Sunday Sermon: ‘Little Fox #3 – Unforgiving’


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

Why does almost every book in the New Testament speak on the subject of forgiving? No doubt it’s because conflict is common and forgiveness sometimes seems difficult. Jesus often spoke about forgiveness. In His ‘Sermon on the Mount’ our Lord said –

Matthew 6:9 After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. 10 Thy kingdom come . Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. 11 Give us this day our daily bread. 12 And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.

14 For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: 15 But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

John Gill wrote in his commentary on this passage – “… if men, who are upon an equal foot with each other, should not forgive one another, how should it be expected that our Father which is in heaven, who is so much above, and no ways obliged to us, should forgive us?” In short why should we expect to receive more grace from God than we are willing to extend to others?

The Lord has laid upon my heart four reasons why we should be a forgiving people.

I. Because There Is Conflict

While teaching on forgiveness, Jesus said – “It is impossible but that offenses will come…” (Lk 17:1) Conflict is inevitable, even in the church. Last week we saw in Ephesians 4:26 ‘Be ye angry…’ God made us with the ability to become angry over what we perceive to be an injustice. Yet, Paul also warns us – ‘Be ye angry… and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath.’ In other words, don’t let your anger cause you to sin, and don’t go to bed with an unforgiving spirit.

Conflict will happen, yet even in moments of conflict we must remember that the Lord is fully aware of every detail and that His Spirit is at work within us in order to lead us to make a proper response. ‘Be ye angry and sin not.’ Paul tells us

Romans 12:17 Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men. 18 If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men. 19 Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written , Vengeance is mine; I will repay , saith the Lord. 20 Therefore if thine enemy hunger , feed him; if he thirst , give him drink : for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. 21 Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.

God way is to:

A. Forgive and seek peace

Psalm 34:12 What man is he that desireth life, and loveth many days, that he may see good? 13 Keep thy tongue from evil, and thy lips from speaking guile. 14 Depart from evil, and do good; seek peace, and pursue it.

Paul tells us:

Romans 12:21 Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.

Some of you are thinking – ‘But what if that other person won’t reconcile?’ Note what Paul says –

Romans 12:18 If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men.

B. Let the Spirit be in control

1. Last week I encouraged you in dealing with anger and bitterness to ‘let the Spirit pull the poison out of you.’ We gathered that principle from –

Ephesians 4:31 Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice:

Let is in the passive voice which means that it is action that must be performed upon us from a source outside of ourselves. That source is the Holy Spirit.

2. Let the Spirit bear His fruit

a. The works of the flesh: hatred, wrath, strife, murders

b. The fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and temperance (self-control)

C. Let God be the judge

Romans 12:19 Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.

II. Because We Ourselves Need Forgiveness

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

When the disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray, the Lord said that a regular part of our prayer should be – “And forgive us our debts…” A debt is something that we owe and must repay. So often when someone has received an injustice, they believe that the person who committed the injustice – ‘owes them’ something.

Therefore when we sin against God, we owe Him. Yet we could never repay the debt we owe God. Several years ago a song was written that began – “He paid a debt He did not owe; I owed a debt I could not pay.” How true that is. The only way our debt could be paid was for God to pay the debt Himself. That’s true forgiveness.

When we receive Christ as our Savior, all of our sins are forgiven. Yet scripture also teaches us that there needs to be a daily cleansing; not for salvation, but for relationship, or if you will – fellowship.

1 John 1:3 That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ. 4 And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full. 5 This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. 6 If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: 7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin. 8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

John says – ‘We are sharing these truths with you so that you will have fellowship with God and His people, and so that your joy can be full. Such fellowship and joy comes through the cleansing of forgiveness.

Jesus teaches us that such cleansing for fellowship is needed daily. Jesus illustrated this truth when He washed His disciples’ feet. Do you remember how that when He came to Peter, Simon did not want his Master to wash his feet? Peter loved the Lord and he could not understand how the Christ, the Son of the living God, could stoop to wash dirty feet. Yet the Lord said to Peter –

John 13:8 “… If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me.”

“If I don’t wash your feet, we can’t have a relationship.” Or to put in John’s words – “We can’t have fellowship and joy.”

Peter responded by saying,

John 13:9 “Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head.”

