Each week we are looking at one phrase from the Lord’s prayer found in Matthew 6. This week we are focussing on the following phrase.

Matthew 6:12 And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors

There are two parts to this prayer, one is asking forgiveness and the other extending forgiveness. This prayer is illustrated in the parable found in Matt 18:21-35.

A. Asking forgiveness

Matthew 18:23 “Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. 24 When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. 25 And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. 26 So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ 27 And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt. 

The Lord’s prayer refers to sin in the form of a debt we owe God. This is a spiritual, ethical and moral debt because of our sin. This debt we owe God is eternal, infinite and immeasurable. In the parable we see that the servant owed the king ten thousand talents. This amounts to billions and billions of value in today’s currency. Jesus is making a point that the debt the servant owed is so enormous that he can never paid it back. Our debt before God is similar. It is so enormous that we can never pay it back with our own efforts.

We also notice in the Lord’s prayer that this is continuing from the previous verse in Matthew 6:11 where Jesus teaches us to ask for our daily bread. And here Jesus is teaching us to ask for daily forgiveness.

Why do we have to ask for daily forgiveness when we have been forgiven once for all because of what Jesus did on the cross? Some even teach that asking forgiveness cheapens Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross.

There are two ways to understand forgiveness, one in the context of justification and the other in sanctification. Forgiveness in justification is permanent whereas in sanctification it is personal. In justification, forgiveness is debt erased permanently whereas in sanctification forgiveness is daily enjoyment of the benefits of God’s forgiveness.

On cross Jesus permanently secured our forgiveness once for all and we receive this forgiveness through faith. Your sin is nailed to cross, debt is paid in full and sin is cancelled once for all, it is permanent and infallible. Other hand, by faith we receive this when we confess our sins on a daily basis, we possess and enjoy this forgiveness, its benefits and assurance through daily repentance.

For a believer, repentance is ongoing and lifelong. There will be no point in our earthly life that we will never need forgiveness from God.  

1 Jn 1:9-10 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness 10 If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

Verse 10 is crucial in understanding daily repentance. If we claim that we dont have to repent, then we make God a liar and the truth is not in us.

It is only through daily repentance that we put to death the sinful deeds in our life as Paul mentions in Colossians 3:5.

The one who has experienced true forgiveness makes war with sin in his life through daily confession. The one who has experienced true forgiveness enjoys benefits of this forgiveness through daily confession.

The question is what hinders true repentance on a daily basis? What hinders change and transformation? What hinders daily intimacy with God? It depends on how we repent?

There is a difference between repenting and asking forgiveness and giving excuses. Jesus teaches us to ask God to forgive us, not to excuse us for our sin.

Whats the difference? Excusing someone is to let them off the hook because they made a silly mistake or it is giving another chance. When we fail to finish an assignment in school, we come up with an excuse and based on the excuse the teacher gives us another chance or gives us as pass from punishment.

Sometimes we treat asking forgiveness as making excuses to God. We give excuses such as “I didn’t mean it”, “I was kidding”, “I’m having a bad day”, “Its just a mistake”, “I don’t know how I did it, “I can’t believe I did it”, “Everyone does this” and so on. All these are excuses and not asking forgiveness.

We can be sorry, filled with remorse, weeping and upset about what we did but it’s not repentance. Whenever we give excuses, compare, hide, defend, blame others for our sin, we minimise sin in our life. What we are trying to do is to satisfy God with our excuses hoping that he will forgive us. What we are actually doing is satisfying ourselves for our sin with excuses.

Giving excuses does not change us, does not remove our guilt and does not reconcile us with our Father. True repentance does.

Then how do we repent? True repentance involves owning your sin. In Psalm 51, David confesses saying I have done evil in your sight, it is against you, you only have I sinned. When we repent, we are not surprised about our sin, our ability to sin or our motive behind our sin. We admit saying, “I sinned”, “I did this”, “I was angry”, “I was unloving”. We take full responsibility for our sin and refrain from excuse making.

