Keeping in mind the holiness of God, His awesome power, and our subjection to Him as paupers and children, we ask from Him a great thing: to forgive us. This is no small task, as we are sinful from birth, our flesh embedded with shame from Adam, our souls unclean by what we have and have not done (Psa. 51:5, 1 Cor. 15:22 & 45). We are slaves to sin (Jhn. 8:34, Rom. 7:14), yet we come to the Lord and ask Him that He might wash away our sin, buy us back, redeem us.
We go to the Father, our Redeemer, with this request,
Forgive us our debts, as we have also forgiven our debtors.
~ Matthew 6:12 ~
Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us.
~ Luke 11:4 ~
The question is, what does it mean to forgive? In the Greek, the word is ἀφίημι or aphiemi, which means a variety of things: forgive, forsake, lay aside, omit, and send away (Strong’s “863.”). Thus, when we ask God to “aphiemi” our sins, we ask for Him to send them away, to forsake them, to take sin away from us.
But what are our sins that they need to be taken away? Our sins are debts to Christ. In the verse from the book of Luke, the word is hamartia, which plainly means “offence” or “sin” (Strong’s “266.”). This is the same word used in literature: a fatal flaw leading to the downfall of the “protagonist”, or “hero”. Thus, our sin is too our fatal flaw in that with it, we will surely die. Our sin is a penalty against us for disobedience and rebellion against God, causing us to have a debt to our God. In Matthew, the word is opheilema, which is “something owed” but is “morally a fault: a debt.” (Strong’s “3783.”) Thus, our debt to God is our every fault against the Lord, every act of rebellion against His Word and His commands. We cannot pay the debt of this sin ourselves; this is the helpless state that we find ourselves in.
Who can discern his errors? Forgive my hidden faults.
~ Psalm 19:12 ~
For the sake of your name, O Lord, forgive my iniquity, though it is great.
~ Psalm 25:11 ~
But in the same breath, we are reminded that we must also forgive our own debtors. We must not be like the unmerciful servant who, after he had been forgiven of all his debt to the king, which was no meager payment, condemned a friend who owed him next to nothing and was then condemned by the king (Mat. 18:23-35). Thus, we should and must forgive our debtors as we were forgiven our indebtedness.
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-seven times.”
~ Matthew 18:21-22 ~
For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.
~ Matthew 6:14-15 ~
Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive and you will be forgiven.
~ Luke 6:36-37 ~
If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him. If he sins against you seven times a day, and seven times comes back to you and says, ‘I repent,’ forgive him.
~ Luke 17:3-4 ~
Why should we not forgive our brother after all the Lord has forgiven us? We deserve worse than death, and that is what we would receive if it were not for the Lord’s mercy and grace. This is the Law. We now know the sin that dwells within us and our bondage to its will (Rom. 7:13-25). We know that without Christ, we could not cleanse ourselves of the filth that plagues us. Yet we are not left alone to try and cleanse ourselves, to repay our sins. In spite of the wretchedness in us, the Lord was faithful and sent his son to die for us so that we might be healed (Gen. 3:15, Luk. 4:17-21, 22:7-24:12, Acts 5:31).
Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life. For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten, that whoever believes in him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send his son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world though him.
~ John 3:14-17 ~
When the Lord forgives our sins, He remembers them no more. The Lord’s forgiveness makes it as though the sin never was. He shed His own blood that we might live with Him, for only what is holy can stand before God.
For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.
~ Hebrews 8:12 ~
He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, having obtained eternal redemption.
~ Hebrews 9:12 ~
But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive the full rights as sons.
~ Galatians 4:4-5 ~
He has already forgiven us, redeemed us, and bought back our debt through His sacrifice. He came without our request, for we did not even know that we needed a Savior. Yet He bought back our sin by His own blood, for He knew we could be redeemed no other way. We go to Him still, asking for forgiveness for our sins daily. For we know that when we do, He “is faithful and just and will forgive our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).
And again, this is why we take Holy Communion, in remembrance of Him and to physically receive the promises He gave us (1 Cor. 11:23-26). We ask him to forgive us and also to keep sin from us that we might live holy lives for Him who saved us. Though we live in sin, and commit sins, we are forgiven and purified in Christ. We go to our Father in heaven to ask for His forgiveness, not because by doing so we make ourselves clean, but because we know the promises that God has made: that He will make us pure.
Keep your servant from willful sins; may they not rule over me. Then will I be blameless, innocent of great transgression. May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.
~ Psalm 19:13-14 ~
Blessings to you and yours,