Voddie Baucham on Forgiveness
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Voddie BauchamVoddie Baucham wears many hats. He is a husband, father, former pastor, author, professor, conference speaker, and church planter. He currently serves as Dean of Theology at African Christian University in Lusaka, Zambia. Dr. Baucham holds degrees from Houston Baptist University (BA in Christianity/BA in Sociology), Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (M.Div.), Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (D.Min.), an honorary degree from Southern California Seminary (D.D.), and additional...more
To be successful in marriage, spouses must forgive each other often. But the only way to do that is to have a solid grasp of God’s forgiveness of us through Christ. Voddie Baucham shares a message on forgiveness based on Ephesians 4.
Voddie Baucham on Forgiveness
Bob: Forgiving another person is not optional for someone who is a follower of Christ. Voddie Baucham says there are a lot of people who just don’t understand what forgiveness really is.
Voddie: Forgiveness means I give up my right to punish you for what you did. If you—if I come over to your house—I knock over a lamp, and I break the lamp. You look at me and you say, “No, brother, that’s okay. I forgive you”; and then, you say, “but that will be $195.” [Laughter] You didn’t really forgive me, because you’re making me pay. Forgiveness is the cancellation of debt.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Thursday, March 11th. Our hosts are Dave and Ann Wilson; I'm Bob Lepine. You can find us online at FamilyLifeToday.com. We’ll hear from Voddie Baucham today about what forgiveness is and what it isn’t. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. I remember—this was a couple of years ago—Mary Ann and I were walking off the boat after one of our Love Like You Mean It® marriage cruise events—which, by the way, we’re kicking off the registration for next February’s cruise; because everybody is ready to get out, get back on the boat, and have another marriage cruise.
Dave: Yes, we are.
Bob: But we’re getting off the boat, and the people with the cruise line are there as you’re getting off to point you to where your luggage is as you get off; right?
Bob: This one person, who worked for the cruise line, just had this perplexed look on her face. I said, “What’s wrong?” She goes, “What’s the deal with you all?” [Laughter] I said, “What do you mean?”
She said, “Well, I’ve been doing this for awhile. Most people, who are getting off the cruise, are dragging and grumpy and,” she said, “honestly, hung over, and ornery.” She said, “You’re all getting off; you’re smiling at each other; you’re laughing! You’re the nicest people we’ve ever seen get off of a cruise!”
I said, “Well, that’s because of what just happened in the last seven days on this cruise.”
Dave: What happens—and I don’t think a lot of us know it’s going to happen—but your marriage changes.
Ann: —and you change!
Dave: You get a vacation—it’s fun; you laugh; you have a great time: music/entertainment—but God shows up. It’s pretty amazing. I didn’t know that was going to happen, either; but every cruise we’ve been on, we come off with a smile.
Bob: Yes; we make sure, on the cruise, that there’s a lot going on: speakers, musicians, artists, events all going on—
Ann: You have options of what you can and want to do.
Bob: Right; we start each day with devotions. I remember—this was almost a decade ago—Voddie Baucham was one of our speakers on the cruise. For listeners who don’t know Voddie, he’s an author/speaker. He actually lives in Zambia, Africa, where he is involved in a seminary in Africa.
Voddie has been with us three or four times on the cruise. He did a devotional, where he just took us to the Scriptures on what the Bible has to say about forgiveness. All of us in the room could think there have been those things in your marriage that you allow to accumulate; and you think, “Well, I’ll just overlook that”; but it just sticks with you. If it sticks with you, you’re not really overlooking it.
Ann: This message will be helpful, then.
Bob: It really will.
It was a powerful morning when he shared that, so we’re going to share this message from Voddie, from Ephesians, Chapter 4, just a sample of what happens on board the Love Like You Mean It marriage cruise every year. We hope a lot of you will join us next February and be on the cruise with us. Here’s our friend, Voddie Baucham, talking about forgiveness.
[Previous Love Like You Mean It Message]
Voddie: This morning, I want us to look at Ephesians, Chapter 4, beginning in
verse 25: “Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members of one another. Be angry, and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil. Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need. Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.”
