Understand Forgiveness from God’s Example

To understand forgiveness, we must do it by viewing God’s character because God is our example. God does not ask us to do more than He is willing to do. If God loves sinful men, we too must love as He loves. He calls us to be Holy; why? Because He is Holy. So the question is, how does God forgive. Some believe God will forgive everyone and, therefore, no one will end up in Hell. That, however, does not seem consistent with all of Scripture.

The Psalmist found that he was without forgiveness if he failed to confess his sin.

When I kept silence, my bones waxed old through my roaring all the day long.

Psalms 32:3

But when he confessed his sin, he found mercy.

I acknowledged my sin unto thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid. I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the Lord; and thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin. Selah.

Psalms 32:5

Peter said to the people that they must repent if they were to receive forgiveness.

Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord;

Acts 3:19

John tells us that if we are to be forgiven, we must confess our sins.

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

1 John 1:9

One cannot remove confession and repentance from forgiveness because forgiveness is a response to repentance, and this is why Jesus made this clear in His teachings.

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.

Luke 17:4

Jesus had expounded on repentance and showed repentance cannot be a pretense. In Matthew chapter eighteen, Jesus tells a parable about one man that asks for mercy and receives it, and then he goes and does not show mercy to his fellow servant. Now remember that just prior to Jesus telling this, He said one must forgive seventy times seven, yet this unforgiving steward is sent to the tormentors without forgiveness in the parable. Why? Because forgiveness cannot be given to the unrepentant.

What are we to make of this?

And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.

Ephesians 4:32

The key here is we are to forgive in the same way God has forgiven us, and that only takes place when there is repentance. Understand that forgiveness does not have to be given just because someone says they are sorry, but God is gracious and will forgive through His Son.

So what are we to do when someone wrongs us and will not repent? We are to act like God! We need to back up here in Ephesians and see that we are called to behave in a good and righteous way. Colossians condenses it down to this.

Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.

Colossians 3:12-13

Do you see this? Do you see the pattern of our God? God is longsuffering to all men, so we are to be too.

Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water.

1 Peter 3:20

The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.

2 Peter 3:9

God is kind to the unrepentant.

That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.

Matthew 5:45

This is what we are called to d, and we are to demonstrate the fruit of the Spirit when we have been wronged.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.

Galatians 5:22-23

The outcome of exercising the fruit of the Spirit is to hopefully bring about reconciliation and forgiveness.

Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.

Colossians 3:12-13

God does not give forgiveness to the unrepentant, so we are not burdened to do more than God. Three times in the book of Revelation, the words “repented not” are mentioned in 19:20, 16:9, 11. What is to happen to those who do not repent?

But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.

Revelation 21:8

Forgiveness is a gracious response to repentance; it cannot by its nature be given without repentance. However, we are to act as God acts toward the world of unrepentant sinners by being patient, long-suffering, gentle, and kind, hoping that we can give forgiveness.

Please read my follow up article (Repentance 2)

Edited May 14th, 2022

2 thoughts on “Forgivenesses”

  1. Dr. Watler E. Widdis


    You may want to review a bit deeper all the teachings of Christ concerning forgiveness. It almost seems that your conclusion allows me to remain unforgiving.

    Just a thought.

    1. Thanks so much for taking the time to read and respond, it means a lot to me.

      I believe I have studied His teaching on forgiveness. I know that we are constantly taught that we are to forgive, but I believe forgiveness is misunderstood. Forgiveness is a response given to the penitent. Forgiveness is not an automatic response neither is it the response of our carnal nature. So we are commanded to respond to those who repent. If we start to believe that forgiveness is given to all then Rob Bell and his book “Love Wins” starts to make sense. If we are to forgive those who want no forgiveness, then God must do the same or He asks us to do what He is not willing to do Himself. So if I am to be convinced otherwise I must be shown that God forgives the unrepentant. We learn from watching God and He does not forgive the unrepentant. What God does do is He is longsuffering and kind toward the unrepentant and willing that none would remain that way and perish, so that means are we to be the same.

      We are not allowed to seek vengeance, because God will provide. Today’s grace gone wild mindset would never let us think that we should want vengeance. Yet we see that God is willing to avenge those who have suffered at the hands of evil men.

      And they cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth? Revelation 6:10

      • We are to be longsuffering, gentle, kind, patient with all men.
      • We are to seek reconciliation
      • We are to forgive with reconciliation is made
      • We are never to wish evil on our enemy (Proverbs 24:17)
      • We are to wait on God for justice
      • We cause great justice to come upon our enemies when we love them and they still treat us evil (Romans 12:20).

      Teachers will say you must forgive, but unless they demonstrate the concept of forgiveness as an act given to everyone I will consider my conclusion true.

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