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The Characteristics of One Who Forgives B

Grace To You / John MacArthur
The Truth Network Radio
April 8, 2021 4:00 am

The Characteristics of One Who Forgives B

Grace To You / John MacArthur

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Anybody who loves the Lord Jesus Christ, anybody who loves the saints, anybody who loves the fellowship, anybody who loves true knowledge, anybody who loves the glory of Christ, anybody who loves to be a blessing is going to be a forgiver.

I'm your host, Phil Johnson. There will probably be many times in your life when a friend or a family member, someone you trust, does something that costs you money or embarrassment or even real pain. How should you respond when that happens? Are there some sins you just shouldn't or can't forgive? Consider that today on Grace to You as John MacArthur continues his practical study titled, Forgiveness. Now, John, before the lesson today, I want to take a couple of minutes for some encouragement. You have some letters in front of you that our listeners, I think, will appreciate, so share them with us. Phil, you know it's always a joy to do this.

Every time I come into the office and sit down at my desk, there's a little stack of letters there. I know that's because you guys want to encourage me, and it's so wonderful. Here are a few that will encourage everybody. Here's one from a man named Jay. Thank you for your faithful ministry of preaching God's Word clearly and boldly over the years.

I'm a faculty member at a public university teaching and doing research in microbiology. I began listening to your preaching in the mid-2000s on WTLN in Orlando, Florida, and since moving to Fort Wayne, Indiana, I have been listening to you via the GTY app. I've been blessed by the free resources you've provided over the years, including many books and messages on CD and two editions of the MacArthur Study Bible.

I'd say he's loaded up on it. That's great. Jay goes on, during the COVID lockdown and the riots that were among the highlights of this passing year, I was greatly benefited by your teaching from God's Word.

It helped me understand the social contexts behind events that were dominating the news cycles. So thank you, and may our Lord Jesus Christ continue to guide you and all your co-workers in your ministry. Jay, thank you so much. Thank you for taking the time to write and encourage us, and we thank the Lord for ministering to you in that way. Phil Johnson said to drop you a note, so I am, says a man named Eric.

I listen to you each night on bot radio in Kansas. I have been unemployed for months, and hearing God's Word through Grace To You each evening helps me focus on God and His will rather than be stressed or sad about my current situation. Thankful for how you dive into the Bible and help me learn more about the context of many passages. God bless you, John, and the Grace To You team, Eric. Isn't it interesting how he talked about context, and so did the letter from Jay.

People talk about context, and we talked about that last week, that context is everything in interpreting scripture, and people pick that up. Well, these letters, these stories are reminders of God's faithfulness and giving us opportunity to minister on a wide, wide level, not only across this country, but even around the globe. Wouldn't happen without your prayers and your support, so thank you for standing with us. Yes, friend, we are so grateful for our partnership with people just like you who affirm John's commitment to verse-by-verse teaching. Through your support, you help Grace To You have a strong voice throughout the world, enabling men and women to grow in biblical truth.

And if you'd like to partner with us, go to after the lesson. But right now, stay here as John continues his series, simply titled, Forgiveness. They're not explicit, but they are implicit.

They're implied here, very, very clearly. In this section, Paul refers to Philemon in very, very glowing terms. He commends him from verse 4 through 7 on his Christian character. And as he does that, he is describing the kind of man who will be a forgiver. The first characteristic of a forgiver is he's a Christian. He has a concern for the Lord. He is very concerned for the Lord. He loves the Lord, wants to honor the Lord, is desirous of that which expresses his faith in the Lord.

Second, a forgiving person also has a concern for people, a concern for people. Verse 5, Paul says, I hear also of your love which you have toward all the saints. Now you'll notice that I've kind of explained that verse, and it's a little bit jumbled up. This is in the Greek language what we call a chiastic arrangement. In other words, the words and the thoughts in the verse are arranged in a crisscross fashion. And the first expression, I hear of your love, goes with the last expression, and the second expression of faith goes with the first expression toward our Lord Jesus.

So you have to look at it as a crisscross. That's chiastic in the Greek language. So when he says faith, he's talking about the faith which you have toward the Lord Jesus. When he says love, he says the love which you have toward all the saints.

That's the second characteristic. You love the saints. This is agapain love. This is love of choice, love of the will, love of self-sacrifice, love of humility. This is the love that says I don't care about myself, I care about you. This is the love that says I'll make any sacrifice to meet your need. This is the love that says it's not emotion with me, it's obedience.

