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Biblical Forgiveness

Believers Forgiving One Another

Prepared for the National Teaching Pastors Conference

January 1998


Forgiveness is a broad term. The Scriptures present two major subdivisions: the forgiveness of God and the personal forgiveness of one another. Although the forgiveness of one another is founded in the forgiveness of God, personal forgiveness is the emphasis of this study. There have been volumes written on and about the forgiveness of God. Unfortunately, there has been much less written about personal forgiveness between believers. Forgiveness seems to settle into two extremes.

The first extreme becomes a wide open forgiveness where the forgiveness is an overlooking of sin and sinful behavior based upon stand-alone interpretations of passages like Matthew 18-21-22 and Colossians 3:13.

Matt 18:21-22 Then Peter came to Him and said, "Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?" 22 Jesus said to him, "I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven." (NKJ)

Col 3:13 bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. (NKJ)

The other extreme becomes a half-hearted forgiveness where believers do speak to one another, but there is no restoration of trust, interchange, nor commerce like that that existed before the offense. This, I believe, is based upon a defective view of forgiveness in which the offending sin of the guilty person has not been fully addressed.

This study is an attempt to try to present a (I hope) balanced view on forgiveness between believers.

God's Forgiveness: A Foundation

God's forgiveness of the believer's sins is one marvelous provision of eternal salvation. According to the believer, he simply receives the forgiveness of God for all past sins at the point of salvation. Yet, it is much different for God. Dr. Louis Sperry Chafer has written:

Forgiveness on the part of one person toward another is the simplest of duties, whereas forgiveness on the part of God toward man proves the most complicated and costly of undertakings. As seen in the Bible, there is an analogy between forgiveness and debt and, in the forgiveness that God exercises, the debt must be paid - though it is paid by Himself - before forgiveness can be extended. Thus it is learned that while human forgiveness only remits a penalty or charge divine forgiving must require complete satisfaction for the demands of God's outraged holiness first of all.1

Although Dr. Chafer takes human forgiveness to be rather simple, he clearly presents the high cost of divine forgiveness. Payment or restitution for sin in the death of Christ was necessary. Furthermore, divine forgiveness is received because of faith in Christ - "faith alone in Christ alone." Some scriptures call upon man to repent such as Acts 3:19 and Acts 26:20.

Acts 3:19 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, (NKJ)

Acts 26:20 [Paul declared] . . . throughout all the region of Judea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent, turn to God, and do works befitting repentance. (NKJ)

Here, the clear meaning of repent is not a separate step in securing salvation and the forgiveness of sins, but a change of mind from unbelief to belief. Repent is the translation of the Greek word METANOIA (metanoia) which means "a change of mind." Dr. Robert Lightner sees this use of repent in salvation not as a separate step, but as included in believing.

The word repentance means a change of mind. Because of the confusion . . . many make repentance a separate and additional condition of salvation. This is not true in the Word. There is no question about it: repentance is necessary for salvation. However, Scripture views repentance as included in believing and not as an additional and separate condition to faith. All who have trusted in Christ as Savior have changed their minds regarding Him and their sin. (Of course it would be impossible to change one's mind without trusting the Savior.)

According to scriptural usage repentance is almost synonymous for faith. Paul said he declared to both the Jews and the Greeks "Repentance towards God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ."2

Zane C. Hodges, taking a slightly different view, also does not see repentance as a separate condition to salvation, nor as the other side of the same coin of faith as does Lightner. Hodges sees repentance as one of several ways used by God to prepare the sinner to accept the free gift of salvation.3

For the believer who sins after salvation, the Scripture makes it clear that the forgiveness of God is based upon a change of mind (repentance) that confesses agreement with God that the offense is sin (Acts 8:22, 1 John 1:9).

Acts 8:22 [To Simon the magician] Repent therefore of this your wickedness, and pray God if perhaps the thought of your heart may be forgiven you. (NKJ)

I Jn 1:9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (NKJ)

Therefore, what is basic to God's forgiveness of the sinner is both the restitution made by Jesus Christ on the Cross - His Atonement - and our willingness to change our minds about Christ (unbeliever) and believe or change our minds about the sin (believer) and confess it. In both cases a basic change of mind or metanoia type repentance as a part of belief or confession plays a part in receiving the forgiveness of sins from God.

On the other hand it is most important to realize that God's forgiveness has never been an "overlooking" of sins and trespasses. God, as the ultimate victim of all sin, has received restitution in the death of Christ.

The forgiveness of God or receipt of a pardon4 from God is based upon this restitution for sins having been made by Jesus Christ. From the earliest mention of forgiveness as it relates to the Lord, our sins have never been discounted nor overlooked. We are forgiven because restitution has been made. Though God made the restitution for us, it was still required to obtain God's forgiveness. To put it the opposite way: without the restitution payment of Jesus Christ, there would be no forgiveness!

The Forgiveness of God and the Forgiveness of Man

The biblical teaching on forgiveness is divided into two categories: (1) Religious Forgiveness before God, and (2) Civil Forgiveness before men. Example Verses: Religious - Colossians 1:14; Civil - Colossians 3:13.

Col 1:14 In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins:

Col 3:13 Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.

Religious forgiveness involves maintaining the vertical relationship between the believer and the Lord. As seen in Colossians 1:14, it is gained at salvation through the restitution payment made by Christ's death. It is maintained through the confession of sins by us and the cleansing of sins by God (1 Jn 1:9).

Civil forgiveness involves the maintaining of horizontal relationships between people - the real emphasis of this study. Some sins by their very nature involve other persons and are against people. They are offended by our offenses. When this is the case, religious forgiveness must include civil forgiveness. The horizontal relationship is to be reestablished as a part maintaining our vertical relationship with the Lord. As shall be shown, civil forgiveness is to be sought, once an offense has occurred by the offender, through a change of mind metanoia repentance and restitution when required.

Forgiveness from the Viewpoint of the Offender

The Offender is first considered because it is the hoped that the reader who sins will not allow an offense to lay and fester, but will seek out and take the correct Biblical action to resolve the problem before God and also before man.

The Victimless Offense

The victimless offense is actually a misnomer. God Himself is the victim of all our sin. Examples would be mental attitude sins or sins that never actually reach out to offend another person. However, all sin does offend God and He becomes the ultimate victim (Rom 3:23; 8:7)

Rom 3:23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, (NKJ)

Rom 8:7 Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be. (NKJ)

Because God is victimized by our private and personal sins, we are to confess our sins to Him (1 Jn 1:9) and gain His forgiveness. Our agreeing with God in confession involves seeing our sin and acknowledging it as He sees it. This brings God's forgiveness. He has not overlooked our sin nor simply excused it, but has applied the restitution payment paid by His Son on the Cross (1 Jn 1:7) to forgive our sin. The result is that the vertical relationship is restored. By definition nobody but God was offended by our sin. Therefore, confession before the Lord ends the matter.

