2 Corinthians 2:10-11 Now whom you forgive anything, I also forgive. For if indeed I have forgiven anything, I have forgiven that one for your sakes in the presence of Christ, 11 lest Satan should take advantage of us; for we are not ignorant of his devices.

Studying Satan's Influence

Several weeks ago, we looked at this portion of Scripture in our quest to gain understanding of Satan's influence over believers, and the believer's ability to use the resources from God to resist and overcome Satan. Because the subject of Satan vs. the Believer is a subject that involves almost every aspect of the believer's life and God's plan for the Ages, we are looking at this particular subject in snap-shot fashion.

By so doing, we will see many other subjects and events. However our focus is on information within those broader subjects and events that directly relate to the matter of the Satan's control, and the believer's warfare against it. Our major concern is not to study the subjects in which we find this information concerning Satan. Instead, we want to see the facts of Satan's workings (his devices) within these many areas, and bring those facts into a correlated picture.

I realize that as we lift out these facts concerning Satan from the subjects and events surrounding them, we cannot take the time to study in detail those subjects or events that provide us with the needed information to make an understandable picture.

This type of study will, by its very nature, leave many unanswered question about the main subject. To attempt to study each of these many subjects or events would literally require a study of the entire Word of God. This hop-skip-'n-jump type of study is necessary because the information concerning Satan and his work is spread through the entire Bible, and there are few events or subjects that are exempt from this satanic activity. Because of the vastness and diversity of the Biblical information concerning Satan, a person will continue to learn many things about Satan throughout a lifetime of Bible study.

However, there are some basic facts concerning Satan that every believer should and can know, no matter the stage or depth of their Biblical study. Without this basic information, and the consistent use of these truths by the power of the Holy Spirit, the believer is a sitting-duck for Satan's attacks and fiery darts.

Some of the questions left in our wake as we navigate through the very deep waters of the Word of God cannot be ignored or left for another time. When those questions involve an individual and it's possible, I try to answer those questions privately. When those questions come from several people, it is quite evident that those needs are close to home, and should have public treatment. An area of questions that has repeatedly surfaced from several people, is that of forgiveness.

Understanding Forgiveness

The subject of forgiveness is one that cannot be treated lightly or quickly. To understand the scope and application of forgiveness, we need to go back to the Garden of Eden and follow through the lives and events of the Old Testament saints. We need to add to those areas a careful observation of the promises, covenants and prophecies. Obviously to understand forgiveness, along with those things, we need the teaching concerning the eternal plan of God in redemption and the New Testament doctrines on the subject.

There is no way we can cover all of that material, as well as the other areas that influence the very important and timely subject of human to human forgiveness. We can however, lay the basic ground work needed to understand the questions that have been asked. Let's look at the passage that brought to light these latest questions, and reestablish the context of this type of forgiveness, and its application to our everyday lives.

The context of this passage has to do with a matter of church discipline, in which a man was put out of the church for open sexual sin. It is obvious that the man turned from his ways, and Paul is explaining that now he should be restored to the fellowship of the church. In passing, the restoration of an offending believer to the fellowship of the Body should always the focus of the forgiveness of another believer.

2 Corinthians 2:6 This punishment which was inflicted by the majority is sufficient for such a man, 7 so that, on the contrary, you ought rather to forgive and comfort him, lest perhaps such a one be swallowed up with too much sorrow. 8 Therefore I urge you to reaffirm your love to him. 9 For to this end I also wrote, that I might put you to the test, whether you are obedient in all things. 10 Now whom you forgive anything, I also forgive. For if indeed I have forgiven anything, I have forgiven that one for your sakes in the presence of Christ, 11 lest Satan should take advantage of us; for we are not ignorant of his devices.
Advantage (Greek)
Eager to have more, especially what belongs to another; greedy to gain control; to gain or take advantage of another; to overreach into another's affairs, such as to take title or birthright; gain control.

As with many other Biblical subjects, forgiveness has many aspects. The type of forgiveness illustrated in this passage was for the benefit of both the one being forgiven, and the ones doing the forgiving.

Satan is eager to take more than belongs to him. When we do not forgive others, especially those in Christ, we allow Satan to take advantage or have more than belongs to him.

Notice first of all the choices or latitude the sovereign God has given believers in this situation. If these believers at Corinth had not forgiven and reaffirmed this man, Satan would have taken more than belonged to him (taken advantage of them). Please see what the Bible says here, not what we want it to say in support of our theory. It is the facts of the Word of God we must harmonize, not man's opinion.