I'm not compelled to serve you because there's something about you that's attractive. I'm compelled to serve you because there's something about the power of God within me that moves me that way. This is what Paul said in Galatians 5, 6, as faith working through love. You remember 1 Thessalonians 4, 9, Paul says, I don't have to teach you how to love, you're taught by God to love. Romans 5, the love of Christ is shed abroad in your heart. 1 John 3, 14, he simply says if you're born again, you love the brothers. If you don't love the brothers, you're not born again. In other words, you're a Christian, you have a capacity to love. You have the love of God shed abroad in your heart. You've been taught by God to love. You've been given the capacity.

It's there. It's the love of the Spirit that's in you. And so he says to Philemon, I know you can be a forgiver.

Why? Your faith is real so you have a concern for the Lord. Your love is real so you have a concern for the people.

You cannot ask an unbeliever to forgive. They don't have any love toward people. They don't have any passion, self-sacrificing love of will to do what is right toward someone as something innate within them.

If it's self-serving, they'll do it. And the love they know about is the love of feeling and the love of emotion, not the love of choice and the love of commitment. So he says, Philemon, you're a forgiver because you have a concern for the Lord. You know God. You walk with Christ. Your faith is toward Him and it's continuing and you have a love for the people. Thirdly, one who is a forgiver has a concern for fellowship, a concern for fellowship. He says, I hear of your love and of the faith which you have toward the Lord Jesus Christ and toward all the saints that the fellowship of your faith may become effective.

Now here he adds another concept. He is saying you have true saving faith, you have true spiritual love, and you have a desire for fellowship. Your faith pursues fellowship. He calls it the fellowship of your faith. And he says, I'm hoping that the fellowship of your faith may become effective. That's the word powerful.

Powerful. I know you care about the fellowship. Now that's true of Christians. If you're a Christian, you care about the fellowship. You care about the body of Christ is what he's saying.

You're concerned about others. You say, look, I want to forgive you because I don't want chaos in the fellowship. I want harmony. I want peace.

I want unity. There's no individualism that says, I really don't care about you. I'm going to take what I want and I'm going to ask what I want and I'm going to give only what I want and I'll do things my way because I'm the one that I care about.

You know, a Christian doesn't say that. A Christian says, I care about the fellowship. I care about you. I care about our unity. I care about our ministry.

I care about our mutual sharing. The word fellowship, koinonia, is a hard word to translate actually. It most often is translated fellowship, but when we talk about fellowship, we usually mean enjoying somebody's company. We say we had fellowship together.

We mean we just had fun or we talked or we had a little bit of time together and sort of shared a little bit of kibitzing or a little bit of food or refreshment, but that's not what we're talking about here. What we're talking about here is belonging. That's the word that I like best, belonging. You belong to somebody else and somebody else belongs to you in a mutual partnership. So he says, I know that your faith is concerned with how important is this mutual belonging and what's his implication here? Well, Onesimus is coming back. You know now that Onesimus from reading this letter is a Christian and that makes him in the fellowship and he belongs to you now not only as a slave but as a brother in Christ and you belong to him not only as a master but as a brother in Christ and I know you care about the belonging.

That's the idea. I know that's important to you. And then he says, and I want your fellowship, the fellowship of your faith to become effective, to have a powerful impact. And what he's saying is if you forgive this guy, it's going to have a powerful impact because this was a serious felony for which the slave could lose his life and if you just flat forgive the guy, that's going to send a strong message to the church about the priority of belonging. This man now belongs to me not as my slave but as my brother and my brother needs forgiveness. That's going to be a powerful statement of fellowship.

It doesn't matter what a man does to you or what a woman does to you. If you can take that person back and embrace that person in love, you have made a strong statement about your concern for fellowship, have you not? For the mutual belonging.

You're not concerned about you and your isolation and your individualism. You're concerned about the partnership, the mutual participation. So a person with true saving faith is concerned about the Lord. A person who has had the love of God shed abroad in his heart is concerned about other people. And a person who cares about the fellowship and has the priority of the mutual belonging of believers in his mind is going to be the kind of person eager to forgive. If you love the Lord, if you love people, if you love the fellowship, you'll be a forgiver.

There's a fourth concern and that is this. He had a concern for knowledge. Paul wanted him to be reminded of this, so Paul says in verse 6, I pray that the fellowship of your faith may become powerful through the knowledge of every good thing which is in you.

Stop at that point. Through the knowledge of every good thing which is in you. Now let me ask you a question. When you became a Christian, did God put good things in you? Yes, you've been blessed with what? All spiritual blessings in the heavenlies in Christ Jesus. Do you know you have a new creation in you? Do you know there are a lot of good things in you? Many good things.