Offenses with Victims

This type of offense involves sinning against other persons. Others are somehow affected by our sin and thereby offended. We have "trespassed" against both God in our vertical relationship and against others with which we share a horizontal relationship in this category of sin. Therefore, forgiveness must restore the horizontal relationship with persons sinned against and also the vertical relationship with God - both civil and religious forgiveness must be sought.

An Alternate View:

At this point some propose5 that the believer ONLY needs to confess an offense to God and be forgiven without any need to seek civil forgiveness nor to resolve the horizontal relationships offended.

The claim is made that the death of Christ brings forgiveness before God (religious) AND before men (civil) without any further resolving or restitution between men. The proponents argue that every sin and crime need only be confessed to God for total forgiveness. The victim is required to forgive based solely upon the forgiveness that they have personally received in Christ. This view is proposed from faulty interpretations of passages like Ephesians 4:32 and Colossians 3:13.

Eph 4:32 And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ forgave you. (NKJ)

Col 3:13 bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. (NKJ)

If this view is carried to its logical end, the victim MUST FORGIVE and be restored with the perpetrator (restored in horizontal relationship) solely upon the forgiveness of Christ. Thus:

(1) The thief steals, confesses to God, and is supposedly totally forgiven - tough luck for the victim who has lost real property.

(2) The slanderer libels, devastates his target, confesses to God, and is supposedly totally forgiven - Tough luck again for the victim with a ruined reputation. As should be quickly surmised, this is NOT BIBLICAL.

The basic arguments against this view involve the fact that the death of Christ made payment or restitution for the sins of men BEFORE GOD satisfying His victimization in all sin. Satisfying man's victimization demands pursuing the issues of civil forgiveness yet to be presented. God's righteousness and justice were satisfied (propitiated) by the death of Christ so that men can receive God's (religious) forgiveness as well as eternal salvation.

Also, God's payment or restitution as an included party in the sins of one man against another was covered by the death of Christ, but sins against society and against one another require civil restitution for forgiveness before God and men. Thus:

(1) The thief steals, realizes his sin, confesses to God and the victim, makes restitution, and is forgiven by God. He is also required to be forgiven by men. God was compensated in the death of Christ. The victim was compensated by restitution.

(2) The slanderer libels and devastates his target, realizes his sin, confesses to God and the victim, makes restitution, and is forgiven by God. He is also required to be forgiven by men. God was compensated in the death of Christ. The victim is compensated by the restitution.

This is the OVERVIEW of the basic principle that must be detailed from the Scriptures. Those who hold that confession to God alone is all that is necessary for forgiveness remove the basis for criminal law. They also remove the basis of restitution to victims. Some holding this view include in their logic a faulty interpretation David's prayer of confession in Psalm 51 where he states, "Against Thee, Thee only, have I sinned, . . ."6 God is pictured as the only one to whom confession must be made thus avoiding the command of James 5:16 to "confess your faults to one another" which should be interpreted as following the normative process of civil forgiveness in the confession of the sin(s) of the offender to the offended parties.7

What an Offender Does to be Forgiven

Having outlined an overview of what an offender should do when involved in sin against another, the Scriptures are now set forth.

Since one of the proper uses of the Old Testament is "for our example" (1 Cor 10:11), the foundation for what an offender should do to seek forgiveness includes the examples of God's Law. Leviticus 6:1-7 presents clear guidelines about the principles involved when one sins against God and another person.

Lev 6:1-7 And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying:

2 If a person sins and commits a trespass against the LORD by lying to his neighbor about what was delivered to him for safekeeping, or about a pledge, or about a robbery, or if he has extorted from his neighbor,

3 or if he has found what was lost and lies concerning it, and swears falsely-- in any one of these things that a man may do in which he sins:

4 then it shall be, because he has sinned and is guilty, that he shall restore what he has stolen, or the thing which he has extorted, or what was delivered to him for safekeeping, or the lost thing which he found,

5 or all that about which he has sworn falsely. He shall restore its full value, add one-fifth more to it, and give it to whomever it belongs, on the day of his trespass offering.

6 And he shall bring his trespass offering to the LORD, a ram without blemish from the flock, with your valuation, as a trespass offering, to the priest.

7 So the priest shall make atonement for him before the LORD, and he shall be forgiven for any one of these things that he may have done in which he trespasses." (NKJ)

The situation involves a sin against the Lord that is also a sin against another person. There are victims involved. God is first set forth as the ultimate victim of all sin. This scenario also includes persons who are victims. The pattern for forgiveness set forth includes the offender seeking religious forgiveness with God to restore the vertical relationship through the required trespass offering. It also includes seeking civil forgiveness and restoring the horizontal relationship through a change of mind (metanoia) repentance, confession and restitution.

The offenses mentioned include both minor, lying, false swearing (v.2,3), lessor categories ("any of these things" v.3) to major offenses, robbery (V.2), and extortion (v.2).

The requirement is that the offender who is guilty of the sin (1) come before the Lord (v.6), (2) Acknowledge the sin by a mind changing repentance and confess it8 (v.6-7), (3) Make restitution (v.5), and then (4) receive final forgiveness from God (v.7).

The offense here is not viewed as outright criminal activity. If it was, the restitution would at least be double as per Exodus 22:1-4. The restitution here involved restoration plus an added payment of twenty percent. Under this formula, forgiveness is granted by God and is also to be granted by the victim.

Forgiveness means "to discharge, dismiss, acquit, let loose from; to remit a debt or sin, to pardon."9 Forgiveness does not mean that the offense will be forgotten. Jay Adams explains further what is involved:

Forgiveness means no longer continuing to dwell on the sin that was forgiven. Forgiveness is the promise not to raise the issue again to the offender, to others or to himself. Brooding is a violation of the promise made in granting forgiveness.10

Furthermore, as the principles of forgiveness are followed, there is

". . . the establishment of a new relationship between the offender and God and between the offender and the offended party (parties).. . . enmity and alienation are replaced by peace and fellowship."11

The offender is forgiven. The estranged relationship is restored and peace should prevail. The former offender has not only been forgiven by the grace of God, but has taken the required action to seek to make restitution to the victim.

