Q. What do you think Jesus means in Matthew 6:14-15, when He says that if you will not forgive your brother then neither will your sins be forgiven?
A. Matt. 6:14-15 relates to our two level relationship with God. The first level, that I call Union, is our unconditional salvation given by grace and guaranteed by the Holy Spirit. It involves one decision, to accept the Lord’s death as payment for all of our sins, and takes us through Eternity.
I call the second level Fellowship. It comes after Union, but it’s for the here and now. It’s the basis for our relationship with Him while we’re here on Earth. Fellowship is conditional upon our willingness to seek daily forgiveness for our ongoing sins and to forgive as we’ve been forgiven. Failure to forgive a brother is a sin and interrupts our fellowship with God, endangering the flow of blessings.
Two Parables describe this two level relationship. The Prodigal son never stopped being a member of his father’s family, but while he was off living a life of sin, he was deprived of the blessings of the relationship. As soon as he sought forgiveness the blessings were restored. (Luke 15:11-32)
The Unmerciful Servant refused to forgive a small debt even after he had been forgiven a large one. He didn’t stop being His master’s servant but was turned over to the jailer to be tormented until his debt was repaid. It’s as if God is saying, “I forgave you everything, just because you asked. Now you must forgive each other. If you refuse, you’ll be giving the enemy an opening to torment you until you do it.” (Matt. 18:23-34)
In both cases the underlying relationship was unchanged. The Prodigal was still his father’s son and the Unmerciful Servant was still his master’s servant. But the benefits of the relationship were suspended during the period of unforgiveness. For the Prodigal it was until he sought forgiveness and for the Unmerciful Servant it was until he granted it.
So it is with us. Through out all we remain saved, but we must both seek and extend forgiveness to receive the full benefit of our relationship with God.