I’ve lost count of the number of times some tragedy has occurred – a mass shooting, a terrorist attack, a drunk driving death – and the victims or their relatives, usually Christians, start “forgiving” the offenders within hours or days of the crime.

I understand the motive, and also the desire to present an attractive witness about Christian forgiveness to the world. But it’s not a faithful witness to God. It does not reflect how God forgives, which is to be our pattern and model. Here’s why:

God does not forgive those who do not want forgiveness.

Here’s how God forgives:

1. God is willing, ready, and eager to forgive everyone: That’s His beautiful nature, His compassionate character, and His constant desire.

2. God offers forgiveness to everyone: God offers to release those who have offended Him from their deserved punishment and alienation from Him. There’s a big difference between offering it and giving it. Offering it is unconditional; giving it is conditional.

3. God does not forgive everyone regardless of their response to His offer: Although He offers forgiveness to all, not all respond. Some don’t even think they’ve done anything needing forgiveness.

4. God’s forgiveness is conditional upon repentance (Luke 13:3; 17:3; Acts 2:38): God’s forgiveness is conditional upon the offender wanting forgiveness and wanting to turn from His offending ways.

5. Forgiveness through repentance produce reconciliation on both sides: Offering forgiveness reduces the temperature of the conflict; but only the giving of forgiveness, in response to repentance, ends it.

Having seen how God forgives, let’s remind ourselves of the basic biblical principle:

Our forgiveness is to be patterned upon God’s forgiveness (Eph. 4:32; Matt. 6:12, 14-15).


1. We must be willing, ready, and eager to forgive everyone: This is not easy and usually requires Gospel work to be done in our own hearts as we realize how much God has forgiven us.

2. We must offer forgiveness to everyone: This step and the previous step together are a kind of lesser forgiveness, sometimes called positional forgiveness. We are in a position where we are ready to forgive and we offer it freely. If this is what people are talking about when they say, “I forgive the person who raped and murdered my daughter,” then that’s fine. It’s more than fine; it’s amazing grace and can only be given by God. However, it’s not forgiveness in the fullest biblical sense and must not be confused with it.

3. We must not forgive everyone regardless of their response to our offer: Forgiving someone before they repent is un-godlike, avoids dealing with serious issues, and while it might offer some temporary and superficial relief, does not produce long-term satisfaction to the conscience nor reconciliation.

4. We must forgive upon the condition of repentance: According to Matthew 18:15-17, if a person sins we must reprove them. If they do not respond with repentance, we must take it to another level. If they repent at any stage, we must forgive them, even if it’s the 490th time they’ve done it (Matt. 18:22)

5. Forgiveness through repentance produces reconciliation on both sides.
Full forgiveness, sometimes called transactional forgiveness, is when all five steps occur, resulting in deep and lasting reconciliation. This is the kind of forgiveness that most glorifies God, most benefits the offender, and most satisfies the offended.

However, I don’t want to minimize the releasing power of steps 1 and 2. Some people say, “I can never forgive until Jim repents.” If so, you are going to carry around a huge and growing load of resentment as you pile up unresolved conflicts in your life.

But, if by God’s grace you are enabled to take these first two steps, to work through positional forgiveness, you will experience wonderful load-lightening relief. Here’s a sample prayer if you’re in this situation:

Sample Prayer
“Lord, Jim has done me great wrong, but won’t confess it or ask for forgiveness.

I can’t therefore forgive him without misrepresenting you or damaging his spiritual welfare.

However, I’m not going to carry this pain around to burden and burn my mind and heart for years. I’m handing this over to you, because you said, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay.’

Lord, you know I don’t want your vengeance executed on Jim, but with this prayer I’m promising no more vengeance on my part. I hand that entirely over to you.

I promise to not dwell upon this incident, but rather I transfer it all over to you, and trust you to put right in your own time and way. You know I am ready to forgive Jim fully, freely, and forever, should it ever be asked for.

Please help Jim to understand your view of sin and to seek your forgiveness and mine. Amen”

Best book on forgiveness that I’ve come across is Unpacking Forgiveness by Chris Brauns.

  • Marie Peterson

    So are you saying that positional forgiveness is not actual forgiveness itself? I know, it’s a hard balance to keep! I’m thinking of Luke 23:44 and Acts 7:60- certainly that’s at least positional forgiveness!

    Also, would you say that God’s forgiveness of people He knew were lying was positional or actual?

    Psalm 78
    34 When He slew them, then they sought Him;
    And they returned and sought earnestly for God.
    35 Then they remembered that God was their rock,
    And the Most High God their Redeemer.
    36 Nevertheless they flattered Him with their mouth,
    And they lied to Him with their tongue;
    37 For their heart was not steadfast with Him,
    Nor were they faithful in His covenant.
    38 But He, being full of compassion, forgave their iniquity,
    And did not destroy them.
    Yes, many a time He turned His anger away,
    And did not stir up all His wrath;
    39 For He remembered that they were but flesh,
    A breath that passes away and does not come again.

