For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
I believe these verses at the end of “the Lord’s prayer” are Jesus’ way of teaching us that it is very important to be forgiving of men’s offensives towards us as we go to God in prayer. We know that we are saved by grace through faith in Jesus and not by works, but there will be a fruit of that salvation…forgiveness shown towards others.
Spurgeon uses this verse as a way of testing if we are really of the Lord’s flock:
“It may be a blessing to be wronged, since it affords us an opportunity of judging whether we are indeed the recipients of the pardon which comes from the throne of God. Very sweet is it to pass by other men’s offences against ourselves; for thus we learn how sweet it is to the Lord to pardon us.”
Whereas many others also see it as a way to show the parental forgiveness that God shows to his children daily, in comparison to his judicial forgiveness from the penalty of sin.
“Ths conditional statement does not mean that God will withdraw justification from those who have already received the free pardon He extends to all believers. Forgiveness in that sense–a permanent and complete acquittal from the guilt and ultimate penalty of sin–belongs to all who are in Christ (John 5:24; Rom. 8:1; Eph. 1:7). Yet Scripture also teaches that God chastens His children who disobey (Heb. 12:5-7). Believers are to confess their sins in order to obtain a day-to-day cleansing (1 John 1:9). This sort of forgiveness simply washes a person from the worldly defielments of sin but does not repeat the wholsale cleansing from sin’s corruption that comes with justification. It is like a washing of the feet rather than a bath (John 13:10). God threatens to withhold from Christians who refuse to forgive others (Matthew 18:23-35).”
In John 13 we see Jesus and Peter talking about being completely clean yet Jesus was still showing them they needed their feet washed. We are God’s. We are forgiven. We are redeemed. But daily we need to see the application of this grace while we live on earth, because we daily sin. We go before God once as dead slaves needing life, freedom and full judicial forgiveness through Christ. We go to him daily as his children to receive his parental forgiveness and grace. Is it indeed true that we are completely forgiven of all our sin? Yes! Is it indeed true that we need to be reminded of all the filth we choose to walk in daily that does not glorify God. Yes! We need our feet washed daily. This is an incredible privilege that God’s children partake in…receiving, by application of his daily love, restoration and forgiveness.
I believe that God’s judicial pardoning of my sins is truly amazing grace. I will always be his and will die with dirt on my feet. However, as his child, I must show his heart to my offenders and forgive them. I am not forgiving their sins and declaring them righteous, only God can do that. But, I am forgiving them for wronging me and pointing them towards the one who can forgive all sins. I think that this passage points to the daily muck and mire we need washed away and how we may be choosing to stay in it by not forgiving others. If I am not looking to forgive the offenses of my enemies and friends but ask God to restore my close fellowship with him, he tells me to go and forgive others. When I do this, God’s glory is displayed, because forgiving others that offend and hurt us is not of the flesh nor of this world. Forgiveness is part of the Kingdom of God. God’s people are forgivers.