Lord’s Day Fifty-One

Question 126

Need for forgiveness

Unconfessed sins cause us to grope in the dark without the declaration of God’s favour. No great experiences of long ago can nourish the soul then. We have forgotten God, and He will make Himself known only in a way of true confession of iniquities and the seeking of forgiveness in Christ’s blood. To speak with our fathers in the Canons of Dort, by such sins into which God’s children sometimes fall by their own fault, “they very highly offend God, incur a deadly guilt, grieve the Holy Spirit, interrupt the exercise of faith, very grievously wound their consciences, and sometimes lose the sense of God’s favour for a time, until their return into the right way of serious repentance, the light of God’s fatherly countenance again shines upon them” (Head V, art. 5).

No, not one of these ever falls from grace, and God does not withdraw His Holy Spirit entirely, even in the saddest cases. But He certainly and effectually renews them to repentance by His Word and by His Spirit, so that they may have a sincere and godly sorrow because of the sins they have committed, and with a broken heart may desire and obtain forgiveness by faith in the blood of the Mediator.” Kersten, Heidelberg Catechism in 52 Sermons

Nature of forgiveness

Definition – remit the punishment, where the guilty person is treated as if he were innocent; send away, dismiss, set free. Bullinger

To forgive the offense, to send it away, to reject it, that is, not to impute it to the offender. Webster 1828

Accompanied by confession (ὁμολογέω) and repentance (μετανοέω). Confess – say the same with another, assent, agree with.

μετανοέω to perceive afterwards, hence, to change one’s mind and purpose. This change is always for the better, and denotes a change of moral thought and reflection; not merely to repent of, nor to forsake sin, but to change one’s mind and apprehensions regarding it; hence, to repent in a moral and religious sense, with the feeling of remorse and sorrow. μετανοέω denotes to reform, to have a genuine change of heart and life from worse to better. E. W. Bullinger, Critical Lexicon and Concordance

1 John 1:9, if we agree with God and call our action, etc., sin, which implies we have had a change of mind about our behavior and no longer view it as acceptable, God will forgive us.

Need for forgiving spirits

SECTION 6: AS every man is bound to make private confession of his sins to God, praying for the pardon thereof; upon which, and the forsaking of them, he shall find mercy; so he that scandalizes his brother, or the Church of Christ, ought to be willing by private or public confession and sorrow for his sin, to declare his repentance to those that are offended; who are thereupon to be reconciled to him, and in love to receive him. WCF

3. That it is the duty of the brethren, or of the Church, when offended, to forgive the offending party and restore him fully to favor upon his repentance, is also a dictate of natural conscience and of Scripture. All honorable men feel themselves bound to act upon this principle. The Christian is, in addition, brought under obligations to forgive others by his own infinite obligation to his Lord, who not only forgave us upon repentance, but died to redeem us while we were unrepentant. As to public scandals, the Church is bound to forgive them when the Lord has done so. As genuine repentance is the gift of Christ, its evident exercise is a certain indication that the person exercising it is forgiven by Christ and is a Christian brother. (Luke 17:3,4; 2 Cor. 2:7,8; Matt. 6:12.) Hodge on WCF

Luke 7:36-50; 1 John 1:8-2:2; Daniel 9:17-19

The woman at Simon’s house had a great sense of her need of forgiveness, how much she had been forgiven; because of great love for the One who had forgiven her, was ready to extend forgiveness to others. We should be ready to forgive in an instant but grant it when repentance is apparent.

Matthew 18:21-35

Conduct in the community of disciples called “the church” is to be patterned after the mercy and grace of God’s free forgiveness of sins—which is an important basis for the very existence of the community. As God freely forgives those who have sinned against him, so are disciples to freely forgive those who sin against them. In both instances the repentance of the sinner is assumed. The failure to forgive one who is repentant casts doubt on the genuineness of a person’s discipleship.” Word Biblical Commentary

Comfort found in prayer for forgiveness

Q. 5. What may encourage us to ask forgiveness from God?
A. We may be encouraged to ask forgiveness from God, when, by his grace, we are enabled with our hearts to forgive others. “For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.”— Matt. 6:14. Vincent on WSC

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