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Forgive As Christ Forgave You

By Charles H. Spurgeon 

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

    Note in our text what an honor this Scripture puts upon our Lord Jesus Christ.  In Ephesians 4:32 a similar precept is placed in a rather different form, for it runs thus  – “Even as God, for Christ’s sake, hath forgiven you.”  None can forgive sins but God.  He alone forgives against whom the sin is committed.  Sin, therefore, being against Christ and Christ being able to forgive it, we see that He is exalted on high to give remission of sins.  He shares in the high and royal prerogative of God, seeing He is able to forgive sin.

    Does not this expression seem to say that albeit the apostle and other inspired writers had many things to write of, yet one thing was always upon their hearts, namely, to honor their Lord?  Is not this a proof of how thoroughly they were ­under the influence of the Spirit of God, of whom Jesus said, “He shall glorify Me” (John 16:14)?  Whatever He is teaching, whatever duty He is enforcing, whatever promise He is delivering, the Holy Spirit takes care to do it so that the Lord Jesus Christ is exalted in the hearts of His people!  Let us, in our hearts, adore the Anointed One, Christ Jesus, the Son of God – and never let us hesitate to honor the Son even as we honor the Father.  Let us, as penitents, adore the pardoning Savior, seeing He has power to forgive sins and has cleansed the myriads of His redeemed from all their iniquities. 

The Pattern of Forgiveness

    But, brothers and sisters, while this gives glory to Christ, what a weight is lent to the precept, since it is supported by the example and the authority of our Divine Lord – “Even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.”  What a model is set before us!  How perfect is that spirit of love which we are to manifest!  Even as Christ forgave us, we are bid to forgive others.  What nobler pattern could have been chosen?  Surely he that trifles with this precept, or thinks it one that is left to our option – to obey or to neglect – cannot rightly know the dignity of the Christ in whose pierced hands this law is held forth before our eyes!  Depend upon it, this command, so wondrously linked with the Person of the pardoning Christ, is of no common importance.  If the Law given by Moses was so solemnly binding, what shall we say of this law which is embodied in the life of the Lord Jesus?

    Surely I shall scarcely need to plead with you, who are His disciples, that you give your heart’s best attention to such teaching!  Your Lord, Himself, stands before you!  You remember how He forgave you all your trespasses?  Then I am sure you will give earnest heed to His exhortation to forgive.

    Carefully study the pattern of forgiveness set before us in the text.  “Even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.”  What is this forgiveness of Christ?  You know how He exhibited it in His daily life.  He was much tried, but He was never provoked to wrath.  Both by friends and by enemies He was made to suffer, yet He neither accused the one nor the other to His great Father.  He never reviled those who reviled Him, but patiently yielded to their malice, giving His back to the smiters and His cheeks to them that plucked off the hair.  His disciples He gently rebuked, but He never spoke to them in anger.  A life of forgiveness was crowned by His dying prayer for His persecutors, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34).  He loved His enemies.  He lived for His enemies.  He died for His enemies.  He was Incarnate gentleness, the mirror and paragon of forgiveness.

    Observe, also, that He forgave offenses most great and grievous.  It was a horrible thing that when the Lord Jesus came into the world, moved by pure love, He was not welcomed, but Herod sought to slay the young Child.  Afterwards, when He appeared publicly among men, the Jews took up stones to stone Him.  His miracles were ascribed to the devil and His holy and unspotted character was traduced by His being called a drunk and a wine­bibber.  He was the firstborn of the Lord of the vineyard, but when the husbandmen saw Him, they said, “This is the heir; come, let us kill him and the inheritance shall be ours” (Mark 12:7).  You know with what scornful cruelty they treated Him in the hour of His passion.  What could the malice of hell have invented more contemptuous and cruel than that which men used towards the Well-Beloved?  Had He been the basest of beings, His sufferings would have been too cruel.  Men did all they could against Him.

    We, also, have crucified Him, for our sins were laid upon Him.  We, also, must confess, “...He was despised and we esteemed Him not” (Isa. 53:3).  We can never remember this without deep emotions of regret.  We used no other friend so evilly.  We crucified Him and slew Him, as far as we were able to do it, by our rejection of His love.  And yet He has forgiven us!  He is ready to forgive all such as seek His face.  Oh, the splendor of that love which blots out sins like ours!  What a flood of grace is this which rises above the tops of the mountains of our sins and covers them forever!

