What about unconfessed trespasses?
Someone asked a question about unconfessed trespasses.
Have you seen a sign on a property saying “No trespassing” or “Trespasses will be prosecuted”? This means that unauthorized people are prohibited from being on the property without the owner’s permission. In this case trespassing is disobeying a prohibition.
The Greek word “paraptoma” (Strongs #3900, which is translated “trespass”, is used in Romans 5:15-20 with regard to “the trespass of the one man” (v.15, 17) and “one trespass” (v.18). It is also described as “the disobedience of the one man” (v.19). Obviously the “one man” was Adam who disobeyed the following command, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die” (Gen. 2:16-17NIV). So disobeying a command is trespassing.
The Bible says that “all wrongdoing is sin” (1 Jn. 5:17). “Wrongdoing” or sin means anything that we think, say or do that the Bible says is wrong.
So trespassing is disobeying a known command, law or rule. Because trespasses are a particular type, kind or subset of sins, all trespasses are sins. So whatever is true for sins as a whole is also true for all trespasses. Therefore the conclusions in my post about unconfessed sins also apply to unconfessed transgressions.
Jesus told His disciples, “If you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins” (Mt. 6:14-15). This refers to parental (conditional or practical) forgiveness that is necessary to maintain fellowship with God the Father. If Christians are unwilling to forgive someone who has wronged them, how can they expect to be in fellowship with their Father who has forgiven all their wrong-doings? Jesus expects His followers to forgive others (Mt. 6:12).
In this case their eternal salvation is not affected because that is based on the judicial (unconditional or positional) forgiveness from the penalty of sin that is obtained by trusting in Christ as their Savior. Before this time we are spiritually dead because of our sins. This means we are unresponsive to God, separated from God and His enemies (Eph. 2:1, 5; 5:10). But after this time our sins and trespasses are forgiven. So judicial forgiveness has eternal consequences.
It is important to distinguish between judicial and parental forgiveness. Because we can’t have fellowship with God as a Father until we become His child, parental forgiveness is impossible without judicial forgiveness. Judicial forgiveness must precede parental forgiveness.
We are to confess to those we have sinned against and to forgive those who confess to us (Lk. 17:3-4; Jas. 5:16). What about those who have not yet confessed to us? In all cases we are to forgive “just as in Christ God forgave you” (Eph. 4:32). This means having a forgiving attitude even if they have not confessed.
How do murder victims’ families ever forgive the murderer? After her husband and two sons were killed in India in 1999, Gladys Stains said, “God enabled me to forgive the killers. Forgiveness allowed the healing to start flowing in my life. Being unwilling to forgive the person who has wronged us in any way, allows bitterness to come into our relationships and we are the ones affected. Forgiveness does not mean that we are free of the consequences of what has happened. Forgiving the murderers of my family has not brought them back, but has given me peace in the midst of sorrow. God gave me the strength to forgive. It was His strength, not mine” (Know your Bible – Celebrate God! Bible Soc. of Australia, 2007).
If forgiving another person takes years, then one’s fellowship with God is broken for those years. This could be caused by bitterness, hate, a victim mentality or vengeance instead of obeying the Biblical command to imitate Christ’s forgiveness. God can give us the power to bear our trials and can provide a way out of them (1 Cor. 10:13).
If a Christian dies with an unresolved trespass this is no longer important because they are forever with the Lord. None of our sins are taken to heaven because “the old (sinful) order of things has passed away” (Rev. 21:4). We are not rejected from heaven for not forgiving someone else.
So unforgiven trespasses are not a barrier to heaven, but they do destroy our relationship with God. It’s our attitude that is important because that is what we are responsible for.
Written, July 2014
Also see: If a Christian dies with unconfessed sin, will they go to heaven?
Thank you for that clear distinction. I had never thought of it that way, only wondered. Your post rings true and makes such sense in the ways of God.
July 6, 2014 at 6:17 am
Luke 17 as you quote shows that there are two types of forgiveness.
As you said if we do not forgive neither will we be forgiven. This is not holding a grudge, this is not treating them as an enemy….
but in Luke 17 it says IF THEY REPENT, this is reconciliation, just as you said our sin separates us from the Father it needs to do so on earth as well to our brethren.
In Thessalonians he says not to treat them as an enemy but not to be intimate so that they are ashamed.
First example: A man did me wrong. This man is an elder of his church. I exhorted him and he did not repent – the Father then gave me an opportunity to show him kindness and he exploded.
People may try this once but cannot handle the explosion and they see them get worse they may even die as Pharaoh did. But why do they explode? Their memory reminds them of the wrong they did, but pride speaking to them lies to them and even makes up lies about us to make them feel better to quiet the Holy Spirit. When we feed them or give them to drink our action witnesses against the lie they said of us and the conscience is then set on fire – thus it says in so doing you will heap burning coals of fire upon their head.
Over and over it says to avoid them, not eat with them, not welcome them
Another example: A homeless man spit in my face. The next day I brought him and his roommate coffee but would not speak to the man. He asked how I was. I told him that is a personal question for a friend and a friend does not spit in a friends face. He said he had the right … I said well let’s go to your church and ask your priest to help me to understand my wrong…
After a while he said “he will agree with you … and I agree with him”. I said can you do me a favor? Can you try and not spit on me again.
We need to be willing to do this 70 X 7 times for it takes time to undo and learn new habits.
A pastor I talked to about lying to this homeless man after a long time finally admitted he lied, but refused to make amends. His excuse was like the lawyer when Jesus gave the good Samaritan story, he said “he is not my brother”. I no longer fellowship with them, but if they need help I will come running.
September 16, 2014 at 2:30 am