Confessing the Sins of a Nation

There are many great examples of humility and repentance in scripture. One of those examples is found in the opening chapter of Nehemiah.

Nehemiah is a man of Jewish heritage who is in exile in Babylon. He has just learned that the city of Jerusalem, the center for worship to the LORD, is in ruins. The scripture tells us that Nehemiah “sat down and wept and mourned for days; and I was fasting and praying before the God of heaven,” with these words:

“‘I beseech You, O Lord God of heaven, the great and awesome God, who preserves the covenant and lovingkindness for those who love Him and keep His commandments, let Your ear now be attentive and Your eyes open to hear the prayer of Your servant which I am praying before You now, day and night, on behalf of the sons of Israel Your servants, confessing the sins of the sons of Israel which we have sinned against You; I and my father’s house have sinned. We have acted very corruptly against You and have not kept the commandments, nor the statutes, nor the ordinances which You commanded Your servant Moses. Remember the word which You commanded Your servant Moses, saying, ‘If you are unfaithful I will scatter you among the peoples; but if you return to Me and keep My commandments and do them, though those of you who have been scattered were in the most remote part of the heavens, I will gather them from there and will bring them to the place where I have chosen to cause My name to dwell.’ They are Your servants and Your people whom You redeemed by Your great power and by Your strong hand. O Lord, I beseech You, may Your ear be attentive to the prayer of Your servant and the prayer of Your servants who delight to revere Your name, and make Your servant successful today and grant him compassion before this man.’ Now I was the cupbearer to the king.”

It is interesting to see that Nehemiah mentions not only his own sins but also “the sins of the sons of Israel” which “we” have sinned, including “I” and “my father’s house.”

Normally we think of confession as something that we would only do for ourselves. Passages like Ezekiel 18:20 teach us that sons are not responsible for the sins of their parents, nor parents for the sins of their children. If this is so, what is the benefit of confessing sins that other people have done, as if they could gain forgiveness based on our confession instead of their own, or as though we bore the guilt for what they did in ourselves?

One benefit that might come from confessing the sins of our forefathers and of the communities in which we live, is that it can help us to recognize how pervasive and serious the brokenness of the world around us really is.

This might also help us to recognize how we got in such bad shape and what must be done to turn things around.

Furthermore, in attributing these sins both to “I” and “my father’s house,” Nehemiah may also be articulating the fact that he learned a lot of his bad habits from the culture and the environment into which he was born, and thus rather than “inheriting” their sins automatically, he has nonetheless adopted their sins into his own life and replicated them for himself by his own free will.

We tend to think of past generations as being the backward ones, while our generation has learned from the mistakes of the past. But often times, we are making our own mistakes that may be superficially different, but are in many ways analogous to the sins of those before us.

Isaiah said “Woe is me! I am ruined! I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips!” Before we point the finger solely at our forefathers or at the world around us, maybe we should make sure that we ourselves are not doing the same kind of things.

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Humble Confession – by Austin Gonzales

Following God’s instructions concerning one aspect of life will help us follow His instructions in other aspects, as well, so that we can live better lives overall.

Recently, I’ve been thinking about this in regards to humility and confession.

(James 4:10) Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you.

(1 Peter 5:5b) …all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.

(James 5:16) Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.

(1 John 1:9) If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

In my (limited) experience, if I am going to truly apologize for an offense, or if I want to try and obey the command to confess my sins to a brother in Christ, it definitely requires swallowing my pride. In turn, it helps me develop humility – just a little bit at a time – when I sincerely apologize to someone, or confess a sin that I have been hiding.

When we apologize; we are admitting to God, to our friend, and to ourselves that what we did was wrong – no matter how valid our excuses may seem to our prideful selves. Similarly, when confessing sin, we are admitting that it was indeed a sin. So we have no excuse – since “with the temptation [God] will provide the way of escape” (1 Corinthians 10:13) – and we realize the need to resist any desire to do it again. Therefore it helps us, when we confess wrongs, to humble ourselves by understanding that some things are wrong no matter our reason – the ends do not always justify the means. And in so doing, it can also help us with obedience to God.