Why is this important? If we don’t take full weight of sin, then the full weight of guilt and shame wont come off. If we don’t take full responsibility for sin, then we don’t experience the full power of the gospel in our lives. This is why we don’t experience change or intimacy with God, a lack of true repentance.

Asking forgiveness is a daily discipline, it is a heart posture and an attitude of a believer which is humble before God. We don’t stay in self pity over our sin neither do we lose sight of our sin.

God is not astonished by the depth or extent of the sin we commit but he is attentive to our attitude and posture during repentance. Many mourn and weep for their sin and yet continue in love with their sin because they don’t truly confess and repent of their sins.

It is because of Christ has done on the cross for us, we can boldly pray God forgive our sins.

B. Extending forgivness

Matthew 18:28 But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii, and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay what you owe.’ 29 So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay 7.’ 30 He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt. 31 When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place. 32 Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. 33 And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ 34 And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt. 35 So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”

Jesus is serious about extending forgiveness. In the parable, the King forgives an enormous debt but the servant does not forgive his fellow servant of a much smaller debt. The king’s forgiveness has not turned this servant into a forgiving person, rather he is vindictive and seeks vengeance. In the end, this servant is delivered to the jailers and thrown into prison.

We see Matthew make a similar reference in Matthew 6 as he concludes the Lord’s prayer.

Matthew 6:14 For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, 15 but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

Is Jesus saying forgive and you will be forgiven? Aren’t we saved by grace? What Jesus is saying if you don’t forgive your brother, that is a sign that you have never really opened yourself to God’s grace. The fact that you don’t open your heart in mercy to others proves that you never opened your heart to my mercy.

It is like the tree and fruit. The fruit does not make the tree healthy but a healthy tree bears fruit. Assume one tree bears fruit and another does not bear fruit. The tree that bears fruit shows evidence of health. The tree that does not bear fruit shows evidence of decay and death. There is no better evidence to whether you have a relationship with God and have accepted his forgiveness through grace by faith than living a life of forgiving others.

Forgiving others is a life and death situation for you and thats how serious it is. Those who are forgiven become forgiving and those who are unforgiven are unforgiving. If we don’t forgive, even before you end up in eternal prison, you already living in prison in the present because of the grudges and bitterness. If you are holding grudges and bitterness, the very least is that you are blocking God’s grace and shalom in your life but it’s possible that you think you believe the gospel but you don’t.

Prayer involves not just asking God for forgiveness but also examining our heart so we are extending forgiveness to others.

How do you extend forgiveness? Are you a forgiving person? We may not know this but our neighbours, spouse, children, friends know how forgiving we are.

How do you forgive? Do you wait for others to shape up, meet your expectations, keep people hanging, give them the silent treatment, reject their apology, feel superior to them and carry bitterness in your heart?

Or are you quick to forgive and love?

1 Corinthians 13:4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. does not insist on its own way; not irritable or resentful; does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth

How is it possible for us to be forgiving like this? On what basis does God forgive us? We see the gospel revealed in this parable.

Matthew 18:27 And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt. 

The king had pity on the servant. The word “pity” means compassion. It is conveyed using the phrase “heart goes out for someone”. Just like the king, Jesus had pity and compassion for us. His heart went out for us. He identified with us. He didn’t feel superior but he came down to be like us. On the cross he became us and took our place.

The king forgave the debt by paying the debt at the cost of his kingdom and wealth. Jesus took the debt on himself, he carried our sin and paid our penalty at cost of his life.

Understanding what Jesus did on the cross for us makes us into forgiving people. Jesus invites us to come to him and experience the fulness of life he has for us, to come to him for rest, shalom, comfort, healing and joy.

The only way you can have a daily intimacy with God is through humble posture of daily repentance. The only way we can be a forgiving of others and not act like a judge is when we see the ultimate judge become a servant on our behalf.

Ranjit David

Ranjit has been in Pastoral Ministry for the last 10 years in various settings. Coming from an Engineering background, he is passionate about working with young professionals in Delhi, using their gifts, teaching from God’s word, and having an open home. His training from Dallas Theological Seminary and Redeemer City to City has equipped him to serve strategically in an urban context.

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