where Philemon lived. But Paul had personally led the man to Christ. So Paul identifies himself and certainly set Philemon's heart racing. Paul identifies himself as a prisoner of Christ Jesus. This is a note to tell us that he is in prison.

It's the same place from which he wrote Philippians, Colossians and Ephesians. This is the fourth of the prison epistles. This little letter to an individual of the only one of those four written to an individual. And Paul says I'm a prisoner of Jesus Christ. He never identifies himself in that way.

To start with any of his other epistles. Usually he wanted to identify himself as a as an apostle as having been called by God as a servant of Jesus Christ, to lay down some authority on them to emphasize his calling and emphasizes authority even did that. By the way, in his letters to Timothy, even though they were personal letters that he was writing to one individual, and even his letter to Titus.

In those cases, though they were personal letters like this one. He still mentions his apostleship because they had to take his authority and carry it out in the life of the church that needed correction and direction, and it needed to come through them as an authoritative word from Paul. This however bears no such necessity is not laying some some authoritative message on the church is speaking tenderly, personally, warmly, compassionately, to a friend and it is an appeal to his heart and appeal to his compassion to his love, so there's no need to refer to his apostolic office or calling or authority. He says I'm a prisoner of Christ Jesus, the wonderful note because it is the way you would expect Paul to react to the Romans the Romans thought he was a prisoner of Rome.

They had captured him. They had incarcerated him he was under their authority, but from his vantage point. He was a prisoner of Jesus Christ. He was in prison because Christ put them there. Not because Rome putting their and if you ever have any questions about that. All you have to do is remind yourself of some of the things that he said while he was imprisoned most. Namely, this one at the end of Philippians read every saint in Christ Jesus.

All the saints, greet you, especially those of Caesar's household Lord had him in prison while he was there he was evangelizing Caesar's household. A number of occasions in Ephesians chapter 4 verse one chapter 6 verse 19 to 20, as well as Colossians chapter 4, he refers to himself as a prisoner, but it was for preaching Christ and it was for the sake of Christ, and it was by the will of Christ that he was a prisoner and he is he is saying this to Philemon. I think it's very wise because what he is really saying sort of subtly to Philemon is like Philemon if I can do this for Christ. Can you do for him what I ask if I can bear.

The harder task of being in this prison. Can you do the easier task that I'm going to ask you to do and that is to forgive these very wise Paul is very tactful because as soon as Philemon hears the word Paul, this is love begins to well up in the soon as he reads a prisoner of Christ Jesus's eyes may fill with tears as he thinks about this beloved man to lead them to Christ is great apostle bearing the pain and agony of imprisonment and as he thinks about all that Paul has suffered to bring the gospel to people like him, it's bound to have an effect on his willingness to do what Paul asked him to do and then Paul throws in Paul prisoner of Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother Timothy is not a co-author Timothy just a present companion, a brother in Christ Timothy had been with Paul on his third missionary journey. Acts chapter 19 he was acquainted with the believers in Colossae probably had met Philemon and so this would be a word from somebody that Philemon knew, but there are others with Paul that Philemon might have known me.

There was far as we can tell it to put it all together in Rome there was to check us up Aphrodite us.

Aristarchus, a fellow prisoner. There was Mark there was Jesus justice. There was a path for us. There was Luke and there was demons. Why doesn't he talk about these guys. Why doesn't he make some reference to them what he does at the end of the letter but at the very beginning of the letter, he mentions Timothy all the rest up and he mentions at the end of the Y.

I believe it's because Timothy is often singled out in the introductory part of the letter because Paul knew that someday he would pass the baton of spiritual leadership primarily to the hands of Timothy and he wanted to set Timothy in place as one who had the role of leader and so we identified Timothy closely very closely with himself and so is then from Paul along with the greetings of Timothy to Philemon. That is the man who is the head of a family in Colossae Colossae was a small town, the church, there was probably very small, and the church met in his house so we know he was a wealthy man.

Most of the people in the Roman Empire who became Christians were slaves, some of them were free men, that is, slaves prior now free. Few of them were wealthy, not many noble, not many mighty, and where we had a wealthy person that was converted. They had a house slaves and free men didn't have such thing. Most of the free men live in apartments or single rooms and paid him a modest sum wealthy people own their own home. So here's a man of some means who is the church meeting in his house because he my beloved brother and fellow worker that means our dear friend, a familiar description it. Paul uses both of individuals and groups got paid to us the beloved one fellow worker simply again a term used by Paul very many times to speak of people worked with them.

So here's a man he loved and a man who had worked alongside of him now. This friendship probably developed in Ephesus, just as a note because Paul never went to Colossae when I said he was responsible for the founding of the church there. It was because he founded Ephesus stayed there three years and out of Ephesus all those other churches in Asia minor were planted.

No doubt during the time Paul was at Ephesus. This man was converted came to know Paul in a personal way. Even though he lived a little distance away in the very small town of Colossae so they had. From then on, developed a friendship.

Paul now is going to put his friendship on the line folks. He really this is a straight forward letter is going to ask Philemon to do something in the area of forgiveness that is crucial disease, grace to you with John MacArthur makes for being with us.

John's current study is showing you how the act of forgiveness can change every relationship you have in the title of John study appropriately. Forgiveness, no friend to clear up questions you may have about God's forgiveness of you and the forgiveness he expects you to show to others. Let me recommend John's book called the freedom and power of forgiveness. It will help you really dig into what it means to forgive and the blessings that come with it to pick up a copy. It's reasonably priced. Contact us today to place your order. Call 855 grace or shop that title again the freedom and power of forgiveness to pick up a copy for yourself or to add to your church library to give to a friend go to or call us at 855 grace again this book is affordable and shipping is free and if you'd like the MP3s of John's current radio series on forgiveness. They are available free of charge it use these lessons in a small group will review them whenever a relationship needs repair again to download this series free of charge for any of John's 3500 sermons just go to and to keep up-to-date on the latest sermons, books and other free offers from Grace to you. Make sure you follow us on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. Just search for grace to you now for John MacArthur and the entire staff.

I'm your host Phil Johnson thanks for tuning in today and join us tomorrow when John continues his study from the book of Philemon, with another 30 minutes of unleashing God's truth one verse at a time on Tuesdays. Grace to you

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