I have a little confession to make, you love confessions, don't you? My plan was to take the first 15 minutes of this lesson to answer the questions concerning forgiveness. My original scribbled outline indicated that it was possible. However, when I began to put the meat on the outline, I found that if I said such-'n-such in an abbreviated form, it didn't answer anything. So I'm going to take the whole session on this subject. Even so, I'm sure there will be many questions yet unanswered. Those questions will come primarily from a lack of overall knowledge of the truths of the Word of God harmonized. Even though we will take the entire session on forgiveness, we will see many things concerning Satan vs the Believer. Remember, information about Satan is found only as extra information given in relationship to some other subject, so don't miss these facts.

Satan would overreach, if these at Corinth did not forgive and reaffirm this man. Therefore, Paul says they should forgive and reaffirm this one for their benefit, and the benefit of the man. If these people had a choice in that they could either forgive, or not forgive with the associated results, how could God be sovereign in this matter? We will take that up in lessons yet to come.

It takes a God of infinitely greater sovereignty to allow certain freedoms of choice for mankind, and yet have His will perfectly carried out, than a God who controls all the actions and choices of mankind. Why, even I could accomplish my will, if I could control every person's actions and choices. That wouldn't take much of a God. But to give every human certain latitude in their actions and choices, and still have His will accomplished, takes a bigger God than most of us can even dream about! Don't limit God to simply an omnipotent puppeteer or a robot operator.

Because our forgiving or not forgiving plays a role in Satan's overreaching into our lives with his control, it is important that we understand forgiveness, and especially human forgiveness of other humans. We have studied this subject before, therefore I will not take time away from our series of Satan vs. the Believer to go back over the Biblical support material. Along the line, there will be important information concerning the subject of Satan's control of believers, and I will point out some of this even though it may not be absolutely necessary for a summary of believer's forgiveness.

Forgiving a Fellow Believer

In this whole matter of believer forgiving believer, there are several facts that we must have right up-front in order to clearly grasp the importance, and the mechanics of personal forgiveness. All of these facts have been seen in past studies, I simply want to run them by you again. Not all of these facts are found in Matthew 6:15, but this passage certainly points out the importance of this function of the Christian life, and that personal forgiveness of others must be a daily function.

Matthew 6:15 But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

Those in Christ (all believers) who refuse to forgive another:

Believers in this condition have literally placed themselves in Satan's camp, and are living in a similar manner as Satan when he set himself against God. Yes, a believer is truly an instrument of Satan, when in this state of not forgiving other believers.

When in a state of not forgiving, Satan has a right to over-reach or take advantage of that believer, because that believer is operating by the old sin nature that was spawned or fathered by Satan. The old sin nature is the property of Satan and under his control or influence by virtue of birth.

forgiveness (Greek)
release as from bondage or imprisonment, etc.; to pardon by letting it go as if it had not been committed

We must remember that one believer forgiving another has nothing to do with the forgiveness of sins.

Don't miss that fact. 

Only Christ can forgive another of their sins. What another believer did to you or with you, may have been sin. If so, the offending believer needs to have their sins forgiven. However, to forgive sins, you can't.

No matter who you are, how much you know, how much money you have, how many good deeds you have performed, etc., you don't have the resources or the right to forgive even the smallest sin. To attempt to do so, or to have the attitude that you can forgive sins is blasphemous. You cannot forgive your own sins, let alone the sins of another. Only God can forgive sins. Withholding your forgiveness from another, in no way stops or hinders God from forgiving that person their sins. All sin is against God.

When we sin, other humans may be and often are affected. That sin, which is against God, may have also taken from, destroyed or damaged the possessions, reputation, etc. of some other human. When some person takes from another their possessions, reputation, peace of mind, etc., the offending party owes or is obligated to return, restore or replace that which was taken or effected. It is in this area that human forgiveness takes place. Most offenses of one believer against another are in the areas of words, attitudes and actions.

As a believer whose sin God has fully forgiven, I am in like manner, to forgive those who have offended or trespassed against me. I am to release them from any obligation owed to me as a result of their actions, attitudes, words, etc. I am to pardon them from any social or moral debt owed to me, and do so in a manner as though the offense had not been committed (as per the definition of forgiveness).

In reality, I am to release them at the very moment of their offense against me. By no means, am I to "let the sun go down on my wrath". To do any less indicates that I am living in sin, and a type of sin that will breed bitterness, vindictiveness, etc. If I don't forgive the other, but instead harbor those feelings of hurt and obligation, they will grow within my very being until I am controlled by those sins, even though the original sin was committed by another. At that point, even though I didn't commit the original sin, Satan has an advantage over me.

Forgiveness (Greek)
Release as from bondage or imprisonment, etc.; to pardon by letting it go as if it had not been committed

I have stated over and over again that there are several types of forgiveness mentioned in the Bible. Let me point out two types that have a bearing on this situation:

Forgiveness of the offense, believer to believer

This should be immediate. This type of forgiveness need not be public or even known by the offending party. Under some circumstances, this type of forgiveness can properly become public, but it must first become a reality within the believer's life before it is brought into the public eye. If this is not the case, the whole process is hypocrisy.

