Q&A2007Q4E

Matthew 6:14–15

I know that God’s program with Israel was in operation during the Lord’s earthly ministry. But why in that program does Jesus teach His disciples that they will only be forgiven their trespasses if they forgive the trespasses of other men? What’s the reason for this? And what effect will it have upon the disciples, particularly if their trespasses are not forgiven?

14 For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you:

15 But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. (Matthew 6:14–15)

 In order to understand the reason for this ‘conditional and reciprocal forgiveness,’ and also how it will affect the disciples, we first need to make sure that we understand some other things.

First of all we need to make sure we understand that Matthew 6:14–15 is part of what is commonly called ‘The Sermon on the Mount.’ This means that it is part of the fundamental doctrines for the edification of the remnant of Israel, which the Lord was giving to His called out remnant during the opening part of the climactic stage in God’s program with Israel.

Therefore this means that the Lord is speaking to ones who already have the forgiveness of their sins in connection with having been guilty sinners by nature as the seed of Abraham. For when they believed “the gospel of the kingdom” they received the remission of their sins and justification unto eternal life, just as that gospel declared. And they thereby became the members of the remnant of Israel, the “Israel of God,” the “called out seed of Jacob,” to whom God their Father will give the kingdom.

Wherefore what the Lord says in Matthew 6:14–15 has nothing to do with the disciples’ justification unto eternal life. For that issue was settled forever the moment they believed “the gospel of the kingdom.”

Instead what the Lord speaks about has to do with the issue of their sanctification in God’s sight. For this is something that they also received when they believed “the gospel of the kingdom” and partook of the prescription for Israel’s cleansing that God began administering to His nation through John the Baptist’s ministry.

Now it is this issue of the remnant’s sanctification that we need to know some things about in order to understand Matthew 6:14–15.

Very simply put, in view of their sanctification as the “Israel of God” the disciples are expected to live their lives in accordance with God their Father setting them apart from any more identification with, or collaboration with, apostate and rebellious Israel. In other words, they are no longer to be following the corruption and contrariness of apostate Israel’s vain religious system, nor pattern themselves after the example of apostate Israel’s rebellious and hypocritical leadership. Instead they are to be ‘doers of the law in truth,’ and in so doing manifest in the midst of apostate Israel, (and then in the world), that they are the true “Israel of God,” and that they are the ones who have genuine fellowship with God, and that they are the ones who are the ‘friends of God,’ like their father Abraham was.

Wherefore in the ‘Sermon on the Mount’ the Lord teaches them to be “perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” He therefore teaches them to ‘love in truth,’ to be ‘kind in truth,’ to be ‘merciful in truth,’ to be ‘good in truth,’ and the like, all in stark contrast to what Israel’s vain religious system taught and to how its leaders lived.

In so doing the Lord teaches His disciples how to be just like their heavenly Father in His love, in His kindness, in His mercy, and in His goodness, etc. In short, as the Lord says, He teaches the remnant how to be ‘the children of their Father which is in heaven,’ and no longer to be followers of apostate Israel’s vain religious system with all of its ungodliness, nor followers of its corrupt apostate leaders like the ungodly Pharisees, scribes, priests, etc.

So then as even a cursory reading of ‘The Sermon on the Mount’ shows, it is mainly composed of the fundamental teachings that the remnant needs for their establishment, so that during the climactic stage in their program they can know how to live the specific kind of sanctified life that God their Father wants them to live as the true “Israel of God” that they are.

Now once again the specific kind of sanctified life that the remnant needs to live is one that manifestly does not follow the pattern of apostate Israel’s vain religious system. In fact it is one that plainly repudiates it, and in so doing clearly stands in stark contrast to the abominable and corrupt things that characterize the conduct and behavior of the followers of Israel’s apostate and vain religious system.

Now along with knowing this, there is one other thing that we need to realize about the remnant’s sanctification in order to understand the reason behind what the Lord says in Matthew 6:14–15. We need to realize that in the prophets God sets forth how that during the final installment in the program He will be responding to His remnant ‘in kind,’ so to speak, to how it is that they live their lives.

In other words, (and very simply described), in view of the specific kind of sanctified life that God wants His remnant to live, (and provides for them to live), if they live their lives in line with their sanctification, and deal with others accordingly, then He will respond to them ‘in kind’ and will treat them accordingly. But if they do not live their lives in line with their sanctification, (but continue to live and act in accordance with the ungodly teachings and practices of Israel’s vain religious system), then He will respond to them with a fitting ‘in kind’ measure.