We have a need to confess not just our sins, but also the struggles we go through. How are our brethren supposed to “bear one another’s burdens” (Galatians 6:2-3) or “look out for [not only their] own personal interests, but also for the interests of others” (Philippians 2:4), if we do not let them know what we are going through? Except, of course for the deep, painful wounds that “they can’t do much to help with,” right? No! Rather, we especially need to confess those kinds of inward struggles!

Even if there is nothing that a fellow member can actively do to help; they can listen. Simply the action of speaking your thoughts and emotions out loud does much to help us understand and process such issues. Also spiritually, the deep, hidden wounds are just the opportunity Satan can best use to tempt us with – especially the ones that nobody else knows you are thinking about. This is also where humility comes in. We do not want to appear ignorant, weak, or un-Christ- like, etc.; so we don’t want to let people know that we hurt. But humility tells us that we are ignorant, weak, and un-Christ- like. Everyone is, except for the LORD Himself. That is why humility tells us that we must confess our need and appeal for His help – as well as the help of His church.

Confession and humility can also give us tools to be proactive and take preventative measures to avoid or resist temptation. Accountability, for one thing (Galatians 6:2-3). As I have just mentioned, humbling ourselves to admit struggles, or sins that we struggle with, means that others can help us through them. However, this requires communication and complete honesty – both of which, humility can help with; and both of which can help to build humility. When we “tell the whole truth, and nothing but the truth,” then our brethren can most effectively help us out. It may have to do with keeping an eye out for situations that they know may tempt us. Or maybe they can get us in contact with someone who has been through the same struggles. In addition to such things, communication and honesty build stronger relationships between us.

Advice I hear about marriage or relationships nearly always includes being honest
and/or constantly improving communication. It is how we become close to our family in Christ – and it helps us come closer to Christ Himself.

Humility is also required when we are hearing confessions or apologies from someone else. When someone comes to us in such a way, it is easy to be tempted to judge them, gossip about them, or not to forgive them – maybe in not so many words. But if we keep in mind that we have committed offenses of our own, and that God has been so gracious to forgive us, it helps us to forgive them and to honor their confidentiality – to pay it forward. Colossians 3:12-13 tells us, “So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you.” Additionally, when hearing confessions; humility can tell us that we do not always have the answers. When someone opens up to us, we may really want to help with any advice we can offer. But humility can teach us to think before we speak. Not always – but sometimes – the best thing we can do is to listen.

To sum up, God “is faithful and just to forgive us our sins,” if we humble ourselves and confess our sins.

Thoughts and Scriptures on: Confession

Introduction

Webster Definition: a disclosure of one’s sins in the sacrament of reconciliation; a written or oral acknowledgment of guilt by a party accused of an offense; a formal statement of religious beliefs

Translation:

  • Greek – ὁμολογέω (homologeo)  I confess, profess, acknowledge, praise
  • Hebrew – יָדָה (yadah)

 

What exactly are we confessing when we “confess Christ?”

(Matthew 10:32-33:) Therefore everyone who confesses Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven.”

Confess that Jesus is Lord [and that God raised Him from the dead?]:

> (Romans 10:8-10) “But what does it say? ‘The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart’—that is, the word of faith which we are preaching, that if you *confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and *believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.”

  • (Acts 2:32 “God has raised this Jesus to life, to which we are all witnesses.”)

>> (Philippians 2:9-11) “For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

> (1 Timothy 6:12-14a) “Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, to which you were also called and have confessed the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. I urge you in the sight of God who gives life to all things, and before Christ Jesus who witnessed the good confession before Pontius Pilate, that…”

  • (John 18:33, 36-37 “Then Pilate entered the Praetorium again, called Jesus, and said to Him, ‘Are You the King of the Jews?’ …Jesus answered, ‘My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here.’ Pilate therefore said to Him, ‘Are You a king then?’ Jesus answered, ‘You say rightly that I am a king. For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.’”)
  • (Accounts of Matthew, Mark, and Luke: “Then Pilate asked Him, saying, ‘Are You the King of the Jews?’ He answered him and said, ‘It is as you say.’”)

 

Confess that Jesus is the Son of God:

>> (1 John 2:23) “Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father; the one who confesses the Son has the Father also.

>> (1 John 4:15) “Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God.”

