To understand Mark 11:26 or the ‘Lord’s Prayer,’ in Matthew 6:9-15, we need to understand the context in which it was given. Jesus was speaking to His disciples while still under the Old Covenant, and He was teaching them to pray before He had ascended into heaven and poured out the Holy Spirit, and before the new birth was possible.
To the Jewish mind, forgiveness was understood to revolve around a system of sacrifices and law keeping. It had nothing to do with the condition of the heart. Jesus referred to this in Matthew, chapter 5 when he spoke about adultery vs. lust, and murder vs. hate. His point was to reveal that men were incapable of keeping the Law, and that the Law would never make one righteous. The heart of man was the problem. Thus, under the law forgiving others was also impossible because the heart of the offended person had not been changed.
Jesus was revealing the impossibility of keeping the law. If we can’t be forgiven unless we forgive, then who can be forgiven? How do you know that you have fully forgiven all who have offended you? What if there is some lingering unforgiveness that you haven’t recognized, or that you have chosen to ignore? Can you not be forgiven by God?
In the revelation of the gospel given to Paul these things are explained. In Colossians 3:13, we find Paul revealing how we have been equipped to forgive. It basically says exactly the opposite of what Jesus was teaching.
Col 3:13 Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.
Paul is showing that unless we have been forgiven and have experienced the transforming power of forgiveness (the new birth), we are unable to forgive others. But once we are forgiven, a new creation, and the love of God has been shed abroad in our hearts, we are now able to forgive others. He forgave us first!! Now we are able to truly forgive others.
Do you see the difference? Jesus was showing that there could be no forgiveness under the law unless forgiveness was given to others from the heart. It was a heart issue, and all men’s hearts were corrupt. It isn’t just murder that is wrong, but hate. It isn’t just fornication that is wrong, but lust. The heart is the problem. And before Jesus’ redemptive work on the cross there was no hope to fulfill such requirements.
Therefore we see that without a sacrifice for our sins, and without faith in that Sacrifice (Jesus), there is no hope for anyone. Only in Christ are we equipped to forgive others, because we have been forgiven. Under the law you had to obey every jot and tittle – and Jesus even made it more stringent by speaking of heart issues – in order ‘to be saved.’ No man is able to do it. But under the grace of His redemption, God does it first! Then He asks us to forgive others as He has forgiven us.
Praise God that, “… we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace;” (Eph 1:7)
Before we are born again, we are incapable of forgiving others from the heart. Our heart is darkened and corrupt. But after we have been forgiven and born again, the love of God in our transformed heart is now able to forgive. Mark 11:26 states that we cannot be forgiven if we don’t forgive, but the New Covenant reveals that He forgives us first, and now we are now able to forgive others.
Eph 4:32 And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.