This, for example, is just what David describes in the prophetic 18th Psalm about the final installment in Israel’s program, when he says…

20 The LORD rewarded me according to my righteousness; according to the cleanness of my hands hath he recompensed me.

21 For I have kept the ways of the LORD, and have not wickedly departed from my God.

22 For all his judgments were before me, and I did not put away his statutes from me.

23 I was also upright before him, and I kept myself from mine iniquity.

24 Therefore hath the LORD recompensed me according to my righteousness, according to the cleanness of my hands in his eyesight.

25 With the merciful thou wilt shew thyself merciful; with an upright man thou wilt shew thyself upright;

26 With the pure thou wilt shew thyself pure; and with the froward thou wilt shew thyself froward. (Psalm 18:20–26)

In view of what David says in verses 25 and 26, if the members of the remnant are “merciful” in their walk, then God will be “merciful” to them. But if instead of being “merciful,” or “upright,” or “pure,” they are “froward” in their walk, then God will shew Himself “froward” to them.

So then the issue is that God is going to respond to His remnant ‘in kind’ both during the time of the final installment in the program, and also when it comes to determining what their rewards will be in the kingdom when it is established at the conclusion of the final installment. Hence the major criterion for determining their rewards in the kingdom will be whether in their walk they have acted like ‘the children of their Father which is in heaven,’ or whether they have continued to operate upon the corrupt and erroneous teachings of Israel’s vain religious system, and have continued to act like the unjustified and ungodly Pharisees and scribes with their vain hypocritical religion.

Wherefore the Lord Himself naturally taught His disciples about this issue of how God will be responding to them in a reciprocal ‘in kind’ type manner. In fact the Lord taught it to them both in ‘The Sermon on the Mount’ itself and on other occasions. Hence in Matthew 7 He taught…

1 Judge not, that ye be not judged.

2 For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. (Matthew 7:1–2)

 And then later on the Lord amplified upon this saying…

31 And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise.

32 For if ye love them which love you, what thank have ye? for sinners also love those that love them.

33 And if ye do good to them which do good to you, what thank have ye? for sinners also do even the same.

34 And if ye lend to them of whom ye hope to receive, what thank have ye? for sinners also lend to sinners, to receive as much again.

35 But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil.

36 Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful.

37 Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven:

38 Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again. (Luke 6:31–38)

 Now when at the end of verse 38 the Lord says, “For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again,” He cites the general ‘reciprocal response principle’ that God said He will use with His remnant, as was noted for example in Psalm 18. And just as the Lord says in verse 37, it includes the issue of forgiveness.

Wherefore when the Lord initially instructed His disciples on how to pray intelligently during the climactic stage in Israel’s program, this is why He taught them to pray…

12 And forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors. (Matthew 6:12)

 And then to ensure their understanding of this implementation of the prophesied ‘reciprocal response principle’ He went on to explain its application by saying…

14 For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you:

15 But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. (Matthew 6:14–15)

 Now as noted earlier, this ‘reciprocal response principle’ will particularly be in effect during the final installment of Israel’s program when God will have ‘His day’ and will be judging His nation, and then also when He establishes His kingdom and rewards the members of the remnant.

Hence the way that this ‘reciprocal response principle’ will affect the remnant is basically two-fold: (1) If during the outworking of the final installment in the program they live in accordance with their sanctification and so are merciful and kind and good to others, and forgive others their trespasses against them, then they will be treated ‘in kind’ by their Father when during that time they themselves are in need of mercy, kindness, and the like.

But if they live contrary to their sanctification, then they will be treated ‘in kind’ during that time with a measure that is fitting to their lack of mercy, kindness, forgiveness, etc. For this reason, for example, in ‘The Sermon on The Mount’ the Lord said to them…

25 Agree with thine adversary quickly, whiles thou art in the way with him; lest at any time the adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison.

26 Verily I say unto thee, Thou shalt by no means come out thence, till thou hast paid the uttermost farthing. (Matthew 5:25–26)

 But then (2) when the kingdom gets established and God rewards the remnant, if they have not been merciful and have not forgiven others their trespasses against them, then God will not have forgiven them their own trespasses which they have committed against others. And so when it comes to rewarding them He will take their trespasses into account and will justly apply them against their rewards, with the result that in that day they will not receive the full reward that they could have received.

– K.R. Blades