Bruce Collins, Evangelist

The personal website of Bruce Collins

Meditation for the week of March 12, 2006

Luke 23:34 Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. And they parted his raiment, and cast lots.

Forgiving someone is a great release. Being forgiven is a great relief. One of the great blessings of trusting in Christ is that our sins are forgiven. Paul said in Acts 13:38-39, “Be it known unto you therefore, men and brethren, that through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins: And by him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses.”

We don’t always understand the way the word forgiveness is being used. I realize that when the Lord offered forgiveness from the cross, He was really forgiving the soldiers who had nailed Him there. They accepted the offer and were saved (see Matthew 27:54). However, while the soldiers were likely in view when the Lord made this offer from the cross, it is quite clear that the same forgiveness is being offered to the whole world. Some of us weren’t even born yet, so we hadn’t sinned yet when the offer was made. Were we forgiven at the cross or were we forgiven when we accepted the offer of salvation? The answer is that we were offered forgiveness at the cross but we weren’t forgiven in the sense of being reconciled to God until we accepted God’s forgiveness.

Sometimes we use the word forgiveness to describe the offer of forgiveness. Other times we use the word to mean the reconciliation that occurs when the offer is accepted. Some people think you need to forgive people even if they don’t ask for forgiveness. They are right if we understand that we are to mentally release them and no longer try to control their behavior even if the offender refuses to accept the fact that he has done wrong. That is what Christ did in this cry from the cross.

Others teach that you only forgive those who repent and come asking for reconciliation. That is the way the word is used in Luke 17:3-4, “Take heed to yourselves: If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him. And if he trespass against thee seven times in a day, and seven times in a day turn again to thee, saying, I repent; thou shalt forgive him.” Providing for this forgiveness or releasing the offender should have happened before the offender says he repents. Forgiveness here would imply that both parties are reconciled each time the offender repents.

Forgiveness in the sense of reconciliation is what we receive when we are saved. It is what we need to remain in fellowship with the Lord after we are saved (see 1 John 1:9) We don‘t have to ask God to forgive us, we need to accept the forgiveness He has already provided at the cross. To ask God for forgiveness would be like asking our parents to give us a birthday gift on our birthday after they have already handed the gift to us and asked us to accept the gift.

However, truly releasing an individual who has offended us and who hasn‘t changed his behavior, does not require us to put ourselves in the position of being hurt again. A battered wife can forgive or release her husband without going back home and allowing him to batter her again. Of course, he is forgiven but not reconciled. Being cheated in a business deal does require us to forgive or release the cheater, but it doesn’t require us to continue doing business with the individual if he has not recognized his wrong, changed his behavior and been reconciled to those cheated. The Lord was only crucified once. Offering forgiveness does not require us to be crucified more than once either.

Truly forgiven people will suffer everlasting punishment because they would not repent and accept the righteous forgiveness offered to them at the cross. But no one who has been reconciled to God by accepting that forgiveness will ever perish. I am glad that I can look back to a day when I accepted the forgiveness offered at the cross, and on that day I was reconciled to God.

Bruce Collins

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