 

What does it mean in practice to confess Christ? / Does confession mean more than making a one-time affirmation prior to baptism? / Do Christians today view and practice confession like the early Christians depicted in scripture?:

>> (Matthew 10:17-32) “But beware of men, for they will deliver you up to councils and scourge you in their synagogues. You will be brought before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them and to the Gentiles. But when they deliver you up, do not worry about how or what you should speak. For it will be given to you in that hour what you should speak; for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you. Now brother will deliver up brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents and cause them to be put to death. And you will be hated by all for My name’s sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved. When they persecute you in this city, flee to another. For assuredly, I say to you, you will not have gone through the cities of Israel before the Son of Man comes. A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. It is enough for a disciple that he be like his teacher, and a servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more will they call those of his household! *Therefore do not fear them. For there is nothing covered that will not be revealed, and hidden that will not be known. Therefore *do not fear them, for there is nothing concealed that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. What I tell you in the darkness, speak in the light; and what you hear whispered in your ear, proclaim upon the housetops. *Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a cent? And yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. *So do not fear; you are more valuable than many sparrows. Therefore everyone who confesses Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven.”

  • (Mark 13:9-13 says nearly the same thing as vs. 17-22.)
  • (Luke 12:3-9, 11-12 says nearly the same thing as vs. 17-20, 27-33)
  • (Luke 12:10 “And anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man, it will be forgiven him; but to him who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven.”)

>> (Hebrews 4:14; 10:23-29) “Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. …Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near. For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a terrifying expectation of judgment and the fury of a fire which will consume the adversaries. Anyone who has set aside the Law of Moses dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much severer punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled under foot the Son of God, and has regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has insulted the Spirit of grace?

 

Is it necessary to make a formal confession before an audience prior to baptism?

We should be sure, before the baptism, that the individual to be baptized actually believes Jesus is the Lord, the Son of God – such as individuals growing up in African or eastern religions:

>> (1 Timothy 6:12-14a) “Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, to which you were also called and have confessed the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. I urge you in the sight of God who gives life to all things, and before Christ Jesus who witnessed the good confession before Pontius Pilate, that…”

>> (Acts 8:36-38) “As they went along the road they came to some water; and the eunuch said, ‘Look! Water! What prevents me from being baptized?’ [And Philip said, “If you believe with all your heart, you may.” And he answered and said, ‘I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.’] And he ordered the chariot to stop; and they both went down into the water, Philip as well as the eunuch, and he baptized him.”

  • (The portion in brackets may not be original, but it is certainly an indication of early Christian practice.)

The only other instance of confession at baptism, that we found, is the confession of sins:

>> (Matthew 3:4-6) “Now John himself had a garment of camel’s hair and a leather belt around his waist; and his food was locusts and wild honey. Then Jerusalem was going out to him, and all Judea and all the district around the Jordan; and they were being baptized by him in the Jordan River, as they confessed their sins.

>> (Mark 1:4-5) “John came baptizing in the wilderness and preaching a baptism of repentance for the remission of sins. Then all the land of Judea, and those from Jerusalem, went out to him and were all baptized by him in the Jordan River, confessing their sins.”

 

Is confession of sins any less necessary for salvation than confession of Christ as Lord?

Portrayed as something done alongside baptism:

>> (Matthew 3:4-6) “Now John himself had a garment of camel’s hair and a leather belt around his waist; and his food was locusts and wild honey. Then Jerusalem was going out to him, and all Judea and all the district around the Jordan; and they were being baptized by him in the Jordan River, as they confessed their sins.

Explained as a requirement for receiving mercy and forgiveness:

>> (Proverbs 28:13) “Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy.

>> (1 John 1:8-10) “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us.”
When is it appropriate to confess a sin to God only vs. someone close to you vs. the whole church?

Public, well-known sins:

>> (Acts 19:18-20) “Many also of those who had believed kept coming, confessing and disclosing their practices. And many of those who practiced magic brought their books together and began burning them in the sight of everyone; and they counted up the price of them and found it fifty thousand pieces of silver. So the word of the Lord was growing mightily and prevailing.”

