Louisville— Extending forgiveness reflects the heart of the gospel, said Kentucky Baptist leader Paul Chitwood during a Feb. 11 chapel service at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
“There is no way that the gospel is put on more beautiful and powerful display than when a believer is able, willing, and ready to extend the forgiveness that we have received,” said Chitwood, executive-director treasurer of the Kentucky Baptist Convention. “Genuine forgiveness is a shocking display of the truth of the gospel.”
Preaching from Matthew 18:33, Chitwood’s message, “The Gospel Mandate of Mercy,” offered a remedy for the pastor’s “common cold” of bitterness. In understanding the miracle of mercy and forgiveness offered to every person through Jesus, Christians are able to extend amazing mercy and forgiveness to others.
Chitwood’s experience in pastoral counseling immersed him in the reality that offering forgiveness is one of the “most profound struggles that human beings face.”
“More often than not, the root issue that was exposed during pastoral counseling was a root of bitterness that was growing within the soul,” he said. “And like gangrene, the infection was overtaking every relationship and every sphere of that person’s life. Sadly it’s an ailment as prevalent as the common cold even in the church. If we will be faithful gospel physicians, we must be prepared to diagnose this condition and to apply the balm of the gospel.”
Chitwood has witnessed the gospel revealed through forgiveness within his family. After decades of pain and heartache, Chitwood’s mother-in-law extended seemingly undeserved mercy and forgiveness to her ex-husband in such a way that he could not deny the gospel.
“(In the passage), Peter wants to know how much forgiveness we should extend,” he said. “Jesus through the parable causes Peter to think first about the forgiveness he has received, and we should do the same. And as we teach others about how to be reconciled to one another in light of the gospel, we should point them first to the cross where their debts have been paid; where our debts have been paid.”
Chitwood extended a challenge to Southern students, recognizing that many of them are called to be ministers, pastors, and missionaries fulfilling the Great Commission.
“How can we be faithful gospel physicians, when it comes to teaching the truth of the gospel? It goes beyond the forgiveness that we have received to the forgiveness that we must extend,” he said. “Reconciliation is God’s way of showing the gospel to a world in desperate need of the gospel.”
Chitwood, a former Southern assistant professor of evangelism and church growth, received the Distinguished Alumnus of the Year Award at the seminary’s June 17, 2015, alumni luncheon during the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) in Columbus, Ohio. Under Chitwood’s leadership, KBC churches have experienced at least a 25,000 member increase each year since 2012.
Audio and video of Chitwood’s chapel sermon is available at sbts.edu/resources. (SBTS)