Bearing and Forgiving
Colossians 3:13 bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you.
Last week we saw in Colossians 3:12, that Paul begins to tell believers what to put on. In this section in Colossians, Paul is using the analogy of clothing. We saw last week that we are to, “put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” Now in verse 13 he lists two more things that we are also to put on: forbearance, or bearing with one another, and forgiveness.
The words “bearing with” is from the Greek word anechomai, Acts 18:12 shows how this word is used in a non-Christian context:
Acts 18:12 But while Gallio was proconsul of Achaia, the Jews with one accord rose up against Paul and brought him before the judgment seat, 13saying, “This man persuades men to worship God contrary to the law.” 14But when Paul was about to open his mouth, Gallio said to the Jews, “If it were a matter of wrong or of vicious crime, O Jews, it would be reasonable for me to put up with you;
Now this is the same Greek word here, where it means to “put up with” someone. And as it is used here in this verse, it basically means to tolerate someone. It is saying that you may not like the situation, but you tolerate it.
In Corinthians, we see how this word is used in a Christian context…
1 Cor 4:11To this present hour we are both hungry and thirsty, and are poorly clothed, and are roughly treated, and are homeless; 12and we toil, working with our own hands; when we are reviled, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure;
Here, Paul tells the Corinthians that he did not like the situation, but he tolerated and endured the reviling and the persecution because he had a greater purpose and a greater goal than what people were doing to him right then.
Bearing with one another means: “to endure, to hold out in spite of persecution, threats, injury, indifference, or complaints. And there is no thought of retaliation or getting even.”
So as believers, we are to tolerate one another, but more than that we endure one another even if we are wronged by someone. Notice that this word “endure” occurs in the same context as forgiving each other. Paul is saying that even when we are wronged by other believers (and yes this happens, nad is a common occurrence in the church) but even when we are wronged by other believers, we endure, we don’t get even, we don’t seek revenge, we don’t spread the news across the Tennessee Valley, we tolerate,we endure, we forgive.
What a simple solution to a difficult issue. I did say “simple” didn’t I? I didn’t say easy, but a straightforward, easy to understand, difficult to do, solution.
Now Paul states invs. 13 that we are to “Forgiving each other” – The Greek word used here is based on the word for grace. In the Greek, the word “grace” is turned into a verb, and that is what is used here. In other words, Pual is says to show grace to one-another. It literally means: “to be gracious” and it literally reads, “forgiving yourselves. The church as a whole is to be a gracious, mutually forgiving fellowship. By including the phrase “just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you,” Paul makes Jesus Christ the model of forgiveness. Because He has forgiven us, so also must we forgive others.
Forgiveness is not an optional part of being a Christian. Forgiveness is not something we do based on how we feel. Forgiveness is not something we do only x number of times, and then we are done. Forgiveness is not a temporary condition that goes away after a while. Forgiveness is not based on the teaching of any man.
But forgiveness is based upon God’s definition of it. And some of the things we know about forgiveness, God has made very clear in Scripture.
When God forgives, He forgives completely. Our sins are paid for completely:
Psalms 103:12 As far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us.
Speaking about the New Covenant, Jer 31:34 (NIV) says: No longer will they teach their neighbor, or say to one another, ‘Know the LORD,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,” declares the LORD. “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.”
When God forgives sins, they no longer exist in God’s mind. God, who can’t possibly forget anything, says that our sins don’t exist, under the New Covenant. They are not counted against us. They are truly forgiven and forgotten. The legal charges against us have been canceled by Jesus’ blood.
Here is a question we should think about… Are we saved because we are forgiven, or are we forgiven because we are saved? Just what is the relationship between salvation and forgiveness?
If we are saved due to our being forgiven, then God’s grace is left out of salvation.
Ephesians 2:8-9 (NASB) For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not as a result of works, that no one should boast.
Salvation is by faith alone, otherwise it is a works-based salvation. We dare not add anything to the work of God’s grace in us.
Do you know that there is a price to pay if we don’t forgive one-another? There is a price we pay physically, and a price we pay spiritually. When King David sinned in murdering the husband of Bathsheeba, he physically wasted away for 2 years, because his sin was unforgiven, and unconfessed.
But there is a high cost spiritually as well:
Matthew 6:14-15 (NASB) “For if you forgive men for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 “But if you do not forgive men, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.
