This week, we are continuing to look at the Lord’s Prayer, dealing specifically with the section on forgiveness.
Q. 126. Which is the fifth petition?
A: “And forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors”; that is, be pleased for the sake of Christ’s blood, not to impute to us poor sinners, our transgressions, nor that depravity, which always cleaves to us; even as we feel this evidence of thy grace in us, that it is our firm resolution from the heart to forgive our neighbor.
In discussing our hope of forgiveness, Heidelberg puts the emphasis right where it belongs—on the blood of Christ. God will not impute or charge our sins against us “for the sake of Christ’s blood.” This means that Christ’s blood has redeemed us from the curse, that the wrath of God no longer abides over us, because it was tasted, in its full, by Christ on the cross, on our behalf.
As the writer of Hebrews teaches, “Without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness of sins.” Whenever a sin occurs, from the vantage point of a holy God, death is the just penalty. Either the sinner can die, or someone can die in his or her stead; either way, death is the only thing that can appease God’s just anger against sin. We cannot redeem each other with our own life (i.e. blood), because we are tainted by sin. The only blood that can redeem, that can pacify God’s anger, is the precious blood of Christ, who, though tempted in every way as we are, never sinned.
As this is the final Lord’s Day of Advent, the last Sunday before Christmas, let us remember that God’s purpose in sending Christ was not simply for him to be born, but more specifically, for him to die. He was sent to be the Lamb of God whose lifeblood would atone for the sins of the world.
Not only do we pray for our own forgiveness in the Lord’s Prayer, but we also affirm our commitment forgive those who have sinned against us. Our willingness to forgive others, Heidelberg says, is evidence of God’s grace in us. We do not naturally possess a desire to be gracious to others. When it is present, we should recognize it for what it is—a God-given grace.
We do not forgive our neighbors in order to merit God’s forgiveness. Rather, as Heidelberg explains, our forgiving our neighbors testifies to the fact that God has forgiven us, that we have tasted God’s grace and the Holy Spirit.
“My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.” 1 John 2:1-2
* Belhaven University will be having its December commencement ceremony this upcoming Saturday, December 18, at Thalia Mara Hall in downtown Jackson. The celebration will begin at 9:30 a.m. and the speaker will be Rev. S. Douglass Birdsall. For more information, click here.