And he says to Philemon, Philemon, I want you to have the knowledge of every good thing in you. So how do I learn them? How do I know about the good things that are in me? Do I read about them in a book?

No. The word for knowledge is epignosis. Not just knowing, gnosis, but epignosis, deep knowledge, rich knowledge, full knowledge. Listen to this, experiential knowledge. It's the knowledge through personal acquaintance with truth. It's the knowledge that comes through experience.

Now listen to what he's saying to him. He's saying, Philemon, if you forgive this guy, listen now, if you forgive this guy, you're going to immediately experience the good thing in you called forgiveness. You could read about forgiveness in a book, but you wouldn't really know it because you haven't experienced it. You could hear somebody preach about forgiveness and how wonderful it is and how blessed it is, but you really wouldn't know it until you did it. You know how to get the knowledge of the good things that are in you?

Exercise them. You find out the tremendous goodness of what God has placed within you when you walk in obedience to the will of God and you do things and you see and experience those things in your own life. God has given you the capacity to forgive. Forgive somebody and experience it.

That's what he's saying. Once you do it, Philemon, you're going to experience the forgiveness. I mean, we've all sat down and read the books that showed some guy skiing down the Swiss Alps on a sunny day and the snow flying by and the beauty and wonder of all of that and the thrill and exhilaration, but I'll tell you, there is a lot of difference between looking at the picture in the book and coming down the mountain. There's a certain one-dimensional flat knowledge that you get out of the book that cannot even be related to what you experience when you're flying down the mountain on the skis. And the same thing is true in the spiritual realm. I can read the flat words on the pages of the Bible that define forgiveness, but I will never have the epignosis or the deep knowledge of forgiveness until I what? Forgive and experience it. And that's how I learned to know every good thing that God has put in me. So, the person who can forgive is concerned about the Lord, he's concerned about people, he's concerned about fellowship, and he's concerned about knowledge. He wants the full, rich, deep knowledge of every good thing that's in him.

You know, just follow that through. I want to do what God wants me to do because I want to experience the power of the goodness that is in me through him. It's not my own goodness, but it's the goodness that he's put in me.

Don't you get a joy out of that? Sometimes when we have the opportunity to give, for example, and to give generously, and to give sacrificially, we feel this thrill, this exhilaration, this joy, this exuberance because we have experienced the deep, rich goodness that God has put in us that causes us to be able to give sacrificially. And so he is reminding Philemon and us of the priority of being concerned about knowledge. There's a fifth component, I think, in the character of someone who forgives, and that is a concern for glory, a concern for glory. At the end of verse 6 is this little phrase, for Christ's sake. Actually, in the Greek it says, unto Christ, unto Christ. In other words, he is saying, Philemon, I know you have fellowship as a priority.

I want it to be powerful. I know you're concerned about knowledge, and I want it to be the knowledge of every good thing that is in you, and I know you want all of this for Christ's sake. That's implied. In other words, you're concerned about the glory of Christ. You do it unto Him, as unto Him. The Christian life with all its deeds, with all its joys, with all its works, with all its responsibilities is for the glory of Christ. It's for Christ's sake. It's for Christ's name.

It's for Christ's praise, Christ's glory. And frankly, if you're devoted to that, you're going to forgive, right? I can't say in one moment I want to do all of the glory of Christ, but don't think I'll forgive you. You can't say that. Be honest. What you have to say is, I'm not going to forgive you, so Christ, I'm not interested in your glory.

I'm interested in my vengeance. That's what you're saying. But if you want to honor Christ, then you'll forgive as He forgave you, right? If you want to honor Christ, you'll obey what He told you to do. Surely Philemon was concerned to glorify Christ. Surely he would do it unto Christ, or for Christ's sake. The one who forgives then is marked by a concern for the Lord, a concern for people, a concern for fellowship, a concern for deep experiential knowledge, and a concern for the glory of His Lord.

There's one last note. The person who forgives is characterized by a concern to be a blessing. He's characterized by a concern to be a blessing. And this again is implied in verse 7. Paul says, I have come to have much joy and comfort in your love. Stop there at this point. This man had a reputation for love, and Paul says, your love has brought me joy and comfort.

That's what he says. Not just joy and comfort, much joy and comfort. I have come to the point where you have given me reason to rejoice. I have come to the point where you have encouraged my heart by your love.

In what way? Verse 7. Again, middle of the verse. Because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you, brother.

What a statement. The hearts, he uses the word splenchna, actually the bowels, the feelings, the seed of emotion and feeling. He says, people in trouble, people with feelings, people suffering and hurting and struggling have found you to be a blessing. You refreshed them.

