The word forgiveness has been described as the most beautiful word in any language.

There is no doubt forgiveness is love in action. The need for forgiveness is just as great today as it has ever been. Jesus, in the model prayer (Matthew 6:9-15), shows that forgiveness is as great as the need for daily bread. Actually, forgiveness and daily bread are placed side by side by the Lord (Matthew 6:11, 12).

Alexander Pope said, “To err is human, to forgive is divine.” There is no doubt that God stands ready to forgive man. To be like God, we must stand ready to forgive others who sin against us Matthew 6:14).

 The word forgiveness is far-reaching. Forgiveness has to do with human relations, which involve the destiny of the soul of man. Jesus taught that God would not forgive our sins if we were unwilling to forgive others theirs (Matthew 6:15). The truth is no unforgiving person can be saved regardless of how many good works he has done. Jesus warned against and showed the seriousness of giving offense (Matthew 18:1-14).

Then, in verses 15-17, he taught how to act when offenses come our way. It is clear that neither the offended nor the offender is to wait for the other to make the first move. Both must be willing to take the necessary steps to bring about reconciliation in order that both might be saved. It is important to see that God will not accept our worship unless we are reconciled to our brother (Matthew 5:23-26).

 In this article, we want to consider what the Bible says about forgiveness.

 THE BIBLE TEACHES ALL NEED FORGIVENESS BECAUSE ALL HAVE SINNED – ROMANS 3:10, 23

Because sin is widespread, a study of forgiveness is important. It is important because each accountable person is guilty of sin. Our world is not any different today than it was when Paul wrote what he did in Romans 1:18-32. Three times Paul says, “God gave them up.” In verse 24, we see that He gave them up to uncleanness and lusts of their own hearts, which resulted in their dishonoring their own bodies. In verse 26, He gave them up to vile affections. Then in verse 28, He gave them up because they did not want to retain God in their knowledge.

In 1 Corinthians 9:26, 27 Paul taught that we are responsible for our own actions. Having seen this, we must realize that not only are we to recognize our sinful condition, but also the need forgiveness. Jesus taught that we are to pray, recognizing our own weaknesses, which should lead us to be merciful to others (Matthew 6:12, 13). He further taught concerning the need to cast the beam out of our own eye before we seek to cast the mote out of another’s eye (Matthew 7:1-5).

We must be very careful about our attitude toward the sins committed by others (Galatians 6:1). None of us has any reason to be haughty or proud (John 8:7). We all stand in need of God’s mercy (Romans 11:32). We are all saved by the grace of God, which is an act of His mercy (Ephesians 2:8, 9). None of us are good enough to be saved apart from God’s grace (Titus 2:11; 3:5). Although we are to “work out our salvation” (Philippians 2:12), note one of us can earn our salvation. The truth is, after we have done all that we can, we are still unprofitable servants Luke 17:10). No one can be saved without obeying the gospel (2 Thessalonians 1:7-9).

THE BIBLE TEACHES THAT WE MUST FORGIVE OUR ENEMIES MATTHEW 5:43-48

Most people have enemies.  This prompts the question of how are we to act toward them? For which we find the answer in Romans 12:20, 21. We further find the answer in a study of the life of Jesus. Once we settle this question, we then come to the realization that we are to do likewise. Someone says, “Well, you just don’t know what they have done.” That may well be true. I probably do not know what they have done. However, I do know, they did not nail you to a cross.

THE BIBLE TEACHES THAT FORGIVENESS IS SHOWING MERCY, AND MERCY IS ONE OF THE WEIGHTIER MATTERS OF THE LAW – MATTHEW 23:23

God is merciful, and we must see the necessity of our being merciful like Him (Luke 6:36). It can truthfully be said, that God is full of mercy and compassion. To be like God, we must show mercy in our dealings with our fellowman (Proverbs 21:21; Hosea 4:1).

Mercy is one of the basic requirements of God, and the merciful will be blessed (Matthew 5:7). Every Christian is to put on mercy and wear it a lifetime (Colossians 3:12, 13). Every Christian is to show mercy to his fellow man while at the same time striving to strengthen his own life. 

THE BIBLE TEACHES HOW OFTEN ONE SHOULD FORGIVE ANOTHER – MATTHEW 18:21

In this passage, Peter recognized that he was under obligation to forgive his brother. In doing this, he wanted to know how many times he was obligated to do so.  To which we see that he was to forgive as often as a brother repents. It is important to understand that the idea of forgiving another without that person seeking forgiveness is contrary to the Bible (Luke 17:3, 4). God only forgives those who repent (Luke 13:3; Acts 17:30; 2 Peter 3:9). Since we cannot possibly be more forgiving than God can, it would then be impossible for us to forgive unless another sought such (Job 4:17; 35:2).God forgives us as often as we repent and confess our sins (Acts 8:22). 

THE BIBLE TEACHES IT IS EASY FOR US TO SEE THE SINS OF OTHERS – 2 SAMUEL 11:1-12:1-6

It was easy for David to see the sin of the rich man in the story told him by Nathan. Yet he had great difficulty seeing his own sins of adultery and murder. Had this not been the case, God would not have sent Nathan to David.

The Pharisee had no problem in seeing the sins of the publican, but had great difficulty in seeing his own sins (Luke 18:10, 11). So long as we cannot see our own condition, we will find it difficult to forgive others. Once we see our own condition, along with the need for our forgiveness, we will be more forgiving.

THE BIBLE TEACHES THERE IS NO LIMITS TO HOW MANY TIMES WE ARE TO FORGIVE – MATTHEW 18:22

Here Jesus used a definite number for an indefinite one. Our attitude must be, “I will forgive as often as you repent.” Christians are not to keep record of how many times they have forgiven others so that when they reach a certain number they will no longer forgive. Christians have no right to seek revenge on another no matter how many times he has sinned against us.

It must be remembered that there is no limit to the number of times that God will forgive us. God will forgive no matter how many times we sin against Him, if we repent and obey His commands. God stands ready to forgive His wayward children and to welcome them back as illustrated by the parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32). When we forgive another, we are to regard him as free from guilt. As we have already seen, there is no forgiveness extended unless one repents.

THE BIBLE TEACHES THE PROPER SPIRIT IN REGARD TO FORGIVENESS

Jesus showed the spirit of forgiveness to those who nailed him to the cross (Luke 23:24). Those who were guilty of murdering Jesus (even those who did so out of ignorance) were still guilty after Jesus prayed for them (Acts 2:23). Jesus’ prayer was not answered until those guilty of his murder repented of their sins and were baptized (Acts 2:37, 38).

Stephen indicated the proper attitude relative to those who sin against us (Acts 7:60). It must be kept in mind, that even though he prayed as he did, they were bound to repent of this sin in order for them to receive forgiveness.

CONCLUSION

The forgiveness that we receive from the Lord is true forgiveness (Hebrews 10:17).When God forgives He treats people as if they had never sinned. The remembrance here is in relation to punishment. It is incorrect to say that God forgets the sins of man with the common view of forgetting in mind. The reason I say that is clearly seen within the Bible. How do we know Adam sinned? How about Moses? What of David? The Bible tells us of those who sinned. Therefore, God did not forget with the common use of the word in mind, He forgave and holds no desire to punish those whom He has forgiven.

 Are we like God when it comes to one who has sinned against us and has repented? Do we treat them as one who never sinned against us?

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