Must We Forgive Others For Our Father To Forgive Us? Matthew 6:15 – Once Saved.org
 

Must We Forgive Others For Our Father To Forgive Us? Matthew 6:15

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In this video, we’re looking at what Jesus said about forgiveness in Matthew 6:15. He said if you don’t forgive others, then your heavenly Father won’t forgive you. That sure sounds like conditional forgiveness and a threat to Once Saved, Always Saved, that you could in fact lose your salvation if you don’t forgive someone. Has the total assurance teaching of Once Saved, Always Saved met its match? Hmmm. I don’t think so. Let’s look into it.

Here’s the passage from Matthew 6:14-15. This is part of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount in Matthew chapters 5 through 7, where Jesus went up on a hillside and began to teach the Jews who followed Him. In that Sermon on the Mount, He said this about forgiveness:

“For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.“ (Matthew 6:14-15 KJV)

This teaching couldn’t be more clear: Jesus said that if we forgive others, our Father will forgive us. But if we don’t forgive others, our Father will not forgive us. If we’re not forgiven, how can we be saved? It sure sounds like a threat to salvation assurance, Once Saved Always Saved. Is it? 

No. Not at all. Not to worry.

There is a lot to go over here. But I’m going to tell you the short answer up front, so you know where I’m going. Then I’m going to go through it in more detail and cover some pretty interesting things along the way. 

The short answer is this: What Jesus said is true, of course, because He never lies. But is it true for us, saved Christians in the Church? And the answer is no. Jesus was speaking before the cross happened, before the Age of Grace even started. He was speaking to an entirely Jewish audience who were living under the covenant of the Law, the Law of Moses. He was speaking before the covenant of Grace through faith started at Pentecost.

In terms of eternal salvation, we can easily show that it doesn’t apply to believers in the Church by comparing this verse from Matthew with what we are now taught in the New Testament after the Gospels, after the cross, after the death and resurrection of Christ and after the Holy Spirit came at Pentecost. We are no longer under the Law. We are now under the new covenant of Grace, where in Ephesians 4:32 it says:

“And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.” (Ephesians 4:32 KJV)

In Matthew, Jesus said if you do not forgive, the Father won’t forgive you. But in Ephesians, Paul said the opposite: He said God has already forgiven you, so you should forgive others. Notice that the phrase, “hath forgiven you,” is in the past tense. It already happened the moment you placed your faith in Christ and were born again. God’s forgiveness under the new covenant is not dependent on us forgiving others. Our salvation is not conditional on us forgiving others. The Father isn’t waiting to see if we first forgive others to decide whether He will forgive us. Instead, the moment we place our faith in Christ, all of our sins are forgiven. As Christ said, “It is finished” (John 19:30).  So now, we should forgive others because our Father has already forgiven us. In other words, eternal salvation is not conditional on anything we do, which means Once Saved, Always Saved.

Paul said the same thing in Colossians 3:13:

“Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.” (Colossians 3:13 KJV)

Did you get that? Christ has already forgiven you, so you should forgive others. But our salvation is not dependent on us forgiving others, for we are already forgiven by God. Eternal salvation is only dependent on one thing: Faith in Christ alone.

So, we don’t want to take this passage from Matthew and try to apply it to the Church. Jesus wasn’t speaking to the Church. He was speaking to Jews under the Law, telling them the impossible requirements of being saved under the Law. He was telling them they had to forgive perfectly to be saved. No one was ever saved under the Law because it’s impossible to obey it perfectly. Jesus was speaking under the Law.

So, this passage doesn’t apply to our salvation in the current Age of Grace. But, at the same time, we also don’t want to simply discard this passage. While it doesn’t teach us about salvation, it does teach us about the importance of forgiveness in relation to our discipleship, the lifelong daily process every Christian goes through to become transformed to be more like Christ. While our forgiveness has no bearing on our salvation, we do learn from this passage that unforgiveness is a sin in God’s eyes, so we need to forgive. If we don’t, as with any sin, our heavenly Father will discipline us if we persist in it. That won’t include the loss of salvation, but His discipline, which may include loss of blessings in this life and loss of rewards in the next. As Christians, we are not at liberty to live in sin, but we will also not lose our salvation on account of sin, because sin has forever been paid for on the cross. 

That’s the short answer. Now let’s dive in a little deeper.

Let’s start with our verses from Matthew 6:

“For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.“ (Matthew 6:14-15 KJV)

What is the CONTEXT of this passage?

