Matthew 6:12 And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.

Luke 11:4a And forgive us our sins; for we also forgive every one that is indebted to us . . . .

Psalm 130:3 If thou, LORD, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand?

4 But there is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared.

I John 1:9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

2:1 My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous:

2 And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.

Luke 18:13 And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner.

14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.

Matthew 5:3 Blessed are the poor in spirit: for their’s is the kingdom of heaven.

4 Blessed are they that mourn; for they shall be comforted.

7 Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.


MEMORY VERSE: In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace. —Ephesians 1:7


CENTRAL THOUGHT: Jesus is teaching us to have a recognition of the great, unpayable debt we owe to God; that if it were not for His grace—unmerited favor—we would be hopelessly lost. Rather than teaching us to continue in sin, these Scriptures instruct us to keep a contrite and humble heart about our constant need for God’s help to keep us from sin, thereby preventing us from prideful self-righteousness. If we do fall into sin, we are offered HOPE of returning to God for pardon and cleansing.




Matthew 6:12 “debts”: That which is just or legally due; offense; sin. The result of having a debt, focusing on the after-effect of an obligation.

Luke 11:4 “sin”: Missing the mark; failure; forfeiture because of missing the mark. “forgive”: to send away; release; discharge.

Psalm 130:3 “mark”: Keep; preserve.

Verse 4 “forgiveness”: Abundant forgiveness; pardon

I John 2:1 “Advocate”: a legal advocate who makes the right judgment call because he is close to the situation; advisor; helper; Paraclete (Greek—to call + close beside).

Verse 2 “propitiation”: atoning sacrifice; especially Christ’s blood that appeases God’s wrath on all confessed sin.

Luke 18:13 “Publican”: a public tax collector, gathering taxes from the Jews for the Romans.

Luke 18:14 “justified”: approved; declared righteous.

Matthew 5:3 “poor in spirit”: destitute; spiritually helpless.

Matthew 5:4 “mourn”: lament; grieve. “comforted”: to call to or for; invite; encourage; to call close beside.



The backdrop for this teaching, and other teachings by Jesus on forgiveness, is the legalistic, austere, forbidding atmosphere permeating the Pharisees’ religious system. Jesus is judging this attitude. In the parables “The Unmerciful Servant” (Matthew 18:21-35); “The Two Debtors” (Luke 7:40-43); “The Prodigal Son” (Luke 15:11-32); and “The Pharisee and the Publican” (Luke 18:9-14); Jesus clearly shows the humble, contrite attitude of heart which is pleasing to God, vs. the haughty, self-righteous, unrepentant, unmerciful disposition, which is a stench to God.

In the Old Testament, David recognized the requirement of a humble assessment of one’s need for God’s forgiveness and a hope in His mercy.

The apostle Paul, in his writings, constantly reaffirmed his unworthiness, his renunciation of his former self-righteous ways (he referred to them, essentially, as garbage), and his gratitude for God’s forgiveness.

John the Apostle offers great hope for those who will be honest and repentant of their sins.

—Sis. Angela Gellenbeck



1. Recognizing the problem: What are some of the dangers of Pharisee spirit and doctrine?

2. Revealing a solution: Discuss the balance of keeping a humble attitude about one’s self, a compassionate view toward those who fail, and a vigilant watchfulness against sin.



At first glance, we might think that our Lord is teaching a daily repentance for daily sin. Looking more closely and applying the balance of Scriptural teaching, I believe we will find that it is an attitude of godly sorrow that He is portraying. This is the way we live close to the cross—constantly sensing and mourning our unworthiness, helplessness, human weakness and limited vision and judgment. Our total inability to meet God’s demands or pay the debt we owe for His free gift of life, salvation, and heaven. How would we appropriate God’s grace, if we felt we were capable; we had “arrived”; or were no longer needing God’s grace and mercy, but were now living with God’s approval and blessings (because our obedience “deserved” them)?

This is one of the greatest dangers to “holiness” people! I’ve actually heard people talk like this. It’s true that many people today are scornful of right living and make light of God’s promise of special blessings for obedience—that’s a slippery slide down the opposite side, and we’re not going there. But self-righteousness is ugly. All humans are prone to it, and especially religious people.
Maintaining a sober estimate of ourselves and our needs will also give us a compassionate heart toward others. We will then be tender and broken enough to pray the remainder of this prayer from the heart, “As we forgive. . . ”

—Sis. Angela Gellenbeck



I would like to share a comment on Matthew 6:12, by Adam Clarke, that is very thought provoking:

“Sin is represented here under the notion of a debt, and as our sins are many, they are called debts. Man has nothing to pay: if his debts are not forgiven, they must stand charged against him forever, as he is absolutely insolvent. Forgiveness, therefore, must come from the free mercy of God in Christ! And how strange is it we cannot have the old debt cancelled, without (by that very means) contracting a new one, as great as the old! But the credit is transferred from Justice to Mercy. While sinners, we are in debt to infinite Justice; when pardoned, in debt to endless Mercy: and as a continuance in a state of grace necessarily implies a continual communication of mercy, so the debt goes on ad infinitum. Strange economy in the Divine procedure, which by rendering a man an infinite debtor, keeps him eternally dependent on his creator! How good is God! And what does this state of dependence imply? A union with, and participation of, the fountain of eternal goodness and felicity!”

In closing, I’m reminded of part of a song that says, “I owed a debt I could not pay; He paid a debt He did not owe.”

Thank God for sending His dear Son to die for us.

—Bro. James Bell