If you Remember that Somebody Has Something Against You, Then You are not the Forgiver

Matthew 5:23–“If you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go First be reconciled to your brother.”

Some liberals have a difficult time reading this command correctly, They cannot think of themselves as needing any forgiveness, so they “interpret it” as saying “go to the person who has hurt you and make peace. (Michael Hardin, The Jesus Driven Life, p96)

We are not the ones who reconcile ourselves to God (by not being like Calvinists or other Christians we know). God is the one who reconciles. God is the subject of Reconciliation, But this does not mean that we need to become Socinians who deny that God is also the object of His own Reconciliation.

Romans 5:17 speaks of “receiving the reconciliation”. Why do we “receive the reconciliation”? Why not just say, we were reconciled? In other words, why not just get changed, so we are not at enmity? Why do we receive something?

If there is never legal enmity in God, then there is no wrath, and if not, there is no propitiation, and no need for it. But the problem is not only in our own hearts, at the altar. God has a problem with us, and only God can solve that problem.

Romans 5:17 does not mean overcoming your enmity in order to overcome your enmity! It means to passively receive by imputation what Christ did.

Matthew 5:24 (sermon on the mount) commands “leave your gift there before the altar and first be reconciled to your brother.” So, even though sinners are the objects of reconciliation, though sinners receive it, this reconciliation is not only the overcoming of the hostility of the elect, but what God has done in Christ to overcome God’s own judicial hostility to elect sinners.

John Murray: “In the Scripture the actual terms used with reference to the reconciliation wrought by Christ are to the effect that we are reconciled to God (Rom. 5:10) and that God reconciles us to Himself (II Cor. 5:18, 19; Eph. 2:16; Col. 1:2-22). Never is it expressly stated that God is reconciled to us.

It has often been stated, therefore, that the cross of Christ, insofar as it contemplated reconciliation, did not terminate upon God to the removal of His alienation from us but simply and solely upon us to the removal of our alienation from Him. In other words, it is not that which God has against us that is dealt with in the reconciliation but only our enmity against Him. It is strange that this contention should be so persistent, that scholars should be content with what is, to say the least, so superficial an interpretation of the usage of Scripture in reference to the term in question.

It is not to be denied that the reconciliation is concerned with our enmity against God. Reconciliation, like all the other categories deals with sin and the liability proceeding from it. And sin is enmity against God. But, when the teaching of Scripture is properly analyzed, it will be seen that reconciliation involves much more than that which might appear at first sight to be the case.

When in Matthew 5:24 we read, “Be reconciled to thy brother,” we have an example of the use of the word “reconcile” that should caution us against a common inference. In this instance the person bringing his gift to the altar is reminded that his brother has something against him. It is this grievance on the part of the other that is the reason for interrupting his act of worship. It is the grievance of the other that the worshiper must take into account, and it is the removal of that grievance, of that alienation that the reconciliation which he is required to effect contemplates.

He is to do all that is necessary to remove the alienation in the mind and attitude of the other. It is plain, therefore, that the situation requiring reconciliation is the frame of mind or the attitude of the other and what the reconciliation must effect is the change of mind on the part of the other, namely, the person called the brother. Thus we are pointed in a very different direction from that which we might have expected from the mere formula “be reconciled.”

And although it is the “against” of the brother that is in view as requiring a change, the exhortation is in terms of “be reconciled to thy brother” and not at all “Let thy brother be reconciled to thee.” By this analysis it can easily be seen that the formula “reconciled to God” can well mean that what the reconciliation has in view is God’s alienation from us and the removal of that alienation. Matthew 5:23, 24 shows how indefensible is an interpretation that rests its case upon what, at best, is mere appearance.

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5 Comments on “If you Remember that Somebody Has Something Against You, Then You are not the Forgiver”


  1. Is to “leave the wrath to God” to ask for the wrath?

    Father, forgive them

    1. because i won’t or can’t

    2. forgive them of this specific sin against me, but as for their other sins, how long until they get theirs?

    Proverbs 25:21-22

    If your enemy is hungry, feed him.
    If he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
    For in so doing
    you will be heaping fiery coals on his head.

    Election is not conditioned on the sinner
    and election is in order to the atonement, but not conditioned on the atonement


  2. Chris Braun, Unpacking Forgiveness, p 143–“it is beyond me that some will be tormented for a billion years and still be no closer to the end of their time in hell. I have said from the pulpit it it were up
    to me, I would give Hitler only a billion years. Then I would just
    make him cease to exist. But it is not up to me. And it was not
    against me whom he sinned.”

    1. he does not know what God teaches about perish and destroy
    but 2. this doesn’t keep him comparing himself (favorably) to God
    3 he teaches a god who forgives conditioned on the sinner

  3. markmcculley Says:

    http://www.challies.com/articles/is-forgiveness-conditional-or-unconditional

    I have two short responses

    1. God’s love is not conditional, because God gives faith and repentance to all whom God loves.

    2. We are not God, and there is no “parity” between our attitude to other sinners and the Holy Sinless God’s forgiveness of sinners.

    http://www.sermonaudio.com/sermoninfo.asp?SID=10201515305810

    how should we forgive? On conditions or without conditions? If we don’t forgive, will that prove we never believed ? but 3. did you ever notice that the people who make our forgiveness of other sinners conditional on those sinners (which God does not), think that they are meeting the conditions of salvation WITHOUT ACTUALLY FORGIVING. The OFFER to forgive (now the potato is in your hands) means these people can get assurance without forgiving but only OFFERING to forgive.

    Did Jesus die for all the future sins of the justified elect? Did Jesus even die for their sin of not loving their enemies? Did Jesus die for their sin of not forgiving their brothers and sisters?

    Tianqi Wu Then we see the parable of unforgiving servant is not threatening the believer God will revoke forgiveness if you don’t forgive your brother likewise (if this is true, then time to join the Arminians!) but describing by a human analogy how sinful it would be to not forgive your brother when you have been forgiven by God.

    1, in the parable, the master forgives monetary debts, but not sinful conduct (the servant being unmerciful)

    2, in the parable, the master’s forgiveness of debt is by master’s absorption of the loss which he can change mind about later, not by an complete, settled payment by a mediator.

    Some of those who divide sin into sin against law and sin against grace, says sin against law is forgiven, IF you do not sin against grace

    http://www.ccpc-pca.com/larger-catechism-194-forgiving-others-pt-2/

  4. markmcculley Says:

    The ministry of reconciliation is NOT the ministry of regeneration. I am not denying regeneration, but I am denying that our reconciliation to God is by regeneration. Our reconciliation to God is our justification before God. Reconciliation happens in history. Justification happens in history.

    Reconciliation is becoming the righteousness of God in him. Regeneration is not our righteousness. Regeneration is not our Reconciliation. Reconciliation is received by God’s imputation in history, not by our regeneration and not by our faith.

    II Corinthians 5: 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, new creation ! Old things have passed away, and look, new has come. 18 Everything is from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 That is, in Christ, God was reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed the message of reconciliation to us. 20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, certain that God is appealing through us. We plead on Christ’s behalf, “Be reconciled to God.” 21 He made the One who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that become the righteousness of God in Him.


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