    It matters not how black or crimson our transgressions may have been, the moment we come to Jesus He makes us whiter than snow!  He puts away the most horrible of offenses, the most glaring of transgressions!  He says, “I forgive you.  Go and sin no more” – and we, then and there – receive a perfect pardon! 

The Manner of Christ’s Forgiveness

    I want you, for a moment, to consider the question, How did He forgive?  The manner of our Lord’s forgiveness is as noteworthy as the pardon itself.  The Lord Jesus came and pardoned us when that act of grace was unsolicited!  Before we had thought of mercy, He had thoughts of mercy toward us!  I remember reading in one of our magazines a story of a city missionary who discovered a poor girl who had wandered from the ways of virtue.  He had sought to restore her to a better life.  He spoke with her till she became somewhat tender of heart.  He enquired about her family and learned that she had once enjoyed a happy home and had known a tender father’s love.  “But he would never look at me now,” she said.  “I am sure he never would – I am such a degraded creature that I could not venture near his door.”  “Have you never written to him?”  “No, I could not write to him.  It would be of no use.  I could not expect him to send me an answer and it would break my heart to be refused.”

    “We will try,” said the good man, “we will write to him.”  He wrote to the father and the next post brought back an answer, with the word, “Immediate,” written upon the envelope.  The sum of the letter enclosed within was, “Ready to forgive.”  She was taken to her father.  She was soon locked in his embrace.  All was forgiven – the wanderer was restored!  Notice that her father had been praying for her, night and day, ever since she left his roof – and he had longed to receive her to his home again.  Her seeking his forgiveness did not cause it – it was in his heart long before – and no doubt it was because of his cries and tears that God, in mercy, touched his girl’s heart and brought her home.  Pardon is not first in the matter of our personal experience, but it is first as matter of fact with God.  Oh! the mercy of the Lord Christ, that before we know our sin, He has made atonement for it by His own precious blood!

    The Lord Jesus Christ is to be held up as an example of pardoning love for the true and hearty way in which He forgives sin.  The Lord Jesus Christ absolves sinners with all His heart.  He never acts in a cold, formal manner.  Never does He outwardly forgive and in secret retain His wrath – but wholly, entirely, joyfully, He puts away the sin of those whom He forgives – and puts it away forever!  When He forgives, He forgives the whole of our faults, follies, failures and offenses.

    The Lord Jesus drowns all the hosts of sin in the depths of the sea and the whole of our guilt is swallowed up forever.  This is great forgiveness, indeed!  Glory be to Him who gives it!  Let us follow Him in His truth and heartiness.

    This forgiveness, again, is given by the Lord Jesus Christ in the most complete possible manner.  He keeps no back reckonings.  He retains no reserves of anger.  He so forgives that He forgets.  That is the wonder of it!  He says, “I will not remember your sins” (Heb. 8:12).  He casts them behind His back – they are wholly and completely gone from His observation or regard.  His people will, themselves, remember their sins with deep repentance, but the Lord will never challenge them on account of their past rebellions.  Blessed be the name of Christ for such complete forgiveness as this!

    In knowing that we are forgiven by Christ, let us be clear and decided in our forgiveness of others – not only in word – but in deed and in truth let us exhibit a forbearing spirit. 

Copy Christ’s Example

    You see your example.  Our word is, Copy it for yourselves.  “Even as Christ forgave you” – the imitation should be as exact as possible.  Mark the “even” and the “so” and endeavor to keep up with your gracious Lord.

    Notice, however, in the text, that this precept concerning the imitation of Christ in forgiveness is universally applicable.  “Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any.”  You see it is not put that superiors are to forgive inferiors, or on the other hand, that the less are to forgive the greater – but the circle of the command includes the whole!  The forgiveness and the forbearance are needed all around and we must both give and take.  By the sweet love of Jesus, let us not fail in this business.

    In urging you to this copying of Christ, let me notice that this forgiveness of those who offend against us is gloriously ennobling.  We are not asked to perform a duty which will, in the least, degrade us.  Revenge is paltry – forgiveness is great-minded.  If you would be the ­greatest among men, bear injuries with the ­greatest gentleness!  Blessed is that man who is more than a conqueror because he inflicts no wounds in the conflict, but overcomes evil with good!

    He that overcomes by love is the better and stronger man through what he has done.  He glorifies God and, he, himself, becomes strong in divine grace.  Nothing is more glorious than love!  Your Master, who is King of kings, set you an example of gaining glory by enduring wrong.

