SERMON TOPIC: Forgiveness

Speaker: Gavin Paynter

Language: ENGLISH

Date: 19 March 2017


Sermon synopsis: The Oxford English Dictionary defines forgiveness as “to grant free pardon and to give up all claim on account of an offense or debt”. Like Joseph, we must not seek revenge – Love “keeps no record of wrongs” (1 Cor 13:5).

We need to forgive and forget, as God does with us:
Heb 8:12 For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.

To forgive is to set the prisoner free and then discover that the prisoner was you.

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The Count of Monte Cristo (1844) is a famous fictional book by Alexander Dumas. The protagonist Edmond Dantès, is promised a captainship of a ship, but before he can claim his new post and be married, a conspiracy of four jealous men arrange for him to be seized on his wedding day and without trial, imprisoned in solitary confinement in an island prison from which no one has ever escaped. For 14 years, Dantès barely exists in his tiny, isolated cell and he almost loses his mind and his will to live.


He eventually manages to escape and subsequently becomes extremely wealthy. He emerges into society again, as the very rich and handsome Count of Monte Cristo. One of his primary goals is to exact revenge on those responsible for his wrongful imprisonment. He ultimately succeeds in destroying the 4 men who conspired against him.



In stark contrast we have one of the greatest examples of forgiveness with the true account of Joseph and his brothers in the Bible. Prompted by jealousy, Joseph’s brothers openly despise him.

Gen 37:4 When his brothers saw that their father loved him more than any of them, they hated him and could not speak a kind word to him.

His brothers then plot to kill him (Gen 37:18-20).

Reuben delays them by convincing them to throw him into a pit with the intention of releasing him later (Gen 37:21-22).

Rather than kill him, in Reuben’s absence Judah convinces the brothers to sell Joseph into slavery (Gen 37:26-27).

They subsequently deceive their father, leading him to believe that Joseph has been killed by a wild animal (Gen 37:31-33).

Meanwhile Joseph has to serve as a slave in Egypt.

On top of this, despite acting in integrity towards his master, he is subsequently imprisoned on false charges of rape.

Yet when Joseph comes to power in Egypt he forgives his brothers and is reconciled to them. Most people would have wanted to use their power to get revenge.

Joseph not only provides for their needs in the midst of a famine, he arranges for them to relocate to Egypt and to be allocated land for themselves and their flocks of sheep.

But on the death of their father, Jacob, the brothers again fear that Joseph might seek revenge.

What if Joseph holds a grudge against us and pays us back for all the wrongs we did to him? (Gen 50:15)

Gen 50:16-17 So they sent word to Joseph, saying, “Your father left these instructions before he died: ‘This is what you are to say to Joseph: I ask you to forgive your brothers the sins and the wrongs they committed in treating you so badly.’ Now please forgive the sins of the servants of the God of your father.” When their message came to him, Joseph wept.

Gen 50:18 His brothers then came and threw themselves down before him.

We are your slaves!

Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. So then, don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your children.

Gen 50:19-21 And he reassured them and spoke kindly to them.


Like Joseph, we must not seek revenge – Love “keeps no record of wrongs” (1 Cor 13:5).

We need to forgive and forget, as God does with us:

Heb 8:12 For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.

Forgiveness is typically defined as the process of concluding resentment, indignation or anger as a result of a perceived offense, difference or mistake, or ceasing to demand punishment or restitution.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines forgiveness as “to grant free pardon and to give up all claim on account of an offense or debt”. 1

1 "http:// wiki/ Forgiveness">http:// wiki/ Forgiveness


Lev 19:18 Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbour as yourself.

1 Thess 5:15 Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always strive to do what is good for each other and for everyone else.

Rather entrust your cause to the Lord:

Prov 20:22 Do not say, “I’ll pay you back for this wrong!” Wait for the LORD, and he will avenge you.

