For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. Matthew 6:14-15
Some people wonder why Christ would attach such a condition to this part of the Lord’s Prayer: “If you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.” He didn’t attach similar conditions to other parts of the prayer. He could’ve said, “Give us today our daily bread, as we give it to our children.” Or “Lead us not into temptation, and we won’t tempt anyone else either.” Or “Deliver us from the evil one, just as we try to help others.”
None of the parts of this prayer has a condition tacked on to it except this one. We may be left with the impression that we earn forgiveness for our sins by forgiving others. What does this mean for the doctrine that forgiveness of sins comes only through Christ and is received through faith?
Jesus phrases the prayer so that God’s forgiveness is linked to our own willingness to forgive others in order to make mutual love a Christian duty. We should always forgive others. After faith in Christ, loving and forgiving others should be our primary concern. We shouldn’t cause other people pain. Instead, we should remember to forgive others even when they have caused us suffering, as we often experience in this life. If we are unwilling to forgive, we can be certain that we won’t be forgiven ourselves. If we are full of resentment and hostility, that prayer will be spoiled and all of the requests in that prayer will be rejected. We must establish a strong and durable bond of love with other Christians that will keep us united. When we come before God in prayer, we shouldn’t be divided into various splinter groups. Instead, we should be guided by love, tolerate differences of opinion, and preserve unity.
Edited by James C. Galvin
Timeless insights from one of the most important people in church history. Resounding across the centuries, Martin Luther’s prolific writings as a pastor, theologian, scholar, Bible translator, father, and more, remain powerful and richly relevant. Faith Alone is a treasury of accessible devotionals taken from Luther’s best writings and sermons from the years 1513 through 1546. This carefully updated translation retains the meaning, tone, and imagery of Luther’s works such as this gem:
Some people value good works so much that they overlook faith in Christ. Faith should be first. It is faith—without good works and prior to good works—that takes us to heaven. We come to God through faith alone.—Martin Luther
Through daily readings, Luther’s straightforward approach challenges you to a more thoughtful faith. Read one brief section a day or explore themes using the subject index in the back of the book. Faith Alone will deepen your understanding of Scripture and help you more fully appreciate the mystery of faith.