    We are to forbear and to forgive.  “Even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.”  I have heard it said, “If you pass by every wanton offense and take no notice of it, you will come to be despised and regarded as a person of mean spirit – your honor demands vindication.”  When Christ forgave you, did His honor suffer by that forgiveness?  You transgressed most wickedly and yet He forgave you – do you regard Him as less honorable because of that readiness to pass by offenses?  Far from it – it is His glory to forgive!  Where is the honor of revenge?  It is a dishonorable thing to put yourself on the level of him who injures you.

    When you speak, or even think of another who has wronged you as though he were only worthy to be regarded as a beast, you are not right in spirit – a degree of evil remains in your heart.  Think of the offender without contempt as well as without resentment!  Believe that he is a brother worth winning.  Say, “If he does me an injury, for that very reason I will do him a double service.  My only vengeance shall be double love.  I will not allow myself to even think harshly of him.  I will put the best possible construction on all that he does and thus show that the spirit of Christ is in me, conquering the spirit of fallen humanity both in me and in him.”

    Says one, “If we always overlook offenses, other people may also be tempted to do us wrong.”  Our text furnishes us with a ready answer to this.  The Lord Jesus Christ forgave you.  Have you met anybody who has been tempted to do wrong because the Lord has forgiven you?  He has freely forgiven myriads of poor unworthy sinners and has that promoted sin?  No.  Is it not the very groundwork and case of holiness in the world, that Jesus is so gracious as to pardon sin?  Why, then, should your forbearance do harm?  Do not pretend to be so very wise, for therein you censure your Master!  You are not the ruler of the world.  It is not for you to be refraining from good for fear that evil may come of it – attend to your own ways – forgive everyone his brother his trespasses and leave consequences with God.

    “Oh, but,” says one, “I know several pious persons who are very unforgiving.”  You do not know any really good man who is of that character!  I make bold to say that no man is really good if he has not a forgiving spirit.  Unwillingness to forgive is a grievous flaw in anyone’s character.

    But I hear another one saying, “These persons would not have forgiven me.”  Just so, but when you are a child of God – you are, “elect...holy and beloved” (Col. 3:12).  You are not to lower your standard to that of publicans and sinners.  Does not Christ continually say, “What do you more than others?  Do not even the publicans and the sinners the same.”  “If ye love them which love you, what thank have ye?” (Luke 6:32).  But if you love them that despitefully use you, then blessed are you when men shall persecute you!  In that case you have an opportunity of showing your love to your Lord.  Do not darken the light of God, but be sure to display it in your life, that many may be attracted to Christ by its luster.  Let your goodwill go forth even to the worst of men, for Christ’s sake.  Forget their evil as you behold His goodness.

    “Well,” says one, “I would forgive the fellow, but he does not deserve it.”  That is why you are to forgive him!  If he deserved it, you would be bound to do him the justice which he could claim.  But, as he does not deserve it, you have, here, an appeal to your Christian love.  Does not your Heavenly Father give good things to the unthankful and to the evil?  Did not Jesus forgive the undeserving when He forgave you?  Does He not overlook our wretched characters when He has mercy upon us?

    I hear one say, “I cannot forgive!”  That is a terrible confession.  The Apostle Paul said, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me” (Phil. 4:13).  Is not the same strength available for you?  Some persons find forgiving and forgetting to be hard work, but, as you are bound to do it, or stay out of heaven, you must cry to God for help and set about it with determination.  If you are, indeed, a child of God, you will soon find the difficulty gone.  To be forgiven is such sweetness that honey is tasteless in comparison with it!  But there is one thing still sweeter – and that is to forgive.  As it is more blessed to give than to receive, so to forgive is the flower.  That Divine Spirit, who bears witness with our spirit when He breathes peace into us because we are pardoned, bears yet a higher witness with us when He enables us to truly pardon all manner of trespasses against ourselves!

    Let it never be said in a Christian church, that members bear a grudge against one another.  Let it not be said of any Christian man that he is unloving, ready to take offense, apt to bear malice, or quick to anger.  Cultivate forbearance till your heart yields a fine crop of it.  Pray for a short memory as to all unkindnesses.

    Let us so live as to be able to say, “I am as much at peace with all men as a newborn child.”  Thus shall we wear the mark of the Spirit of God.  In a word, my brothers and sisters – “Even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.”  Amen. 

    – Taken from the sermon “Divine Forgiveness Admired And Imitated.”