Forgiveness and Repentance: Harmonizing God’s Teaching

By Timothy Sparks

God as “the Judge of all the earth” (Gen. 18:25), commands humans to repent or they will be lost (Lk. 13:3, 5). God, being God, can and does dictate that to receive his forgiveness of our sins, humans must repent. God’s forgiveness is conditional. We will receive his forgiveness only if we repent of our sins. God alone has the power to forgive sins (Mk. 2:7, 10). Humans can forgive wrongs committed against them.

Some believe what is true of God’s forgiveness of our sins is also true for us individually. That is, a person who has wronged me must repent in order to receive my forgiveness of the wrong committed. Does God teach us to have this kind of forgiveness? Which kind does God teach: conditional or unconditional forgiveness?

Some believe, based on Lk. 17:3, that when we are wronged, we either cannot forgive or do not have to forgive unless a person repents. Concerning Lk. 17:3, the negative inference fallacy would be to assume: “If he does not repent do not forgive him!” Please see the following research on the negative inference fallacy and address of Lk. 17:3,

Please consider that the Greek word ἀφίημι (aphíēmi) translated “forgive,” means “to send away, leave alone, let go.” We do have the ability to let go of a situation and leave it alone, even if the offender does not repent. Hard, yes. Impossible, no.

Notice God’s teaching concerning forgiveness (Scriptures taken from NKJV, unless otherwise noted):

“And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors” (Mt. 6:12).

“For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Mt. 6:14-15).

“Then Peter came to Him and said, ‘Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?’ Jesus said to him, ‘I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven'” (Mt. 18:21-22; other translations, “77 times”).

“So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses” (Mt. 18:35).

“And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses. But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses” (Mk. 11:25-26).

“Judge not, and you shall not be judged. Condemn not, and you shall not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven” (Lk. 6:37).

“And forgive us our sins; for we also forgive every one that is indebted to us” (Lk. 11:4).

“Take heed to yourselves. If your brother sins against you, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. And if he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times in a day returns to you, saying, ‘I repent,’ you shall forgive him” (Lk. 17:3-4).

Love “thinks no evil” (1 Cor. 13:5) [Footnote: “keeps no accounts of evil”]. Also note the Amplified Bible, Classic Edition (AMPC): “it takes no account of the evil done to it [it pays no attention to a suffered wrong].”

“And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you” (Eph. 4:32).

“Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do” (Col. 3:12-13).

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