The Condition of Grace

Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins
Save us from the time of trial
and deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours
now and for ever. Amen.

Read it again. I did miss something, you were right. What did I miss? This is an adaptation of the prayer Jesus taught his disciples and does a great job of framing the identity of God and places the disciple totally under the mercy of God, depending on him for everything. It’s a beautiful prayer.

But I missed a bit, didn’t I?

The eight line reads:

as we forgive those who sin against us

In the past I have often told people and been told by preachers that if they would believe that Jesus died and rose from the grave they would be forgiven. I was mistaken.

Jesus said nothing of the sort. You know what he did say?

Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you. (Luke 6:37-38a)

Again, he said

For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you (Matthew 6:14)

Or to flip the statement: If you don’t forgive others, God will not forgive you.

The currency of God’s economy is grace. The more we give away, the more God will pour it out into his people. There is no getting away from it. To me, this looks like a condition upon which forgiveness is granted. It reminds me of the covenants which God made with his people in days gone by. God would bless obedience, and disobedience he would punish.

This covenant which Christ wrought between God and Humanity works in a similar way. The more we love and serve, the more God shows us grace and mercy. If we withhold mercy, God will too. The more I forgive, the more God will forgive me. That’s hard to swallow.

Many theologies and teachings are built upon the presupposition that God’s forgiveness is freely given.

Is it?

Jesus doesn’t seem to think so.

If I believe God gave himself to forgive us, how else could I respond to that than by giving myself to forgiving others? What would it matter if I believed the fact of the resurrection if I did not live it. I would be like a cashier who understood that a three dollar coffee paid for with a five would require two dollars in change, then decided I’d rather keep the two.

I’d lose my Starbucks job very quickly (Who else would charge 3 dollars for a coffee?).

The currency in God’s economy is forgiveness, and I am merely a debtor. God is my creditor and his expectation is that I would keep giving it away. It’s like, the moment I keep it to myself, God would demand his investment back.

May I never tell people anything but the truth from now on. The truth that if you want to be forgiven, there is no easy way. You must forgive. In the mean time I will try to do the same.

Maybe the measure of faith is not how much Bible one knows, but how much one has forgiven from their heart.


Add yours →

  1. Can’t resist this one Ian!!

    a) this is not a Christian prayer – this is a Jewish prayer!! Not once in all the letters does Paul or anyone else refer to this prayer. Jesus didn’t say pray THIS prayer – he clearly said pray in this way or in this manner – ie: use this as a frame of reference not as repetition.

    b) After the death of Jesus whether God forgives or not ceases to become an option for Him. He did forgive. He forgave ALL sin once for all at one time for all time at the cross – he isn’t in the business of continuing to forgive sin – he did that two thousand years ago. So the statement you make “if you want to be forgiven” really isn’t accurate – you have been forgiven whether you want to be or not – Jesus took your sin before you were born – While we were yet sinners ……. you have no say in whether God forgives you or not. The only relevance this is to you is if you choose to walk in that forgiveness. No one is going to hell because of their sin. Sin has been dealt with. They are going to hell because they chose to reject Jesus.

    c) When the prayer says forgive us as we forgive others – this is not us asking God to forgive us, but us putting a condition in a way on God saying – treat me as I treat others. This is a choice for us to make – I choose to act to others like God has acted to me.

    c) You say you will “try” to do the same. Surely if you take this command seriously you will just DO it not try to do it. Forgiving someone isn’t an emotional reaction – its a free will choice. You don’t have to “try” or “work your way towards” etc etc. You just choose to DO it or NOT to do it. Any delay in doing it, or eomtional overtone in trying to do it is wrong. You either forgive or you don’t – how can it work any other way?


  2. I’m not attempting to write a systematic theology but to merely state the teaching of Jesus as I see it. In a broader sense, I would say that the teaching of Jesus, indeed the whole of God’s law is presupposed by the saving work of God – the infilling of the Holy Spirit which brings the believer to life, able to walk in Jesus’ footsteps and learn from him.

