Forgiveness does not mean Fellowship. For some the thought of forgiving someone can send shock waves of fear through our minds. For some people forgiveness means they are once again at risk and unduly exposed to more hurt and abuse.
By definition Forgiveness and Fellowship mean two totally different things, yet most people simply assume they must go hand and hand, especially if that person is the abuser in the relationship. The one that needs to be forgiven is the one that is quick to also say…forgive and forget. Which by the way also do not mean the same thing either!
Forgive 490 times?
People are quick to get caught up in the bible verse where Jesus says to forgive seventy times seven which equals four hundred and ninety times. (Matthew 18:22) Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven. This is fine except this is not the whole story.
If you consider the rest of the story and look at verses 32-35 we see the consequences of unforgiveness. (Matthew 18:21-35) Then his master, after he had called him, said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you begged me. Should you not also have had compassion on your fellow servant, just as I had pity on you?’ And his master was angry, and delivered him to the torturers until he should pay all that was due to him. “So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses.”
Forgiving someone for their transgressions 490 times is a parable not a statement of fact. This parable is a teaching by Jesus in relationship to Kingdom dynamics. Jesus’ parable of the unforgiving servant is making the point that we are forgiven our enormous debt of sin against a holy and righteous God.
Two Friends Betrayal.
Let us look at what Jesus says and thinks about forgiveness and the intent or nature of the transgressions. Jesus’ own friends and disciples Peter, and Judas Iscariot both horribly wronged Jesus. One’s betrayal out of fear is restored through repentance with fellowship. The other one’s betrayal out of greed results in death and forever condemnation.
At The Last Supper of all the disciples and Jesus eating together just before Jesus’ crucifixion, both men betrayed Jesus the same night. Peter denies Jesus out of fear of persecution. Fear of crucifixion along with Jesus. Peter’s betrayal was warned and told to him by Jesus in (Matthew 26:34) Jesus said to him, “Assuredly, I say to you that this night, before the rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.”
Peter’s Fall is not Final for it is restored to Fellowship through true repentance. Jesus looked at Peter and Peter repents. (Luke 22:61-62) And the Lord turned and looked at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how He had said to him, “Before the rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.” So Peter went out and wept bitterly.
Remember now, on the resurrection morning when Jesus met the women at the tomb? Notice what He tells them: (Mark 16:7) But go, tell His disciples—and Peter—that He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him, as He said to you.” This shows us that Peter’s Fellowship is restored with Jesus intentionally asking for them to specifically tell Peter.
Judas’ betrayal was also told to him by Jesus in (John 13:27) Now after the piece of bread, Satan entered him. Then Jesus said to him, “What you do, do quickly.” The difference between Peter’s betrayal and Judas is that Judas did it out of the greed for money. Judas betrayed Jesus intentionally and knew it meant certain death for Jesus and Judas did not care!! Matthew 26:14-16) Then one of the twelve, called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, “What are you willing to give me if I deliver Him to you?” And they counted out to him thirty pieces of silver. So from that time he sought opportunity to betray Him.
Judas did not repent after betraying Jesus the bible tells us that he was remorseful and hanged himself. In the above verse (John 13:27) we know that Judas was still possessed by Satan. Take note of the attempted perversion by Satan to kill Jesus and put an end to Jesus’ ministry and be victorious over God, and God’s Son. Satan’s anger, greed, and jealousy blinds him and all who follow his lead.
Satan did not know God’s plan for Jesus to triumph at the cross. Judas followed Satan and allowed himself to be used by Satan unto death. For this Jesus condemns him. (1 Corinthians 2:8) which none of the rulers of this age knew; for had they known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.
Judas does not receive forgiveness and restoration fellowship like Peter did. Scripture indeed shows us that not all people even deserve our forgiveness. Only those with true repentance are the ones deserving restoration to fellowship. (Matthew 26:24) The Son of Man indeed goes just as it is written of Him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been good for that man if he had not been born.”
Jesus met a woman who was caught in the very act of adultery and told her to repent by sinning no more. (John 8:11) She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said to her, “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.”
Repentance is the Key to Forgiveness For Fellowship. Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, (Acts 3:19).
Repentance of and by itself is not simply just a reformation of one’s behavior. Nonetheless genuine repentance does result in a reformed behavior. Repentance itself is an act through which there is a sincere pursuit to be forgiven. Repentance comes from and is preceded by conviction and the acknowledgment that one has even committed a sin.
The Apostle Paul gives us some insight as to the kind of repentance that God requires in (Acts 26:20) but declared first to those in Damascus and in Jerusalem, and throughout all the region of Judea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent, turn to God, and do works befitting repentance. The key words being….‘do works befitting repentance’. This means we have some tangible, visible, proof in action through deeds.
John the Baptist states, “Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance, and do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I say to you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones.” (Luke 3:8) Here again we can see the tangible fruits for repentance.
Forgive them, for they know not what they do.
Jesus’ infamous statement, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.” while on the cross. By Jesus saying this he was not forgiving everyone for all of their sins. Jesus was asking the Father to forgive this particular sin of having him crucified.
As stated earlier in this article Satan did not even know what crucifying Jesus really meant.(1 Corinthians 2:8) which none of the rulers of this age knew; for had they known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. In this light, with the Jews condemnation of Jesus, they couldn’t have known the ramifications of their actions at the crucifixion. Their hearts had become hard and their conscience corrupted by Satan. Nonetheless Jesus asked for their forgiveness on this matter in which scripture must be fulfilled for mankind’s salvation at this point in time. This forgiveness did not include a perpetual fellowship covering other sins which come to fruition on judgment day.
If we are to indeed follow Christ as our example for forgiveness it could be summarized by forgiving others back into fellowship who sincerely repent and acknowledge their sin.
We forgive others who are naive of their sins for our own mental and emotional health. Those who are ignorant or blinded so that their sinful actions are devoid of conscience. For these sinners we pray, but are not bound to enter into fellowships which could result in once again being at risk and unduly exposed to more hurt and abuse.
Take heed to yourselves. If your brother sins against you, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him.
Share if you have found Forgiveness and Fellowship through true Repentance.