This type of forgiveness or release is internal. It is accomplished by the grace of God, and the power of the Holy Spirit as He applies the Word of God to our lives. This type of forgiveness can only take place when the believer is walking in the Spirit, and it will take place if the believer is walking in the Spirit.

Forgiveness or withholding forgiveness between believers is a pretty good proof of walking in the Spirit or carnality. As a result of this personal forgiveness or release, that forgiving believer sees the offending person as God sees them. Therefore, the forgiving believer has a Godly love for the one forgiven, and is willing to give of self for the other's benefit.

In this spiritual state of mind, a believer does not see the other as one who should bring benefit to themselves, instead they see the opportunity to give of self, so the other may grow in grace and knowledge of Christ.

The object of this type of forgiveness or release is not restoration or restitution, but pure grace for the other's spiritual benefit. However, restoration or restitution, which is the next type of forgiveness, can not take place until this first type is fully activated in the heart of the offended or the one sinned against.

Forgiveness of personal restitution, responsibility and/or consequence (as relating to the one offended)

This type of forgiveness happens:

Both of these types of forgiveness are difficult, and I don't think we could rate one more difficult than the other. However, it is easier to evaluate the second type, because it deals with external things that can be seen and calculated.

Believers fail in both areas simply because they are carnal, and fully in love with themselves. However, imbedded in that carnality is the sadistic and vindictive attitude of vengeance and the desire to personally punish.

Sad to say, if the believer would get out of God's way, God will bring proper punishment, because God says that vengeance belongs to Him, and He will repay.

If God said it, He will do it. So get out of the way, and let Him do it.

Living the Process

Let's look at a teaching of Christ that zeros in on this subject very clearly. We often see the first part of this passage, and we should. However, when we put the first part of this passage in the context of the whole passage, it will come alive with greater, fuller and more dynamic meaning and application.

Matthew 18:21-22 Then Peter came to Him and said, "Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?" 22 Jesus said to him, "I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven."

That is the familiar passage, and it has great depth of teaching. However, let's move beyond this introduction. Peter's question and Christ's introductory remarks spawned an even greater teaching of Christ.

Notice in Matthew 18:23 starts with a therefore - the previous information is the foundation for what is to follow. In v.21-22, Christ is saying in effect, "That was the answer to your question. Now let me show you the process that leads to both knowing the answer, and the personal practice of that answer in daily life."

Today Christians have lots of answers, and that is not all bad. Knowing the answer is of little value, unless we can use that answer to live the process.

Knowing the answer is not enough, you must live the process by means of the answer.

So, let's look at Christ's description of the process. As Christ often does, He teaches the positive by examining the negative. This style of teaching is not very popular today. That figures, because the teachings of Christ are not very popular, either. We like to use the words of Christ as window dressing, but we are not as enthusiastic about the lessons taught by those words.

Matthew 18:23-25 Therefore the kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. 24 And when he had begun to settle accounts, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. 25 But as he was not able to pay, his master commanded that he be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and that payment be made.

Selling the servant would have been the proper consequences for the offense of not paying the debt. This would be normal in the process of restitution for that day and age.

Notice carefully, this servant was unable to pay. 

In most offenses of believers against believers, the offending believer is not able to make proper and complete restitution. It's pretty hard to take back cutting words, or rebuild a damaged reputation, or restore confidences, etc. There is no way of bringing complete restitution in these situations. Sometimes there is no way of bringing any restitution or reconciliation of any nature.

However far too often, the believer against whom the offense was committed insists that such impossible restitution be accomplished before they will release or forgive the offender. This is a sin, and often of greater magnitude than the original offense. This is a sin that strikes at the very reason Christ died on the cross.

When impossible restitution is demanded, it is an indication that the offended believer does not understand the teaching of the Word of God, or they want to do God's job and hand out the punishment or vengeance themselves. That desire is a state of pure carnality, as bad if not worse than the original offense. This fact cannot be stated too often. Let's read on...

Matthew 18:26-27 The servant therefore fell down before him, saying, "Master, have patience with me, and I will pay you all." 27 Then the master of that servant was moved with compassion, released him, and forgave him the debt.

Notice the evidence of both types of forgiveness. The master was moved with compassion. In this part of the story, Christ is giving us the example of how believers should respond. It is in the same manner in which Christ responded.

This was internal, and was for the well being and benefit of the servant (the one offending), not the master (the one the offense was against). There seems to be no benefit to the master in the internal act. But look again.

His compassion was strengthened and brought into practical everyday living. Believe you me, that is a great benefit. He began to walk his talk. We could stand some of that in Christianity today. Why don't you get in on the ground floor of this tremendous eternal investment and start a buying frenzy of compassion? It has great returns.

Compassion was one of the major evidences of divine life in Christ's ministry. Try it, you might like it! Compassion is a necessity to walking in the Spirit, and especially compassion toward others believers.