Now, here’s where we get to it: “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.” Let’s read this part together. “Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”
Let me say several things about forgiveness in the time that we have left here that I think will be helpful for us all as we move forward. Again, we have to learn how to forgive one another. We live closer to one another than to any other human beings on earth; and when you live in close proximity to another human being, your relationship will either be filled with forgiveness or with bitterness; that’s it. If we are going to last, it needs to be filled with the former and not the latter; amen? [Audience agrees]
First thing I want to say about forgiveness is this—is that forgiveness/our giving of forgiveness to another—is rooted in the forgiveness that we have received from Christ. Now, that’s sounds simple and straightforward; but there’s a theological principle there that is extremely important. It’s also a principle of hermeneutics that I want to share with you.
Now, there are two moods that I want to teach you. In the Greek language, you have certain moods like indicative mood and an imperative mood. Indicative—if I’m using the indicative mood, I’m indicating what something is—so I would say, “That is a bottle of water.” That’s an indicative; I’m indicating what it is. Now, if I say, “Pick up the bottle of water,” that’s an imperative. Indicative: I’m indicating what something is; imperative: I’m giving a command.
Now, in the indicative—especially, when we’re reading here in the New Testament and while we’re dealing with Ephesians—indicatives tell us what God has done on our behalf, in Christ, for our redemption and His glory. It’s indicating who we are in Christ. The imperatives tell us what we are empowered, and commanded, and enabled to do because of the indicatives. You have to understand it that way. These things are linked inexorably. The imperatives—that’s what we’re empowered and commanded to do—because of the indicatives. If you separate the indicatives and the imperatives, you get works righteousness.
There’s an indicative and an imperative here. What’s the indicative? The indicative is—you are forgiven in Christ—that enables, empowers, and motivates you to give the kind of forgiveness that you’re being commanded to give in the first part of the verse.
If you separate the indicative and the imperative, all you have is pure law. Usually, that’s what we give our kids: “Be kind to one another,”—it’s pure law. There’s no gospel there at all. If they do it and strive for it, they are striving for works righteousness; and you are undermining the gospel that you want them to receive and walk in. Are you smelling what I’m stepping in? [Laughter] Okay?
So your forgiveness of your spouse, then—from this passage/in this regard—is rooted then in your experience of forgiveness from Christ. That’s important for a number of reasons; because, if that’s the case—and it is—and you’re wrong about forgiveness, then, you are not going to be secure in your salvation; why?
If I’m the type of person that doesn’t forgive, or that forgives begrudgingly, and the gospel is all about how Christ has forgiven me, then, I always worry that Christ gets tired of forgiving me like I get tired of forgiving you. [Applause] People, who wrestle with unforgiveness, usually wrestle with the idea of eternal security; because their very definition of forgiveness does not match what we find in the gospel.
Here’s the other thing—and I’m going to say this as gently as I can—if you’re a person, who’s not forgiving, then you are actually a disobedient, arrogant hypocrite, who does not appreciate the body of Christ. Why disobedience?—because you are commanded to do it. If you don’t forgive your spouse, you are in sin; because you’ve been commanded to forgive.
By the way, it is difficult for us to understand that unless we know what forgiveness is; right? Forgiveness is a cancellation of debt; that’s what it means. Forgiveness means I give up my right to punish you for what you did. If you—if I come over to your house; I knock over a lamp, and I break the lamp—you look at me and say, “No, brother, that’s okay. I forgive you;” and then, you say, “but that will be $195.” [Laughter] You didn’t really forgive me, because you’re making me pay. Forgiveness is the cancellation of debt; okay? Why is this important?
Remember: our experience of forgiveness is rooted in our understanding of the forgiveness that we’ve received in Christ. If I am a person that doesn’t understand forgiveness as a cancellation of debt—and forgiveness just means I say, “I forgive you,” but I still make you pay—then, my understanding of salvation is going to be the same. Then, my forgiveness from God is something that doesn’t cancel my debt; I still have to work to earn that which I’ve already been given.
It’s all rooted in the fact that I do not comprehend this concept of forgiveness, because remember that first point: these things are linked inexorably; it’s a cancellation of debt. That means that if I say to my wife, “I forgive you,”—but then, we have an argument, like a couple of days later, and I bring it back up—now, I’m punishing you when I said I would give up my right to do so, which means I lied. If the debt is cancelled, it’s cancelled. Again, first of all, if we’re not forgiving, we’re not obedient.
