What Do The Scriptures Say
About Forbearance & Forgiveness
If any relationship is going to succeed, something has got to give. Since God is completely perfect and without flaw and we are thoroughly flawed, God must give to us forbearance and forgiveness if we are to have relationship. Since all people, including all people in the church are flawed, we must give to one another forbearance and forgiveness.
I. We need to see what forbearance and forgiveness mean.
1.Contrary to the belief of some, forbearance does not mean putting up with bad behavior indefinitely.
2. Vincent’s Word Studies defines the Greek word, anochē, as “strictly a holding back. In classical Greek mostly of a truce of arms. It implies something temporary which may pass away under new conditions. Hence used in connection with the passing over of sins before Christ (Rom. 3:25). ‘It is that forbearance or suspense of wrath, that truce with the sinner, which by no means implies that the wrath will not be executed at the last; nay, involves that it certainly will, unless he be found under new conditions of repentance and obedience’” (Trench).
3. Thus forbearance is the putting up with the wrongs of another for a season with a view toward repentance. It is a manifestation of grace in that it suspends punishment but it is foreshadowing of justice in that it continues to hold punishment in view if there is no repentance.
1. The Complete Word Study Dictionary defines the Greek word, aphesis, “ to cause to stand away, to release one’s sins from the sinner…This required Christ’s sacrifice as punishment of sin, hence the putting away of sin”.
2. So the practical difference between forbearance and forgiveness is this: Forbearance says, “I’ll give you more time.” Forgiveness says, “I’ve paid the debt.” That’s important. God did not just absorb the cost of our sin. He didn’t just write it off as a loss. It was paid in full.
II. We need to see forbearance and forgiveness in God.
A. Of forbearance:
1. The Bible says that it was in God’s “divine forbearance [that] he had passed over former sins” (Romans 3:25).
2. The Bible says that God “being compassionate, atoned for their [Israel’s] iniquity and did not destroy them; he restrained his anger often and did not stir up all his wrath” (Psalm 78:38) “And for about forty years he put up with them in the wilderness” (Acts 13:18).
3. The Bible says that, “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).
B. Of forgiveness:
1. The Bible says that God atones for our sins “for his name’s sake” (Psalm 79:9).
2. The Bible says that God’s forgiveness is complete (Psalm 103:10-12).
3. The Bible says that when we are forgiven we are “cleansed from all the guilt” (Jeremiah 33:8).
4. The Bible says that this is achieved by the blood of Christ (Revelation 1:5) at the point of baptism (Acts 2:38).
III. We need to see forbearance and forgiveness in ourselves.
Read Matthew 18:21-27.
A. Here God teaches us that accounts will be settled (v.23). God hasn’t forgotten what you owe him.
B. Here God teaches us that we owe him a debt that we can’t pay (v.24,25). The Expositor’s Bible Commentary says, “We glimpse some idea of the size of the indebtedness when we recall that David donated three thousand talents of gold and seven thousand talents of silver for the construction of the temple, and the princes provided five thousand talents of gold and ten thousand talents of silver (1 Chronicles 29:4, 7). Some recent estimates suggest a dollar value of twelve million; but with inflation and fluctuating precious metal prices, this could be over a billion dollars in today's currency.”
C. Here God teaches us that the man sought forbearance—give me more time (v.26). He got forgiveness (v.27).
Read Matthew 18:28-35
D. Here God teaches us that no one owes us nearly what we owe God (v.28). It was about three month’s wages, though sizeable, insignificant when compared to the debt that had just been forgiven.
E. Here God teaches us that the heart of some is unchanged by the mercy of God (v.28-30). God doesn’t forgive us just to get us out of trouble. God forgives us to change us.
F. Here God teaches us that there will be no mercy to the unmerciful (31-34).
G. Here God teaches us that each of us are preparing God’s judgment of ourselves (Matthew 6:14-15; 7:2; James 2:13). Since God practices forbearance and forgiveness with us, we must practice it with one another (Colossians 3:12-14).
Almost since I became a Christian in 1980 one of my favorite songs has been this little devotional song:
He paid a debt he did not owe
I owed a debt I could not pay
I needed someone to wash my sins away
And now I sing a brand new song, “Amazing Grace”
Christ Jesus paid a debt that I could never pay.
If you are not a Christian, the fact that you’re still breathing is a demonstration of God’s forbearance with you. If you have not been faithful as a Christian and are still breathing, that too, is a demonstration of God’s forbearance. But as Paul asked some Christians in Rome, so now I ask you, “Do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? (Romans 2:4). Do not let it be said of you, “But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.”(Romans 2:5)
And lastly, do not go to eternity withholding forgiveness. Do not go to eternity without practicing forbearance. “Let your forbearance be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand” (Philippians 4:5).