Concerning Jesus, the apostle Paul writes, "In Him we have redemption
through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace"
(Eph. 1:7). It is evident from this passage, as well as numerous others, that
Jesus Christ has provided forgiveness of sins through sacrificing Himself on
the cross. However, as we consider the subject
of forgiveness, there are some important points that must be raised with regard to the very nature of forgiveness. The New Testament Scriptures furnish us with a good understanding of the nature of forgiveness in relationship between men, and in relationship between God and man. The Bible teaches that:
1. Forgiveness Is Conditional In Our Relationship With God: -- As previously noted, the sacrifice of Christ provides forgiveness of sins. The apostle John writes, "My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: and He is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world" (1 Jno. 2:1,2). While it is true that Jesus died for the whole world, not everyone in the world will receive forgiveness of sins, due to the fact that forgiveness is conditional. Jesus said, "For if ye believe not that I am He, ye shall die in your sins" (Jno. 8: 24), and, "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned" (Mk. 16:16). God is willing to forgive us (2 Pet. 3:9), but He will not forgive anyone who has not met the conditions of forgiveness. Once we obey the gospel, then we have met the conditions of forgiveness, for Peter said, "Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit" (Acts 2:38). Forgiveness from the Lord remains on a conditional basis for Christians as well. John writes, "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1 Jno. 1:9). Even after we have obeyed the gospel we must meet the Lord's conditions for forgiveness when we sin if we expect to be forgiven of that sin.
2. Forgiveness Is Conditional In Our Relationship With Others: -- The Scriptures also give us some guidelines concerning the nature of forgiveness between two or more individuals. Of course, we can choose to unconditionally forgive anyone who has wronged us at any time. Stephen displayed this attitude while he was being murdered as he looked to heaven and said concerning his murderers, "Lord, lay not this sin to their charge" (Acts 7:60). However, the Lord does not demand that we unconditionally forgive anyone. Jesus said, "Take heed to yourselves: If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him. And if he trespass against thee seven times in a day, and seven times in a day turn again to thee, saying, 'I repent;' thou shalt forgive him" (Lk. 17:3,4). Clearly, Jesus teaches us that there are conditions for forgiveness between two individuals. As Christians, we are taught to encourage a brother to repent when he sins against us. If he repents, then he has met the conditions for forgiveness, and we are required by the Lord to forgive him. The wisdom of the Lord is seen here, since rebuking such a brother may bring about his salvation as he sees his error and repents. If we were to bestow unconditional forgiveness upon everyone who sins against us, then we would be doing nothing toward the salvation of the souls of those individuals.
3. We Must Be Willing To Forgive Others, Or God Will Not Forgive us: -- While it is true that we are not bound to forgive others until they repent of their sin, we must be of a willing heart to forgive them once they do repent. Jesus said, "And when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have ought against any: that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses. But if ye do not forgive, neither will your Father which is in heaven forgive your trespasses" (Mk. 11:25,26). If we withhold forgiveness from someone who has repented, then we will be guilty of sin ourselves. There is a direct relationship between our willingness to forgive others and God's willingness to forgive us. Jesus made this clear as He said, "For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; but if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses" (Matt. 6: 14,15).
Conclusion: -- "Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven" (Lk. 6:37). Are you willing to forgive?
By David Dann in Truth Magazine, Vol. 50, No. 7, April 6, 2006.
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