It must be noted that where tangible property is involved, the principle is straightforward as in the above example. However, in intangible areas where a reputation has been damaged, a confidence or trust violated, or the sin has driven a wedge between believers, the restitution may only be in an apology or restitution that requires the offender to retrieve the maligning or gossip before all involved. In the latter case, this should be sufficient. In the former case, the offender can only make restitution by exhibiting "fruits worthy of repentance" (Matt 3:8) over a period of time. On the other hand, the victim must forgive the offender before God and leave things in His hands while seeking reconciliation.12

A second Old Testament passage that addresses what an offender should do to obtain forgiveness is found in Leviticus 5:15-16.

Lev 5:15-16 If a person commits a trespass, and sins unintentionally in regard to the holy things of the LORD, then he shall bring to the LORD as his trespass offering a ram without blemish from the flocks, with your valuation in shekels of silver according to the shekel of the sanctuary, as a trespass offering.

16 And he shall make restitution for the harm that he has done in regard to the holy thing, and shall add one-fifth to it and give it to the priest. So the priest shall make atonement for him with the ram of the trespass offering, and it shall be forgiven him. (NKJ)

At issue is sin that is unintentional against the "holy things" of the Lord. These "things" might be seen as the properties of the Lord. When this happened, the Lord Himself required both the trespass offering for the sin to resolve the vertical estrangement that the sin had caused between himself and the Lord and a restitution payment in restoring the "holy thing" plus twenty percent. The restoration and additional compensation resolved the horizontal estrangement of the offender from the priest who was the Lord's personal representative in the matter.

Based upon the (1) Confession of the sin, (2) The offering representing the atonement of Messiah to come, and (3) The restitution payment, forgiveness was to be granted with all its ramifications discussed above.

An Interesting Application: If forgiveness that victimizes others normally includes some manner of restitution that is seen as restoration of the "thing" plus twenty percent, it certainly would cause many to think twice before setting out to sin against other believers. On the other end, for the victim, seeing restitution plus twenty percent would go a long way toward motivating one to forgive "seventy times seven."

That believer which borrowed your car and returned it dented, would do better to return it restored with credit for a few tanks of gasoline. He would have gone the extra mile seen in the above examples and you would have little trouble forgiving - really forgiving - and letting him borrow the car again!

Jesus' Teaching on Forgiveness for the Offender

One passage stands out in the Lord's teaching on forgiveness according to the offender, Matthew 5:23-24.

Matt 5:23-24 Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you,

24 leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. (NKJ)

Here, the offender is pictured as attempting to worship and serve the Lord. However, as an offender, there is a sin, an offense that stands between himself and another. Because of the order of procedure, the logical assumption is to assume that the offense also stands between the offender and God. In other words, the vertical relationship has been violated by the sin as well as the horizontal relationship. Both civil as well as religious forgiveness are to be sought.

Bringing a "gift to the altar" assumes the desire by the offender to be reconciled with the Lord. In terms of Romans 6:13, the offender has decided to "yield his members as instruments of righteousness to God." He has acknowledged his sin to the Lord with the desire of forgiveness from the Lord.

Yet, the Lord instructs the offender to "first be reconciled to your brother and then come and offer your gift." The obvious conclusion is that as in the Old Testament example of Leviticus 6:1-7, civil forgiveness is to be sought as a part of God's religious forgiveness. Both the horizontal estrangement with the person(s) offended needs to be addressed and also the vertical estrangement (unresolved sin) with the Lord.

Biblical Examples of Offenders Seeking Forgiveness

Except for those seeking salvation forgiveness there are few examples of offenders seeking forgiveness. Two examples in the Old Testament and two examples in the New Testament shall be set forth of an offender seeking forgiveness.

Pharaoh: The first example is the Pharaoh of Egypt who when faced with the plague of locusts asked forgiveness of both the Lord and of Moses who represented Israel in Exodus 10. Because of Pharaohs' refusal to let Israel go, God sent the locust plague. In the severity of the plague, Pharaoh quickly realized his trespass. He approached Moses for forgiveness.

Exod 10:16-17 Then Pharaoh called for Moses and Aaron in haste, and said, "I have sinned against the LORD your God and against you. 17 Now therefore, please forgive my sin only this once, and entreat the LORD your God, that He may take away from me this death only." (NKJ)

Pharaoh, as an unbeliever, recognized the trespass was against both God and man. He confessed his sin to Moses asking for his forgiveness and also asking Moses to entreat God for His forgiveness.

It is obvious that the restitution offered to the Lord and Moses was a reconsideration of letting Israel leave Egypt. Moses and the Lord forgave, removing the plague. However, Pharaoh later refused the restitution and would become subject to more plagues.

Exod 10:18-20 So he went out from Pharaoh and entreated the LORD. 19 And the LORD turned a very strong west wind, which took the locusts away and blew them into the Red Sea. There remained not one locust in all the territory of Egypt. 20 But the LORD hardened Pharaoh's heart, and he did not let the children of Israel go. (NKJ)

Abigail: The second example is Abigail who sought to take the blame for the evil of her husband, Nabal, who had railed upon David. As David, in anger, would seek to take vengeance, Abigail came to David in the name of the offender, Nabal, asking forgiveness with gifts of restitution.

1 Sam 25:18 Then Abigail made haste and took two hundred loaves of bread, two skins of wine, five sheep already dressed, five seahs of roasted grain, one hundred clusters of raisins, and two hundred cakes of figs, and loaded them on donkeys. (NKJ)

1 Sam 25:27-28 And now this present which your maidservant has brought to my lord, let it be given to the young men who follow my lord. 28 Please forgive the trespass of your maidservant. For the LORD will certainly make for my lord an enduring house, because my lord fights the battles of the LORD, and evil is not found in you throughout your days. (NKJ)

Although nothing is mentioned of confession to the Lord, certainly the horizontal relationship that had become estranged was addressed with (1) Confession, (2) Seeking forgiveness, and (3) Restitution.

The Prodigal Son: The major New Testament example is that of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32). The most familiar parable begins with the younger son obtaining and wasting his inheritance on "riotous living" (v.13) and on prostitutes (v.30). As he runs out of money and begins to reap the results of the terrible decisions he has made, he realizes he has sinned. He has a metanoia mind changing repentance and realizes that he has sinned against God and also against his father.

Luke 15:18-19 I will arise and go to my father, and will say to him, "Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you, 19 and I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me like one of your hired servants. (NKJ)

The son realizes his sin has vertical (man to God) and also horizontal consequences (man to man). It is assumed that at that moment of repentance he probably confessed his sins to God and determined to return to his father with the offer of the minimal restitution. He would return to his father to become as a hired servant.

In this example, the father - a picture of our Heavenly Father - a victim in this offense, accepts the repentance, but refuses the restitution. He fully restores his son solely based upon the repentance and the offer of restitution he made.

