We are looking at Ephesians and Colossians for their teaching on forgiveness. Two verses remain, in these books, that we must treat, Ephesians 4.32 and Colossians 3.13. The goal, as consistently in these studies, is to see the impact of these ideas on our thought about and practice of the Lord’s Supper.
Both verses occur in context of the community. While the passages do not address the Supper, the teaching on forgiveness is significant. Jesus’ pronouncement over the cup in the Supper included the declaration that the cup represented “my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins” (Matt 26.27–28 ESV). The two verses address the implications of forgiveness. We saw in the last posts that we have the forgiveness of all of our sins. If this is true, what difference does this make to the Supper?
In thinking about forgiveness, we tend to think in individualistic terms, but Paul applies it communally. If I am forgiven, I am called to forgive others. Both of our focus verses make this point, even giving us the measure of forgiveness: “as God in Christ forgave you” (Eph 4.32), and “as the Lord has forgiven you” (Col 3.13).
The verses teach two things about forgiveness. First, God has forgiven us in His benevolence and compassion. No sin was too great for Him to forgive, including Paul’s great sin of self-righteousness which led him to persecute the church (1 Cor 15.9; cp. Eph 3.8). Second, no matter the wrong done, no offense can be so great that we cannot forgive others in the Body of Christ. To be sure, Ephesians 4.32 is part of Paul’s exposition of the worthy walk that he introduced in 4.1. Forgiveness is one of the ways that we show diligence “to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph 4.3 NASB). Thus, as Colossians makes clear, no matter where blame lies, no matter how great the blame, our status as God’s chosen, holy, and beloved ones calls us in compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience to forgive one another, by the measure of the forgiveness we have received from God.
From these verses we learn two things. These ideas make the Supper our occasion to deal with community strife and to demonstrate the nature of the family to which we belong. Since the Supper is a shared meal, it is the time when we express acceptance of one another, but there can be no acceptance in the Body of Christ where forgiveness is not expressed. To eat without forgiveness to one another is to violate the very nature of the Supper of our own forgiveness. Further, as we pointed out in the preceding paragraph, the family likeness of God expresses itself not in condemnation but in humility, meekness, compassion, kindness, and benevolence. If the Supper is a family meal, it is the meal that expresses and calls us to express the likeness to our Father and Savior. There is no room nor is there any ground for claiming, “I just can’t forgive them for what they did.” God has; we cannot be more righteous than God.