It's a military term used for an army that takes a march, stops and rests. You bring people rest. You're a peacemaker. You renew people.

Your care and your service and your refreshing heart brings solace to troubled folks. Nothing indicates that he was an elder in the church. Nothing indicates that he was a deacon in the church. Nothing indicates that he was a teacher in the church. Obviously, he was some kind of businessman. He was not a calculated diplomat. He was just a man of instinctive kindness.

He was a blessing to everybody. That kind of person will forgive, the person who is concerned to be a refreshing person. I don't want to bring trouble in your life. I don't want to make unrest. I don't want to bring disturbance.

I want to bring rest. Listen, those are the kind of people that bring me joy. There are people in my world, believe me, there are people, more than I would like to think about, who bring me trouble. And it's usually fairly constant.

And you look long and hard to find those who just refresh you all the time. Because they resolve everything. Because they bring peace to everything. Because they exercise wise direction and leadership. Because they serve and care and minister.

And because they just bless everybody. Those are the kind of people who are going to forgive because all they want to be is a blessing. Well, Philemon by now has got to be saying to himself, boy, I'm quite something.

Wow. And that's exactly what Paul hopes he's saying because in verse 8 he's going to hit him between the eyes with what he needs to do. And now he's going to feel so good about what a wonderful man he is, he's going to have to do it, or he won't live up to his press releases. Anybody who loves the Lord Jesus Christ, anybody who loves the saints, anybody who loves the fellowship, anybody who loves true knowledge, anybody who loves the glory of Christ, anybody who loves to be a blessing is going to be a forgiver. That's the character of the kind of people who forgive.

And so Paul establishes that character as the character of Philemon. I was reading through an old poetry book that's a favorite of mine, and I came across a poem, and I don't know if it will affect you the way it did me. Maybe because I'm a father of four children and have such wonderful and cherished memories about my children, it struck me and even made me very emotional, and every time I've read it I've had the same kind of response.

But it's just a little reminder of the simple qualities of forgiveness. See if you can follow what the poet says. My little son, who looked from thoughtful eyes and moved and spoke in quiet, grown-up wise, having my law the seventh time disobeyed, I struck him and dismissed with hard words and unkissed, his mother who was patient being dead. Then, fearing lest his grief should hinder sleep, I visited his bed, but found him slumbering deep with darkened eyelids and their lashes yet from his late sobbing wet, and I with moan kissing away his tears left others of my own.

For on a table drawn beside his head, he had put within his reach a box of colors and a red-veined stone, a piece of glass abraded by the beach, and six or seven shells, a bottle of bluebells, and two French copper coins to comfort his sad heart. So when that night I prayed to God, I wept and said, Ah, when at last we lie with tranquil breath, now seeing Thee in death, and Thou rememberest of what toys we made our simple joys, how weakly understood Thy great commanded good, then fatherly not less than I whom Thou hast molded from the clay, Thou leave Thy wrath and say, I forgive Thy childishness. If God can do that for us, can't we do that for each other?

Father, thank You for this reminder this morning of the kind of person who forgives. We want to be that kind of person. We long to be that kind of person.

We find no virtue in being any less than that. And so we ask that Your Spirit would make us like, dear Philemon, those who have the character of a forgiver. If there's anything that we have yet unforgiven in our lives, resolve it this moment and free us from the bondage of the past, the disease of bitterness, the open door to Satan, and the forfeiture of sweet fellowship with You, for only forgiveness can do that. For Jesus' sake, amen.

on the radio because of support from listeners like you. Your gifts help us take verse-by-verse teaching to people from all walks of life in the United States, Europe, Asia, and beyond. And if you'd like to partner in this strategic Bible teaching outreach, contact us today. You can mail your tax-deductible gift to Grace To You, Box 4000, Panorama City, CA 91412, or make a donation when you call 800-55-GRACE, or visit our website, And as we often say, giving to your local church should be your first priority, but we're grateful for anything you can send our way after that. To make a donation, call 800-55-GRACE, or go to And remember, our website,, has thousands of free resources that can help you better understand God's Word and apply it to your life. If you have questions about marriage or honoring Christ at your job or how you can minister to a loved one who's suffering, you can search John's sermons and daily devotionals and blog articles to find resources that give answers.

The website again, Now for John MacArthur, I'm Phil Johnson. Thanks for making this broadcast part of your day. And join us tomorrow when John looks at the connection between forgiveness and worship. He's continuing his study from the book of Philemon, simply titled Forgiveness. It's another 30 minutes of unleashing God's truth one verse at a time, on Grace to You.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-12-03 20:39:57 / 2023-12-03 20:50:56 / 11

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