Confessing to God, on behalf of self and each other:

(Nehemiah 1:5-7) “I said, ‘I beseech You, O Lord God of heaven, the great and awesome God, who preserves the covenant and lovingkindness for those who love Him and keep His commandments, let Your ear now be attentive and Your eyes open to hear the prayer of Your servant which I am praying before You now, day and night, on behalf of the sons of Israel Your servants, confessing the sins of the sons of Israel which we have sinned against You; I and my father’s house have sinned. We have acted very corruptly against You and have not kept the commandments, nor the statutes, nor the ordinances which You commanded Your servant Moses.’”

  • (Leviticus 26:40-42 “If they confess their iniquity and the iniquity of their forefathers, in their unfaithfulness which they committed against Me, and also in their acting with hostility against Me—I also was acting with hostility against them, to bring them into the land of their enemies—or if their uncircumcised heart becomes humbled so that they then make amends for their iniquity, then I will remember My covenant with Jacob, and I will remember also My covenant with Isaac, and My covenant with Abraham as well, and I will remember the land.” Now fast-forward to Nehemiah…)

Confessing to one another; so prayers of intercession can be made:

>> (James 5:15-16) “and the prayer offered in faith will restore the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up, and if he has committed sins, they will be forgiven him. Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.”

Confessing to one another is needed, if we are to bear one another’s burdens:

>> (Galatians 6:1-2) “Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ.”

 

When confessing sin to the church, should the particular sin be named?

Confessing the nature of our sins – the weight of the the burden – is needed, if we are to bear one another’s burdens:

>> (Galatians 6:1-2) “Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ.”

If she had confessed the truth, she would not have suffered the same fate as her husband:

>> (Acts 5:10-11 [account of Ananias and Sapphira]) “And Peter responded to her, ‘Tell me whether you sold the land for such and such a price?’ And she said, ‘Yes, that was the price.’ Then Peter said to her, ‘Why is it that you have agreed together to put the Spirit of the Lord to the test? Behold, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out as well.’ And immediately she fell at his feet and breathed her last, and the young men came in and found her dead, and they carried her out and buried her beside her husband. And great fear came over the whole church, and over all who heard of these things.”

Pattern of church discipline, regarding a sin against a fellow member:

>> (Matthew 18:15-18) “Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother. But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that ‘by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.’ And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector. Assuredly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”

 

How can one pray as effectively, without knowledge of what to pray for?:

>> (James 5:16) “Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.”

 

Is the practice of private confession to a priest or elder scriptural?

Examples:

>> (2 Samuel 12:7-13 [A prophet]) Nathan then said to David, “You are the man! Thus says the Lord God of Israel, ‘It is I who anointed you king over Israel and it is I who delivered you from the hand of Saul. I also gave you your master’s house and your master’s wives into your ]care, and I gave you the house of Israel and Judah; and if that had been too little, I would have added to you many more things like these! Why have you despised the word of the Lord by doing evil in His sight? You have struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword, have taken his wife to be your wife, and have killed him with the sword of the sons of Ammon. Now therefore, the sword shall never depart from your house, because you have despised Me and have taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife.’ Thus says the Lord, ‘Behold, I will raise up evil against you from your own household; I will even take your wives before your eyes and give them to your companion, and he will lie with your wives in broad daylight. Indeed you did it secretly, but I will do this thing before all Israel, and under the sun.’” Then David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord.” And Nathan said to David, “The Lord also has taken away your sin; you shall not die….”

>> (John 20:21-23 [The apostles]) “So Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you; as the Father has sent Me, I also send you.’ And when He had said this, He breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, their sins have been forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they have been retained.’”

>> (James 5:14-15 [The elders]) “Is anyone among you sick? Then he must call for the elders of the church and they are to pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; and the prayer offered in faith will restore the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up, and if he has committed sins, they will be forgiven him.

 

Open Communication

Some of the most common advice we hear for building strong and healthy relationships is to understand the importance of open communication.

But therapists and relationship experts are not the only one’s who emphasize communication. The Bible also teaches the value of talking to each other about what is really going on in our hearts and lives.

