Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you. Ephesians 4: 31.

Making Intercession

We must forgive just like God forgives. We want to take the Word of God and see what it says about forgiveness. I think most of us know that forgiveness plays a very important part in Christian living. Everyone who possesses the Spirit of Christ, has a forgiving attitude and is willing and ready to forgive.

A lack of understanding along this line can make a bigger mess. Some people are mistaught and have been admonished that, "If you know somebody is wrong, you need to forgive him and run over and tell him that you forgive him." That may sound good, but let us see what the Bible says. Time and time again, when people are moved to tell somebody, "I forgive you," the individual will raise right up and say, "What for? I did not do anything;" then there is a bigger battle.

The Bible has a way to deal with forgiveness. It definitely tells us when to forgive. In Luke 23:34, the first words Jesus spoke on the cross were, "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do," The Bible tells us that the world knew Him not. The world knew not that the Son of man had yielded Himself into their hands. The judge before whom they brought Him found no fault in Him, and the more they tried Him, the more the judge found no fault in Him, but the more they cried out, "Crucify him!" and so they did.

Before they hung Him on the cross, and for quite a while afterward, Jesus answered them not. Then after He had been on the cross for quite a while, His lips opened in prayer, asking the Father to forgive those who had crucified Him because they knew not what they were doing.

Isaiah 53:12 tells us that He made intercession for the transgressors, and the cross is where he began making intercession. Do not confuse that Scripture with Hebrews 7:25, which says that He is able to save to the uttermost, because he ever liveth to make intercession for us. In that verse, in Hebrews, He is as a high priest making intercession for Christians so we can be saved to the uttermost, or stay saved every day for the rest of our lives.

On the cross, however, He was making intercession for sinners who did not actually know what they had done. This may sound strange; it did to me, until I studied into it. Those words, "Father, forgive them," had never been used by Christ in His ministry. Jesus forgave the palsied man when He said, "Son, thy sins be forgiven thee." He told the woman who washed His feet in tears and dried them with her hair, "Thy sins are forgiven." Throughout His life, Jesus forgave men's sins; but on the cross, He prayed for the Father to forgive them.

Somebody may ask, "Why should He ask the Father to forgive them just as He had throughout His ministry?" First of all, the forgiveness of sin is a divine prerogative, an exclusive privilege given only to God. In Mark 2:7, the scribes were right when they reasoned, "Who can forgive sins but God only?" Jesus was God manifested in the flesh, but He was also a man, and He came into the world for the express purpose of offering HImself as a sacrifice for sin. When He went to the cross, He changed positions and became a substitute: He became sin. He lost His authority, and He did not regain it until He rose from the dead and said, "All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth" (Matthew 28:18).

He who was God, born the Son of man, came to offer Himself on Calvary's Cross. He took our place, and when He moved into that position, He could not exercise that divine prerogative. He had to give it up to go to the cross for us. Jesus told the palsied sinner in Matthew 9:6. "But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins." John 12:32, let's us know that He was lifted up from the earth, but when He went to the cross, hanging there in our stead, He did not have authority. He laid it all down -- His life and the prerogative of being a part of the Godhead.

We need to understand Jesus' position. The very one who had been telling the people, "You are forgiven," now is praying, "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do." He was no longer in the position that He had been in. Isaiah said that He made intercession for sinners, and He did it on the cross. He is our example in all things. He prayed for sinners just as you and I must pray for them. He taught us to do just as He did.

When Do We Forgive?

Jesus said in Matthew 5:43-44, "Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you." Nowhere in the Sermon on the Mount or anywhere else in the Gospel, did He say to forgive your enemies. Theologies are set forth, but we need to check and see if they are what the Bible teaches.

He told us to bless them, do them good, and pray for them, but He did not say to forgive them. You may say, "Oh we have to forgive our enemies." Yes, at a certain time. Jesus exhorts us all to pray for our enemies, but He plainly tells us not to forgive those who have wronged us. People have the idea, "I need to forgive everybody." But the question is, when do we forgive? People run around wanting to forgive before the other party even asks for forgiveness. I will prove to you that God never forgave one sinner until he confessed and asked to be forgiven.

Jesus said not to forgive until they ask for forgiveness. The Scriptures do not teach that under all circumstances we must forgive; I am talking about outward forgiveness. Luke 17:3 tells us, "Take heed to yourselves: If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him." There is no forgiveness from God or man until the one who is wrong, repents. The Scripture said to rebuke him. If anybody does this, some people want to say, "He does not have love." Jesus said, "and if he repent, forgive him."