Does this mean that we are saved by forgiving others? Will we lose our salvation if we don’t forgive others? No. We know that God is our judge. God looks at us and declares us to be guilty sinners who deserve eternal punishment because we have inherited the sin nature of Adam. But all who have trusted in Jesus Christ have their debt paid in full by the work of Jesus on the cross. God declares us to be forgiven, because of our faith in Jesus Christ. And in that judicial act of forgiveness, all of our sins, past, present, and future, are completely forgiven. We are justified forever.
I think that what is being referred to in Mt 6 is a relational forgiveness. Even though our sins are forgiven, we don’t stop sinning. When we sin and don’t repent of that sin, it affects our relationship with God and with others. We don’t stop being His child, but we lose that closeness and fellowship, and our communion with Him is broken. We restore our communion through confession of sins:
1 John 1:9 (NASB) If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
Our relationship with God is derailed by sin, and not forgiving others is sin! We forgive others by not holding their sin against them. We are to hold no bitterness or grudges against a person, no matter how they may have wronged us or how deeply we were hurt. And Christians know how to hurt each other. I’ll bet there’s not a Christians alive who has not been hurt in some way by another Christian. But Mt 18:35 says:
Matthew 18:35 “So shall My heavenly Father also do to you, if each of you does not forgive his brother from your heart.”
Jesus applies the principle of the unforgiving servant parable to us: My father will do this same thing to you if you don’t forgive each other. This parable teaches us that we should be willing to forgive any and all offenses, because we have been forgiven so much. It also teaches that if we don’t forgive, we will not be forgiven. We won’t lose our salvation, because before God’s court of justice we are forgiven forever, because of Jesus Christ. But in our relationship with God, we will be separated from fellowship and put under chastening or discipline until we forgive. That’s what happened with King David. His bones wasted away because of unforgiven and unconfessed sin.
Of course it is easy to talk about forgiveness but its not so easy to do. Notice what Paul says in:
Philippians 4:13 I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.
Do you think that the “all things” Paul mentions would include being able to forgive someone who wronged you? Absolutely. The strength and power we get through Jesus blood, and through the Holy Spirit is God’s gift to us. But if we don’t use those gifts, we limit ourselves. We tie our own hands by not allowing God to work in us and through us. By His power we have the power, the strength, to forgive anyone, anything.
What does Paul mean when he says, “I can do all things through Christ”? He means that because he is in communion with His Savior, the power of Christ is available to him for all his needs. He can do all things because he has a living relationship with Jesus Christ. He is abiding in Christ.
John 15:5 tells us what happens if we don’t abide in Christ:
John 15:5 (NASB) “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me, and I in him, he bears much fruit; for apart from Me you can do nothing.
Philippians 4:13 cannot be claimed by every Christian. It is only for those believers who are abiding in Christ. When we walk in fellowship with God, we have His power available to help us deal with life. If we are out of fellowship, and an unforgiving servant, we lack that power Paul speaks of.
When Paul says, “I can do ALL THINGS.” he means that “I have the power of Christ to sustain me in life’s difficult circumstances.” He is saying, “I am strong enough to go through anything, because Jesus Christ supplies me with the strength to endure any trial as I trust in Him.” Trusting in Christ gives us inner strength to deal with any and every situation in life. When we come to the end of our own human resources, we find unlimited power available in Christ.
Have you ever seen a Christian in a very difficult situation and asked, “How can they deal with the situation that they are in?” They can deal with it because the power of Christ is available to those who abide in Him; those who walk in dependence on Him. No matter what circumstance we face, we have the power to handle it if we are abiding in Christ. Don’t misunderstand me. I didn’t say it will be easy. What Bob and Cindy are going through right now can’t be handled by the flesh, but with the power of God and all our prayers, they will get through it.
The apostle Paul endured beatings with rods and whips, stoning, shipwreck, persecution, and prison. Paul, in effect, says, “I can endure all of that on the outside, because I am strengthened by Christ on the inside.” The source of our power to forgive, to endure in life is not found in us, in our strength, in our knowledge, in our wisdom. It is found only in Jesus Christ, in walking in fellowship with Him, and trusting Him with our whole heart.
Christianity is a supernatural life. And the power to forgive is not from within us, but from Jesus Christ alone. The next time we are wronged, think about these words: “just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you.”
We have been forgiven everything. God requires us to forgive one another those things which can’t compare to the amount of debt we have been forgiven.