Luke 15:21-22 And the son said to him, 'Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight, and am no longer worthy to be called your son.' 22 But the father said to his servants, 'Bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet. (NKJ)

The Attitude of Zacchaeus: A second New Testament example is that of the attitude portrayed by Zacchaeus in Luke 19:1-10. As Jesus comes to Jericho, this short rich tax collector climbed a tree to see the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus, seeing the desire and faith of Zacchaeus, would choose to stay in his house. Zacchaeus was overjoyed though there were others who would criticize Jesus for being a guest in the house of a sinner.

Evidently Zacchaeus heard the simple message of the gospel that would be "faith alone in Christ alone." His great joy in having fellowship with Jesus may very well speak of his salvation. As the complainers label Zacchaeus "a sinner," Zacchaeus proposes what he would do to show forth the fruits of his salvation.13

Luke 19:8-9 Then Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, "Look, Lord, I give half of my goods to the poor; and if I have taken anything from anyone by false accusation, I restore fourfold." 9 And Jesus said to him, "Today salvation has come to this house, because he also is a son of Abraham; (NKJ)

The attitude portrayed by Zacchaeus was that if he had been an offender in any of his tax collecting activities, he desired to seek forgiveness. His seeking forgiveness would be based upon (1) Seeing that he had made a "false accusation" [Repentance]; (2) Acknowledging it [Confession]; and (3) Seeking forgiveness with a fourfold restitution.

Conclusions for Offenders Seeking Forgiveness

1. In a victimless offense, God is still the victim of all sin and forgiveness by confession needs to be sought. (1 Jn 1:9)

2. In offenses where others are victimized, the offender must realized that both vertical estrangement with God and horizontal estrangement with the offended persons has occurred. Both religious and civil forgiveness must be sought. Scripture seems to precondition religious forgiveness upon seeking (even if not received) civil forgiveness. Lev 6:1-7; Matt 5:23-24.

3. The offender seeking forgiveness should confess the offense to all involved starting with God and seek to make restitution plus an additional amount to the persons involved. Lev 5:15-16; Lev 6:1-7; 1 Sam 25:27-28.

Forgiveness from the Viewpoint of the Victim

Most of the Scriptures that deal with the topic of forgiveness address it according to the believer who has been wronged or victimized by the sin of another.

If the offender would follow the Biblical guidelines and do what is right before the Lord, estrangement issues would be easily handled and peace and fellowship would follow. However, because of continued sin that is rampant, offenders often fail to do what is right until various pressures are brought to bear.

Just as the offender's sin has ramifications with God and also the victim, the granting of forgiveness involves both God and the offender. A survey of the New Testament passages that deal with person to person forgiveness clearly reveals that as believers we are commanded to be forgiving and to forgive. The remainder of this study will seek to glean some details.

Granting Religious Forgiveness: Forgiving an Offender Before God

Whenever an offense has occurred from the smallest to the greatest and we are the victim, the immediate step of forgiveness is due before God. Although our victimization was not caused by God, but by sin, God, by allowing it has chosen to use it somehow in our lives. In keeping with the realization that in God's all-encompassing plan, "all things work together for good" (Rom 8:28) and "in everything give thanks" (1 Thes 5:18), our approach to God is the first step in granting forgiveness. In fact, God demands that we release the offender to Him by prayer forgiveness (Mark 11:25-26 and Rom 12:19).

Mark 11:25-26 "And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses. 26 But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses." (NKJ)

As the victim of an offense, we can either react or turn it over to the Lord. The Lord commands us to forgive, releasing the offense and the offender to Him. The forgiveness spoken of here is before the Lord in prayer. In context, the Lord is teaching on prayer. One aspect of being the victim of some offense is the immediate retaliatory sins14 that pop into the mind - mental attitude sins - toward the offender. These sins must be handled. The Lord commands us to forgive. This forgiveness involves a releasing of the offender, the offense, and our victimization into the hands of the Lord. It is further explained by coupling this idea with Romans 12:19.

Rom 12:19 Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, "Vengeance is Mine, I will repay," says the Lord. (NKJ)

The offender and the offense is to be RELEASED to the Lord for Him to handle. He is to be relied upon to "repay" out of His own plan for the offender and His vengeance. Our attitude before the Lord is to have forgiven and released the offense. In the words of Jay Adams, previously cited:

Forgiveness means no longer continuing to dwell on the sin that was forgiven. Forgiveness is the promise not to raise the issue again [here complaining to God], to others or to himself. Brooding is a violation of the promise made in granting forgiveness.15

In releasing the offense and the offender to God by this act of vertical forgiveness or our granting religious forgiveness, the Lord can then forgive our sins. I take this as God's forgiveness of our immediate or lingering reaction sins toward the offense and the offender. The same is to be said for similar contexts in which God's forgiveness of us is based upon our forgiving of others (Matt 6:12,14,15; 18:35; Mark 11:25,26; Luke 6:37; 11:4)

When the Lord couples His forgiveness of us with our forgiveness in prayer - our granting of religious forgiveness - He is not conditioning our eternal forgiveness of sins upon being forgiving. Louis Barbieri has said:

Though God's forgiveness of sin is not based on one's forgiving others, a Christian's forgiveness is based on realizing he has been forgiven (cf. Eph 4:32). Personal fellowship with God is in view in these verses (not salvation from sin). One cannot walk in fellowship with God if he refuses to forgive others.16

Therefore, to summarize, the first step in granting forgiveness is the granting of religious forgiveness before God by forgiving the offense and the offender through turning the whole matter over to the Lord for His action and vengeance if necessary.

One of the best examples of this happening was with David and Nabal in 1 Samuel 25. Nabal offended David. David reacted and would seek to take his revenge. Abigail, wife of Nabal, interceded for her husband and convinced David to turn the offense and the offender over to the Lord. Because Nabal would continue unrepentant, the Lord ends striking him dead in His vengeance.17

Finally, religious forgiveness is often the only type of forgiveness that can be granted toward unbelievers. They are forgiven by the victim before the Lord and left in His hands as unbelievers whom God's loves and who are in need of the gospel. We deal with these unbelievers with the same desires to see their salvation and cautions as we would deal with any other unbelievers at various levels of communication and commerce18.

Granting Civil Forgiveness: Personally Forgiving an Offender

The process of granting forgiveness comes next. The Lord commands us as believers to forgive one another as we have received the forgiveness of our sins in Christ (Eph 4:32; Col 3:13).

Eph 4:32 And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ forgave you. (NKJ)

Col 3:13 bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. (NKJ)

The granting of civil forgiveness is not simply an overlooking of the sin(s) of the offender, but is to follow a clearly laid out process that is found in both Matthew 18:15-17 and Luke 17:3-4. The account of Luke seems to summarize19 best the process and will be presented first.