We should communicate:

When we have a word of instruction, encouragement, or praise:
“Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” (Colossians 3:16)

With a brother or sister is in spiritual danger through sin:
“Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.”
(Galatians 6:1)

“If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother.” (Matthew 18:15)

When WE have sinned and need healing:
“Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.” (James 5:16)

When we have offended each other:
“Therefore if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering.”
(Matthew 5:23-24)

When we are concerned about one another:
“Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs it down, But a good word makes it glad.” (Poverbs 12:25)

When we feel burdened:
“Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:2)

Perhaps most importantly, our communication must not be only horizontal (with each other,) but also vertical (with God.) Listen to David as he speaks of the difference it made in his life when he truly opened up to his God:

“When I kept silent about my sin, my body wasted away Through my groaning all day long. For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me; My vitality was drained away as with the fever heat of summer.  Selah. I acknowledged my sin to You, And my iniquity I did not hide; I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the LORD’; And You forgave the guilt of my sin. Selah. Therefore, let everyone who is godly pray to You in a time when You may be found.” (Psalm 32:3-6)

Scriptures and Thoughts on “Forgiveness”

What does forgiveness actually mean? What does it look like?
Old Testament –
Celiychah (noun) – abundant forgiveness – NEVER does this word in any of its forms refer to people forgiving each other.
Calach (verb) – to forgive/pardon. The only Old Testament verb with “to forgive” as its primary meaning. Used ONLY of God.
Nasa’ – to lift, to raise, to bear, to carry – refers to both divine and human forgiveness.
Kaphar – to cover, to purge, to make an atonement, to make reconciliation, to cover over with pitch. Kacah – to cove, can also mean “to conceal, hide”

New Testament –
Aphesis (noun) – the act of freeing and liberating from something that confines; release, or the act of freeing from an obligation, guilt, or punishment; pardon, cancellation… “The forgiveness denoted is almost always that of God. It is constantly needed, and is granted when requested so long as there is a readiness to forgive others. Its basis is the saving act of Christ.”
Aphiemi (verb) – to dismiss, release, let go, send away… used for the cancelling of sins and debts.
Charidzomai (verb) – to show one’s self gracious by forgiving wrongdoing; forgive, pardon.”
Apoluo (verb) – to grant acquittal, set free, release, or pardon.

In this case, the Old Testament words really help us in our theology! They strongly delineate God’s forgiveness and our own.

So what would this look like, acted out?

How God illustrates forgiveness:
Isaiah 1:18 – like red wool becoming white again – a miracle!
Psalm 103:12 – as far as the east is from the west
Micah 7:19 – You will tread our sins underfoot and hurl our iniquities into the depths of the sea.

When God forgives, does He actually forget?
Isaiah 43:25 – “I will remember your sins no more.”
Hebrews 10:17 – “I will remember their sins and lawless deeds no more.”

But remember that the true meaning of “remember” is to call to mind. The terminology allows God to be omniscient, but not to call to mind, emphasize, or “remember” our sins.

But what do you think, does He literally forget them?

Surely He knows that we are sinners, for He planned from the foundation of the world to send Jesus – 1 Peter 1:20, and the cross, which we say is beautiful and worth commemorating, and which is commemorated by the Lord’s Supper – Luke 22:19-20, and Jesus said we will eat the meal with Him in the kingdom!

So it seems that God will not forget that we are or have been sinners, but that He will not call to mind, or put on display, or take into consideration, our sins.

Will God ultimately forgive everyone of their sins?
Matthew 6:15 – “if you do not forgive others…”
Hebrews 10:26-31 – “there no longer remains a sacrifice”
Matthew 7:23 – “I never knew you, depart from me you evildoers”
Matthew 25:41 – “depart from me into the eternal fire.”

How can I get God’s forgiveness?
Acts 2:38 – repent and be baptized!
1 John 1:7,9 – walk in the light, confess your sins

Is there a difference between God’s forgiveness and man’s forgiveness?
See notes in Hebrews words for forgiveness. There is a kind of forgiveness that only God can do.
Psalm 51:4 – “against you only have I sinned” – David’s guilt was ultimately before God.
Mark 2:5-11 – “only God can forgive sins” – only God can actually clear guilt!

Romans 12:19 – humans are never to take vengeance – meaning that humans are never to try and “get even” by making someone suffer in proportion to the suffering they have caused. So human forgiveness then is not simply letting someone off the hook when it comes to divine justice, for we are never the arbiters of that in an ultimate sense.

