FORGIVENESS

"Because Jesus died on the cross, we are all forgiven of every sin."

The forgiveness that is in Jesus Christ is conditional upon "repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ" (Acts 20:21). It is a gift that God offers to everyone, but individuals must receive it by repenting and trusting in Christ, or they will remain dead in their sins. No one has biblical grounds to continue in sin, assuming that they are safe just because Jesus died on the cross. See 1 John 3:4–6.

"God couldn’t forgive my sin."

Those who think they are too sinful for God to accept them don’t understand how merciful God is. The Bible says that He is "rich in mercy" (Ephesians 2:4). The Scriptures also tell us that "the mercy of the LORD is from everlasting to ever-lasting upon them that fear him" (Psalm 103:17). God was merciful to King David and forgave him when he committed adultery and murder. He forgave Moses when he committed murder. He also forgave Saul of Tarsus for murdering Christians (Acts 22:4).

God promises to save "all" who call upon the name of Jesus (Romans 10:13). Those who think this promise isn’t worth the paper it’s written on are calling God a liar (see 1 John 5:10). Jesus shed His precious blood to pay for their sins. Wasn’t it good enough for them? It was good enough for God. God commands them to repent. To offer any excuse is to remain in rebellion to His command—no matter how "noble" it may seem to say that they are too sinful.

"I know I’m a sinner, but I confess my sins to God daily. I tell Him that I’m sorry and I won’t sin again."

If you find yourself in court with a $50,000 fine, will a judge let you go simply because you say you’re sorry and you won’t commit the crime again? Of course not. You should be sorry for breaking the law and, of course, you shouldn’t commit the crime again. But only when someone pays your $50,000 fine will you be free from the demands of the law. God will not forgive a sinner on the basis that he is sorry. Of course we should be sorry for sin—we have a conscience to tell us that adultery, rape, lust, murder, hatred, lying, stealing, etc., are wrong. And of course we shouldn’t sin again.

However, God will only release us from the demands for eternal justice on the basis that someone else paid our fine. Two thousand years ago, Jesus Christ died on the cross to pay for the sins of the world. His words on the cross were, "It is finished!" In other words, the debt has been paid in full. All who repent and trust in Him receive forgiveness of sins. Their case is dismissed on the basis of His suffering death.

"What should I say to someone who acknowledges his sins, but says, ‘I just hope God is forgiving’?"

These people could be referred to as "awakened, but not alarmed." explain that God is forgiving—but only to those who repent of their sins. Ask him, "If you died right now, where would you go?" If he says, "Hell," ask if that concerns him. If it does concern him, ask, "What are you going to do?" Then tell him that God commands him to repent and trust the Savior. If it doesn’t concern him, speak of the value of his life, the threat of eternal damnation, and the biblical description of hell. Caution him that he doesn’t have the promise of tomorrow, and plead with him to come to his senses.

"How can I forgive those who sin against me?"

Everyone has been wronged, offended, and sinned against at some point in life. How are we to respond when such offenses occur? According to the Bible, we are to forgive. Ephesians 4:32 declares, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” Similarly, Colossians 3:13 proclaims, “Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” The key in both Scriptures is that we are to forgive others, as God as forgiven us. Why do we forgive? Because we have been forgiven!

Forgiveness would be simple if we only had to grant it to those who come asking for it in sorrow and repentance. The Bible tells us that we are to forgive those who sin against us, without condition. Refusing to truly forgive a person demonstrates resentment, bitterness, and anger – none of which should be the traits of a Christian. In the Lord's Prayer, we ask God to forgive us our sins, just as we forgive those who sin against us (Matthew 6:12). Jesus said in Matthew 6:14-15, “If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.” In light of other Scriptures that speak of God’s forgiveness, Matthew 6:14-15 is best understood to be saying that people who refuse to forgive others have likely not truly experienced God’s forgiveness themselves.