Luke 17:3-4 Take heed to yourselves. If your brother sins against you, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. 4 And if he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times in a day returns to you, saying, 'I repent,' you shall forgive him. (NKJ)

The process of civil forgiveness is set forth in four steps in Luke 17:3, (1) The offense, (2) The rebuke; (3) The opportunity to repent; (4) Forgiveness (civil).

(1) The Offense: An offender has committed a trespass against another and has sinned against him. Because we are dealing with forgiveness according to the victim, the assumption is made that the offender HAS NOT realized his sin or has opted not to deal with his sin in terms of the victim as previously presented. Therefore, there is a wall, an estrangement that now stands between believers. The Lord desire us to be at peace with one another (Heb 12:14) and be reconciled to one another (Matt 5:24). Therefore, the offense cannot be overlooked or allowed to stand unchallenged. The results would be an ongoing non biblical estrangement.

(2) The Rebuke: If the offender has not sought to resolve the matter, it falls upon the victim to take the next step. The Scripture says, "Rebuke Him." Rebuke in the original is EPITIMAO epitimao, and is a command. It is a summary statement of the three stage process of Matthew 18:15-17 that says "go and tell him" and uses the original word elegcho meaning "to reprove."

The word "reprove" ELEGCHO (elegcho) is a strong word that may mean "to bring to light, expose, convict, or convince someone of something."20 In the Matthew context it speaks of showing the offender his fault. The most biblical and loving thing one can do for a sinning brother is to rebuke him by confronting him with the truth of his sin and the solution for his sinful conduct.21 Proverbs 27:5-6 says, "Open rebuke is better than love carefully concealed. Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful. (NKJ)"

The word "rebuke" EPITIMAO (epitimao) of Luke 17 is also a strong word meaning "to rebuke, reprove, censure," and also "to speak seriously, warn to prevent an action or bring one to an end."22

Thus it shows that the process of civil forgiveness demands a confrontation in love with the offender. This is not optional, but required. The details and possible stages of such a confrontation are detailed in the Matthew 18:15-17 account.

Matt 18:15-17 Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother. 16 But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that 'by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.' 17 And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector. (NKJ)

In this account there are three possible stages to work toward the goal of repentance, forgiveness and restoration. The first stage is a rebuke in private. This may be attempted a second time as Titus 3:10 suggests. If the offender does not respond with "hearing you" (repentance), then a rebuke before witnesses is the second stage. Stage one is totally private. Stage two is semi-private.23 If the offender still refuses to "hear them" (repent), then it goes to the third stage that is, "tell it to the church."24

At any of the stages of Matthew 18, repentance is the desired result. If the offender repents, the final step of forgiveness is to be forthcoming as presented in Luke 17:3. On the other hand if he will not hear "even the church," Biblical sanctions have to be taken for the benefit of both the church body and the unrepentant offender. Let us assume repentance first.

(3) The Repentance: Repentance is the original word metanoia that carries the basic idea of a change of mind and attitude. "Repentance involves a change of attitude toward sin followed by a corresponding change of action."25 Civil forgiveness is coupled with repentance that includes the offer of restitution. For the victim it is coupled with the verbal repentance including the offer of restitution by the offender and is not dependent upon fruits, completing restitution, or anything else.26

Therefore, at the most basic level a true change of mind metanoia repentance is to be the desired result of the rebuke. The offender truly "hears" of his sin and sees it as both God and the victim see the sin. When he confesses this change of mind to the offended victim in the spirit of James 5:16 "confess your faults one to another,"27 he is to be forgiven.

(4) Forgiveness (Civil): At this stage of the summary procedure found in Luke 17:3-4, religious forgiveness (the vertical) has already been accomplished as the victim has released the offense and the offender to the Lord God and turned any "vengeance" over to Him. The forgiveness step is an effort to reestablish the horizontal relationship of person to person to allow for restoration, peace, and fellowship.

Thus, based upon repentance, civil forgiveness is to be granted by the victim.28

Luke 17:3-4 Take heed to yourselves. If your brother sins against you, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. 4 And if he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times in a day returns to you, saying, 'I repent,' you shall forgive him. (NKJ)

"If he repents, forgive him." Jesus would summarize what should be the normal RESULT of the repentance of the offender - the victim is REQUIRED to forgive leaving any "fruits," suggested restitution, or what follows in the hands of the Lord. Jay Adams rightly observes that this may be the hardest step, even beyond the confrontation, for the victim.29 The disciples of the Lord also would have a very hard time with what Jesus would teach.

Jesus would continue to relate His teaching of Luke 17:4. If the offender sins seven times a day and returns to the victim with a metanoia mind changing repentance, he is to be forgiven. There is no mention of "fruits" nor anything else that has to precede the victim granting civil forgiveness to the offender. The responsibilities of "fruits," restitution, and the like, are left between the Lord and the offender to be carried out. The victim is NOT called upon to "police" the actions after repentance.

The disciples had a HARD TIME with this is evidenced by the discourse that followed.

Luke 17:5 And the apostles said to the Lord, "Increase our faith." (NKJ)

The Lord would go on to explain that it DOES NOT take much faith, but simple obedience to do what He was commanding to be done about forgiveness.

Luke 17:6 So the Lord said, "If you have faith as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, 'Be pulled up by the roots and be planted in the sea,' and it would obey you. (NKJ)

In other words, it does not take much faith. If you had the grain of a mustard seed, trees and mountains could be moved.

Jesus would then go on to illustrate this point with a parable, the Parable of the Unprofitable Servant.

Luke 17:7-10 And which of you, having a servant plowing or tending sheep, will say to him when he has come in from the field, 'Come at once and sit down to eat'? 8 But will he not rather say to him, 'Prepare something for my supper, and gird yourself and serve me till I have eaten and drunk, and afterward you will eat and drink'? 9 Does he thank that servant because he did the things that were commanded him? I think not. 10 So likewise you, when you have done all those things which you are commanded, say, 'We are unprofitable servants. We have done what was our duty to do.' (NKJ)

The point of Jesus' parable is to say that though a servant has worked all day obeying his master and comes in to dinner, his duties are not done until he prepares dinner for his master. His master will not invite him to eat immediately, but require him to fulfill his duty to prepare the master's dinner. The servant will do his duty, prepare the master's dinner, and then sit to eat. The servant does not receive special thanks for doing what was commanded. He does what is his duty.

In the same way Jesus was saying that it does not take faith; it does not take feeling; nor any other thing to simply OBEY and do what God has commanded. He has commanded that if the offender verbally exhibits repentance, OUR DUTY is to grant civil forgiveness and forgive him.