In other words, ‘I love you Lord! I want to have a part with You. Wash me all over!’ Yet Jesus told him –

John 13:10 “He that is washed needeth not save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit…”

Jesus used two different words here for washing:

1. The first word means to be bathed all over.

“He that is washed…”

“He that has been bathed all over, doesn’t have to be bathed all over again.” In other words, ‘You don’t have to be saved over and over again. You’ve been cleansed.”

John 13:10 “… and ye are clean, but not all. 11 For he knew who should betray him; therefore said he , Ye are not all clean.”

The original Greek reveals that the way Jesus said this indicates that this complete bathing needs to take place only once. It’s the Greek Perfect Tense which indicates action that has been complete and needs not to be repeated.

2. The second word refers to a cleansing of the hands feet or face.

John 13:10 “… save to wash his feet…”

We might state it as to ‘freshening up’ as opposed to taking a bath or shower. During the days of Jesus, the roads were unpaved and people wore sandals. Therefore it’s not hard to imagine how dirty a man’s feet got traveling. Much like many of us might kick our shoes off as soon as we enter a house, the normal custom of that day was for a house-hold servant to wash the visitor’s feet as soon as they entered the home.

The washing of the hands and feet that Jesus spoke of referred to the forgiveness we must receive on a continuous, daily basis in order to be in fellowship with God. It was symbolized in the Old Testament by the High Priest who ministered in the Tabernacle. When a priest entered the Tabernacle area, the first thing he came to was the Brazen Altar where the sacrifice for sins was offered. The second thing he came to was the Brazen Laver, which was a large basin of water where the priest would wash his hands and feet before entering the Holy Place to serve the Lord.

The Bible is very clear that we can’t live with sin in our lives and walk in fellowship with God. God is light, and in Him is do darkness at all. Therefore if we say that we have ‘fellowship’ with Him, yet walk in darkness, we’re lying. But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship and the blood of His Son ‘cleanseth’ us from all sin. How do we receive this continuous cleansing? ‘If we say we have no sin – we’re only deceiving ourselves.’ But if we ‘confess our sins, God is faithful to us and just to Himself to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.’

The washing of the disciples’ feet symbolized the cleansing that is needed in order for there to be fellowship. This cleansing represented the Lord’s forgiveness for fellowship.

Then Jesus said something else interesting to His disciples – “If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another’s feet.” (Vs. 14) Now keep these words in context. What is the primary subject at hand? “If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me.” (vs.8) It’s relationship. It’s fellowship. “If you don’t receive this cleansing from Me, we can’t have fellowship.’ Then Jesus said, “If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another’s feet.” (Vs. 14) In other words, ‘If I, your Lord and Master, if I, God, am willing to wash your feet for forgiveness and fellowship; you ought also to be willing to continuously wash one another’s feet for forgiveness and fellowship.’

III. Because Receiving Forgiveness is Linked to Extending Forgiveness

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

To link Matthew 6 with John 13 – how can we expect God to love us and to wash our feet for forgiveness if we’re unwilling to do the same for one another? And let me point out something else that is significant. Jesus, the innocent One, stooped to wash the dirty feet of His disciples. Why would Jesus do this?

1. Their Feet Were Dirty

2. He Loved Them

John 13:1 Now before the feast of the passover, when Jesus knew that his hour was come that he should depart out of this world unto the Father, having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end.

Forgiveness and reconciliation is not about duty. It’s about love. That’s the only reason God did what He did. He loves us. Later in the epistle of 1 John, the one whom Jesus loved asks us a very important question –

1 John 4:If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?

I don’t know what’s in your heart and you don’t know what’s in mine. But God does. God knows the truth. Perhaps the truth is – there is a brother or sister in Christ that you need to love and would pretend to love, but in reality you don’t. You might not call it hate, but it sure isn’t love. You don’t desire reconciliation or a relationship with them. What should you do? I would encourage you to  being by talking with God.

“Lord, you know how I feel. I can’t hide anything from you. You know the resentment I feel in my heart towards this person. And I know that it’s not pleasing to you for me to feel such resentment. Forgive me and help me to change. Take the poison of bitterness out of my heart and replace it with your love and peace. Help me to love my enemies, even as you have loved me who was once your enemy.”

IV. Because Forgiveness Is a Part of the New Nature We Received From Christ

Note once again how Ephesians 4 began –

Ephesians 4:1 I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called.