Rom 12:17-20 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”


Collins Concise English Dictionary defines a slave as follows:

a person legally owned by another and having no freedom of action or right to property

a person who is forced to work for another against his will

a person under the domination of another person or some habit or influence


BIBLICAL DEFINITION OF A SLAVE: You are a slave to whatever has mastered you, or to whoever you obey:

2 Pet 2:19 They promise them freedom, while they themselves are slaves of depravity—for a man is a slave to whatever has mastered him.

Rom 6:16 Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone to obey him as slaves, you are slaves to the one whom you obey—whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness?


Sin and depravity can enslave a person:

Prov 5:22 The evil deeds of a wicked man ensnare him; the cords of his sin hold him fast.

Gal 3:22 But the Scripture declares that the whole world is a prisoner of sin…

John 8:34 I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin…

But many are enslaved by their attitude of unforgiveness.

The heaviest thing to carry is a grudge.

Holding a grudge is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.

Paul implies that unforgiveness creates a foothold for the devil in our lives :

2 Cor 2:7-11 Now instead, you ought to forgive and comfort him, so that he will not be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. I urge you, therefore, to reaffirm your love for him… If you forgive anyone, I also forgive him. And what I have forgiven—if there was anything to forgive—I have forgiven in the sight of Christ for your sake, in order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes.


I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.

Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?

We read the following account in Matthew 18:23-35 about a question Peter posed to Jesus.

Jesus then tells a story to demonstrate his point.

Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him.

Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt. The servant fell on his knees before him…

Be patient with me, and I will pay back everything.

The servant’s master took pity on him, cancelled the debt and let him go.

But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii. He grabbed him and began to choke him.

Pay back what you owe me!

Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.

But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt.

When the other servants saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed and went and told their master everything that had happened. Then the master called the servant in.

You wicked servant, I cancelled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?

In anger his master turned him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.

This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart.


The forgiveness we receive from God is conditional:

Matt 6:12-15 Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors… For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.


And so we are instructed to:

Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. (Col 3:13)

Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. (Eph 4:32)

To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable, because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you. (C.S. Lewis)

Thomas Fuller (1608–1661), an English churchman said, “He that cannot forgive others, breaks the bridge over which he must pass himself, for every man has need to be forgiven.”

Jesus tells us to first go make right with our brothers, before attempting to offer gifts to God.

Matt 5:23-24 “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.”


This verse, used often about giving money – in context, is actually about giving forgiveness:

Luke 6:37-38 “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.

“Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”

So the more grace we show to others, the more we experience God’s grace to us in our lives.

Let’s look at another passage often quoted out of context.


If you had faith like a grain of mustard seed, you would tell this sycamore tree, ‘Be uprooted, and be planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you. (Luke 17:6)

Increase our faith.


Was Jesus really concerned about us having enough faith so that we could use it to transplant trees?

In context, the disciples have just asked Jesus to increase their faith, when they hear of the obligation we have from God to forgive, not just once, but repeatedly.

Luke 17:3-5 (WEB) “Be careful. If your brother sins against you, rebuke him. If he repents, forgive him. If he sins against you seven times in the day, and seven times returns, saying, ‘I repent,’ you shall forgive him.” The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith.”


The tree referred to is the sycamore-fig (or sycamine) and not the mulberry as rendered in some versions.

The sycamine tree and the mulberry tree were very similar in appearance; the two trees even produced a fruit that looked identical. However, the fruit of the sycamine tree was extremely bitter. Its fruit looked just as delicious as a mulberry fig. But when a person tasted the fruit of the sycamine fig, he discovered that it was horribly bitter. 1

1 " sycamore.html"> sycamore.html


Remember the context is about forgiveness. So Jesus is speaking about unforgiveness being like a sycamore-fig tree, which has a bitter fruit.

It also has a complex, heavily branched root system. Likewise unforgiveness causes bitterness in our lives and is often deeply rooted.