If we only do what is our duty, we are still considered unprofitable servants. If we take steps beyond our duty, perhaps like the father of the prodigal son, then we become more "profitable servants."30

The unfortunate fact that makes this view of how a victim should grant repentance so hard is that we want justice! - justice as we see it. What is often forgotten is that the offender also has responsibilities in obtaining forgiveness as shown in the earlier examples. His responsibilities have been placed into the hands of the Lord and the potential for His vengeance if they are ignored. In personal situations except for criminal law, the Lord has promised to handle offenders who do not fulfill their side of the forgiveness principles. We must leave these things in His hands.31

Joseph: A Biblical Example of a Victim's Forgiveness

If ever there was a man who had been wronged by his family, it was Joseph. He had been hated by his brothers, almost murdered by them and finally sold by them into slavery. In all this Joseph did not hate his brothers. When he finally met them, in his position as second to Pharaoh, he would test them to see if they had had a change of mind about what they had done to him. Joseph used his younger brother, Benjamin, Jacob's new favorite, to test the brothers that sold him into slavery. Upon seeing their concern for Benjamin, Joseph would treat them as family. After Jacob/Israel would die, Joseph was told the wish of his father that he forgive his brothers (Gen 50:16-17).

Gen 50:16-17 So they sent messengers to Joseph, saying, "Before your father died he commanded, saying, 17 'Thus you shall say to Joseph: "I beg you, please forgive the trespass of your brothers and their sin; for they did evil to you."' Now, please, forgive the trespass of the servants of the God of your father." And Joseph wept when they spoke to him. (NKJ)

Joseph would rebuke his brothers (Gen 50:20), they would repent and offer themselves as the servants of Joseph (Gen 50:18). Based upon their words (not their servitude) Joseph would forgive his brothers (Gen 50:19-21).

Gen 50:18-21 Then his brothers also went and fell down before his face, and they said, "Behold, we are your servants." 19 Joseph said to them, "Do not be afraid, for am I in the place of God? 20 But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive. 21 Now therefore, do not be afraid; I will provide for you and your little ones." And he comforted them and spoke kindly to them. (NKJ)

In approaching his brothers Joseph offered a strong rebuke in Genesis 50:20 when he told them, "you meant evil against me." Yet, in the plan of God, the Lord used this evil for the ultimate benefit of Joseph, Israel, and even Egypt.

Furthermore, the brothers gave a solid indication of their change of mind repentance even offering themselves as servants in restitution.

Finally, Joseph would forgive them based upon their response to the rebuke and what they said. He would leave the details of their future actions in the hands of the Lord.

When the Offender Does Not Repent

What does a victim do about forgiveness when the offender rejects the rebuke and will not change his mind and repent - even all the way up to the third stage of Matthew 18:15-17?

The victim has followed the principles on forgiveness before the Lord, releasing the offender and the offense to the Lord - religious forgiveness in the vertical relationship with God. Still, the horizontal relationship is unresolved.

At this point Matthew 18:17 states, "But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector. (NKJ)" The victim is to consider the unrepentant offender as a nonbeliever. There is a separation that needs to take place in obedience to Scripture and for the benefit of the unrepentant offender. He is treated as nonbeliever because he is not walking as a believer. He is to be "loved" in the same way Jesus loved sinners and publicans, but he is no longer to be related to as a member of the body of Christ. This is not a "shunning," but a separation from Christian fellowship.32

The status of forgiveness is that before the Lord the victim has forgiven (vertically) the offender. The offender has thrown up the wall of separation from personal forgiveness by unrepentance thus blocking the horizontal forgiveness. It must be stressed that it is NOT the victim who is being unforgiving, but the offender who is at fault. This is much the same situation that God finds Himself in when we sin and do not confess. We stand in a state of unforgiveness before God. Is this God's fault? Absolutely not! It is the fault of the offender. The victim must understand this and continue to urge repentance to the offender.

Paul and the Corinthian Church: An Example

A congregation member in Corinth was living in gross immorality and would not be corrected. At the urging of the Word of the Lord through Paul, he was to be separated from and put out of the assembly. He stood as unforgiven until he would repent (1 Cor 5:1,5,13)

1 Cor 5:1 It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and such sexual immorality as is not even named among the Gentiles-- that a man has his father's wife! (NKJ)

1 Cor 5:5 deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus. (NKJ)

1 Cor 5:13 But those who are outside God judges. Therefore "put away from yourselves the evil person." (NKJ)

This principle is designed to "pressure" an offender into seeking restoration by repentance. The Corinthian congregation member, treated in this manner, must have repented and acknowledged his sin to the Lord and to those involved so that forgiveness could be extended and he could be accepted back into the congregation (2 Cor 2:6-8).

2 Cor 2:6-8 Sufficient to such a man is this punishment, which was inflicted of many. 7 So that contrariwise ye ought rather to forgive him, and comfort him, lest perhaps such a one should be swallowed up with overmuch sorrow. 8 Wherefore I beseech you that ye would confirm your love toward him. (KJV)

The basic framework upon which forgiveness by the victim to the offender is built is the change of mind of the offending party.


In summarizing the conclusions on personal forgiveness, separate principles apply to an Offender and to a Victim.

The Offender is to (1) Acknowledge his sin to the Lord; (2) Go to the victim(s) acknowledge his sin, his change of mind, and propose restitution; (3) An offender following these guidelines is forgiven by the Lord and should be forgiven by the victim(s). If the victim refuses to forgive, the victim is now living in disobedience to the Lord.

The Victim is required to (1) Forgive before the Lord and release the offender and the offense to the Lord. (2) He is to go to the offender with the purpose of confronting him with his sin - Rebuke. (3) If the offender changes his mind and says so in repentance, he is to be forgiven. (4) If the offender does not repent through all three stages of Matthew 18:15-17 (In private, Before witnesses, Before the Church), he is to be set outside the fellowship and remains unforgiven by his (the offenders) actions (like we are before God when we do not confess sin). (5) If and when repentance takes place, he is to be forgiven.