We’ve already said that there are two critical things to take into account so that we interpret this passage correctly:

  1. Jesus spoke UNDER THE LAW.
  2. Jesus was speaking TO JEWS.

It is essential that you understand this context and not just take everything Jesus said and think that it all applies to you. It doesn’t. Here’s the real danger:

If you think EVERYTHING Jesus said applies to YOU,
you will get really MESSED UP in your theology.

You will end up with a gospel of WORKS
that is NOT the Gospel of Grace.

So many people have done this, especially Lordship Salvationists who reject the teaching on eternal security and mistakenly believe that you can lose your salvation if you don’t walk in obedience and also rid yourself of sin. Obedience and ridding yourself of sin are both critical for Christian discipleship, becoming like Christ. But that’s discipleship, which has nothing to do with salvation. More on that as we go.

First, let’s look at point #1:

1. Jesus spoke UNDER THE LAW

In Matthew 5:17, Jesus said of Himself:

“Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.” (Matthew 5:17 KJV)

By Jesus’ own Words, He came under the Old Testament covenant of Law. He didn’t come to destroy the Law, but to fulfill it. How did He fulfill it? By living in perfect obedience to the Law, completely without sin. He fulfilled it. Why was that important? Because it then qualified Him as the perfect, unblemished lamb. It qualified Him under the Law to become our perfect sacrifice for sin. So, He couldn’t live apart from the Law. Everything He did had to be in conformity with the Law. If He broke the Law even one time, He could not have offered Himself as the perfect, unblemished lamb. Everything He did, everything He said, had to be in conformity to the Old Testament Law.

Jesus came under the Law to fulfill it
so that He would qualify as our perfect sacrifice.

When He spoke, He spoke under the Law
and in accordance with the Law
.

That’s why when He healed someone, He often told them to go to the priests and offer the sacrifices required by Moses. Jesus was living under the Law.

Let’s look at a few examples of this from the Sermon on the Mount, starting with Matthew 5:20, where Jesus said:

“For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:20 KJV)

This isn’t a salvation message of grace about His blood sacrifice for sin on the cross, that salvation comes by believing in Him. No. This is a teaching under the Old Testament Law. Jesus said to the Jews who were gathered there that unless their personal righteousness exceeded that of the scribes and Pharisees, they will not enter into the kingdom of heaven. They won’t be saved. He was speaking under the Law.

The Law was about
MAN’S WORKS, MAN’S RIGHTEOUSNESS,

not about grace. 

Contrast that to what Paul said in Philippeans 3:8-9:

“…I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, and be found in Him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith:” (Philippians 3:8-9 KJV)

While Jesus said that your own righteousness must exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees to enter heaven, Paul said that his own righteousness doesn’t count for anything, but what counts for salvation is the righteousness which is of God by faith. In this current Age of Grace, we stand in God’s perfect righteousness by faith, not our own righteousness that we get through obedience. Through faith in Christ, God’s perfect righteousness is imputed to us, credited to us, so that we stand in His righteousness, not our own. If you are not familiar with imputed righteousness, at the end of this video I’ll include a link to a video I did specifically on Imputed Righteousness.

The important concept is this:

Under Grace, we walk in His righteousness by faith,
not our own righteousness.

That’s very different, in fact total opposite, to what Jesus taught the Jews. That’s because He was speaking to them under the Law. So, if you take that teaching under the Law and mistakenly apply it to yourself as a New Testament believer, guess what you get? A false gospel of works, a false belief that, according to Jesus, you must establish your own righteousness before God, which is done through obedience. But what did Paul say? He said that we stand by faith in God’s righteousness, and we DO NOT try to establish our own righteousness before Him.

Here are a few more examples of Jesus speaking under the law. Jesus said in Matthew 5:22:

“But I say unto you, that whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.” (Matthew 5:22 KJV)

So, according to Jesus, if you call someone a fool, you can be sent to hell. Is that the New Testament teaching of Grace or the Old Testament teaching of the Law? But Jesus said it so it must be true, right? Yes, Jesus doesn’t lie. It is true. But to whom is it true? He was speaking to Jews who were trying to obey the Law to be approved by God. Are you trying to obey commandments and laws to be approved by God? Or are you under Grace?

