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What Does the Bible Say About..Conditions on Forgiving?

Conditions of forgiving.


Your question was pretty general, so I will give the broadest answer I can. What are the conditions on forgiveness? Does God put conditions? Do we forgive unconditionally, or are there conditions on our forgiveness. These are very good questions that need answers.

We do find that God puts conditions on forgiveness. Perhaps the best known parable about forgiveness is found in Matthew 18:15-35. In the last verse Jesus says that God will not forgive if we are not forgiving. He also points this out in Matthew 6:14-15 (just after the "Lord's Prayer"). "For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses." One of the conditions on God's forgiveness is that we be forgiving.

God also will not forgive those who do not seek forgiveness. To believe that he forgives all, without being asked is to believe that all will be saved, no matter what they do. But God clearly says that some will be cast out of his presence (Matthew 25:41-46). So there must be conditions on his forgiveness. These "conditions" are our part in coming under the grace of God and receiving forgiveness for sin. One such condition is faith, and another is immersion in water. "For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ." (Galatians 3:26-27) (There are many more scriptures pointing out the necessity of each of these for salvation, as well as repentance and public acknowledgement that Jesus is the Son of God.) After we have appropriated God's forgiveness we may still sin, but John says that the blood of Christ continues to cleanse us from sin if we walk in the light (1 John 1:7). Acts 8:22 indicates that even then we must ask for God to forgive us before he does so.

Are there conditions on our forgiveness of others? Yes. Just as God requires that we ask him for forgiveness, so also we are not required to forgive unless the party that wronged us asks for that forgiveness. The passage in Matthew 18 mentioned above lays on us an obligation to point out to one who has wronged us that they have done so. But it also points out that we are under no obligation to forgive if they don't acknowledge that they have sinned. In fact, if they fail to ask for forgiveness, we are to treat them like a "heathen man and a tax collector." The indication is that we should always be ready to forgive, but are under no obligation to do so if forgiveness is not sought. Of course, if we go beyond this and forgive without being asked to, that may be even more commendable.

God is willing to forgive those who seek his forgiveness. He asks no less of us.