LESSON 01: The Parts of Forgiveness (Introduction to a study of Philemon)
READ: PROVERBS 19:11
IMPORTANT: Whether the offense is big or small, forgiveness is a process that only God can accomplish in us. Forgiveness is beyond us – it is the work of God in us.
Overlooking a transgression is to look beyond the transgression.
As we forgive, we bring glory to God, for we are never more like God than when we forgive.
I. THE PRINCIPLE PART OF FORGIVENESS
Throughout the Scriptures we are taught three basic principles of forgiveness:
A. PRINCIPLE 1: FORGIVE THOSE WHO SIN AGAINST US
READ: MATTHEW 6:12; 18:21
To forgive completely requires one of the most difficult of all adjustments, but Jesus describes it so simply. Just as we need forgiveness, so we must forgive others.
Forgiving others bears witness to the power of God over the worst that life can deal.
B. PRINCIPLE 2: FORGIVE AND BE FORGIVEN
READ: MATTHEW 6:14; LUKE 6:37
“We need not climb up into heaven to see whether our sins are forgiven. Let us look into our hearts and see if we can forgive others.” – Thomas Watson
IMPORTANT: All people are on common ground as sinners in need of God’s forgiveness. If we don’t forgive others, we are in fact denying and rejecting God’s forgiveness of us (see Ephesians 4:32; Colossians 3:13).
C. PRINCIPLE 3: DON’T FORGIVE AND YOU WON’T BE FORGIVEN
READ: MATTHEW 6:15; MARK 11:25
There are petitions for the believer to ask from God, but there are also conditions for the answers to be received.
PASTORAL NOTE: If a person becomes bitter and angry over a wrong done, prayer is impossible. God wants us to deal with our “horizontal” relationships in order to have a clear “vertical” relationship (see also Matthew 5:23-24).
IMPORTANT: For a person to pray while bearing a grudge is like a tree sprouting leaves and bearing no fruit (Mark 11:13). True faith changes the heart. Real prayer dismantles pride and vengeance, filling the holes with love. Real faith seeks peace. For our churches to have prayer power, there must be harmony and forgiveness evident in the body of believers. Let go of hurts, abandon grudges, and forgive others.
As principle-centered people, we are called upon again and again to forgive. The principles of forgiveness are given priority throughout the scriptures to be placed into practice.
II. THE PARABLE PART OF FORGIVENESS
Jesus reminds us of the practice of forgiveness through parables. In two parables Jesus points us to forgive like God and not like man. Someone has said, “We are never more like God than when we can forgive others.”
A. FORGIVING LIKE GOD – THE PRODIGAL SON
READ: LUKE 15:18-20
Jesus shows us the heart of the one who is willing to forgive – eager, not reluctant – he doesn’t even wait for the sinner to get home.
Jesus shows us the heart of the Father who forgives – eagerly, totally forgive (not just tolerate), and forgive lavishly.
B. UNFORGIVING LIKE MAN – THE UNFORGIVING SERVANT
READ: MATTHEW 18:26-30
Man nurses grudges, and God eagerly forgives and restores.
Man keeps score, God totally and lavishly forgives and forgets.
III. THE PERSONAL PART OF FORGIVENESS
Taking the principles and parables we come to the personal part of forgiveness. It is not enough to have some good rules and a nice story or two – forgiveness is personal.
A. PHILEMON IN PANORAMA (BRIEF)
1. Philemon was saved through the ministry of Paul.
2. Philemon was a slave owner, a common practice in Paul’s day.
3. Onesimus was a slave of Philemon’s and he stole from Philemon, running away to Rome (verse 17).
4. Onesimus encounters Paul and is led to salvation (verse 10).
5. Onesimus is sent back to Philemon with letter in hand (verse 12).
B. PHILEMON IN PURPOSE
Forgiveness seems to be the over-arching purpose for personal application in the book of Philemon, though other purposes can be viewed.
1. Purpose of the Nature of Christian Love – Forgiveness is fleshed out by love.
2. Purpose of the Providential Care of God – Forgiveness is one of the great acts of God’s care.
3. Purpose of the Principles for Christian Relations – Forgiveness reconciles and restores relations.
C. PHILEMON IN PERSONAL
In the next three lessons, forgiveness is going to be personalized in the way of…
1. Character of Forgiveness – what is the character of one who forgives.
2. Action of Forgiveness – what action is needed to forgive.
3. Motivation of Forgiveness – what motivates a person to forgive.
As you can tell, forgiveness is going to be brought to the forefront of our lives with the hopes that we will become more like God and forgive.