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Question

What is forgiveness?

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Answer


Forgiveness in the Bible is a “release” or a “dismissal” of something. The forgiveness we have in Christ involves the release of sinners from God’s just penalty and the complete dismissal of all charges against us (see Romans 8:1). Colossians 1:14 says that in God’s beloved Son “we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” The Amplified Bible translates the last phrase like this: “the forgiveness of our sins [and the cancellation of sins’ penalty].” God’s gracious forgiveness of our sin is to be the measure of our gracious forgiveness of others (Ephesians 4:32).

To some people, forgiveness may seem like weakness or letting an undeserving person win, but it has no connection to weakness or even to emotions. Instead, forgiveness is an act of the will. Forgiveness is not granted because a person deserves to be forgiven. No one deserves to be forgiven. Forgiveness is a deliberate act of love, mercy, and grace. Forgiveness is a decision to not hold something against another person, despite what he or she has done to you.

What is forgiveness in relation to salvation?
Forgiveness is an integral part of salvation. When Jesus forgives us, our sins, trespasses, iniquities, and transgressions are erased, wiped off the record. Forgiveness of sin is comparable to financial debt being erased. When Jesus said, “It is finished,” from the cross (John 19:30), He was literally saying, “It is paid in full” (tetelestai in Greek). Jesus took the punishment we deserved, so, when God forgives us of our sins, we are free; we no longer live under that debt. Our sins are wiped out. God will never hold that sin against us (Psalm 103:12).

It is impossible to have salvation without forgiveness. Salvation is God’s deliverance from the consequences of sin. God’s salvation in Christ is the ultimate example of extending forgiveness. God’s forgiveness must be accepted through repentance and faith. Have you accepted forgiveness from God?

What is forgiveness of others?
Forgiveness is also an essential part of the life of believers. Ephesians 4:32 commands, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” Similarly, Colossians 3:13 says, “Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” The key in both passages is that we are to forgive others as God has forgiven us. Why do we forgive? Because we have been forgiven!

The Bible tells us that we are to forgive those who sin against us. We keep no record of wrongs (1 Corinthians 13:5) but forgive as many times as necessary (Matthew 18:21–22). Refusing to forgive a person demonstrates resentment, bitterness, and anger, none of which are the traits of a growing Christian. Biblically, forgiveness is not just something that the offended person offers; it requires the offender to receive it, bringing reconciliation to the relationship.

God promises that, when we come to Him confessing our sin and asking for forgiveness, He freely grants it for the sake of Christ (1 John 1:9). Likewise, the forgiveness we extend to others should know no limits (Luke 17:3–4).

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This page last updated: April 26, 2021