There is too much confusion along this line. Some say, "Just forgive everyone." There cannot be forgiveness until a repentive attitude gets into the heart of the one who has done wrong. Verse 4, reads, "And if he trespass against thee seven times in a day, and seven times in a day turn again to thee, saying, I repent; thou shalt forgive him."

Jesus set up an equation that tells us that we must be willing and ready to forgive those who have wronged us when they repent. Too many lay under condemnation because they know that someone is wrong, and they want it straightened out so bad, that they run over and say, "I forgive you anyway." You will never get it straightened out that way.

If you have a Christ-like attitude, you forgive them in your heart. There will be no ill feeling or strife, and you will not want to get even. Those things are never in the heart of a Christian, yet you cannot actually outwardly forgive them until they repent and ask your forgiveness. The Scripture said, "IF he repent." A condition must be met by the offender before you can pronounce forgiveness upon him. The offender must judge himself wrong and give evidence that he is sorry.

What if the offender never repents? You can have forgiveness in your heart, but you cannot give it to him. I repeat, within your heart you are to forgive. If you are a Christian, you will not harbor ill will, and malice will never be cherished in your heart: those things cannot dwell where a forgiving spirit swells; the Spirit of Christ is a forgiving spirit.

We are supposed to forgive, just like God forgave us through Jesus Christ: God never forgives until someone repents. When do we forgive a person? Not when you feel it, or when you have it in your heart, or when you would like to give it. It will never do an ounce of good until an individual is made to see that he has done wrong, is sorry for it, and begs forgiveness; then you forgive him and it will heal. The Bible lets us know that if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive our sins.

How Should We Treat the Offender?

You must not treat the offender as if he has not done anything wrong. When you do that, you condone the offense and fail to uphold the requirements of righteousness. He needs to be rebuked. More people would get straightened out and get saved if we would stop 'patting them on the back' after they have done wrong -- and rebuke them a little.

There are three words that are translated from the Greek word love, and people get them all mixed up. They think that when people have done wrong, if you love them, you will treat them just as though they have never done anything wrong. But if you do that, they will 'die and go to hell,' while you 'pamper and pet them.'

Truth will upset your theologies, but it will stand. The reason some things are not working, is because they are not being done God's way. It will work God's way. These other theologies that are being taught, will not stand up with the Bible. That is one reason we are not 'moving sinners' like we need to move them. Some say, "Oh, we are just going to love them in." Well, where is the rebuke? When studying love, you will find that there is rebuke in love -- deep rebuke.

The devil will 'work you to death' trying to get you to act in a way the Bible does not require. He will work you to death trying to get you to act in a way the God even says not to act. Please do not let the devil take advantage of your tender heart.

You must treat the offender as though he has done wrong; yet you must have the attitude, "I love you, and I am willing to leave you in God's hands, but you have done wrong." and leave it right there. I say again, if you do not do that, you condone the offense and fail to uphold the requirements of righteousness.

Does God ever forgive where there is no repentance? There is not one place in the Bible where God ever forgave without repentance. Our Scripture text in Ephesians 4:32 lets us know that we are to forgive just like God does. God would like to forgive the entire lost world, but not one of them can receive it until they repent. This is the Bible standard.

Jesus prayed, "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do." Did they receive forgiveness? No. When were they forgiven? On the day of Pentecost, God through the Holy Ghost had Peter put a rebuke on them. He rebuked them in the message openly when he said, "You with wicked hands, crucified the Lord of glory." They cried out, "Men and brethren, what must we do?" then they repented and God forgave them. Jesus prayed, "Father, forgive them," but they were never forgiven until they repented, and neither is anyone else.

We need to hear what God has to say about forgiveness. God will give us grace to live the Bible standard, but if we try to reach beyond that and overdo it on our own, then we will just end up in confusion.

I say again, if anybody has wronged you, and you have the Spirit of Christ, there will be a forgiving spirit down in your heart. However, God does not intend for you to treat the offender as though he has never done anything wrong. The Bible says to rebuke him, Sometimes nothing but rebuke will bring repentance.

Away with the idea that love will take care of it all. There are times when the only way to show true love is by rebuking the one who is wrong. You are not showing love if you pat them on the back and try to make them feel they are all right.

