Tuesday, January 10, 2023

Forgive Us Our Debts

Question 105: What do we pray for in the fifth petition?
Answer: In the fifth petition, which is, And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors, we pray that God, for Christ's sake, would freely pardon all our sins; which we are the rather encouraged to ask, because by his grace we are enabled from the heart to forgive others. (WSC)
Our trespasses against God’s law are called debts. A debt is created when you do not pay what you owe. We owe to God complete and precise obedience. When we disobey him, justice demands satisfaction.

You are unable to pay your debts. Apart from grace, you only add to your debt. As the song goes, you are “another day older and deeper in debt.” You deserve to loose all you have and undergo eternal judgment.

But Jesus teaches his disciples that they have access to forgiveness. Jesus has paid their debts through his death, so that they might receive forgiveness through faith in him (Col. 2:12-14). God’s forgiveness is described as the forgiving of a debt. This means that when you are forgiven, you are no longer guilty and no longer liable to punishment. You are free from that burden! You are no longer in bondage to your sins.

This is a daily prayer, which implies that we sin daily. Just as we are constantly dependent for our "daily bread," so we are also constantly dependent upon God’s forgiveness. This request is an implicit confession of sins. It admits that one has debts to be forgiven. It means you should regularly confess your sins and seek God’s mercy (1 John 1:7-10).

This request also makes a connection between God’s forgiveness of your debts and your forgiveness of the debts of others. People become indebted to you when they do not fulfill their obligations to you, when they treat you wrongly and unjustly. Jesus teaches that God will not forgive the trespasses of those who do not forgive the trespasses committed against them. Jesus implies as much in the prayer and he says so in Matthew 6:14-15 (see also Matthew 18:21-35). We do not earn God’s forgiveness by forgiving others, but it is a sign that God’s grace is at work in us when we practice this love. If you do not forgive the one who confesses his sin against you, then do not expect God to forgive you when you confess your sin to him. This prayer reminds us to not be hypocritical, asking God for what we will not give others. But if you do forgive the sins of others against you, this is an encouraging sign to you that you are a disciple of Christ and recipient of divine forgiveness.

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