Jesus went on to say:

“But I say unto you, that whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart. And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.” (Matthew 5:28-29 KJV)

Nowhere in the rest of the New Testament after the death, burial and resurrection of Christ are we told to pluck out our eyes to keep us from sinning, so we won’t be thrown into hell. Jesus was speaking to Jews under the Law. You can’t apply this teaching to the Church, at least as far as salvation is concerned. We can certainly learn from this, that having lustful thoughts is a sin in God’s sight so, as good disciples of Christ, we should not do that. But that has nothing to do with salvation for us. 

Jesus was speaking to Jews under the Law, and He summed up His teaching with this, in Matthew 5:48:

“Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” (Matthew 5:48 KJV)

God’s standard is absolute perfection. He doesn’t grade on the curve. He doesn’t overlook ANY sin. Or as it says in James:

“For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.” (James 2:10 KJV)

It only takes one sin to send someone to hell. That’s if you are someone, like the Jews, who were trying to prove their worthiness before God by obeying laws and commandments. Do you think your salvation depends on you obeying commandments, even the commandments of Christ? Then, according to James, you had better do it perfectly. God doesn’t grade on the curve. If you are relying on your own righteousness before God, you must be perfect as God is perfect. 

But that’s not how we’re saved. In this Age of Grace, we are saved forever by faith in Christ alone. We stand by faith in God’s perfect righteousness, not our own. We don’t work for our salvation or work to keep our salvation by obeying commandments. That’s a false teaching. That’s taking verses like the ones Christ spoke to the Jews under the Law and misapplying them the Church. Don’t do that.

When Jesus said:

“For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.“ (Matthew 6:14-15 KJV)

HE WASN’T TALKING TO CHRISTIANS! The Church did not exist yet. He was speaking BEFORE the cross happened, under the Law.

Then there’s the second point:

2. Jesus was speaking TO JEWS.

Jesus didn’t come to the Gentiles. He came exclusively to the Jews. Only to them. Matthew 15:24:

“But He (Jesus) answered and said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” (Matthew 15:24 KJV)

Jesus did not come to the Gentiles. He came to Jews who were living under the Law. 

Scripture says that Jesus went from town to town preaching the gospel and even sent His disciples to preach the gospel, but that was the gospel of the Kingdom, spoken to Jews, NOT the Gospel of Grace, of salvation. It was the gospel of the Kingdom. Matthew 4:23:

“And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the Kingdom…” (Matthew 4:23 KJV)

The gospel of the Kingdom is NOT the Gospel of salvation that we teach in the Church. The gospel of the Kingdom is the proclamation that God’s heavenly Kingdom is coming to earth, as in the Lord’s prayer when it says, “Thy Kingdom come.” Jesus was telling the Jews that the Kingdom was at hand because the King (Jesus) was already here, and they needed to repent from their sin to get ready for it. The gospel of the Kingdom is not about Christ dying for our sins, being buried and rising from the dead three days later, so that whosoever believes in Jesus might have everlasting life. That’s the New Testament Gospel of Grace that started at Pentacost, AFTER the cross. The gospel of the Kingdom is about God’s eternal rule coming over the earth, doing away with human government and establishing righteousness over the earth. What Jesus did and what He spoke before the cross happened was under the Law, not under grace. There were a few instances where He spoke briefly about the coming Age of Grace, but most of what He said and did was to fulfill the Law.

Why Did Jesus Speak And Act Under The Law?

1.To fulfill the Law so that He would qualify as our perfect sacrifice

2.To show Jews that they all need a Savior

Jesus spoke UNDER THE LAW, telling the Jews all that they had to do to be approved by God so that they could enter the Kingdom of heaven, if they wanted to be approved by God under the Law. But He was giving them an IMPOSSIBLE standard that no one could ever meet. He did this to show them that they were hopelessly lost before a perfectly holy God and, therefore, needed a Savior.

“Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” (Matthew 5:48 KJV)

In the entire Sermon on the Mount, He wasn’t speaking to Christians. He was speaking to Jews, and He was giving them a death sentence. Every Jew there thought that they would be saved because they were the chosen people of God, and that they were obeying the Law. But Jesus repeatedly showed them they were not even close to being obedient to God and that, in fact, it is impossible for any person to walk at the level of obedience that God requires, which is perfect obedience. 

The Sermon on the Mount has been described as one of the most beautiful sermons ever, but what it really is is a death sentence to every person who thinks that they must be obedient to be found worthy by God. Jesus was telling them that they were all condemned, that anyone who thinks that obedience is the way to be saved is condemned. Salvation doesn’t work that way. God is perfect and only perfect obedience will be accepted. No human being is capable of that. Christ is the ONLY ONE Who is obedient, Who is worthy, and we walk in His obedience, His worthiness, His righteousness, not our own, by faith. Our own obedience or worthiness doesn’t count for salvation.

