Forgiveness: Can We Forgive Without Repentance?
By Pastor David Ickes
Forgiveness is a doctrine of the Bible which even lost people acknowledge. Religious and non-religious people speak of the need for forgiving. While it is great that all people recognize this fact, it is also true that a worldly interpretation of what forgiveness is and how it is to be given has crept into the minds of the Christian church. What is commonly taught by the lost and saved alike is nothing more than a slight twisting of the truth. However slight the twist, it is still twisted. Also, the slighter the twist the more subtle it is (see Gen 3). This philosophy has crept into the church and is the cause of so much unforgiven sin in it that it is no wonder that there are so many church splits and apostasy within the body of Christ.
What is this philosophy? It is the idea that one is able to forgive another person even if that other person has not asked for forgiveness or wanted forgiveness. I have been called all sorts of sordid names for pointing this fact out. However, I am still waiting for the Biblical evidence to counter what you are going to learn in this thesis. I am going to show from the scriptures that forgiveness is only received upon repentance or upon asking for it on the part of the guilty party. The idea that we can confer forgiveness upon another without that person repenting is foreign to the Bible no matter how many nice, upstanding pastors, teachers and Christians alike say otherwise. This note is not intended as a rebuke to the false teachers of this philosophy, but is an extended hand to those who are willing to know the truth as laid out in the scripture.
I must point out that the philosophy regarding this subject (i.e. that we must forgive everyone without communicating the need for that forgiveness) is certainly built upon good intentions. The idea that the Christian is always to be ready to forgive is true. HOW to forgive is what this thesis is about. Therefore, my motive is to instruct the Christian about what Biblical forgiveness is, in order that friendships are restored and that sin is eradicated between brethren in the various local churches. If feelings are hurt in my attempt to instruct the reader, then I must say that I have no control over that. One must overcome feelings and line up with the scriptures in order to line up with God himself. Of course, I will admit that I am open to being corrected on this myself. That is another reason that this thesis is being written- so that I may be corrected or that this common philosophy be corrected once and for all.
I have examined every verse in the Bible that uses the word forgive and its various forms.
The word appears 112 times in the scripture in 98 verses. The word is used basically in three ways. First it is used as an explicit description of the mechanics or how-to of forgiveness. Next, it is used in asking that someone else be forgiven, yet without explaining whether or not forgiveness was ever gotten. Finally, it is mentioned in general without any specific details given. Obviously, the most important verses for this subject would be the ones that describe forgiveness and the mechanics of giving and getting forgiveness.
Now let us dive into the Book (KJV) and see what saith the scriptures regarding this subject.
Forgiveness is first mentioned in Genesis 50:17.
–Ge 50:15-21- “¶ And when Joseph’s brethren saw that their father was dead, they said, Joseph will peradventure hate us, and will certainly requite us all the evil which we did unto him. And they sent a messenger unto Joseph, saying, Thy father did command before he died, saying, So shall ye say unto Joseph, Forgive, I pray thee now, the trespass of thy brethren, and their sin; for they did unto thee evil: and now, we pray thee, forgive the trespass of the servants of the God of thy father. And Joseph wept when they spake unto him. And his brethren also went and fell down before his face; and they said, Behold, we be thy servants. And Joseph said unto them, Fear not: for am I in the place of God? But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive. Now therefore fear ye not: I will nourish you, and your little ones. And he comforted them, and spake kindly unto them.”
Here we see Joseph’s brethren asking him to forgive them for their evil. They have repented and even show as much by falling down before Joseph in a show of repentance and an appeal for mercy from him. Joseph shows his forgiveness by telling them to fear not and then supplying their needs. He did not take vengeance upon them.
This first mention of forgiveness demonstrates that it was asked for and received. We learn the methodology of forgiveness right here. Is this just an exception, or is it the rule?
The next verse using the word “forgive” is Exodus 10:17:
–Ex 10:16 Then Pharaoh called for Moses and Aaron in haste; and he said, I have sinned against the LORD your God, and against you.17 Now therefore forgive, I pray thee, my sin only this once, and intreat the LORD your God, that he may take away from me this death only.
Again, we can see that Pharaoh asks Moses to forgive him.