Heb 12:15 (NASB) See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled;


It is very interesting to note that the sycamine tree was not naturally pollinated. The pollination process was only initiated when a wasp stuck its stinger right into the heart of the fruit. Thus, the tree and its fruit had to be “stung” in order to be reproduced. Think of how many times you have heard a bitter person say: “I’ve been stung by that person once, but I’m not going to be stung again! I’ll never let them get close enough to sting me again!” The wasp of bitterness got to them! 1

Jesus says that if have faith as small as a mustard seed, we can command this deep-rooted tree (of unforgiveness), with its bitter fruit, to be uprooted out of our lives.

1 Ibid


We see Jesus’ example in forgiving unconditionally, without being asked for forgiveness.

Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing. (Luke 23:34)


And Stephen follows Jesus’ example in extending forgiveness to those who kill him.

Acts 7:59-60 While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he fell asleep.


So we learn from Jesus and Stephen that it doesn’t matter if the person who hurt you, deserves to - or even wants to - be forgiven. Forgiveness is a choice you make:

Forgiveness is the healing of wounds caused by another. You choose to let go of a past wrong and no longer be hurt by it. Forgiveness is a strong move to make, like turning your shoulders sideways to walk quickly on a crowded sidewalk. It’s your move. 1

We are told in Prov 17:9 that “Whoever would foster love covers over an offense”.

1 Real Live Preacher, Weblog, July 7, 2003


Spurgeon said, “I wish, brothers and sisters, that we could all imitate the pearl oyster—A hurtful particle intrudes itself into its shell, and this vexes and grieves it. It cannot reject the evil, but what does it do but ‘cover’ it with a precious substance extracted out of its own life, by which it turns the intruder into a pearl! Oh, that we could do so with the provocations we receive from our fellow Christians, so that pearls of patience, gentleness, and forgiveness might be bred within us by that which otherwise would have harmed us.” 1

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Once, on a journey to an inland city, Hudson Taylor was robbed of his traveling bed, spare clothes, surgical instruments, and a Bible given to him by his mother. Taylor decided not to prosecute the thief because of the harsh Chinese penal system, but wrote the culprit a letter instead, urging him to repent. He described his plea to the errant servant in a letter sent home to England. That letter somehow fell into the hands of George Mueller of Bristol. 1

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Hudson Taylor (1832-1905)

Mueller was so impressed by the spirit of the writer that he became a supporter of the mission. Taylor’s sacrifice of the right to prosecute the man who stole his bed resulted in a supporter who would provide over $10,000 per year for the mission and would be a friend and advisor in times of trial. Looking back, giving up the right to justice did not seem like a sacrifice. 1

Maybe you are preventing the blessing of God in your life because you are holding on to a grudge and refusing to release those held in your debt.

1 Ibid


George Mueller (1805-1898)

Notice that when you go into the door of God’s kingdom, you go in through the door of forgiveness. I never knew of a man getting a blessing in his own soul, if he was not willing to forgive others, If we are unwilling to forgive others, God cannot forgive us, I do not know how language could be more plain than it is in these words of our Lord. 


D.L. Moody (1837-1899)

 I firmly believe a great many prayers are not answered because we are not willing to forgive some one.

Let your mind go back over the past, and through the circle of your acquaintance; are there any against whom you are cherishing hard feelings? Is there any root of bitterness springing up against some one who has perhaps injured you? It may be that for months or years you have been nursing this unforgiving spirit; how can you ask God to forgive you?

If I am not willing to forgive those who may have committed some single offence against me, what a mean, contemptible thing it would be for me to ask God to forgive the ten thousand sins of which I have been guilty! 


 If there is some one who has aught against you, go at once, and be reconciled. If you have aught against any one, write to them a letter, telling them that you forgive them, and so have this thing off your conscience.

Dear friend, is this the reason why your prayers are not answered? Is there some friend, some member of your family, some one in the church, you have not forgiven? We sometimes hear of members of the same church who have not spoken to each other for years. How can we expect God to forgive when this is the case? 1

1 From Prevailing Prayer


“It was in a church in Munich that I saw him—a balding, heavyset man in a grey overcoat, a brown felt hat clutched between his hands. People were filing out of the basement room where I had just spoken, moving along the rows of wooden chairs to the door at the rear. It was 1947 and I had come from Holland to defeated Germany with the message that God forgives. 