Whenever we miss the mark by disobeying one of God's commands, we sin against Him. Whenever we wrong another person, we not only sin against them, but also against God. When we take a look at the enormity of God's mercy to forgive us of ALL of our transgressions, we realize that we do not have the right to withhold this grace from others. We have sinned against God infinitely more than any person can sin against us. If God forgives us of so much, how can we refuse to forgive others for so little? Jesus’ parable in Matthew 18:23-35 is a powerful illustration of this truth. God promises that when we come to Him asking for forgiveness, He freely grants it (1 John 1:9). The forgiveness we extend should know no bounds, in the same way that God's forgiveness is limitless (Luke 17:3-4).

"I have committed _____ sin. Will God forgive me?"

Insert whatever sins you have committed into the ______. Yes, God can and will forgive any sin. The doctrine of atonement is what explains salvation and forgiveness of sin. God imputed Christ’s righteousness to those who humbly ask for forgiveness of sin (Isaiah 53:5-6; 2 Corinthians 5:21). He paid the full price for our sin, and believers are forgiven fully for every sin they commit—past, present, and future. There is also daily forgiveness as we confess our sins and forsake them for our sanctification. If you compare any sin to the murder of Jesus, they all pale in comparison, and yet Jesus said “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34).

The concepts of salvation and forgiveness are inextricably linked. Fortunately, God’s grace is sufficient for any and all sins, whatever sin you put in the blank. Receiving forgiveness is up to the individual. That is the first issue; will you receive the salvation (forgiveness of sin) that Christ is offering? If the answer is yes, then you are fully forgiven of all debt of sin (Acts 13:38-39). This forgiveness comes by faith in Jesus and God’s grace alone, not by works or good deeds (Romans 3:20,22). Salvation begins by humbly acknowledging that we will never be good enough to get into heaven on our own merit and that we need forgiveness. Accepting Jesus Christ means believing that His death and resurrection paid the penalty for all sin ever committed and that it is sufficient to cover all sin (2 Corinthians 12:9).

So, if you have received Jesus Christ as your Savior, God has already forgiven all your sins. If you have not, confess your sins to God and He will cleanse you and restore you to fellowship with Him (1 John 1:8-9). Even with forgiveness, though, you may still experience feelings of guilt. Guilt over sin is actually a natural response of our conscience, and it is there to remind us not to repeat sinful patterns. Understanding that Jesus is fully capable of forgiving any measure of sin is the hope of our salvation. Understanding forgiveness is the cure for guilt.

Knowing that forgiveness is really a beautiful, graceful gift from a God who loves us allows us to see how truly wonderful He is. When we contemplate our own sin and how wretched and unworthy of forgiveness we are, it becomes clear that God is loving, compassionate, and worthy of our worship. Our sinful pride about needing forgiveness is what stands between us and a relationship with a caring Savior. But for those who ask for forgiveness, they can believe in faith that Jesus is sufficient and eager to forgive and save them from their sin and ultimately enter into His courts with praise (Psalm 100:4).

"Does the Bible instruct us to forgive and forget?"

The phrase "forgive and forget" is not found in the Bible. However, there are numerous scriptures commanding us to “forgive one another” (Matthew 6:14; Ephesians 4:32). A Christian who does not forgive can reap bitterness and the loss of eternal rewards (Hebrews 12:14-15; 2 John 1:8). Forgiveness is a decision of the will. Since God commands us to forgive, we must make a conscious choice to forgive. This frees the forgiving one from the past. The offender may not desire forgiveness and may not change (Matthew 5:44). Ideally the offender will seek reconciliation, but if not, the one wronged should still make known their decision to forgive.

In some senses, it is impossible to truly forget sins that have been committed against us. We cannot selectively "delete" events from our memory. The Bible states that God does not "remember" our wickedness (Hebrews 8:12). God is all-knowing. God knows that we have “sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). However, having forgiven us, He treats us as if the sin had not occurred. If we belong to Him through faith in Christ, God does not hold our sins against us. In that sense we must "forgive and forget." If we forgive someone, we must act as if that sin had never occurred. We remember the sin, but we live as if we did not remember it. Ephesians 4:32 tells us, "Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you."