So what is human forgiveness then? As the Hebrew words indicate, it is a removal of debt, or a covering of error. It could also be an acknowledgement in some sense that we are not the final judge of the person.

Is it ever appropriate to withhold forgiveness?
1 Timothy 1:13 – “Because I acted in ignorance”
Luke 23:34 – “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do”
Acts 17:30 – “In previous times God overlooked such ignorance, but now commands all men everywhere to repent.”
Romans 1:18-20 – God’s wrath is against them, they are without excuse because of their knowledge.
James 3:1 – teachers are held to a stricter judgment

Are we forgiven/not forgiven by God based on our knowledge? Think about it. Forgiveness is always offered by God while we are on this earth, but it is not offered unconditionally!
Hebrews 10:26-31 – forgiveness is NOT extended to belligerent, intentional sinners.

But also notice, that as we have said, God’s forgiveness and man’s forgiveness differ. Man can always extend forgiveness (and is required to do so, Matthew 6:15). Whether the individual is actually released from their guilt by God is not our concern.

But what about this idea of human forgiveness being a releasing from debt or a covering of error, surely we are not always obligated to do this? While forgiving a debt can be a powerful way to show someone godly mercy, perhaps the heart of forgiveness is in not standing in moral judgment over someone, as only God can do this.

2 Peter 3:9 – Just as God wants all to come to repentance, so should we!

What aspects of forgiveness are dependent on the recipient?
As indicated above, by the references above, forgiveness of our actual guilt by God is dependent upon our repentance, and that repentance means that we do not willfully sin where we have knowledge of right and wrong.

Consider also Luke 13:5 – unless you repent you will all likewise perish

As far as human forgiveness goes, that kind of forgiveness does not appear to be a release from divine guilt in the first place, but only a release from ultimate personal moral judgment, and potentially of debt or shame, etc. So it does not depend on the recipient at all. Matthew 6:15 is unqualified!

Does that mean that I do not allow them to be prosecuted in a court of law? No, for that is allowing a power ordained by God to act for the protection of society. But it does mean that I let go of my personal sense of authority to ultimately judge.

What if I am supposed to forgive, but I just cannot bring myself to do so?
Understand what forgiveness really is, see discussion of forgiveness of God vs. man.
Romans 12:19, 13:1-4 Hand the right to judge or take revenge over to God and the governing powers that He has established
Ephesians 4:32, Colossians 3:13 – Remember that Jesus has offered forgiveness to YOU
Matthew 18:23-35 – Consider just how great the forgiveness is that God has offered you

How can I forgive myself?
(Page 52)
Luke 22:60-62 – Peter felt guilty about his sin
Matthew 27:3-10 – Judas felt guilty about his sin. Judas hanged himself.
John 21:15-19, Acts 1:15-2:40 – Peter went on to be a leader in the church

2 Corinthians 7:9-10 speaks of worldly sorrow which leads to death, and godly sorrow which leads to “repentance without regret” and salvation.

What do you think? How can one choose to have, or come to experience, godly sorrow rather than worldly sorrow?

Matthew 18:23-35 – understand that forgiveness is NOT about what people deserve. It is given freely, and we are expected to give it others as well.

Isaiah 43:25-26 – God forgives us for His own name’s sake, He has His own reasons for being pleased to do so!
John 19:30 – Jesus said “it is finished.” He has already paid the price. The gift of forgiveness is yours to accept or deny, but He has already paid for it either way.

100 Facts about the Church of the Bible

100 facts about Christ’s church as demonstrated in the book of Acts.
From a 7 month bible study at the church of Christ in Mankato.

Chapter 1

  • Is a people who is waiting.
  • Is a people who have unity despite their differences.
  • Is devoted to praying together.
  • Trusts in God to guide them.

Chapter 2

  • Teaches the truth about repentance.
  • Teaches the truth about baptism.
  • Is supportive of one another.
  • Spends time together often throughout the week if possible.

Chapter 3

  • Has more to offer than the world would ever imagine.
  • Points out the sins of the world, yet with gentleness.
  • Takes every opportunity to share the gospel.

Chapter 4

  • Sometimes teaches a message that the governing authorities do not endorse.
  • Maintains the exclusivity of salvation in Jesus Christ only.
  • Is full of members who are bold proclaimers of the word of God. 