Final Note

Forgiveness is basic and restores fellowship among believers. Forgiveness does not necessarily restore positions. Under Mosaic Law, a murderer or an adulterer could be forgiven and still executed as the temporal consequence for the sin. The same is true for positions of spiritual leadership as seen with Moses (Nu 20:11-12), Aaron (Nu 20:23-28) and the apostate Levites of Ezekiel 44:10-16 who, as spiritual leaders, obviously must have repented of their sin, but lost their positions. Forgiveness is a first step to restore fellowship while other Biblical factors are to be brought to bear on restoration to various positions including leadership.33

Appendix I

David: Against Thee Only Have I Sinned

When David sinned by adultery with Bathsheba and then had her husband, Uriah, murdered, his emotional state of confession is given in two Psalms: Psalm 32 and Psalm 51. In Psalm 51, David would characterize his sin as "against Thee (God), Thee alone, . . ." The superficial reading and even more superficial application of this verse to confession and forgiveness has led to a lawless attitude toward sin. Based upon the supposed "loophole," the conclusion is reached that believers need only to confess a victimizing sin to the Lord alone. As a result, the Lord supposedly forgives, and the victim, without any perceived change in the offender, nor restitution, is supposed to forgive as the Lord has supposedly forgiven.

If this was carried through to its logical conclusion, believers could steal from one another, confess it to God, and that would be it. Believers could malign and slander one another, confess it to God, and that would be it. Believers could victimize one another in many ways, confess it to God, and that would be it. - Does this sound familiar? IT IS ABSOLUTELY WRONG!

EXPLANATION of Psalm 51:4 in historical-legal context.

David's Great Sin is found in 2 Samuel 11:1-12:14. A moment is needed to outline the specific historical details with their legal implications before God and men.

(1) 2 Samuel 11:1-4 David stayed behind as the armies of Israel went forth to war. In the midst of David's idleness he saw Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah and committed adultery with her. Uriah was off to war and none the wiser.

LEGAL STATUS: At this point David and Bathsheba were both guilty of adultery. The punishment for adultery was death. The victim of the adultery would be Uriah, the husband of Bathsheba. He would be the one required to press charges. Penalty: Lev 20:10; The husband must press charges: Num 5:11-31 Trial of jealousy, example.

Lev 20:10 And the man that committeth adultery with another man's wife, even he that committeth adultery with his neighbour's wife, the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death.

Num 5:12 Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, If any man's wife go aside, and commit a trespass against him,

Num 5:15 Then shall the man bring his wife unto the priest, and he shall bring her offering for her, the tenth part of an ephah of barley meal; he shall pour no oil upon it, nor put frankincense thereon; for it is an offering of jealousy, an offering of memorial, bringing iniquity to remembrance.

With Uriah gone, the matter was secret and both David and Bathsheba were protected from the external consequences of their sin.

(2) 2 Samuel 11:5 Bathsheba conceived a child of the illicit union that now complicated the issue for David. If Uriah, her husband, found out, as the victim, he could press charges and have both David and Bathsheba put to death.

LEGAL STATUS: Under adultery, both faced the death penalty as the consequence of their sin.

(3) 2 Samuel 11:6-13 David's first plan of action was to cover his sin. He would seek to get Uriah together with his wife Bathsheba so that the child to be born would be thought to be Uriah's child. This would not work.

LEGAL STATUS: David and Bathsheba sought to cover-up their sin and thus escape the restitution penalties.

(4) 2 Samuel 11:14-25 Because Uriah didn't follow through in the plan of David to spend a night with his wife, David determined that Uriah would have to be eliminated. A murder was planned. Uriah would be sent to the hottest battle and abandoned. There Uriah was slain in battle. To Uriah, as a good soldier, he was dying in the glory of battle. To David and others in the plot, it was murder. The Lord would be displeased.

LEGAL STATUS: David was now guilty of both adultery and murder. The penalty for both is death. Uriah, as the victim of the adultery would have seen restitution. By murder, the victim of the adultery was eliminated. Who did David sin against in the adultery? Uriah. He is eliminated. In the murder David sins against God. Bathsheba was not the victim, for her husband could have required her death also. God is the victim and it is HE WHICH REQUIRES THE RESTITUTION OF LIFE FOR LIFE.

Penalty for Murder: Ex 21:12

Ex 21:12 He that smiteth a man, so that he die, shall be surely put to death.

God is the receiver of restitution in murder: Gen 9:5-6

From the beginning, murder defiled the earth and the Lord was the one requiring the restitution. The life of the murderer was restitution to the Lord.

Gen 9:5-6 And surely your blood of your lives will I require; at the hand of every beast will I require it, and at the hand of man; at the hand of every man's brother will I require the life of man. 6 Whoso sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man.

God requires the blood of the murdering beast and the murdering man. He also delegates the authority of execution unto mankind in society. Capital punishment is not restitution to society, but restitution to God. The Scriptures emphasize that murder pollutes the land before God. God's requirement for cleansing the land of its pollution is the "life" of the murderer - capital punishment.

Num 35:30-33 Whoso killeth any person, the murderer shall be put to death by the mouth of witnesses: but one witness shall not testify against any person to cause him to die. 31 Moreover ye shall take no satisfaction for the life of a murderer, which is guilty of death: but he shall be surely put to death. 32 And ye shall take no satisfaction for him that is fled to the city of his refuge, that he should come again to dwell in the land, until the death of the priest. 33 So ye shall not pollute the land wherein ye are: for blood it defileth the land: and the land cannot be cleansed of the blood that is shed therein, but by the blood of him that shed it.

In murder, God is the victim and restitution is to be made to God. God demands the capital punishment of the murderer as the normal cleansing of the blood of the land. Let's put together all the factors:


1. Who was victim of the adultery between David and Bathsheba? Who was to receive restitution? Uriah. With Uriah's death, the victim for this sin was removed.

2. Who was victim of the murder to receive restitution? God, and God alone. Not Bathsheba for she was also guilty of the capital offense of adultery.

3. Thus, David, in finally confessing his sin, could ONLY MAKE RESTITUTION TO GOD for He was the only one left against whom David had specifically sinned: "Against Thee, Thee alone, have I sinned, . . ." (Ps 51:4).

(5) 2 Samuel 12:1-14 David was confronted with his sin by Nathan the prophet. He repented and expected to make restitution with his very life. God, as the ultimate victim of this crime modified the required restitution. David in his confession prayer recorded in Psalm 51 is only making note of God as the ultimate victim of this sin. It is not a model to be applied to our sins in which others are victimized.

Sin against others where victimization is involved is not to be viewed as "against God and God alone." Religious forgiveness requires civil forgiveness. The application of sinning against God alone from Psalm 51:4 is wrong and lawless. There is absolutely no "loophole" in the Lord's principles on forgiveness that requires forgiveness and bypasses repentance and restitution to the victims of sin.



A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature. Translated by William F. Arndt and F. Wilbur Gingrich. Fourth Edition. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1957.

Adams, Jay E.. The Christian Counselor's Manual. Phillipsburg, New Jersey: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing, 1973.

