Thursday, January 31, 2019
Genesis 18:25 Far be it from you to do such a thing—to kill the righteous with the wicked, treating the righteous and the wicked alike. Far be it from you! Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?”
To fully grasp the wonder of forgiveness we must fully comprehend the wonder of the One who forgives. When God decided it was time to destroy the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah because of their sin, He came to visit Abraham. Abraham’s nephew Lot was living in Sodom. Lot had become a worldly follower of God but was still viewed by God as a man who was sensitive to righteousness. Lot had been taught about obedience to God. Lot had lived with Abraham and been mentored by him. But Lot loved the world and what it had to offer. He made his decisions based on the attractiveness of what the world offered rather than on faith in God’s provision.
Lot’s life had little or no spiritual impact upon the people with whom he lived. Most of us today would consider him to be a lost cause. We would probably not spend much time trying to rescue him from the grips of sin. We would conclude that since he made his own bed he has the right to lie in it. We might even go so far as to think that he deserves whatever punishment is coming his way.
Not Abraham. He pleads with God to allow the whole city to survive for the sake of Lot. He asks God to spare them all. The word spare is our key word nasa, the Hebrew word for forgive.
What is the rationale for Abraham’s argument? The nature and character of God. Abraham appeals to what he knows to be true about God – God forgives the righteous and does not punish them for their sin. He does not treat the righteous and the wicked alike. Even when the righteous are acting like the wicked, God, by His very nature, will do right.
Forgiveness is not dependent upon the perfection of the violator, but rather on the character of the one who was violated. Forgiveness is not earned but rather it is granted by a Righteous Judge who honors the humble confession of a repentant heart. He can do nothing less than forgive because His nature demands it.
Forgiveness cannot be rescinded because efforts of behavior modification have failed, but it is granted once and for all for all eternity. At the moment of salvation, the righteousness of Jesus Christ is applied to the life of a sinner. We are declared justified by a righteous God. (God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. 2 Corinthians 5:21) The old nature of sin will never again be considered by God when determining our eternal destiny. Only the righteousness of Christ can be seen by God, and that will be honored for all eternity. We who are in Christ will be spared from the entire wrath of God against sin.
Jesus teaches us to forgive others the same way. We must model the nature and character of God when we forgive, and not make forgiveness contingent upon the offender’s perfection. The words of Jesus in response to Peter’s question in Matthew 18:21 – 22 take on a whole new significance in light of this truth.
Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy times seven.
When a fellow Christian – a brother as Peter defines him – sins against us, we are to forgive as Christ forgave and continues to forgive us. You know how many sins there are in your life that you hate and wish you would never do again. But you still do them. So do I. But each time we repent with a humble heart before God, he forgives us. We must do the same for each other. If our forgiveness from God depended upon our character rather than His, none of us would yet be forgiven.
We have been forgiven and will be spared from all punishment for sin. With that glorious truth resounding in our lives, forgive others the same way.