Have you ever walked away from a conversation constantly replaying everything that was said, wishing you had more time to clearly articulate your point. This happens to me more than I would like to admit. In my sermon last Sunday, I preached on the 4th petition of the Lord’s Prayer, “and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.”
I want to share with you something meaningful from of my preparation for the message that I ultimately did not include in the sermon due to time limitations and a concern about it being a little too technical. This is where I can get a little “geeky on the Greeky.” The Greek word that caught my attention was aphes, meaning “to forgive.”
Within this petition in Matthew 6:12, the word aphes appears twice in two different active moods: the imperative and the indicative mood. The indicative and imperative moods are both significant in New Testament Greek because they both indicate action. However, most of the time the imperative statements are used when referring to what we should do in response to God’s word. The indicative statements are usually used when discussing what God has done, is doing or will do.
The relationship between these two moods, as they are typically used in the New Testament, is significant because it implies something about our sanctification. Namely, what God commands us to do (the imperative) is based upon what he has done, is doing, or will do (the indicatives). Scripture is signifying by this consistent verbal pattern that sanctification depends on God, but involves human volition and cooperation.
Now regarding to the Lord’s Prayer: the moods of the verb aphes, “to forgive,” are flipped from the typical order in which they are used in the New Testament. The first time we see the word, “to forgive” is in the imperative mood, or the form of a command. Jesus says ”forgive our debts” to God, directing the Father to forgive our sins. The second time the word is in the indicative mood, stating with certainty that forgiveness has already occurred toward others.
Forgiveness is such an important theme that Matthew uses the indicative mood (the mood communicating certainty) to say that if your heart is never opened to others by extending them forgiveness, then your heart will never be open to receiving forgiveness from God. This is why Jesus prays, ”Forgive our debts as we have forgiven our debtors.” Or to put it another way—if you never extend grace to others it is an indication you will never be able to receive grace from God.
Forgiven people forgive.