Secondly, if we’re not forgiving, we’re arrogant. Here’s why—because, basically, here is what I say if I’m not forgiving—and let’s just keep this in marriage; okay?—here’s what I say if I’m not forgiving my wife/what I say if I’m not forgiving my wife is this: “All those things that I have done to offend God—those things are absolutely forgivable because that’s how good God is—however, my standard is higher than God’s standard; so though He can forgive you, I can’t.” That’s the height of arrogance; it’s also hypocrisy.
You come to me: “Will you forgive me?” “I just/I just—you know what?—I just don’t think I can; I’m sorry. I mean, you hurt me; I just don’t think I can.” Then, here I go and I do something ten times worse, not just because—again, when I say, “ten times worse,” remember the magnitude of my sin is significant because of the magnitude of the One against whom I sin. You sin against me—you sin against a finite, sinful human being—I sin against God/I sin against God—[Laughter]—so it’s inexorably worse. You come to me, asking for forgiveness: “I just don’t know.” But then, what do I do when I sin? I come before my Heavenly Father: I confess it; I repent of it; and I go, “God, thank You so much for Your forgiveness.” You hypocrite!
Finally, I’m despising the body; why?—because I am saying, of a member of Christ’s body, that what He says of them is not true:
“You are a forgiven sinner.” “No, actually, you’re not.”
“No, because see—no, actually, see I am, really; because what had happened was God, who gave His only begotten Son, He forgave me; and I’m forgiven.” “No, actually, you’re not.”
“No; really, the cross, the blood—Jesus—you know, forgiven.” “No, actually, you’re not.”
“Well, how can—because see—okay, wait; because I thought you said that you were actually a child of God—justification, adoption, sanctification, waiting on your glorification—which means that you are in the family of the One who forgave me. I’m telling you what your Daddy said about me, and you’re saying that your Daddy is wrong?”
So why don’t we forgive? Let me give you these; then, we’ll be done. One reason we don’t forgive is because we do not comprehend the gospel. When I am constantly and consistently reminding myself of the price that was paid for my sin/when I am constantly and consistently rejoicing in and praising God for the forgiveness that is mine in Christ, I cannot harbor unforgiveness toward you; I can’t do it!
When I am constantly burdened down under the weight of the majesty of the forgiveness that I have received—when I am constantly reminded that the precious, spotless, sinless Lamb of God was crushed and killed/crucified at the will and beckoning of His own Father—and that that perfect life was exchanged for mine, it is impossible for me to continue to harbor unforgiveness toward you. If you are harboring unforgiveness, I want to point you back to the gospel. If you are harboring unforgiveness, I want to point you back to Christ.
Secondly, I harbor unforgiveness because I’m wrong about the definition of forgiveness. For example, some people hold on to unforgiveness because you believe that forgiveness means that you have to forget. That’s a common cultural saying, but it’s not Bible. “It says that God casts our sins into the sea of forgetfulness.” Yes, see, you ain’t Him. [Laughter] Literally, what that means is that God casts off the punishment due to your sins when you understand what forgiveness means.
By the way, it’s/[forgetting is] not the beauty of forgiveness. The beauty of forgiveness is not that you can’t remember what happened. The beauty of forgiveness is that, in spite of the fact that you remember and may never forget, you give up your right to punish. That’s the beauty of forgiveness. [Applause]
The other myth that we believe is that you can only extend forgiveness to someone when they ask for it. Here’s the danger in that one. If you follow that through to its logical conclusion, then, you don’t really believe that Jesus Christ has forgiven you for all sins: past, present, and future. You believe, actually, that you will only stand in heaven if you have managed to recognize, record, and repent of every sin that you’ve ever committed; because if you don’t recognize, record, and repent of every sin that you’ve committed, that means that you are going to stand before God with a record of sins for which you have not repented. If forgiveness is only extended when it’s asked for specifically, you can’t be saved.
Here’s the other problem with that idea. If forgiveness means that I am actually forgoing my right to punish, and you believe that you can only forgive when people specifically ask you for forgiveness, I feel sorry for you because that makes you the judge of the universe, who must punish sin, unless and until forgiveness is requested. Good luck with that. [Laughter] That’s a heavy burden.