So, let’s wrap this up by showing it all in a picture, graphically.

The death, burial and resurrection of Christ along with the Holy Spirit being given at Pentecost is the dividing line between two covenants: the old Covenant of the Law and the New Covenant of Grace. No one was ever saved by obeying the Law because no one ever obeyed it perfectly. The Law was given to show mankind that we are all lawbreakers, or sinners, before a perfectly holy God and that we are, therefore, unable to save ourselves. We needed a Savior. The purpose of the Law was to point us to Christ.

When Jesus came, He came under the Law to fulfill it, obeying every commandment perfectly, so that He would qualify under the Law as our perfect sacrifice, the unblemished lamb. He preached the gospel of the coming Kingdom, the announcement of God’s coming Kingdom on earth of which He will be the King. He preached this to the Jews only. Everything He did and said was in accordance with and under the Law. So, we see a lot of verses where Jesus was speaking under the Law, verses like Mathew 6:14-15:

“For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.“ (Matthew 6:14-15 KJV)

That’s the message under the Law, not under grace.

After the cross, at Pentecost, the old Covenant of the Law ended and the New Covenant of Grace, also called the “Age of Grace,” started, where salvation is now proclaimed to be by faith in Christ alone. This Gospel of Grace was preached primarily by Paul to the Gentiles. Salvation has always been by grace through faith in Christ. The Law never saved anyone.

So now, in the current Age of Grace, we see a different message being preached concerning forgiveness, not a message of judgment under the Law as in Matthew 6:15, but a message of grace and how we should respond with forgiveness because of the grace we’ve received, as in Ephesians 4:32: 

“be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.” (Ephesians 4:32 KJV)

We obey God, not because we could lose our salvation if we don’t, but as a way of offering thanks to God for the salvation and grace that He has already given us. 

Pictured another way, the Gospel of faith in Christ alone is the narrow way. We are saved entirely by God’s grace. That means Christ + nothing. We don’t contribute to our own salvation with anything we do. Christ alone saves us by grace through faith.

To the left of this narrow way, we see those who are not saved because they have no faith. These are atheists or agnostics. It is easy to see how they will not be saved. But to the right is the more subtle and deceptive way a person can miss salvation: by believing Christ is only part of what saves them, and the rest is up to them and their obedience. Ultimately, they have faith in self. 

They are adding to the finished work of Christ their own efforts. It’s the belief that “God will see me as worthy of salvation because I believe in Jesus AND I’m obeying Him by doing this: (you fill in the blank, whatever ‘this’ is).

If you think that way, that part of your salvation is from what Christ did, but you also need to do your part to keep yourself saved, ultimately, you are robbing Christ of His glory and placing it on yourself for your obedience. Don’t do that. Instead, listen to this verse where Paul compares Adam to Christ in Romans 5:19:

“For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of One shall many be made righteous.” (Romans 5:19 KJV)

To all those who think you must obey Christ’s commandments to keep your salvation, or you could lose it, let me point out to you that YOU are not the “ONE” spoken of here. It’s not your obedience that counts for your salvation. This says, “by the obedience of One,” One being Christ, “shall many be made righteous. We are righteous because He was obedient, not because we’re obedient. Our obedience counts nothing for our salvation. That thinking is a cancer in the Church. It is denying the true Gospel.

Instead, we stand by faith in His obedience. He was the ONE Who was obedient, not us. We are declared righteous in Him, because of what He did, not because of anything we do. All the glory goes to Him and none to us. When you say that you must obey Christ’s commandments or you will lose salvation, you are robbing glory from Christ and placing it on yourself. Stop it. Repent of that. It is sin. It is unbelief in the true Gospel that we are saved by God’s grace alone through faith in Christ alone.

That’s why Paul said in Philippeans 3:9 that his goal was to:

“… be found in Him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith:” (Philippians 3:9 KJV)

Our righteousness before God does not come by our own obedience to Christ’s commandments but by faith in Christ Himself. We stand in His obedience, His righteousness by faith.

The mistake people make when they think that they must obey commandments to keep their salvation or do anything other than believe in Christ for salvation, is that they are mixing what’s required for salvation with what’s required for discipleship.

We see both salvation and discipleship in Ephesians 2:8-10 and the two should never be mixed.