–Ex 32:31 And Moses returned unto the LORD, and said, Oh, this people have sinned a great sin, and have made them gods of gold.32 Yet now, if thou wilt forgive their sin–; and if not, blot me, I pray thee, out of thy book which thou hast written.33 And the LORD said unto Moses, Whosoever hath sinned against me, him will I blot out of my book.
Here Moses attempts to have the Lord impute the sins of the people upon himself, yet the Lord would not do so. Moses could not ask on behalf of the people if the people did not ask for themselves. The people had to repent themselves in order to be forgiven. They have not asked and the Lord says that he will deal with them directly. So we learn here that God is a just God. Forgiveness was not asked for by the sinners and they did not receive it.
–Ex 34:7 Keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children’s children, unto the third and to the fourth generation.
In this verse we learned that God is forgiving, but it does not discuss how the forgiveness is gotten. This is just a general description of the fact that God does forgive not how he forgives.
After these, there are 8 verses in Leviticus which use the word forgiveness. Each one has to do with sin offerings which are a sign of repentance or at least a show of such and are willingly brought by the people and therefore by doing so, it is a tacit admission of sinning. There is an admission and by bringing the offering they are asking the Lord to forgive them and he promises that he will do so if they bring the offering. So even here we do not see anything like God just forgiving the nation even if they do not bring their offerings. There has to be some action toward God (in this case bringing an offering) to receive forgiveness.
–Nu 14:17 And now, I beseech thee, let the power of my Lord be great, according as thou hast spoken, saying,18 The LORD is longsuffering, and of great mercy, forgiving iniquity and transgression, and by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation.19 Pardon, I beseech thee, the iniquity of this people according unto the greatness of thy mercy, and as thou hast forgiven this people, from Egypt even until now.
Again, here in Numbers 14, Moses is commenting on how God is forgiving (and he is), but now HOW God forgives.
–Nu 15:25 And the priest shall make an atonement for all the congregation of the children of Israel, and it shall be forgiven them; for it is ignorance: and they shall bring their offering, a sacrifice made by fire unto the LORD, and their sin offering before the LORD, for their ignorance:26 And it shall be forgiven all the congregation of the children of Israel, and the stranger that sojourneth among them; seeing all the people were in ignorance.27 And if any soul sin through ignorance, then he shall bring a she goat of the first year for a sin offering.28 And the priest shall make an atonement for the soul that sinneth ignorantly, when he sinneth by ignorance before the LORD, to make an atonement for him; and it shall be forgiven him.
These are more verses dealing with the corporate sins of the congregation in the wilderness. IF they were to bring an offering, they would be forgiven. This also shows the conditional terms of forgiveness. This is the point that I am going to try to bring out exhaustively in this thesis. Forgiveness is and always has been conditional. Those that teach an unconditional form of forgiveness teach something fuzzy and warm (and good intentioned I might add), but it is sincerely unscriptural and something that is really a non-biblical philosophy. This is destroying the church and friendships and fellowships as well.
Next, Numbers chapter 30, verses 5, 8, and 12 use the word forgive in the context of forgiving someone who has made a vow amiss. This text is not dealing with forgiveness of sins but rather vows and therefore has no bearing on our study. Still, there is communication being exercised in the text.
–De 21:7 And they shall answer and say, Our hands have not shed this blood, neither have our eyes seen it.8 Be merciful, O LORD, unto thy people Israel, whom thou hast redeemed, and lay not innocent blood unto thy people of Israel’s charge. And the blood shall be forgiven them.
Here is a text concerning innocent blood being shed inside the borders of a city of Israel. As you can see, the Israelites that are innocent of the blood still ask to be forgiven just to make it clear to the Lord that they do not want to be held accountable for the shedding of that blood. The Israelite certainly knew that forgiveness needed to be asked for. This text proves that.
–Jos 24:19 And Joshua said unto the people, Ye cannot serve the LORD: for he is an holy God; he is a jealous God; he will not forgive your transgressions nor your sins. Jos 24:20 If ye forsake the LORD, and serve strange gods, then he will turn and do you hurt, and consume you, after that he hath done you good.