Do you remember the message – ‘A Life Worthy to Be Called Christian.” That’s what we’re talking about here. The principle of Ephesians 4:32 is based upon the principle of Ephesians 4:1.

A. ‘Be ye’

Ephesians 4:32 And be ye …

Paul begins with a verb – ‘be’.  This particular verb speaks of a state of existence that comes into being. It means to take something from one  state and transform it into the next. ‘Become Christ-like in your attitude about others’ Paul could have said. Paul uses this same verb in the very next verse –

Ephesians 5:1 Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children.

How do we become this new person?

Ephesians 4:22 That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; 23 And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; 24 And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.

‘Put off’ the old nature which was corrupt, and ‘put on’ the new nature which is created after the character of God. I love the way Paul states it in Romans 13:14 But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof. The New Man is Christ Jesus! It’s Christ living in and through us by the power of the Holy Spirit. Whenever I am struggling with sin, I pray this prayer –

“Lord, I’m struggling. I don’t have the power to resist. But You do. Live through me. Resist it through me and give me the victory.”

Here’s the amazing truth – He does!

Paul is saying to us – ‘Now that you have put off the old nature which was full of selfishness and sin, and have put on a new nature which is fashioned after your Savior – ‘ … be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another…’

2. ‘Kind’

As one resource explains – ‘Be ye kind is more than gentle and polite; the word also means “useful”.’ Useful to who? Useful to the one whom the natural tendency is to hate. Paul is telling us that the new nature we receive from Christ enables us to be kind to our enemies.

One doesn’t have to think very long to realize the kindness God has shown to us. We call it ‘grace’ – God’s unmerited favor. Peter uses this word in that way – 1 Peter 2:3  If so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious <5543>. Jesus used it as well to refer to the graciousness of God and the call for His followers to be the same – Luke 6:35  But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind <5543> unto the unthankful and to the evil.

God is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil. Wow!

3. ‘Tenderhearted’

One resource says that this is the – ‘strongest Greek word for expressing compassionate love or tender mercy and involves one’s entire being.’ Albert Barnes writes – ‘disposed to show kindness to the faults of erring brethren.’

In other words, instead of wearing your feelings on your shirtsleeve and always quick to take an offense, love others even as God loves you. Be kind one to another, even as God for Christ’s sake has been kind to you. Be tenderhearted one to another, even as God for Christ’s sake has been tenderhearted to you. Forgive one another, even as God for Christ’s sake has forgiven you.

Kindness and tenderheartedness towards those who have offended us seems so unnatural. It is. It’s supernatural.

The great Greek scholar and Bible teacher, Kenneth Wuest says –

“We might not be able to achieve the kind of total revolution of inner disposition demanded by the Holy Spirit all at once. God is reasonable. He knows our frame. He makes allowance for us to learn and practice, even though we already have the indwelling Holy Spirit to provide the energizing power needed for change. But God does demand that here and now—right away—we start putting away the old nature and putting on the new.”

In other words, for us to reach this level of spiritual maturity might take some time. What Paul is teaching us is not for the believer who is playing a game. It’s for the believer who is serious about their relationship with the Lord and who desires to be more and more like their Savior.

4. Forgiving

Some of you are probably struggling at this point in the message. Your mind has recalled situations that you would just as soon forget. At least my mind did even as the Spirit was giving me this message. Forgiving is such a hard thing to do. Yet perhaps nothing reveals more of the nature of God than a forgiving spirit.

I learned many great truths while preparing for this message, but perhaps the most meaningful truth I learned was found in the word ‘forgiven.’

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

In the original Greek, the words ‘forgiving’ and ‘forgiven’ come from another word.

Ephesians 1:7  In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace.

Why has God forgiven us? What is the basis of God’s forgiveness? Paul tells us that it was ‘according to the riches or the abundance of His grace.’ The root of the word ‘forgiveness’ that Paul uses in Ephesians 4:32 is the word grace. The forgiveness that Paul is describing in today’s passage has been described as:

a.    To extend grace, to show kindness or to bestow favor

b.    The exercise of grace in freely forgiving

In a nutshell Paul is telling us – ‘Because you are now a follower after Christ, live and think like Christ. Freely forgive others, even as God for Christ’s sake, has freely forgiven you.’

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