Corrie Ten Boom (1892-1983)

 “It was the truth they needed most to hear in that bitter, bombed-out land, and I gave them my favourite mental picture. Maybe because the sea is never far from a Hollander’s mind, I liked to think that that’s where forgiven sins were thrown. ‘When we confess our sins,’ I said, ‘God casts them into the deepest ocean, gone forever…’

“The solemn faces stared back at me, not quite daring to believe. There were never questions after a talk in Germany in 1947. People stood up in silence, in silence collected their wraps, in silence left the room.

“And that’s when I saw him, working his way forward against the others. One moment I saw the overcoat and the brown hat; the next, a blue uniform and a visored cap with its skull and crossbones. 


 It came back with a rush: the huge room with its harsh overhead lights; the pathetic pile of dresses and shoes in the centre of the floor; the shame of walking naked past this man. I could see my sister’s frail form ahead of me, ribs sharp beneath the parchment skin. Betsie, how thin you were! 


Betsie and Corrie Ten Boom

 [Betsie and I had been arrested for concealing Jews in our home during the Nazi occupation of Holland; this man had been a guard at Ravensbruck concentration camp where we were sent.]

“Now he was in front of me, hand thrust out: ‘A fine message, Fräulein! How good it is to know that, as you say, all our sins are at the bottom of the sea!’

“And I, who had spoken so glibly of forgiveness, fumbled in my pocketbook rather than take that hand. He would not remember me, of course—how could he remember one prisoner among those thousands of women?

“But I remembered him and the leather crop swinging from his belt. I was face-to-face with one of my captors and my blood seemed to freeze. 


 “ ‘You mentioned Ravensbruck in your talk,’ he was saying, ‘I was a guard there.’ No, he did not remember me.

“ ‘But since that time,’ he went on, ‘I have become a Christian. I know that God has forgiven me for the cruel things I did there, but I would like to hear it from your lips as well. Fräulein,’ again the hand came out—’will you forgive me?’ And I stood there—I whose sins had again and again to be forgiven—and could not forgive. Betsie had died in that place—could he erase her slow terrible death simply for the asking?

“It could not have been many seconds that he stood there—hand held out—but to me it seemed hours as I wrestled with the most difficult thing I had ever had to do. 


 “For I had to do it—I knew that. The message that God forgives has a prior condition: that we forgive those who have injured us. ‘If you do not forgive men their trespasses,’ Jesus says, ‘neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses.’

“I knew it not only as a commandment of God, but as a daily experience. Since the end of the war I had had a home in Holland for victims of Nazi brutality. Those who were able to forgive their former enemies were able also to return to the outside world and rebuild their lives, no matter what the physical scars. Those who nursed their bitterness remained invalids. It was as simple and as horrible as that.

And still I stood there with the coldness clutching my heart. But forgiveness is not an emotion—I knew that too. 


 “Forgiveness is an act of the will, and the will can function regardless of the temperature of the heart. ‘… Help!’ I prayed silently. ‘I can lift my hand. I can do that much. You supply the feeling.’

“And so woodenly, mechanically, I thrust my hand into the one stretched out to me. And as I did, an incredible thing took place. The current started in my shoulder, raced down my arm, sprang into our joined hands. And then this healing warmth seemed to flood my whole being, bringing tears to my eyes.

“ ‘I forgive you, brother!’ I cried. ‘With all my heart!’ For a long moment we grasped each other’s hands, the former guard and the former prisoner. I had never known God’s love so intensely, as I did then”. 1

1 “I’m Still Learning to Forgive” by Corrie ten Boom - Guideposts Magazine (1972)


Once you forgive, the captive is set free:

To forgive is to set the prisoner free and then discover that the prisoner was you.

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me… He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives… (Luke 4:18 NASB)



Unless otherwise stated, Scripture quotations are taken from the NIV:

THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB:

New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation Used by permission. (

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