WSC Q. 105

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A Plea for Forgiveness

Following right along in the Lord’s Prayer, with no historical reference of Presbyterianism we can find,  we come to the fifth petition on this day of December 23.  It is, “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.”

The word “debts” brings to mind immediately some aspect of commercial debt owed to another. But this idea must be put out of your mind and heart in this petition.  In reality, the word “debt”  is one of a “mournfully numerous group” of names, according to Trench, which is applied to human sin and guilt in the word of God.  In this case, what we owe is obedience and in failing that by either commission of sin or omission of sin, we are liable for God’s justice.

Then, getting to the heart of the petition, we ask that God, for Christ’s sake, would freely pardon all our sins. Having no merits of ourselves, we come to God for forgiveness only on account of the merits of Christ’s sake. Paul in Ephesians 1:7 said it plainly, “In Whom, we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace.” (NASB)

The pardoning of our sins are illustrated for us by some rich figures in Scripture.  In Psalm 103:12, we are told that “as far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgression from us.” (NASB)

Micah takes the figure even further when he writes in chapter 7, verse 19b that “Yes, You will cast all their sins into the depths of the sea.” (NASB)

Isaiah the prophet in Isaiah 43:25 speaks “I, even I, am the one who wipes out your transgressions for My own sake, And I will not remember your sins.” (NASB)  Man might remember our sins, but God said that He will not, once they are pardoned and forgiven.

And then the most familiar of these pardoning texts is 1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”  The word “cleanse” is the present tense, which means that He will keep on cleansing our sins upon our confession of them.

Now we arrive at the forgotten word in this petition. It is that little word “as.”  Forgive us our debts, our sins AS we forgive our debtors.  This little word prompted the fourth century church father Augustine to conclude this is a terrible petition.  Why?  Because we are asking God to pardon us as we pardon our debtors.

It is interesting to me that this is the only petition on which our Lord gave us a comment, as Matthew records it in Matthew 6:14, 15. It reads, “For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.  But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.” (NASB) No wonder that Augustine called it a terrible petition.  Deal with us, Lord, as we have dealt with others.

On the other hand, we are encouraged to pray this petition because we  have forgiven and forgotten the sins of others who have sinned against us.

Words to live by:  What a joy it is to know that Christ paid the punishment for our sins.  And even with those sins which we do  each day, upon our repentance and confession of them, He will pardon our sins and leave a clean slate before the holy God.  Try a little spiritual exercise.  Write down all the sins which so easily entangle you on a piece of paper.  Then confess each of them to God, and pray that you will get the victory over them.  Claim 1 John 1:9 or Psalm 103:12 and destroy the paper.

Through the Scriptures:  1 John 3 – 5

Through the Standards: God  has appointed a day

WCF 33:1 — “God has appointed a day, wherein He will judge the world, in righteousness, by Jesus Christ, to whom all power and judgment is given of the Father.  In which day, not only the apostate angels shall be judged, but likewise all persons that have lived upon earth shall appear before the tribunal of Christ, to give an account of their thoughts, words, and deeds; and to receive according to what they have done in the body, whether good or evil.”


Praying for Present Provisions

When this writer spoke about historical Presbyterians going on Sabbatical in the month of December with a resultant scarcity of  their history, we meant what we said.  Nowhere is that statement clearer than for us having to follow up one catechism study with another one, because of nothing being found of any historical significance in Presbyterianism on December 22.

The fourth petition of the Lord’s Prayer is expounded for us in Shorter Catechism answer number 104.  It says, “In the fourth petition, which is, Give us this day our daily bread, we pray, that of God’s free gift, we may receive a competent portion of the good things of this life, and enjoy his blessing with them.”

The first three petitions were all upward in scope. We prayed, according to our Lord’s example, for God’s Name to be hallowed, His kingdom to arrive, and God’s will to be done on earth as the angels do that divine will in  heaven. The focus was all on God — His Name, His kingdom, and His will. With the last three petitions, we see the horizontal scope of prayer as they deal with the saints.  The fourth petition deals with our body and the next two deal with our soul.

When we pray this fourth petition, we give an acknowledge first that everything belongs to God.  James understood this when he wrote in James 1:17 that “every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is not variation or shifting shadow.” (NASB)  What he defined as God-given was also acknowledged by the Psalmist David in Psalm 24:1, “The earth is the LORD’s, and all it contains, The world, and those who dwell in it.” (NASB)  So God is the owner of all things in this earth and world.

As such, each of us saints, including unbelievers, need to depend upon God for that which is sufficient for our daily needs.  This writer used to proclaim to his middle-class members that they had a perfect aim given to them in God’s Word.  It is Proverbs 30:8,9, which states, “Give me neither poverty nor riches, Feed me with the food that is my portion, That I not be full and deny You and say, ‘Who is the LORD?’ Or that I not be in want and steal, And profane the name of my God.”  We could paraphrase and say, “make me a middle class citizen, Lord.”  We depend upon God for needs, this day, daily.  As the Larger Catechism states, we wait upon God’s providence through lawful means, such as work, in supplying our daily needs.

Upon all of God’s competent portions, we seek to enjoy His blessing with them.  “Bless this food,” we pray before our meals.  We then partake, to enjoy His blessing of them.

Words to live by:  All of these blessings are God’s free gift to us.  We don’t deserve them.  We are not to trust in them.  That would be substituting the things of this earth for the Person of the God who bestowed them upon us. That is idolatry, and ought to be forsaken by the believer.  Let us live instead in the light that all that we need comes to us through God’s providence, and bless Him alone for giving them to us to enjoy.

Through the Scriptures:  1 John 1, 2

Through the Standards:  Proof texts of the state of man after death

Genesis 3:19
“By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” (ESV)

Job 19:26
“For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth.  And after my skin  has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God.” (ESV)

2 Corinthians 5:6 – 9
“So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight.  Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord.  So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him.”  (ESV)