Summary: Part 10 in a sermon series on the Lord Prayer from Luke 11 & Matthew 6. I gleaned a lot of material from John MacArthur commentary on Matthew.
Intro. – In prayer, we are to be occupied with the Father’s pardon. When we preach the gospel to those who are outside the kingdom of God, we do not say to the unsaved, "If you promise to forgive, you will be forgiven." We preach an unconditional salvation. We preach the gospel of the grace of God. Grace is unmerited favor; it is getting something that we don’t deserve. We preach salvation full and free.
However, once a person is in the kingdom of God’s dear Son, has received God’s grace, has become a child of God, is indwelt by the Spirit of God, is baptized into the mystical body of Christ, and has become an heir of heaven and a joint heir with Jesus Christ, much more is expected of him.
The Lord taught the principle that mercy must beget mercy. Mercy received must be mercy reproduced. How can we logically, consistently, or morally ask God to forgive us if we ourselves are harboring an unforgiving spirit?
Those who are part of the family of God cannot expect to receive forgiveness themselves while they are harboring an unforgiving spirit toward someone else. We must exhibit the spirit of Christ.
This is the prayer not of a sinner, but of a saint. The prayer of a sinner begins and ends with "God be merciful to me a sinner" (Luke 18:13). His cry is a plea for pardon from an offended God, a plea for judicial forgiveness. In Matthew 6:12 the plea is that of a child of God who has grieved his heavenly Father by some wrong attitude, thought, word, or deed and needs parental forgiveness.
This portion of the Lord’s prayer can be outlined in this way:
I. The Problem - Sin
A. Sin is that which separates man from God, and is therefore man’s greatest enemy and greatest problem. Sin dominates the mind and heart of man. It has contaminated every human being and is the degenerative power that makes man susceptible to disease, illness, and every conceivable form of evil and unhappiness, temporal and eternal.
B. The ultimate effects of sin are death and damnation, and the present effects are misery, dissatisfaction, and guilt.
C. Sin is the common denominator of every crime, every theft, lie, murder, immorality, sickness, pain, and sorrow of mankind. It is also the moral and spiritual disease for which man has no cure. The natural man does not want his sin cured, because he loves darkness rather than light (John 3:19).
D. Sin is the one thing that will short circuit prayer. We can stand on the promises but if there is unforgiven sin then we will not realize the full reality of those promises until sin is dealt with and forgiven by a gracious God. So the Lord included in this model prayer for us the idea that it is necessary to ask God’s forgiveness for our sins on a daily basis.
E. Those who trust in the Lord Jesus Christ have received God’s pardon for sin and are saved from eternal hell. And since, as we have seen, this prayer is given to believers, the debts referred to here are those incurred by Christians when they sin. Immeasurably more important than our need for daily bread is our need for continual forgiveness of sin.
F. Illustration – Arthur W. Pink writes in An Exposition of the Sermon on the Mount (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1974), pp. 163-64:
As it is contrary to the holiness of God, sin is defilement, a dishonor, and a reproach to us as it is a violation of His law. It is a crime, and as to the guilt which we contact thereby, it is a debt.
As creatures we owe a debt of obedience unto our maker and governor, and through failure to render the same on account of our rank disobedience, we have incurred a debt of punishment; and it is for this that we implore a divine pardon.
II. The Provision – Forgiveness
A. Because man’s greatest problem is sin, his greatest need is forgiveness—and that is what God provides.
B. Forgiveness is the central theme of this entire passage (vs. 9-15), being mentioned six times in eight verses. Everything leads to or issues from forgiveness:
1. Believers have experienced once-for-all God’s judicial forgiveness, which they received the moment Christ was trusted as Savior. We are no longer condemned, no longer under judgment, no longer destined for hell (Rom. 8:1). The eternal Judge has declared us pardoned, justified, righteous.
2. But because we still fall into sin, we frequently require God’s gracious forgiveness, His forgiveness not now as Judge but as Father. “If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us,” John warns believers. But, he goes on to assure us, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:8-9).