The devil tries to take advantage of people when others have wronged them. People have been told to go and put their arms around them and say, "I forgive you whether you want to or not," and they received a repulsive response. Then the devil twisted that on them and caused them to think, "Maybe I am not right." There is a 'Bible way' and a 'Bible time' to do it. If you have the Spirit of Christ, there will be a rebuke in your heart against that wrong. This is the only way we can hold the standard.

Church, if we pamper wrong, we will have more wrongs than we can handle. We have to rebuke that which is wrong, and when they are touched and made sorry, then we forgive them. The lesson is this: If one has injured me and has not repented, I cannot forgive him and treat him as though he has never done anything wrong. If I do, I am not being honest with his heart.

I am to do what Jesus said to do: pray for him. What do I pray? -- "Forgive him, Father," Why do I pray for God to forgive him? If he gets in the place where God will forgive him, he and I can get straightened out too. Anybody that God forgives is not hard to handle. One of the signs that God has forgiven an individual, is that he will start trying to get right with man, right away.

Blindness of Heart

When Jesus said, "They know not what they do," He did not mean that they were ignorant of the fact of the crucifixion. They definitely knew that they were taking a man and putting him on a cross. They cried with their voices, "Crucify him! Crucify him!" and they nailed Him to a tree. They were eyewitnesses of this crime, yet they knew not what they had done. What does the Bible mean? They were ignorant of the enormity of their crime: they did not know they were crucifying the Lord of glory.

Paul said in 1 Corinthians 2:8 that had they known they were crucifying the Lord of glory, they would never have done it. The emphasis in that Scripture verse, which says, "They know not what they do," is not on "know not;" rather, the emphasis in on "what they do." They should have known what they were doing.

There was no excuse for their ignorance. They even said, "Never a man spake like this." They watched the life He lived; He went around doing good. There was not a judge on earth that could find one fault with Him. Many of them heard it, when God spoke out of Heaven and said, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him."

Their ignorance demonstrates the blindness of the heart of an unregenerate individual. It definitely teaches us that the carnal mind is enmity against God. I know false religion thinks they are going to change the minds of people, but, until someone is solidly converted, born of a new Spirit, gets a new mind and gets rid of the carnal mind (that is at enmity against God), he will never change.

The sad part is, that 'this tragedy' is repeated over and over, even in our day. Jesus is still praying the same prayer -- "Father, forgive them; they know not what they do." He is praying that same prayer for you, if you are 'outside the ark of safety.' Oh, people say, "I know I am living in sin." How many people, who are away from God, really know what they are doing when they reject God's great salvation? If people were awakened to what they are really doing when they reject the Son of man and turn Him down...if there is any honesty in their hearts, they would run to 'an altar of prayer.'

Their carnal minds are darkened by sin and Satan. Many times in an invitation, they think that when they turn salvation down, they are turning the preacher down, and they rejoice over the fact that they can turn him down. You do not know what you are doing, friend. No, no, you do not really know what you are doing when you reject the Son of God and trample Him under your feet and refuse to give Him HIs rightful place in your life. Oh, I know you understand to a degree, but you do not fully know.

There are few people who know and understand the deep guilt that is attached to the 'art of refusing' the only One who can save you. If you turn Christ down, when He knocks at your heart's door...I want to remind you again, you are turning down your only hope, the only way you can be saved and the only One who can save you. The enemy of your soul, through procrastination, will say, "Some other time, some other day, there will be a better situation." No, no, no, my friend. You are not awake to what you are actually doing.

If you only understood how people are praying for you, sinner friend, and how much effort God, through the Holy Spirit, puts forth to set the stage to get the right things said and the right atmosphere around you, so you can get saved. When you shake your head no, and refuse Christ, I repeat again, you do not know what you are doing.

Another reason I know that you do not know what you are doing when you say no to God is, you run a great risk of God, shutting the door of mercy in your face, never to be opened again -- It has happened.

Sin blinds the mind; you possess a carnal mind that is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. Your own intellectual forces will raise up in your defense. People are so deceived that they can smile and walk out the door with their shoulders thrown back. No doubt some have even entertained the thought, "Ha! They did not get me again!" The prayer is, "Forgive him, Father; for he knows not what he is doing." The Word of God says that if we will confess and forsake our sins, God will have mercy on us.

Jesus is still praying for people who know not what they do, and He has taught you and I to pray for them just the same as He did. Somebody may ask, "Will that bring forgiveness?" No, not until they repent. That is why it takes much, much holding on in prayer. All the time we are praying, we realize that they must somehow be moved to the place of repentance, before the Father will ever grant forgiveness to them.
[ The End ]