Virtue in Christ, 2

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The nature of God’s forgiveness has two focuses, one of grace and one of mercy. The mercy of God’s forgiveness is at the heart of 1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous so that He will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Here God’s forgiveness is focused on withholding the punishment that we deserve for our sin. We see that in the emphasis on God’s justice and righteousness. God doesn’t turn His back on us when we confess our sins, but His forgiveness is no violation of His justice because He punished our sin in Christ. Forgiveness here is God’s mercy. But Ephesians 4:32 uses a different Greek word for forgiveness, related to the word grace. It can mean to give as a gift (cf. Acts 27:24) or to forgive (cf. Col 2:13). This word emphasizes the grace of forgiveness that God is giving us, something we don’t deserve. No one deserves forgiveness. The very fact that we need forgiveness is proof that we don’t deserve it. But forgiveness is not an act based on what someone deserves. It is offering freedom to a person who deserves punishment. When we forgive, we refuse to hang on to the right to punish people and to leave justice in the hands of God. When someone wrongs us, we want immediate justice, making forgiveness incredibly hard. We want things made right, and we want something of what we lost paid back. But Paul’s command to be kind, tender-hearted, and forgiving is based on a greater reality, God’s forgiveness of us. God is just, and He has every right to exercise His justice toward sinners and separate Himself from us all forever in hell. Yet God offers forgiveness to those who would acknowledge their sin and trust Him for forgiveness. The gospel, that we believe, offers us forgiveness and motivates us to offer that same forgiveness to those who’ve sinned against us in far lesser ways than we have sinned against God. Praise God for His forgiveness; may we forgive each other also. –Pastor Rory

Sunday at Liberty

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