In fact, some of you are carrying that burden in your marriage. There are some of you who believe that you have to mistreat, ignore, and punish your spouse so that you can bring them to repentance; because the Holy Ghost just can’t do it. [Laughter] Do you know that already, today, you’ve experienced forgiveness for things that you didn’t even know were sinful?—that those things have been paid for by Christ.
Okay; my time is gone. There are other myths—and maybe we’ll talk about those other myths at some other time—but for now, here’s what I want you to see. We walked in here; for most of us, we didn’t have these categories of indicatives and imperatives. All we had was, “Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other,”—we don’t even finish the verse—just “be kind and forgive.”
There are some of you who have been wrestling with that/struggling with that. You’ve been trying to figure out to how to go inside here, and grab a hold of something that’s inside here, that can make you a more forgiving person. If you don’t hear anything else today, hear this: “Being forgiving doesn’t come from you grabbing something that’s inside here. It comes from you receiving something from out there.” This is about who you are in Christ, and this about living in relationship with others in light of and because of what God, in Christ, has done in, and to, and for you. Now, go; forgive because you’re forgiven; amen. [Applause]
Bob: Well, again, we’ve been listening to Voddie Baucham in a message from one of our Love Like You Mean It marriage cruises a few years ago, just a solid reminder that this is what we’re commanded to do in Christ. Forgiveness, for a Christian, is not one of those things: “Oh, maybe I should do that.”
Ann: —“when I feel like it.”
Bob: Yes; this is a command of Scripture for you. In fact, those words from Jesus, that if you fail to forgive your heavenly Father won’t forgive you—it doesn’t mean your salvation is conditional—but it means, if you’re not a forgiving person, you need to examine and see, “Do I really know Jesus?”—because forgiven people forgive people.
Dave: It should be one of the greatest signs that I’m a Christ-follower. The non-churched world should look at the church people and go, “How can they be so forgiving?” I’m not sure that’s what they think at this point, but that’s what you say. If we can’t do it in our marriages, where can we do it?
Ann: I think the thing that it brings is freedom.
Ann: When you don’t forgive someone, it’s attached to you; you carry it with you wherever you go. But to release that—and only the Holy Spirit can help us to do that and do it through us—there is freedom, and it’s pretty great to experience that.
Bob: Just imagine that it’s the middle of February, and it’s cold where you live, but not where you are; because it’s a warm day in the sunshine on the Love Like You Mean It marriage cruise. You start your day with a devotional like that. Throughout the day, you’re with friends. I guarantee you, everybody you meet on the cruise is a friend as soon as you meet them.
Dave: Oh yes; it’s amazing.
Bob: You’re in line, waiting for food, you just strike up a conversation; and everybody’s there for the same reason!
Dave: It’s partly because they have an ice cream cone in their right hand! [Laughter]
Bob: You go through the day; you have an evening session/there’s another great message; there are concerts going on that night; there’s an illusionist; there’s a comedian—I mean, there’s just all this stuff thrown in. At the end of the week, you’re relaxed/you’re refreshed. You’ve had a great time, and you’re filled up with what God’s Word has to say about marriage.
We are hoping—and actually, it’s starting to look like this is going to happen pretty quickly—that the February 2022 cruise is going to sell out. We have a lot of listeners, who are getting in touch with us, and saying, “We cannot wait.”
If you have any interest in joining us on the Love Like You Mean It marriage cruise in February of 2022—if you have questions, if you want more information, or if you want to reserve your cabin—go to FamilyLifeToday.com now. It may be best to call us at 1-800-FL-TODAY and talk with somebody, who can answer any questions you have/get you set up for the cruise over the phone. Again, the number: 1-800-FL-TODAY; 1-800-358-6329; 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.” Or again, you can get more information at FamilyLifeToday.com.
But make plans to join us. It’s going to be a great getaway next Valentine’s Day/Valentine’s week: the Love Like You Mean It marriage cruise. Again, more information’s available at FamilyLifeToday.com; or call 1-800-FL-TODAY.
Now, tomorrow, we’re going to talk about what grace looks like in a marriage relationship. The truth is—a lot of us want grace to be a part of our marriage when we’ve done something wrong—but we have a different standard when our spouse does something wrong; then it’s all about the law. We’re going to hear from pastor and author Kevin DeYoung about that tomorrow. I hope you can be with us for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch; got some special help from Bruce Goff and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our hosts, Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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