“Forgiving in the Person of Christ”
by Michael Barrett
Giving Forgiveness; Receiving Forgiveness; Appropriating Forgiveness
One of the greatest truths conveyed in the Scriptures is forgiveness. Not only do we consistently find the theme of forgiveness spoken about in the Scriptures, we find true and Biblical forgiveness modeled in the lives of those whose calling was to represent the Father to their generation. Of course, the most notable of these examples was none other than our Lord Jesus Christ.
The intention of the Lord for every believer and follower of Christ is for that person to mature. The most visible fruit of true maturity is obedience to the written Word and to the ways of God. We far too often, however, see that the body of Christ being influenced by what James calls “wisdom” that is “earthly, sensual, devilish” (cf. James 3:15-17). Additionally, when we see the combination of these influences and the effects of the culture associated with orphan thinking, that coalescence provides the perfect petri dish for the development of what James references as things that are “earthly, sensual, devilish.” What will undoubtedly result from this will be habits and patterns which represent a clear departure from the high calling of God – the calling of sonship representation.
In this teaching I would like for us to consider again, perhaps by way of reminder, and perhaps at an altogether deeper level, the matter of forgiveness. It is true that we are all called to follow in our Lord’s steps and live in obedience to the Scriptures. I believe that we are on the leading edge of a season of transcendency. I do not want to miss a single thing that the Father, by His grace is offering in this season. I trust that you feel exactly as I do about this. So, let’s examine ourselves to be sure that we lay aside every “weight or sin” that would in any way prohibit us from fully entering into the best of what the Lord is offering us in these days! As we prepare do so, we must include a serious look into the matter of forgiveness. So, let’s begin.
Forgiving in the person of Christ –
In 2 Corinthians 2:10-11 we find these words “To whom ye forgive any thing, I forgive also: for if I forgave any thing, to whom I forgave it, for your sakes forgave I it in the person of Christ; Lest Satan should get an advantage of us: for we are not ignorant of his devices.” I also want you to see these verses in the Zondervan Classic Amplified Version: “If you forgive anyone anything, I too forgive that one; and what I have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, has been for your sakes in the presence [and with the approval] of Christ (the Messiah), To keep Satan from getting the advantage over us; for we are not ignorant of his wiles and intentions.”
You will note that in the Amplified Bible translation, the rendering is – “in the presence [and with the approval] of Christ.” The word translated forgive here is: g5483. χαρίζομαι charizomai; middle voice from 5485; to grant as a favor, i.e. gratuitously, in kindness, pardon or rescue: — deliver, (frankly) forgive, (freely) give, grant. Also, please pay particular attention to the framing of this definition: “as a favor”; “gratuitously”; “in kindness”; “pardon” and “rescue”. Every parcel and part of this word defines the nature and character of our Father and of His Son!!
Two Notable Examples
Here are two examples of forgiving “in the person of Christ” / “in the presence of Christ.”
- Jesus – in the presence of the Father: Luke 23:34 from the cross, Jesus said, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” This word “forgive” is: g0863. ἀφίημι aphiēmi; from 575 and ἵημι hiēmi (to send; an intensive form of εἶμι eimi, to go); to send forth, in various applications (as follow): — cry, forgive, forsake, lay aside, leave, let (alone, be, go, have), omit, put (send) away, remit, suffer, yield up. “to send off; to send away.” If you send a thing off, or send a thing away, that thing is no longer with you.
- Stephen – in the presence of Jesus: Acts 7:59-60 “And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit. And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep.” Stephen was “in the presence of Christ” as we see in Acts 7:55-56, “But he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up stedfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God, And said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God.”
Forgiving from the heart –
Jesus addresses the matter of forgiveness in Matthew 18:21-35, which says, “Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times? Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven. Therefore, is the kingdom of heaven likened unto a certain king, which would take account of his servants. And when he had begun to reckon, one was brought unto him, which owed him ten thousand talents. But forasmuch as he had not to pay, his lord commanded him to be sold, and his wife, and children, and all that he had, and payment to be made. The servant therefore fell down, and worshipped him, saying, Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay thee all. Then the lord of that servant was moved with compassion, and loosed him, and forgave him the debt. But the same servant went out, and found one of his fellowservants, which owed him an hundred pence: and he laid hands on him, and took him by the throat, saying, Pay me that thou owest. And his fellowservant fell down at his feet, and besought him, saying, Have patience with me, and I will pay thee all. And he would not: but went and cast him into prison, till he should pay the debt. So when his fellowservants saw what was done, they were very sorry, and came and told unto their lord all that was done. Then his lord, after that he had called him, said unto him, O thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all that debt, because thou desiredst me: Shouldest not thou also have had compassion on thy fellowservant, even as I had pity on thee? And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due unto him. So likewise, shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses.”
Clearly, we see two vastly different approaches to forgiveness in the above passage of Scripture. The first method is an example of the rich king whose servant owed him an incredibly vast sum. The rich king entirely forgave his servant of the debt. The second example is that same servant whose fellowservant owed him a meager sum, but the servant who had just been forgiven a massive sum, that he would have never been able to pay, refused to forgive his fellowservant the meager debt owed.
We see in these two examples the contrast between mercy and generosity that resulted in the king forgiving from his heart and fear and greed that motivated the forgiven servant to cling to what he believed he deserved, resulting in his demand that the debt of his fellowservant be paid in full. These two examples teach us some things, albeit in crude terms, about divine forgiveness and human forgiveness. We see is these two examples one motivated by the unlimited resource of the divine and one motivated by the fear and scarcity associated with human resource.
Men are often motivated by that which best serves them (or so they believe) or out of a place of brokenness. God / Christ is always only motivated by that which redeems, rescues, elevates, edifies, lifts the one who is forgiven to a new and more wondrous state!! I suspect that you have experienced the effects of both the influence of the divine, and also have experienced the influence of the human. If you get to choose, which one would you pick? And now, given that you actually do get to choose when administering forgiveness to others, and in light of how you would want to be treated, how would you choose for others? Which kind of treatment do you suppose truly represents the Father and produces an accurate view of God? Which kind of treatment actually shows people the Father?
Forgiveness, like any and all of the manifestations of the attributes of God, cannot be measured by human standards. And I don’t believe it is a stretch for me to say that, given the choice, all of us certainly would desire to experience the manifestation of the divine as compared to anything other. Jesus established for us the standard of measure for love, when He said in John 13:34, “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.”
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