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TEXT: LUKE 23:34


An act of God’s grace to forget forever and not hold people of faith accountable for sins they confess, to a lesser degree the gracious human act of not holding wrong acts against a person. Forgiveness has both divine and human dimensions. In the divine relationship, it is first of all the gracious act of God by which believers are put into a right relationship to God and transferred from spiritual death to spiritual life through the sacrifice of Jesus. It is also in this divine dimension, the ingoing gift of God without which our lives as Christian would be out of joint and full of guilt. In terms of a human dimension forgiveness is that act and attitude toward those who have wronged us which restores relationship and fellowship.

Forgiveness in the Old Testament

The primary means of obtaining forgiveness in the Old Testament is through the sacrificial system of the covenant relationship, which God established when He brought His people out of Egypt. The sacrificial system expressed the dynamics of the sinful human condition. The bringing of the sacrifice showed the sense of need; the lying of the hands on the living sacrifice symbolized identification of the person with the sacrifice as did the releasing of the life of the animal through the sacrificial slaughter. Emphasis on an unblemished sacrifice stressed the holiness of God contrasted with human sinfulness. The forgiveness of God channelled through the sacrificial offering was an act of mercy freely bestowed by God, not purchased by the one bringing the offering.

Forgiveness in the New Testament

Jesus is the perfect and final sacrifice through which God’s forgiveness is mediated to every person (Rom. 3:25, Heb. 10:11-12). The connection of Jesus with forgiveness is seen in His own self-understanding. According to the Old Testament, only God could do so and He did (Mark. 2:1-12; John 8: 2-11).


As soon as Christ was fastened to the cross. He prayed for those who crucified him. The great thing he died to purchase and procure for us, is the forgiveness of sin. This he prays for Jesus was crucified between two thieves; I them were shown the different effects the cross of Christ would have upon the children of men in the preaching the gospel. One malefactor was hardened to the last. No troubles of themselves will change a wicked heart. The other was softened at the last. He was snatched as a brand out of the burning, and made a monument of divine mercy. This given no encouragement to any to put off repentance to their death-beds, or to hope that they shall then find mercy. It is certain that true repentance is never too late, but it is as certain that late repentance is seldom true. None can be sure they shall have time to repent at death, but every man may be sure he cannot have the advantages this penitent thief had. We shall see the case to be singular, if we observe the uncommon effects of God’s grace upon this man. He reproved the other for railing on Christ. He owned that he deserved what was done to him. He believed Jesus to have suffered wrongly. Observe his faith in this prayer. Christ was in the depth of disgrace, suffering as a deceiver, and not delivered by his Father. He made this profession before the wonders were displayed which put honour on Christ’s sufferings, and startled the centurion. He believed in a life to come, and desired to be happy in that life, not like the other thief, to be only saved from the cross. Observe his humility in this prayer. All his request is, Lord remember me, quite referring it to Jesus in what way to remember him. Thus, he was humble in true repentance, and he brought forth all the fruits for repentance his circumstances would admit. Christ upon the cross is gracious like Christ upon the throne. Though he was in the greatest struggle and agony yet he had pity for a poor penitent. By this act of grace, we are to understand that Jesus Christ died to open the kingdom of heaven to all penitent, obedient believers. It is a single instance in scripture, it should teach us to despair of none, and that none should despair of themselves, but lest it should be abused, it is contrasted with the awful state of the other thief, who died hardened in unbelief, though a crucified Saviour was so near him. Be sure that in general men die as they live. Father, forgive them this is a fulfilment of the prophecy in Isaiah 53:12, “He made intercession for the transgressors.”

The prayer was offered for those who were guilty of putting him to death. It is not quite certain whether he referred to the “Jews” or to the Roman soldiers. Perhaps he referred to both. The Romans knew not what they did, as they were really ignorant that he was the Son od God, and as they were merely obeying the command of their rulers. The Jews knew, indeed that he was innocent, and they had evidence, if they would have looked at it that he was the Messiah, but they did not know what would be the effect of their guilt, they did not know what judgments and calamities they were bringing down upon their country. It may be added, also that though they had abundant evidence. If they would look at it, that he was the Messiah, and enough to leave then without excuse, yet they did not in fact believe that he was the Saviour promise by the prophets, and had not in fact any proper sense of his rank and dignity as the Lord glory. If they had they would not have crucified him, as we cannot suppose that they would knowingly put to death their own Messiah the hope of the nation and him who had been so long promised to the father.

1. The duty of praying for our enemies even when they are endeavouring most to injure us.

2. The thing for which we should pray for them is that God would pardon them and give them better minds.

3. The power and excellence of the Christian religion. No other religion teaches people to pray for the forgiveness of enemies, no other disposes them to do it. Men of the world seek for revenge the Christian bears reproaches and persecutions with patience, and prays that God would pardon those who injure them and save them from their sins.

4. The greatest sinners through the intercession of Jesus may obtain pardon. God heard him and still hears him always and there is no reason to doubt that many of his enemy’s forgiveness.

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