This is an interesting text to say the least. Here we have Joshua rebuking and warning the people to fear God and stay away from idols. He says that God will not forgive them but of course God would if they repented. Joshua is simply saying that if they do not follow the Lord they will not be forgiven. The fact that anyone could not be forgiven demonstrates something different than what is taught in pulpits around the world. We are told by these misled brethren that we should just forgive people no matter what, even if they do not repent or ask for forgiveness. We are taught an unconditional forgiveness, which as you have read so far is certainly not how God forgives. If we are supposed to be godly, why are we asked to be ungodly? That seems strange to me.
–1Sa 25:28 I pray thee, forgive the trespass of thine handmaid: for the LORD will certainly make my lord a sure house; because my lord fighteth the battles of the LORD, and evil hath not been found in thee all thy days.
This one is self evident. Abigail is asking David to forgive her. Without making this thesis longer than it already is, the only thing we need to learn here is that she is asking forgiveness and not expecting David simply to forgive without her asking for it.
Now I am going to post 11 related verses from 1Kings and 2Chronicles. These verses detail the dedication of the Temple by King Solomon.
–1Ki 8:30 And hearken thou to the supplication of thy servant, and of thy people Israel, when they shall pray toward this place: and hear thou in heaven thy dwelling place: and when thou hearest, forgive.
–1Ki 8:34 Then hear thou in heaven, and forgive the sin of thy people Israel, and bring them again unto the land which thou gavest unto their fathers.
–1Ki 8:36 Then hear thou in heaven, and forgive the sin of thy servants, and of thy people Israel, that thou teach them the good way wherein they should walk, and give rain upon thy land, which thou hast given to thy people for an inheritance.
–1Ki 8:39 Then hear thou in heaven thy dwelling place, and forgive, and do, and give to every man according to his ways, whose heart thou knowest; (for thou, even thou only, knowest the hearts of all the children of men;)
–1Ki 8:50 And forgive thy people that have sinned against thee, and all their transgressions wherein they have transgressed against thee, and give them compassion before them who carried them captive, that they may have compassion on them:
–2Ch 6:21 Hearken therefore unto the supplications of thy servant, and of thy people Israel, which they shall make toward this place: hear thou from thy dwelling place, even from heaven; and when thou hearest, forgive.
–2Ch 6:25 Then hear thou from the heavens, and forgive the sin of thy people Israel, and bring them again unto the land which thou gavest to them and to their fathers.
–2Ch 6:27 Then hear thou from heaven, and forgive the sin of thy servants, and of thy people Israel, when thou hast taught them the good way, wherein they should walk; and send rain upon thy land, which thou hast given unto thy people for an inheritance.
–2Ch 6:30 Then hear thou from heaven thy dwelling place, and forgive, and render unto every man according unto all his ways, whose heart thou knowest; (for thou only knowest the hearts of the children of men:)
–2Ch 6:39 Then hear thou from the heavens, even from thy dwelling place, their prayer and their supplications, and maintain their cause, and forgive thy people which have sinned against thee.
–2Ch 7:14 If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.
Now, I pray that the reader concentrated on these verses. Here is one of the wisest men who ever lived and for some strange reason, he believes exactly the same thing that I am trying to prove in this thesis. Solomon apparently had this crazy notion that one needed to ask for forgiveness in order to get it. What a novel concept. I have been called names for believing and teaching this. Will those same people call Solomon crazy? Maybe today’s pastors are just more balanced than Solomon was at this point in his life (I needed to qualify that lest someone point to Solomon’s fall into idol worship later in his life). At this point in his life, Solomon had been blessed with the honor of building the Temple of God. He is dedicating this Temple and is praying for the nation of Israel in the sight and ears of that nation. Look what he said numerous times. He prays over and over that the Lord would hear from heaven and forgive. You couldn’t miss it if you tried. Really. Now why did Solomon ask the Lord this? Couldn’t the Lord just follow the teaching of our pastors and forgive them anyway? At this point in the scriptures, it has already been established that forgiveness is conditional. So we would be safe just believing the Bible and not the erring philosophy of our misguided brethren. Again, I do not say that as a rebuke but as instruction. Even they should be getting the idea by now if they had the stomach to read something that they do not believe.
Now get the most important part of the above verses. Not only did Solomon pray the prayer, the LORD himself answers it and says- “2Ch 7:14 If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.” God tells them to turn from their wicked ways (repent) and THEN (only when those conditions are met) will he forgive their sin. That sounds pretty simple to me. I guess Solomon and the LORD are just nuts. How could they be right if they do not line up with our pastors? Silly God (of course I say that dripping with sarcasm). Years of getting pounded on this one by the more “enlightened” brethren have necessitated some levity in guiding them in the direction of the truth.
There are six verses in the Psalms that use the word “forgive”. They are comments by the Psalmist about God’s forgiveness and his forgiving nature. One of these verses is a great one when it comes to the idea of being a forgiving people.
–Ps 86:5 For thou, Lord, art good, and ready to forgive; and plenteous in mercy unto all them that call upon thee.
This is the nature of God. He is a very forgiving God. If we are to be like God, we should be “ready to forgive” and “plenteous in mercy” ourselves. This would be a great heart attitude to have at all times. I also think it is this principle that many Christians are teaching as forgiveness itself. Being ready to forgive and actually forgiving is not the same thing. As a matter of fact, if the modern philosophy were true, how could one ever be “ready to forgive”? One would just simply forgive on the spot wouldn’t they? Of course they would-IF THEY COULD. God would just forgive on the spot if he could too. He just doesn’t, because it is a conditional transaction between men and Him. He is ready to forgive at all times, but man has to do his part which is to repent and confess. If a man does this, the Lord will forgive him. If he does not, God simply stands on the sideline ready to forgive. He is plenteous in mercy. Again, this demonstrates the proper biblical attitude. So what is taught as forgiveness is not really forgiveness. What they should be saying is that we should be “ready to forgive”. That would entail not harboring bitterness or anger against another. Of course we have to deal with those emotions and anger certainly has its proper place, but when it comes to someone sinning against us personally, we should do all that we can to be “ready to forgive”. That is what it is, but one thing it is not is forgiveness. It is just a readiness to forgive. We will demonstrate this some more as we go through these verses.
–Isa 2:8-9 Their land also is full of idols; they worship the work of their own hands, that which their own fingers have made: 9And the mean man boweth down, and the great man humbleth himself: therefore forgive them not.
This is another interesting verse. Here Isaiah is asking God NOT to forgive. Of course we know that Isaiah is only agreeing with God that forgiveness only comes upon repentance and in the context of this chapter, these men have no repentance.
–Isa 33:24 And the inhabitant shall not say, I am sick: the people that dwell therein shall be forgiven their iniquity.
The above verse has to do with a prophecy concerning the coming Zion. Of course everyone there will be healthy and everyone there is forgiven already or they wouldn’t be there.
There are three verses in Jeremiah. One has Jeremiah asking for God not to forgive. One is prophetical and another highlights the main principle of this thesis.
–Jer 36:3 It may be that the house of Judah will hear all the evil which I purpose to do unto them; that they may return every man from his evil way; that I may forgive their iniquity and their sin.
We see this verse describing repentance prior to forgiveness. In this verse, the Lord himself is speaking. He makes it clear that IF the people return from their evil ways (repent) then He may forgive them. This explicitly shows God declaring that one must repent first and that by doing so the Lord says “that I MAY forgive their iniquity and their sin”. Did you see that? God says that repentance frees Him up to forgive them. In other words he may NOT forgive them if they do not repent. And we somehow think we can teach unconditional forgiveness?
–Da 9:9 To the Lord our God belong mercies and forgivenesses, though we have rebelled against him;
This is another verse simply declaring that forgivenesses belong to the Lord.
–Da 9:19 O Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive; O Lord, hearken and do; defer not, for thine own sake, O my God: for thy city and thy people are called by thy name.
Wow! Here is another man that lines up with this thesis (in reality, this thesis lines up with him). Daniel also believed that forgiveness was conditional. First is the confession then the forgiveness. “Hear….forgive”.
–Am 7:2 And it came to pass, that when they had made an end of eating the grass of the land, then I said, O Lord GOD, forgive, I beseech thee: by whom shall Jacob arise? for he is small.
Amos also felt the need to ask for forgiveness. Amos did not presume that God would just forgive him anyway.
Now we have arrived at the New Testament. With that, we have also arrived at the Lord Jesus and what he has to say about forgiveness.
–Mt 6:12 And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.
-Mt 6:14 For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you:
-Mt 6:15 But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus teaches the people in what manner to pray. In that discourse above, we learn that Jesus talks about forgiveness, but he doesn’t define it here. He mentions it. He tells us to do it. In verse 12 he tells us to ask to Lord in heaven to forgive us as we forgive others. Well we already know HOW the Lord forgives us, so if we work the formula backwards with the known variable (how God forgives) we can know how we are to forgive others. We are supposed to forgive others in the same manner that he forgives us. He forgives us upon confession/repentance. Therefore that is how we forgive others.
–Mt 9:2 And, behold, they brought to him a man sick of the palsy, lying on a bed: and Jesus seeing their faith said unto the sick of the palsy; Son, be of good cheer; thy sins be forgiven thee.
-Mt 9:5 For whether is easier, to say, Thy sins be forgiven thee; or to say, Arise, and walk?
-Mt 9:6 But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins, (then saith he to the sick of the palsy,) Arise, take up thy bed, and go unto thine house.
Here we see something new. In this text (I am trying to shorten this as much as I can by referencing the text but not printing out the whole thing. The reader is free to follow along with an open bible if it helps him understand what we are saying here), Jesus says that he forgives the man with the palsy. We do not see that the man asked for forgiveness (although we don’t know that he didn’t because we never see him quoted). So is this justifying the idea that we do not need to ask for forgiveness or that those who have sinned against us do not need to? Well, I suppose if you want it to say that you could try to make it say that, but when one reads the entire text, we can see that there is more going on here then Jesus healing a man. He is tweaking the scribes is what he is doing. He makes it clear that he is just saying “thy sins be forgiven thee” because he is trying to show that he is God. This isn’t a text trying to define forgiveness but rather a text showing that Jesus knew who he was demonstrating his power to. The text makes it clear that he is simply trying to demonstrate that he has the power to forgive sins (SEE v 6) not that he is forgiving sins. This is also a demonstration to us that the scribes believed that some people were sick because of sin. (Mark chapter 2 and Lk 5 are the companion chapters and contain 8 more verses containing the word “forgive” describing the same account).
–Mt 12:31 Wherefore I say unto you, All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men: but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men.
-Mt 12:32 And whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come.
Matthew 12 is a chapter that deals with blaspheming the Holy Ghost (another topic altogether), and in this chapter we simply see Jesus talking about forgiveness not defining it. (Mark 3 contains two more verses with the word “forgive” in them describing the same account).
–Mt 18:21 ¶ Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times?
-Mt 18:35 So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses.
-Lu 17:3 Take heed to yourselves: If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him.
-Lu 17:4 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.
These companion verses describe Peter asking about forgiveness explicitly. These are very important verses regarding our subject because it is here that Jesus is explicitly teaching about forgiveness and not just mentioning the principle. As we read these, it should be noted that Jesus makes a specific statement regarding forgiveness in Luke 17:3. He clearly says that IF a man repents he is to be forgiven. IF he doesn’t, the Lord told Peter to rebuke him, NOT to forgive him. Why? Well, if what we know about forgiveness from the scriptures up to this point is that it is conditional (and it is), then it makes perfect sense. Without repentance, forgiveness cannot be given. The rebuke is given in the hopes that the man may learn the error of his way and repent. This is what is missing in the modern philosophy regarding forgiveness. What is taught is that we are just somehow in our hearts to forgive others without repentance when it is possible that the other person doesn’t even know that they did wrong (thus Matt 18 lays out the order in which trespasses are handled between brethren). Of course as Jesus said, we are supposed to forgive in our hearts. Someone may ask for forgiveness and we SAY that we forgive, but in our hearts we do not. This is what Jesus is getting at here and elsewhere as you will see. But we cannot fail to see that Jesus clearly said in Lk 17:3 that one MUST repent in order to receive forgiveness. Again, it is important for the reader to understand that Jesus lines up with Moses, Solomon, Daniel, and Amos (of course as God, they are really lining up with Jesus). Jesus makes it clear that forgiveness is conditional. It must be asked for.
–Mr 11:25 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.
-Mr 11:26 But if ye do not forgive, neither will your Father which is in heaven forgive your trespasses.
Here again we have Jesus telling us to forgive. We must do so of course. But we already know HOW that occurs. As I pointed out earlier, Jesus told us to forgive in our hearts and even though we sometimes forgive with our mouth, it is harder to really do so whole-heartedly because we sometimes have a hard time releasing our bitterness and anger or a vengeful spirit. Therefore, when we pray as Jesus said, we need to forgive so that when we ASK God in our prayers to forgive us, he will. Still, it is conditional. That is why one needs to study things out verse by verse through the whole Bible to stay on track. If we had not read the Old Testament or other passages in the New Testament which define forgiveness, then when we are asked to perform that forgiveness in another verse like the ones above, we might just plug our own definition into the verse. The Jews that Jesus was speaking to certainly knew HOW forgiveness was given and gotten if they were well read in the Old Testament. He wasn’t speaking about something foreign to them. In the above verses he is talking about their prayer life. That is where we pray (ask) God to forgive us, so therefore we ought to forgive those who have asked us as well.
–Lu 7:47 Wherefore I say unto thee, Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little.
-Lu 7:48 And he said unto her, Thy sins are forgiven.
-Lu 7:49 And they that sat at meat with him began to say within themselves, Who is this that forgiveth sins also?
Here we have the account of the woman with an alabaster box of ointment. She was a sinner which was attested to by the Pharisee in the account and by Jesus himself. She threw herself at Jesus feet in an act of repentance. She was weeping over her sin. She anointed Jesus’ head and feet. What a precious account of this sinner falling at the feet of the Saviour with works meet for repentance. Because of the outward show of repentance, she was of course forgiven by Jesus. Again, forgiveness is preceded by repentance. Sometimes asking for forgiveness comes in the form of tears. Have you ever been so broken by sin that you could no longer speak through your tears? Many of us have been there. So when I say that one must ask for forgiveness, asking can be communicated in many ways but it is still necessary to communicate it. As we read in the Old Testament, that communication came in the form of bringing a sin offering. No words were necessary, but the actions were.
–Lu 23:34 Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. And they parted his raiment, and cast lots.
Here is a well known account of the crucifixion. In this account, we see that Jesus asked the Father to forgive his tormentors because they were ignorant of what they were really doing. This verse was pointed out to me in a discussion of this topic one time. It was implied that Jesus asked for the Father to forgive people who didn’t repent. Well my response was that this is a demonstration of the fact brought out in Psalm 86:5 which is that God is ready to forgive. Jesus was proving that he had a forgiving attitude until the end. But my question is, did God forgive them? The answer is obvious. NO, because they didn’t repent. As a matter of fact, Peter and Stephen rebuked them for having crucified Jesus in Acts 2 and Acts 7 and telling them to repent because God did not forgive them. Again, why? He didn’t forgive them not because he didn’t want to, but rather because he couldn’t and wouldn’t. They did not do their part and repent. They were the ones that needed forgiveness and they didn’t want it.
–Ac 5:31 Him hath God exalted with his right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins.
This one is obviously in support of my claim. Peter says that Jesus came to give repentance and forgiveness. Peter stands in line with the others in his beliefs as well.
–Ac 8:22 Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee.
Here Peter and John tell Simon the sorcerer explicitly that he had to repent in order to receive forgiveness. In other words, without it he had no hope of getting forgiven.
–Ac 13:38 Be it known unto you therefore, men and brethren, that through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins:
This is an account of Paul addressing the Jews at the synagogue in Antioch. It is clear that Paul believed that forgiveness only comes through Christ. It is conditional. Paul agrees with this idea as well.
–Ac 26:18 To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me.
Here is the account of Paul giving his testimony to King Agrippa and Festus. In his testimony, he again explains the principle of repentance (“turn” from darkness to light) in order to get forgiveness. Paul makes it clear that one must turn to get forgiven.
–Ro 4:7 Saying, Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered.
Paul simply mentions the fact that those that are forgiven are blessed. Of course those are the people that repented.
–2Co 2:7 So that contrariwise ye ought rather to forgive him, and comfort him, lest perhaps such a one should be swallowed up with overmuch sorrow.
-2Co 2:10 To whom ye forgive any thing, I forgive also: for if I forgave any thing, to whom I forgave it, for your sakes forgave I it in the person of Christ;
In this account we are reading of Paul admonishing the Corinthians to receive a man back into fellowship who was disfellowshipped after Paul wrote 1Corinthians. The man obviously had repented (he was in sorrow) and Paul is telling them to do the right thing and forgive him.