Chapter 5

  • Has its own scandals, but handles them appropriately.
  • Has favor with outsiders.
  • Is protected and aided by God.

 Chapter 6

  • Takes care of its widows.
  • Has a leadership devoted to the Word and prayer.
  • Appoints men to serve in various capacities.

 Chapter 7

  • Has members who really know the Bible.
  • Is sometimes slandered falsely.
  • Is willing to die for Christ.
  • Is amazingly forgiving.

Chapter 8

  • Is sometimes physically persecuted.
  • Must not be corrupted by money.
  • Conducts one on one Bible studies resulting in baptism.

Chapter 9

  • Should not write someone off, assuming they could never come to Christ.
  • Is called to accept and encourage all who would receive the truth.
  • Sometimes gains its most powerful evangelists in its most drastic conversions.

 Chapter 10

  • Has godly women who continually show kindness.
  • Is no longer under Mosaic dietary restrictions.
  • Is open to all people, Jews and Gentiles.

 Chapter 11

  • Is not “set in its ways” so that it cannot learn new information.
  • Are known as “Christians.”
  • Sends men to preach wherever there is a need.
  • Collects money to send to brethren in need.

 Chapter 12

  • Is affected by the senseless whims of an unstable world.
  • Gathers in each other’s homes to pray.
  • Sometimes cannot believe what God is doing.
  • Is sometimes under a wicked government, yet still grows.

 Chapter 13

  • Combines prayer and fasting.
  • Boldly condemns false teaching.
  • Preaches an interesting message.
  • Shakes the dust from its feet.

 Chapter 14

  • Can become the center of public controversy.
  • May have charismatic leaders, but they are only human.
  • Suffers many tribulations.
  • Has elders in every church.

 Chapter 15

  • Doesn’t automatically know everything.
  • Seeks God’s help in uncovering truth.
  • Sometimes has quitters.

 Chapter 16

  • Connects the old and the young.
  • Has women that convert their families.
  • Emphasizes the urgency of baptism.
  • Uses the status of its members for good.

 Chapter 17

  • Reasons from the scriptures.
  • Searches the scriptures daily to see if teachings are accurate.
  • Speaks to outsiders in a language they can understand.

 Chapter 18

  • Has both “vocational” and full time ministers.
  • Has individuals with incomplete knowledge.
  • Is gentle in correcting the genuinely mistaken.
  • Uses scripture as its authority on all matters.

 Chapter 19

  • Is concerned with the details of baptism.
  • Comes in congregations of all sizes.
  • May find more open hearts among the “pagans” than the religious.
  • Confesses sin and repents.
  • Operates in a crazy world.

 Chapter 20

  • Gathers on the first day of the week to break bread.
  • Is overseen by elders, who shepherd the church.
  • Must be on the alert for troublemakers.
  • Builds emotionally powerful relationships.

Chapter 21

  • Has counted the cost.
  • Is universal, even as individual congregations are autonomous.
  • Must be careful to get the whole story before jumping to conclusions.

Chapter 22

  • Shares its personal stories.
  • Has its sins washed away in baptism.
  • Will encounter individuals who are blinded by emotion.

Chapter 23

  • Does not violate its conscience, but does not think it is infallible either.
  • Respects those in authority.
  • Weathers the storms of outside groups in turmoil.
  • Has important roles for young people.

Chapter 24

  • May be falsely accused.
  • Has much in common even with those outside the faith.
  • Refrains from unjust practices.
  • Can make people uncomfortable.

Chapter 25

  • Will always have enemies.
  • Will always be a minority.
  • May be perceived by the world as boring or unimportant.
  • Must be patient and wait on God’s timing.

Chapter 26

  • Is unashamed of its belief.
  • Repents in deed, not only in word.
  • Makes a clear and personal evangelistic appeal.

Chapter 27

  • Issues a warning that is sometimes ignored.
  • Earns respect as time reveals the truthfulness of its message.
  • Becomes the natural leader in times of turmoil.

Chapter 28

  • Develops positive relationships with its neighbors.
  • Sometimes gets special opportunities to make an appeal to the lost.
  • Convinces some and loses others.
  • Makes the best of circumstances that are less than ideal.church-206650_640