“As we forgive our debtors”

There has been much ink spilt over the interpretation of the fifth petition of the Lord’s Prayer: “Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors” (Matthew’s version). I don’t know off hand what the Greek wording is, but I have often wondered if Jesus doesn’t simply mean this: “Forgive us our debts [in the same way] that we forgive our debtors.” That word “as” can mean many things. When you take it the traditional way, it always sounds as though Jesus is making God’s forgiveness conditional on our forgiveness of others. If you take it to mean “in the same way that” then it clears that up.

Just thinking out loud on a Monday morning. I could be wrong.


About Rev. Paul L. Beisel

Graduate of Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, IN in 2001 (M Div.) and 2004 (S.T.M.); LC-MS Pastor and Adjunct Instructor for John Wood Community College; Husband of Amy and father of Susan, Elizabeth, Martin, and Theodore.
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4 Responses to “As we forgive our debtors”

  1. Large Catechism, Lord’s Prayer, 93-95: “But there is here attached a necessary, yet consolatory addition: As we forgive. He has promised that we shall be sure that everything is forgiven and pardoned, yet in the manner that we also forgive our neighbor. For just as we daily sin much against God, and yet He forgives everything through grace, so we, too, must ever forgive our neighbor who does us injury, violence, and wrong, shows malice toward us, etc. If, therefore, you do not forgive, then do not think that God forgives you; but if you forgive, you have this consolation and assurance, that you are forgiven in heaven, not on account of your forgiving, for God forgives freely and without condition, out of pure grace, because He has so promised, as the Gospel teaches, but in order that He may set this up for our confirmation and assurance for a sign alongside of the promise which accords with this prayer, Luke 6:37: Forgive, and ye shall be forgiven. Therefore Christ also repeats it soon after the Lord’s Prayer, and says, Matt. 6:14: For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, etc.”

  2. Rev. Paul L. Beisel says:

    Well, there you have it. That’ll teach me to shoot from the hip on my blog. 🙂 Thanks Dr. Heidenreich.

  3. You’re welcome. Here is more from the Apology, Article III: Of Love and the Fulfilling of the Law, ¶143 [Bente]:

    “For wherever a promise is, there faith is required. For a promise cannot be received unless by faith. [The same answer must also be given in reference to the passage from the Gospel: Forgive, and you will be forgiven. For this is just such a doctrine of repentance. The first part in this passage demands amendment of life and good works, the other part adds the promise. Nor are we to infer from this that our forgiving merits for us ex opere operato remission of sin. For that is not what Christ says, but as in other sacraments Christ has attached the promise to an external sign, so He attaches the promise of the forgiveness of sin in this place to external good works. And as in the Lord’s Supper we do not obtain forgiveness of sin without faith, ex opere operato, so neither in this action, when we forgive. For, our forgiving is not a good work, except it is performed by a person whose sins have been previously forgiven by God in Christ. If, therefore, our forgiving is to please God, it must follow after the forgiveness which God extends to us. For, as a rule, Christ combines these two, the Law and the Gospel, both faith and good works, in order to indicate that, where good works do not follow, there is no faith either, that we may have external marks, which remind us of the Gospel and the forgiveness of sin, for our comfort, and that thus our faith may be exercised in many ways. In this manner we are to understand such passages, otherwise they would directly contradict the entire Gospel, and our beggarly works would be put in the place of Christ, who alone is to be the propitiation, which no man is by any means to despise. Again, if these passages were to be understood as relating to works, the remission of sins would be quite uncertain; for it would rest on a poor foundation, on our miserable works.]”

  4. NOTA BENE: Due to the brackets in the Apology text I quoted above from the English of the Triglotta, I did some research into all the other editions. Interestingly, this helpful text from the Apology is entirely omitted in the McCain edition. It isn’t in Tappert either. It appears in the German of the Triglotta, but not the Latin. It is present in the German Bekenntnischriften as well, but not in its accompanying Latin. With some difficulty, I found it on page 162 of Kolb/Wengert, with notes about the quarto and octavo editions that didn’t really help. So, finally, I searched the actual 1580 BOC images available at Lutheranlegacy.org. It is present in the 1580 BOC it in its entirety on page 55 (image 132). So, it’s official. 😉

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