–2Co 12:13 For what is it wherein ye were inferior to other churches, except it be that I myself was not burdensome to you? forgive me this wrong.
This is Paul asking for forgiveness. Why did he do that? Shouldn’t they have just forgiven him anyway? Our friends and their philosophy would have taught that because they do teach that.
–Eph 1:7 In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace;
This verse is dealing with born-again Christians. They are the “we” in it. The born-again Christians are those that have repented and put their trust in the Lord Jesus Christ. So, yes, “we” have forgiveness, but what about those who have not repented? Are they forgiven? That is a redundant question. Of course they are not.
–Eph 4:32 And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.
This is more of the same. We are supposed to forgive AS God has forgiven us. How did He do that? He forgave us when we asked for it through repentance toward God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 20:21). It seems pretty clear that we forgive AS he forgives. His forgiveness is conditional. Do you suppose ours is too? Yes it is, if we are to meet the parameters of this verse.
–Col 1:14 In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins:
This is the same as Ephesians 1:7 above.
–Col 2:13 ¶ And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses;
-Col 3:13 Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.
These fall in line with the same idea as mentioned above.
–Jas 5:14 Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord:15 And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him.16 Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.
We read the same here in regards to confession and forgiveness.
–1Jo 1:9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
Now if this does not put icing on the cake, then I do not know what will. If one can ignore a famous passage of scripture such as this, then there really is no hope for that man regarding him lining up with the truth about forgiveness. If this verse does not convey a conditional forgiveness then nothing does. It is pretty clear and would be insulting to the reader if I had to break it down. It stands as is. This is a very clear description of confession preceding forgiveness. The conditional nature of forgiveness is explicitly outlined in this verse for all to see.
–1Jo 2:12 ¶ I write unto you, little children, because your sins are forgiven you for his name’s sake.
Finally, we have reached the last verse in the Bible with the word “forgive” in it. This too is self-evident. This details the fact that Christians (little children) are forgiven through Christ.
So in conclusion, after having written an exhaustive thesis on the doctrine of forgiveness (we have looked at every verse in the Bible- you cannot get more exhaustive than that can you?), it is clearly proven that forgiveness is conditional. There is no such thing as unconditional forgiveness in the Bible. If a man teaches you that you should just “forgive” those who do not repent or ask for forgiveness, you can write them off as misinformed at best or a false teacher at worst. We have seen that Moses, Solomon, the Lord God Himself, Daniel, Amos, Jesus, Peter, Paul, James, and John all believe and teach what you have learned in this thesis. If a man thinks they are crazy then it is he who will stand in error. A man cannot forgive sins if the perpetrator does not repent any more than God himself can. This false idea of forgiving without repentance has caused more harm to the body of Christ than anyone can account for. There are untold millions of Christians walking around with unforgiven sin (ignorantly I would presume) because the victim would not rebuke or lovingly inform their brother of their error. The Christian is simply told to “just forgive” them. So they do this thinking they are actually conveying forgiveness to another without any communication between the two parties. How absurd. Now what is really happening is that the person may be releasing bitterness or anger. They may be giving over their grief to the Lord. Those things are wonderful, but they are not forgiveness and we need to stop calling it that. If one wants to be known as a bible believer, then they should line up with the Bible and stop playing games with God. Pastors, stop teaching the bogus philosophy you learned in seminary or church and line up with scripture. Our people need us to be correct on this. I have seen firsthand many relationships healed and relational hurdles jumped by actually confronting sin and the sinner and giving them a chance to humble themselves and get right. It is wonderful to see these relationships healed because there is real communication. Problems are brought out of the dark and into the light. Forgiveness is a great doctrine. But it is only as true as the Bible describes it. So start communicating with one another. Give and get real forgiveness. Allow true repentance to create healing and end the vicious cycle of false forgiveness and the frustration it brings when the same thing occurs over and over because the perpetrator has never repented. If they will not repent, then you have nothing to feel bad about as it is they who need forgiveness not you. You will just have to deal with the bitterness and anger that you may allow to build up. Those things should be given over to the Lord. Vengeance is His, He will repay. Have an attitude of being ready to forgive and plenteous in mercy. But know that forgiveness cannot be given if the perpetrator does not repent. That is just a Biblical fact.