    Even so, I must wrestle with these words of the Lord because they are a very real challenge. There is no escaping the notion that God’s forgiveness is related to the extent to which we are willing to forgive. I would also hasten to point out that Jesus models that forgiveness for us, and indeed leads us in that forgiveness as we follow his ways. God’s expectation is met by God’s own power.

    I would say that forgiveness, which is the path of discipleship, is the means by which we come into the knowledge of God. I would also say that one cannot become a disciple unless God has made that person alive to do so.

    I suppose what I am getting at is that a command does not equal works-based salvation. Just because God commands us to do something, in a much broader sense does not mean we obeyed it in our own strength. Perhaps we could say that when we find ourselves obeying God more, we can praise him for his ongoing work within us. That is why I would say how much we are willing to forgive is the measure of our faith.

    Also, if that prayer is a ‘jewish’ prayer, would you also stop praying Psalm 23? Or Psalm 51? What about Numbers 6:24-26?


  3. Not sure I see Psalm 23 as a prayer more a statement of fact. No I certainly would not pray Psalm 51 – because it is a ridiculous prayer for a new testament, new covenant Christian to pray – because God cannot answer it because he clearly tells us he has already answered it. Wash me and cleanse me was an action completed on the cross 2000 years ago, and accepted by me on my convertion. Since that day the holy spirit has lived continuously in me – it makes no sense to pray renew a right spirit in me – did the holy spirit depart? I don’t think so!! The numbers prayer I would change the wording to the Lord HAS blessed me and kept me the Lord HAS made his face shine apon me and been gracious to me etc. I would now pray this – post disanulment of old testament covenant and institition of new testament covenant as a prayer of grateful thanks for what God HAS already done – not a pray of anticipation over what God had promsied to do.

    Hebrews clearly tells us that the old covenant – its laws – its system of priesthood – the nature of priesthood etc is all now done away with – but hey you and I have been there before so lets not go there again!!

    Romans 15 verse 4 and 2 Timothy 3 v 16 tells us that what is written in past times is written for our instruction (basically so we don’t have to make the same mistakes again) but has to be taken in context. We don’t need to pray psalm 51 because God has now completed this action for all Christians. He can’t do it again!!


  4. that truth needs to be given in love and with a heart of love though … that’s the role Jesus gave us. He loved the pharisees though he hated their pettiness and called them out on that … but the truth can only set us free if it’s given in love. That’s another aspect of grace.


  5. My daily online bible devotional – probably explains what I was trying to express far better (and more lovingly!!)

    Tuesday 14th September 2010


    Mark 11:25 “And when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have ought against any: that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.”

    MATTHEW 21:20-22; MARK 11:20-26

    There are qualifications for believing and receiving as well as restrictions for receiving answers to prayer. Unforgiveness in our hearts will keep our prayers from being answered.

    We should forgive others as quickly as it takes to make the decision to pray. The Greek word for “when” means “whenever, as soon as, or while.” When we stand praying, we must forgive if we have ought (“anything at all, the least little part; whatsoever”) against anyone.

    When we are offended or hurt, we often feel justified in holding a grudge.

    The Old Testament law expressed this when it stated, “Eye for eye, tooth for tooth” (Ex. 21:23-25). Until the offense was paid, we did not feel free to forgive. However, God dealt with all men’s offenses by placing sin upon the perfect Savior who was judged in place of every sinner of all time. To demand that others must earn our forgiveness is not Christlike. Jesus died for every man’s sins, extending forgiveness to us while we were yet sinners, and we should do the same.

    It is doubtful that a person who refuses to forgive has ever experienced forgiveness himself. This is comparable to the servant that Jesus talked about in Matthew 18:23-35. He was forgiven a debt of over $3,000,000,000 and yet he refused to forgive his fellow servant who owed him $3,000. The forgiveness that we have received from the Lord is infinitely greater than any forgiveness we will ever be asked to extend to others. Freely forgive as you have been forgiven.


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