1 Peter 3:8-12 Finally, all of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another; love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be courteous; 9 not returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary blessing, knowing that you were called to this, that you may inherit a blessing. 10 For "He who would love life and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips from speaking guile; 11 let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it. 12 For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayers; but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil."

How can we be so blind and callused? We don't have time to take this passage apart in order to get the real deep truths. However, we need to apply the surface truths first, anyway. We are to be of one mind. That one mind is described in vs.8-9. Read the description again. We are not to return evil for evil, instead blessing for evil. If you are not practicing this command of God, you are sinning and living in carnality. What more needs to be said? Last but not least. If you are living by this sinful practice of returning evil for evil, and are not demonstrating compassion, you are not righteous.

1 Peter 3:12 For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayers; but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.

Where is the reality of our Christian life? There is not much evidence of the new birth in our actions. If we didn't have a fish on the rear bumper of our over priced cars, who would know we were one with Christ? If you didn't tell anyone that you were a Christian, would they know by the way you act, speak and think? Would they know we are Christians by the way we show love for one another?

Oh, God help us.  

Wouldn't it be wonderful, if we were taken to court for our faith, and were condemned as a Christian, because they found enough evidence in our living to know we had been with Jesus? Folks! We need a revival among believers. We are so dead, and so callused that the Word of God does not move us. We can listen, read and memorize the Word of God over and over again, yet the truths of the Word of God are so weakly evidenced in our attitudes, speech and actions. We walk away from the teaching of the Word of God, and our lives do not move any closer to holiness.

If your going to heaven or hell depended on a court of law examining the
evidence of your life, where would the judge direct you to go? 

Read on in the passage, if you dare, but remember, "To him that knows to do good and does not do it unto him it is sin".

Matthew 18:26-27 The servant therefore fell down before him, saying, 'Master, have patience with me, and I will pay you all.' 27 "Then the master of that servant was moved with compassion, released him, and forgave him the debt.
Matthew 18:28 "But that (forgiven) servant went out and found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii; and he laid hands on him and took him by the throat, saying, "Pay me what you owe!" 29 So his fellow servant fell down at his feet and begged him, saying, "Have patience with me, and I will pay you all." 30 And he would not, but went and threw him into prison till he should pay the debt. 31 So when his fellow servants saw what had been done, they were very grieved, and came and told their master all that had been done. 32 Then his master, after he had called him, said to him, "You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you begged me. 33 Should you not also have had compassion on your fellow servant, just as I had pity on you?" 34 And his master was angry, and delivered him to the torturers until he should pay all that was due to him. 35 So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses.

By the evidence of your heart and action, do you qualify to be sent to the torturers?

2 Corinthians 2:10-11 Now whom you forgive anything, I also forgive. For if indeed I have forgiven anything, I have forgiven that one for your sakes in the presence of Christ, 11 lest Satan should take advantage of us; for we are not ignorant of his devices.
Advantage (Greek)
Eager to have more, especially what belongs to another; greedy to gain control; to gain or take advantage of another; to overreach into another's affairs, such as to take title or birthright; Gain control.

God's Everlasting Forgiveness

If I refuse to release the believer who has offended me, Satan can and will overreach and control my life. In that state, to one degree or another, I will be the big looser. The very least I will lose is the joy and peace of God. My emotions will be shattered, and my conscience seared. I will very likely, develop physical, social and psychological problems, to say nothing of the greater problem of taking a nose-dive spiritually.

Remember, the joy you had in fellowship with other believers? But then an offense occurred. Because you refused to release or forgive the offender, now when you are in the presence of that person or even think about them, you have no joy at all. That person's offense is now controlling your life and emotions. Sin can dominate our lives in more ways than one. Whether it is personal sin or the sin of another, either way sin is king of the life and controlling all we do, say or think.

As a matter of fact, just thinking about that person gives you a knot in your stomach, looses your train of thought, prevents you from sleeping at night, looses you appetite, etc.

My friend, that is no way to live life, to say nothing of living the Christian life.

More often than not, when I work with Christians who have deep seated emotional problems, I find that the beginnings of those problems are in the unforgiving spirit, and the harboring of bitterness that follows.

Christ, as He hung on the cross, suffered much more bitterly that you and I ever will. Christ looked down the ages and saw you, and knew all of your offenses against Him. Your offenses against Christ were so numerous and great that they nailed Christ to the cross.

Yet for the joy that was set before Him, He endured the cross, despised the shame, and offers you full and free forgiveness from those many awful offenses. Christ says, as a believer you are to do in similar manner for other believers for whom Christ also died.

Will you follow Christ's command? Or will you defiantly tell Christ that you know more than He, and
 do things your own way? Satan felt the same way about it, and he did the same thing. 
Hebrews 12:2-3 Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls.