Immediately your mind tilts. Those two words do not belong together. They seem disconnected, incompatible, almost antagonistic. And they both are misunderstood and not applied correctly in many situations. Yet the Lord Jesus Christ said He had authority to forgive sins on the earth as a man empowered by the Holy Spirit. If you are born again you have the same Holy Spirit as Jesus did (and does right now) and the same right and obligation to forgive.
Many people struggle to forgive those who wronged them. This includes members of a church and those with no affiliation with any church. They may be experiencing anger, bitterness, a sense of betrayal, rejection, or emotional and physical pain. They may be tormented by memories of the events that caused the pain and hold the perpetrator as still guilty. Many will have a desire for justice, to exact their pound of flesh, to somehow be paid back for their pain and suffering.
This sense of not being compensated and requiring the offender to be punished will prevent them from growing in the Lord, or making a connection with the Lord. It can even keep them out of heaven! This also binds the one who hurt them and makes it harder for them to find peace and liberty.
The truth is God has already forgiven every sin ever committed by every person who ever lived (2Cor 5:21, Gal 1:4, Gal 3:13, Rom 5:8, 1Jn 2:2, 1 Jn 4:10, Matt 1:21). He did this out of love. God loves us and made a way to reconcile us to Him. Our sin separates us from Him and if sin can be removed we are qualified and invited to experience Him personally. Since the Father has forgiven you and I He expects us to forgive others for the sins they commit against us. And He has granted all of us the ability to forgive all sins by all people through His Son Jesus Christ.
Here are some Bible verses that place the responsibility to forgive on the one who was hurt or betrayed.
Mark 11:25–26 (NASB95)
25 “Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father who is in heaven will also forgive you your transgressions.
26 “But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father who is in heaven forgive your transgressions.”
Matthew 6:12 (NASB95)
And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
Matthew 6:14–15 (NASB95)
14 “For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.
15 “But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.
The struggle with unforgiveness and the pain and turmoil it causes is rooted in a lack of understanding of this principle, or perhaps a refusal to obey it. In other words there are some who know they have the responsibility and authority to release the offender, but they prefer their anger and bitterness over freedom and peace. Others are tormented and oppressed without understanding that their attitude about the situation is the cause of their current condition, not the painful words and actions that initiated the trauma. It is possible to be free from it! Forgiveness is linked to healing as we see in the story of the paralyzed man Jesus healed (or forgave? Which one is first?)
Mark 2:10–11 (NASB95)
10 “But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—He said to the paralytic,
11 “I say to you, get up, pick up your pallet and go home.”
Some translations say “power” but most will say “authority”. Jesus declared He has the right and authority and power to forgive sins. Jesus wanted them to know He had authority to forgive. That means He wants you and I to know that too. It changes your perspective when you realize you have been given this responsibility.
The title “Son of Man” in Mark 2:10 refers to His human descent from the Father of Faith, Abraham, through King David, down to Joseph, the husband of His mother Mary (Matt 1:1-16). Luke 3:22 states Jesus is the Son of the Father God, and verses 23-38 trace his lineage back to Adam and Eve. Why is this important? Because Jesus had to be born on the earth to have any authority at all on the earth!
God gave all authority over the earth to Adam when He created the earth and all its supporting cast of stars and solar systems. The devil tricked Adam and Eve and legally acquired their authority. This placed Satan as the legal lord over the human race replacing the Living Lord, the Creator. Every human ever born after that, with the sole exception of the Lord Jesus Christ, was born under the Adversary’s dominion. The birth of Jesus was by faith, was legal and righteous, and allowed the Living God to gain access to the world He created for His children, and take it back! We receive our authority back from God when we confess Him as Lord and Saviour and become born-again children of the Living God. The decision to reject Satan and accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and Saviour takes us out from under the devil’s authority and puts us back into relationship with God. Every evil spirit is an illegal alien on planet Earth. They require the cooperation of humans to have any effect at all.
The Source of Authority
Authority is delegated by someone to someone else. All authority originates in God.
Romans 13:1 (NASB95)
Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God.
See also Gen 1:1, Heb 1:1-12, Rom 1:25 and Isa 40:28, among many other references, showing God as Creator and source of all power and all authority.
The Creator is the author of authority. The Lord delegates His authority to people (Matt 28:18-20, Mark 16:15, Luke 24:45-49). Whoever receives authority is accountable to the one who delegated it to them. Every person on earth is accountable to someone, and ultimately accountable to God Himself, because their life and all they have is sourced from the Author and Creator of life.
Most of us are accountable to many people based on the roles we have. Husbands are accountable to their wives, and to their children. Employees are held accountable (hopefully) by their boss. There ought to be accountability from every student to the teacher in the classroom, to all the teachers in the school, and to the principal and other school administrative staff. Sheep (the beloved people of the Lord’s church) should be accountable to their shepherd (pastor or other ministry leaders) and to each other. Citizens should be accountable to the laws of their nation and the leaders of those nations, and those leaders should be accountable to their people.
Rebellion against authority is more evident today than ever before. When people refuse to be accountable to one another the fabric and order of society quickly degenerates. On the other hand when those in authority apply it unrighteously much damage and pain and anger may develop. This leads to resistance and lack of submission. It also affects our “forgiver”, our willingness to forgive others for wrongs suffered.
The authority to forgive sins is given to all people. This is clear from Jesus being born on the earth as a human being who only did the will of His Father. Jesus cannot lie and He never sinned, so His act of forgiveness in Mark 2 is absolutely the will of God. We are to do the works of Jesus which includes forgiving everyone for anything they have done or said to injure us in any way. The Bible also declares that everyone has the right and obligation to forgive every wrong.
Matthew 9:2–8 (NASB95)
2 And they brought to Him a paralytic lying on a bed. Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the paralytic, “Take courage, son; your sins are forgiven.”
3 And some of the scribes said to themselves, “This fellow blasphemes.”
4 And Jesus knowing their thoughts said, “Why are you thinking evil in your hearts?
5 “Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, and walk’?
6 “But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—then He said to the paralytic, “Get up, pick up your bed and go home.”
7 And he got up and went home.
8 But when the crowds saw this, they were awestruck, and glorified God, who had given such authority to men.
Accountability Includes Judgment
If I am accountable to someone they have a right to judge me. Not me as a person but the actions and attitudes I show in the context of our relationship. Accountability means giving an account, a reckoning, a measurement of my outcomes compared to expected results. The Lord is the Righteous Judge of all the earth! (Rev 19:11, Acts 17:31, Rom 2:4, Rev 16:7) Jesus made a judgment about the crippled man in Mark Chapter 2. Jesus judged him as being healed, and as being forgiven. This judgment came from the Father’s heart. Jesus only did what His Father told Him to do. We must understand that the Father lives outside of time, so He considers the paralytic healed and forgiven based on the soon-to-be-accomplished sacrifice of Jesus Christ even though it has not occurred in time yet. This story reveals the heart of our Father is to forgive and to heal everyone! Jesus was saying to us all that the blood sacrifice He was about to offer on the cross paid for the paralytic’s sins and therefore made him qualified to be healed.
Judgment is simply sifting facts and making a decision. One of my bosses had a saying that made a lot of sense even though he was not honoring God at the time. When trying to decide on a course of action he would say “Get the facts and make a decision”. The quality of your decision is based on the veracity of the facts you sifted.
When wronged people hold grudges and refuse to release the perpetrator, holding out for retribution that never comes, they have judged using incomplete or inaccurate facts. An obvious one would be not knowing that the blood of Jesus Christ was shed specifically for the sin they were hurt by. Another fallacy is not understanding the damage you do to yourself when you continue holding the bad guys as guilty and wrong. The Bible says it this way: if you hold onto sin, it remains, but if you release sin, it is released. The injured party cannot ever be free until they release the sin that was committed against them. This is called forgiveness-I release you from the debt owed me resulting from your hurtful actions against me.
John 20:23 (NASB95)
23 “If you forgive the sins of any, their sins have been forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they have been retained.”
Consider this-what if twenty years after the heinous crime they did to you they repented before the Lord, got saved, and became an effective and wholesome disciple for the Lord? What if they could not find you to ask for forgiveness? They would go to heaven because they repented, acknowledged they were wrong (judged themselves as guilty) and received the cleansing of all their sin provided by the blood Jesus shed on the cross. But you would still be bound in bitterness resentment anger and oppression. You would be without forgiveness from the Lord, even though He bestowed it freely to all mankind. You are living on the edge of hell thinking you are right and the world is wrong. Of the two of you in this scenario, which one is right? Which one is the Lord pleased with?
When we refuse to forgive, the effect of sin is retained in our heart, continues to hurt and oppress us, and leads to death and hell. Releasing sin frees you and allows the Lord to work in your heart and help you to wholeness.
Who Should You Forgive?
So far we have considered the personal application of forgiveness but there is more to this than just the way it may affect one person. What about a family? A community? What about the sins of a corporation or even a nation?
Ezekiel 22:29 (NKJV)
29 The people of the land have used oppressions, committed robbery, and mistreated the poor and needy; and they wrongfully oppress the stranger.
30 So I sought for a man among them who would make a wall, and stand in the gap before Me on behalf of the land, that I should not destroy it; but I found no one.
31 Therefore I have poured out My indignation on them; I have consumed them with the fire of My wrath; and I have recompensed their deeds on their own heads,” says the Lord God.
The Holy Spirit has identified the behavior of people and revealed it through His prophet at the time, Ezekiel. It is the same today or perhaps worse! “Used oppressions” means we have deceived people, enacted laws and rules to control them to our advantage, defrauded and violated them. I’m sure that description applies to almost every jurisdiction on earth! The “robbery” they commit means to tear away from, to plunder and rob. Makes me think of taxes or the price of fuel or how much food costs. What about “wrongfully oppress the stranger?” This refers to that new family who moved in who happen to be of different background, They are mocked, demeaned, perhaps restricted from opportunities available to everyone else, and may be physically attacked. It is called racism and it is rampant on the earth. Just because someone is different does not give anyone the right wrongfully oppress them.
When you add in violent crime, the drug addiction epidemic, and burgeoning homelessness in our cities, you begin to understand how far we have deviated from God’s plan and desire for us all. Criminal organizations, many businesses, political figures, and leaders of all kinds use oppression, commit robbery, mistreat the poor and needy, and oppress strangers. It is not right before the Lord, who is also the Righteous Judge of every soul.
Sin must be judged. Sin has been paid for by the blood of Jesus Christ, but that benefit is only available to those who acknowledge their sin to the Lord, repent of their sin, and invite Jesus Christ into their life as their personal Lord, Savior, King and Judge. In the meantime the Lord is searching for someone to stand up to Him and intervene on behalf of all the bad guys. The Lord is merciful! He has already judged sin. Jesus Christ died as the penalty you and must pay for our sin. He stepped in and was made sin, experienced the personal judgment due to you and I, and went to hell for us! But thank God for our Righteous Judge! He judged Jesus Christ as righteous because He never sinned at all during His time on earth. So Jesus volunteered to pay the price the Judge needed to have paid. He who knew no sin was made to be sin so we, who were never righteous nor ever could be righteous on our own, were made righteous in Him!
Verse 29 describes our sins as individuals and as families, communities, and nations. Verse 31 tells us what will happen if we don’t change our ways. The marvellous hinge in the middle is verse 30, which shows us there is a way out! This involves our topic today, the authority (and obligation) to forgive.
The Lord is looking for people who will be aware of the sins of organized crime or drug sellers or lying politicians or corrupt businessmen, yet deliberately choose to forgive them. He needs people to “stand in the gap” in behalf of those who will go to hell in a hurry if no one intervenes. The “gap” the Lord is referring to is the gap between the Lord and the sinner. It is the gap we open up in the spirit realm when we sin.
A righteous person (God-loving, obedient and faithful to the Lord) is protected by the Lord personally (Job 1:10, Psa 91, Isa 54:17, 2Tim 4:18 and many others). This protection is based on covenant relationship. When I walk with the Lord, He promises to protect me and provide for me and bless me with His friendship. But when I sin deliberately, and do not repent, a breach is opened in my personal security blanket. This breach allows evil spirits to access me and begin to afflict me with fear, doubt, pride and many other evil strategies.
When I am unprotected and thereby afflicted by demonic agents, I need someone to pray for me so I will change my heart and repent of my sin. Repentance restores my covenant friendship with the Lord Jesus. It restores my personal security guards too. How many people in your circles of influence need someone to pray for them? How many names could you write down that have a breach in their protection? These are people you have authority to forgive! These people will go to hell unless someone acknowledges they have an obligation to forgive them, no matter what disgusting and terrible thing they did to you or your family. God is seeking people who love the Lord, who have His heart, who want to see relationships restored and families made whole.
Will you stand in the gap with me? Will you go before the Lord and apologize to Him for not caring enough about a sinner that it was okay in your eyes that they go to hell without you lifting a single word to heaven for them? Will you commit to actively forgive those who have defrauded you and oppressed you and mistreated you?
Millions of souls are on the edge of hell right now. Our authority to forgive may be the only hope they have to escape certain judgment and separation from love joy and peace, forever. Let’s not blow this one!
Prayer for Repentance and Salvation.
If you have never accepted Jesus Christ as your Lord and your Saviour, I invite you to ask Him into your heart. If you knew the Lord but have not been hungering for Him I invite you to consider your ways and repent. He is faithful and righteous to wipe your slate clean when you confess your sin to Him! (1 John 1:9)
1 John 1:9 (NASB95) If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
He gave His life for you, and you honour Him when you give your life for Him. It is the right thing to do!
1 Corinthians 6:20 (AV) For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.
You must give yourself to God for Him to come into your life and help you change. He will not force you! Ever. But oh! The joy and peace and hope He gives you!
Romans 12:1–2 (NKJV) 1) I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. 2) And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.
Romans 10:9 (NKJV) that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.
You must acknowledge Jesus Christ is Lord, and you must believe He was resurrected from the dead by the Father.
Say this prayer out loud.
Heavenly Father I turn to you and acknowledge You as the Almighty God, eternal and sovereign over all. I have been rebellious, selfish, and deceived trying to live without you. I believe Jesus Christ is the Son of God, that He died on the cross to redeem me from death and sin, and that He rose from the dead, alive forever with You. I ask you to forgive me of all my sin, known and unknown. Please come into my life as my Lord and my Saviour. Thank you for forgiving me, and redeeming me from sin. I choose to trust You and put You first in every area of my life. I will love You and serve You with all my heart, all my soul, all my mind, and all my resources, for the rest of my life, beginning right now. In the name of Jesus Christ I pray. Amen!
If you prayed this to the Lord, please let me know! I have some resources to share with you, and will help you on your journey with the Lord.