“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. (vv. 8-9 KJV)

For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” (v. 10 KJV)

Verses 8-9 have to do with salvation, that we are saved by God’s grace through faith in Christ alone, not of works or anything we do. Then, in verse 10, we see discipleship, which follows salvation and is about works, how we were created in Christ Jesus (in other words, already saved, in Christ) so that we could then live unto good works that God has prepared for us. We need to draw a solid line between salvation by grace through faith and discipleship, which is by works. The two should not be mixed together. If you don’t separate the two, then you will end up with a gospel based on works which is not the true Gospel at all.

Pictured another way:

Salvation is based on faith alone:

  • It is a gift of God through faith in Christ.
  • It cannot be earned.
  • Not of works.
  • Requires only believing in Jesus.
  • Based on faith alone.
  • Can never be lost or forfeited.

Discipleship is based on works:

  • It follows salvation.
  • Is about becoming like Jesus.
    • Taking up your cross daily
    • Obeying Him
    • Doing good works
    • Walking in holiness
  • Based on works 
  • Rewards can be won or lost. (Salvation is not a reward, but a free gift.)

Draw a solid line between salvation and discipleship. Salvation is about what Christ did for us. Discipleship is about our response of thankfulness to Him, reflected in the way we live. We don’t live in obedience to keep our salvation. We live in obedience as a way of thanking Him for His obedience, His righteousness, that He has bestowed upon us, as a way to give Him all the glory.

Those of you who think you must obey Christ’s commandments to keep your salvation are mixing salvation and discipleship together and you shouldn’t. You are rejecting the true Gospel and instead you are thinking you have to keep yourself saved by your own obedience. I truly fear for you, that you might miss salvation because you are rejecting the true Gospel, based on faith in Christ alone and, instead of placing all your faith in Christ, you are thinking that keeping yourself saved is up to you and your efforts to obey. If you think this, you are not believing the Gospel and you need to repent. 

Once we are saved by God’s grace through faith in Christ alone, then yes, as disciples of Christ we do need to obey Christ’s commandments and walk in holiness before God. But we do that not to keep ourselves saved but out of thankfulness to God for already having saved us through Christ. It’s an important difference because it shows where you are placing your faith: Is it fully in Christ alone or is it also in yourself and your obedience?

So, in conclusion, Matther 6:14-15 about God not forgiving you unless you forgive others does not apply to salvation. Jesus was speaking under the Law to show the Jews how far short of God’s perfect standard of righteousness they were.

“For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.“ (Matthew 6:14-15 KJV)

We are not saved by forgiving others and we do not keep our salvation by forgiving others. This principle DOES apply to discipleship, where God will discipline us if we hold unforgiveness in our hearts, but that is a discipleship issue which has nothing to do with salvation.

Instead, as Paul says in Ephesians 4:32, we are to forgive out of thankfulness to God as a response for God already having forgiven us.

“And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.” (Ephesians 4:32 KJV)

As far as salvation is concerned and what it takes to be saved, it comes down to this:

Salvation = God’s Grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.

Nothing more. Nothing less. There are no other requirements to be saved than to believe in Jesus. The question is: do you believe this? Or are you like those who are not trusting in the finished work of Christ but are trying to prove yourself worthy through your own obedience. Well, you’re not worthy! You never will be. None of us are. It is Christ who is worthy. We stand in His obedience by faith, not our own. We stand in His righteousness by faith, not our own. He makes us worthy. He makes us righteous.

Once you believe in Him, you are born again, and you are forever a child of God. Our Father is a good Father Who will never abandon you but will preserve you in the faith and never let you go. 

If you are not certain about your salvation, time is getting very late. Don’t take the chance of missing out on God. Prophetically, the current “Age of Grace” where God is giving people time to turn to Him for forgiveness is almost over. When it ends, it will be too late. God’s judgment is coming. Those who are not saved will be separated from God for all eternity. Don’t take chances with God. Don’t play with Him. Take Him seriously.

If you are not 100% sure you are saved, don’t put it off any longer. 

Making Sure You Are Saved Is As Easy As ABC

Admit to God that you have sinned.

Believe that Jesus, God’s Son, died to pay for
your sins 100%, was buried and rose from the dead.

Call upon Jesus and ask Him to forgive you and save you.

If you make that decision to call upon Him, God gives you this assurance:

“For whosoever shall call upon the Name of the Lord shall be saved.” (Romans 10:13 KJV)

Thank you for watching.


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