Barbieri, Louis A.. "Matthew." The Bible Knowledge Commentary. Edited by John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck. Wheaton, IL: Victor Books of SP Publications, Inc., 1983.

Chafer, Louis Sperry. Systematic Theology. Dallas, Texas: Dallas Seminary Press, 1948.

Hodges, Zane C.. Absolutely Free: A Biblical Reply to Lordship Salvation. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1989.

Laney, J. Carl. "The Biblical Practice of Church Discipline." Bibliotheca Sacra. Volume 143, October, 1986; Pages 353-364.

Lightner, Robert P., Sin, the Savior, and Salvation. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1991.

Megillian, Keith. "The Ministry of Rebuking." Journal of Pastoral Practice. 1981, Pages 22-25.

Scroggie, W. Graham. A Guide to the Gospels. London: Pickering and Inglis, Ltd., 1948.

End Notes

1 Louis Sperry Chafer, Systematic Theology, Vol 7 (Dallas, Texas, 1948), pp. 162-163.

2 Dr. Robert P. Lightner, Sin, the Savior, and Salvation (Nashville, 1991), p. 167.

3 Zane C. Hodges, Absolutely Free (Grand Rapids, 1989), pp. 167-180.

4 The basic meaning of the primary Hebrew word for forviveness is "pardon." The Hebrew salach is used only of God as the ultimate victim and the one who is always affected by sin.

5 "Some" refer to individuals involved in conversations and debates with the author over the issues of what is required for forgiveness. The author is unaware of any written defense of this position, yet it prevails in many areas of "Grace" Christianity.

6 By the time David was finished with his sin of victimizing Uriah by adultery with his wife and then murdering the original victim (Uriah), God was the only party left as victim of this offense. A more complete discussion is found in Appendix I of this paper.

7 I do not see any problem with James 5:16 when interpreted with a view to offenders seeking civil forgiveness from victims by first acknowledging their sin(s) to the victims. This is not "public" confession for the sake of some "right to know." The confession is as "public" as need be depending upon the number of victims involved, affected, or hurt by the sin(s) of an offending sinner.

8 Confession is both to God by means of the trespass offering as well as to the individual who was victimized and who will receive the restitution payment. It is assumed that receipt of the restitution payment is proof of the confession to the individual.

9 W. Graham Scroggie, A Guide to the Gospels (London, 1948), p. 564.

10 Jay E. Adams, The Christian Counselor's Manual (Phillipsburg, New Jersey, 1973), p. 65.

11 Ibid., p. 63.

12 Forgiveness from the victim's point of view will be detailed later.

13 The works which Zacchaeus proposes cannot be considered as the basis of his salvation. They are to be seen as the fruit of one just saved and overjoyed that he will not only see Jesus, but that Jesus will be a guest in his home. The salvation of Zacchaeus, like ours, would be founded upon "faith alone in Christ alone." In answer to His critics, Jesus would comment on Zacchaeus being one for whom He came to seek and to save (Lu 19:10).

14 Sins like, "That dirty so and so!" Or, "I show them!" (Revenge). Others may include anger, bitterness, resentment, and moments of real hatred towards the offender. We cannot receive what God has planned as the benefits of this incident if we are immersed in such sins of attitude even though no retaliatory ACTION is taken.

15 Adams, Op. cit., p. 65. Bracketed material is added by author.

16 Louis A. Barbieri, Jr., The Bible Knowledge Commentary, ed. John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck (Wheaton, 1983), Matthew, p. 32.

17 In the limited experience of the author, the Lord's vengeance is real and the principles work. A number of unrepentant offenders have seen their businesses, ministries, and lives disintegrate before the vengeance of the Lord. The alternative for the victim is the self destruction which takes place when attitudes of religious unforgiveness, revenge, and bitterness control the life.

18 If an unbeliever car salesman sells you a "lemon," you forgive them, gently seek to recover the loss, pray for and desire their salvation, but be wise in doing future business with them.

19 J. Carl Laney, "The Biblical Practice of Church Discipline," Bibliotheca Sacra, Vol. No. 143 (October, 1986), p. 359. Laney sees Luke 17:3-4 as a summary of Matthew 18:15-17 and the process of seeking to resolve an offense and grant civil forgiveness.

20 A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, trans. William F. Arndt and F. Wilbur Gingrich, 4th rev ed., p. 248.

21 Keith Megillian, "The Ministry of Rekuking," Journal of Pastoral Practice 5 (1981), p. 22-23, Quoted by Laney, op. cit., p. 358.

22 A Greek-English Lexicon, p. 303.

23 I personally see the witnesses of stage two being totally objective and not tied to one side nor the other so that if the victim is wrong and over reacting about a supposed offense, they can help with reconcilation or if the offender is wrong and will not hear, they can give testimony at the third stage of this process.

24 Some see this as limited to church leadership, I do not. The leadership view is an effort to try to preserve privacy, but the word is ekklesia and normally has reference to the entire body of believers. God's Word Itself does not protect the sins of the sinning Old Testament saints, but presents them as warnings to all believers regardless of maturity levels. Moreover, church leadership could already have been involved as "witnesses" in stage two. If there is still a refusal to hear (unrepentance), the whole church will have to know anyway in order to carry out the Biblical sanctions.

25 Laney, op. cit., p. 359.

26 There is strong debate over whether or not "fruits of repentance" are needed by the victim before they forgive. This does not negate in any way the fact that Scripture sets forth proper "fruits," including seeking restitution for the offender. The actual relationship of when repentance secures forgiveness will by taken up under (4) Forgiveness.

27 This is taken as confession of sinning offenders to those who have been personally victimized by their sin. It is only as "public" as need be.

28 Legal Offenses and Personal Offenses: Scripture upholds at all times a strong sense of "law." If the offense is a crime having criminal consequences, one can still forgive in a civil way the offender, yet see the offender face the legal consequences of their sin. This serves to uphold God's law standards governing humanity, as a deterrent to others, and as some of the required restitution to the victim. The Lord treats us in the very same way. Upon confession, He forgives our sin, but we are still faced with its temporal consequences in time. On the other hand, personal offenses may end with repentance. If the offender seeks to do what God demands, fruits of repentance including restitution should normally follow the change of mind.

29 Adams, op. cit., p. 68.

30 An excellent presentation of this context and presentation of this passage is presented by Jay Adams, op. cit., pp. 63-70.

31 Again, although personal experience is never the source of our faith, it has born out the truths of God handling offenders who abuse His grace by verbal repentance alone and go no farther as required.

32 Laney, op. cit., p. 362.

33 Examples are provided in a paper entitled: Disqualification from Spiritual Leadership before the Lord, Paul R. Schmidtbleicher, Th.M., 1995.