There are two forms of forgiveness:

  1. God's forgiveness.
  2. Human forgiveness.

They cannot be separated because we have to receive God's forgiveness and we have to give human forgiveness, but each depends on the other. (Matthew 6:14-15; Psalm 66:18)

God's forgiveness

Forgiveness comes from confession and repentance (turning around). (Psalm 51:1-19) God consistently and completely forgives us each time that we ask in repentance, because His judgement on sin was satisfied by Christ's death on the cross. (John 13:31-38; John 20:19-23)

God’s forgiveness is very easy to receive because it is so forthcoming. God never holds back His forgiveness if we come with a genuine desire to repent: to change our behaviour and bring it into line with His word. His forgiveness is not based on what we deserve, but on His own amazing love for us. We tend to judge sin by degrees of wrongness, thinking that some sins are much worse than others. But, to God, all sin is sin and His Son has already paid for all human sin to be washed away. However, for that to include us, we must be ready to acknowledge our own sin, turn away from it and receive His forgiveness.

This is often our hardest problem: to believe that God has forgiven us and so to forgive ourselves. So often, we are riddled with guilt because our thoughts follow the old, familiar patterns that we grew up with before we met Jesus. We must renew our minds and allow them to be shaped instead by the word of God. (Romans 12:2) God says that, when He has forgiven us, we are forgiven! If we do not forgive ourselves, what we are really saying is that what Jesus did on the cross was not enough to forgive our sin. No! God has forgiven us and we are forgiven.

Human forgiveness

Forgiveness is a way of life. Once God has set the divine pattern by forgiving us, He expects us to pass it on and forgive others. What's more, this divine forgiveness has some special characteristics. True forgiveness does not keep track of offences. We should always forgive any who come to us, even if we are not sure of their motives. After all, Jesus forgives us, even when we keep repeating offences. So, realising how much God has forgiven us should give us a free and generous attitude of forgiveness towards others. ((Ephesians 4:32)) When we don't forgive, we are setting ourselves outside and above Christ's law of love. (1 Corinthians 13:1-8)

Why forgive?

  • Because Jesus Christ forgives me. (1 John 2:2; Romans 4:7-8; Matthew 26:28; Ephesians 4:32; Ephesians 5:1; Philippians 3:10)
  • To be an effective witness. (1 Peter 3:15-16)
  • Because unforgiveness torments me. (1 John 5:16. Psalm 32:1-5; Matthew 18:23; Matthew 18:35)
  • Because unforgiveness stirs up strife. (Proverbs 10:12; Romans 12:14; Matthew 5:43-44; Romans 12:20-21; 1 Peter 3:9)
  • Because unforgiveness hinders health and prosperity. (Matthew 5:23-24; Proverbs 28:13; Proverbs 17:22; Proverbs 15:30)
  • Because unforgiveness limits prayer. (Matthew 6:15; Psalm 66:18)
  • Because unforgiveness binds both me and the offender. (Matthew 18:18)
  • Because God will not forgive me. (Matthew 6:14-15; Matthew 18:18)
  • It promises a restoration of children to their parents. (Malachi 4:6)

When to forgive?

  • Every time. (Matthew 18:35; Mark 11:25-26)
  • Whenever we pray. (Mark 11:25-26; Matthew 6:12; Matthew 6:14-15)
  • When we are sick. (James 5:15-16)

How to forgive (Matthew 18:15)

  • By faith. (Luke 17:5; Matthew 18:15-22; Mark 11:23-25)
  • According to God's word. (Ephesians 4:32; Luke 17:3-4; Colossians 3:13)
  • By the power of the Holy Spirit. (John 20:22)
  • By an act of the will. (Galatians 6:1)
  • By changing our thinking. (Romans 12:2-3 John 8:1-11)
  • By reaffirming our love. (2 Corinthians 2:7; Romans 12:9-21)
  • By leaving it with God to deal with the offender. (Romans 8:33; Romans 12:19; Proverbs 19:11)

A example of how to pray

(Fill in the blanks with the name of person you have to forgive.)

Dear Father, I come to you in the name of Jesus and, by faith, I ask you to forgive me and cleanse me of all my sins. Please clean my mind and heart as well. I receive the power of the Holy Spirit to obey your word so I choose to forgive [............] with the forgiveness of Jesus. I love [............] with the love of Jesus and now, by God's power, I forget the offence. I release [............] to receive all the blessings of Your love. Thank You, Father, for setting me free in Jesus' Name.” (John 8:36)

Examples of forgiveness in Scripture

  • Joseph forgave his brothers. (Genesis 45:5; Genesis 50:20)
  • Joseph forgave Pharaoh's chief cup bearer. (Genesis 40:23)
  • Moses intervening with God to forgive the nation. (Exodus 32:14)
  • David forgiving king Saul for trying to kill him. (1 Samuel 24:3-15)
  • The father forgiving his prodigal son. (Luke 15:21-24)
  • Jesus forgiving those who crucified Him. (Luke 23:34)
  • Stephen forgiving those who stoned him to death. (Acts 7:60)

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