    • David Murray

      Psalm 78 looks like positional forgiveness. As does Luke 23:44 and Acts 7:60.

      Positional forgiveness is a lesser forgiveness. It’s a pity we don’t have two different words to express this.

      • Hailie

        Hi David. The sample prayer for positional forgiveness is helpful. Can you offer a sample of what to say to the one who offended us, in a way that applies the principle of positional forgiveness? And, how do we discern from their answer whether they are truly sorry or not? In my experience, I have often received a “I’m sort of sorry, but…” kind of answer. How do we know when to pull the trigger and give full forgiveness?

    • Josh

      Luke 23:34 is textual variant that does not appear to be part of the original manuscripts (which makes sense, given the full counsel of Scripture supporting conditional forgiveness).

      • Scott

        Even if they are truly Jesus’ words, this doesn’t overthrow the rest of the biblical teaching. Jesus’ prayer from the cross could be a priestly prayer in light of the definite nature of the atonement. Jesus said in John 17:9, “I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me.” In this case, Jesus is praying for those whom he is purchasing in his death.

  • elainebitt

    Thank you for your blog article David!

    I agree with you, Chris Brauns’ book is THE book on the topic of forgiveness, a topic not well understood by the majority of Christians.

    I have a couple of questions, if I may? First, is your article directed at Christians only, at how Christians should deal with forgiving other Christians? I think it’s not, but then your mentioning of Matthew 18 should merit a side note, since Matthew 18 is only applicable to believers.

    How do you see “overlook an offense” in the entire discussion? I think that’s what people mean most of the time when they use the word “forgiveness”.

    • David Murray

      Matthew 18 does give specifics for how Christians should deal with Christians, but there are principles in that passage that are applicable in all conflict situations.

      Yes, there are also minor lesser issues that we all experience every day that we must simply overlook if we are to function in society. Where each person draws the line on that is upon each person’s conscience. However, I think to some extent that still comes under the category of positional forgiveness.

      I don’t think that’s what most people are referring to when they use the word forgiveness, as the occasions I’m thinking of often involve major offenses like murder.

  • Kay

    What about Matthew 6:15 “But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” That sounds like a pretty clear command from Jesus to me. I have to forgive, whether the other person wants or accepts it, or especially if they don’t think they’ve done anything wrong.

    • elainebitt

      Kay, this is why this topic must be truly understood. The bible teaches that we should forgive as our Father has forgiven us. That is not unconditional forgiveness, I think we can agree on that one.

      The fact of the matter is, there are different… hmmm… “types” of forgiveness. The bible also talks about overlooking offenses, which I believe is one type of forgiveness.

      Chris Brauns in his book “Unpacking Forgiveness” has a chapter titled “Should I Just Get Over It?” (chapter 8), which is really helpful. Also, in his Appendix 2, he quotes MacArthur:

      “It is obvious from Scripture that sometimes forgiveness must be conditional… There are times when it is necessary to confront an offender. In such cases, unconditional forgiveness is not an option. These generally involve more serious sins – not petty or picayune complaints, but soul-threatening sins or transgressions that endanger the fellowship of saints.”

    • David Murray

      Yes, it’s a clear command, but when we put it together with the rest of the Bible’s teaching on forgiveness, it’s clear that for there to be full forgiveness and full reconciliation, there needs to be repentance for the wrong done.

    • Alan Kurschner

      The text is assuming that the person is contrite and thus seeking forgiveness. And notice the then-clause: “your Father will not forgive your sins.” This would require universalism on the Father’s part according to your interpretation of the first half “But if you do not forgive others their sins.” Since everyone has wronged the Father is the Father required to forgive everyone even if they are not seeking forgiveness?

      So we have to be careful not to read things that are not there. It is assuming that the person is _seeking_ forgiveness.

    • James Scott Berry

      In context, and if you understood the Biblical principals of Jewish teshuva upon which all of Jesus teachings of forgiveness are based, you would understand the clarity of the Bibles teachings that aphiemi-forgiveness is NEVER for the unrepentant. Simply never happens in the Bible. (Though Charizomai forgiveness is different but not applicable in this discussion context). If I am a murderer and rapist and rape and kill your children, then you come and say to me “We remove your chains of rape and murder” and I say “Go away..I like to rape and murder and I’ll do it to all of your family.” Have you removed my chains of sin? No. Not even God can unjustly forgive -remove – the chains of sin of the unrepentant who love or deny their sin. Which is why Jesus did not forgive the sins of his enemies on the cross. He prayed for them and begged the Father for mercy because He could not remove their unconfessed sin. However, he invited ONE thief next to Him to paradise, forgave his sin, reconciled with Him, justified him BUT DID NOT PRAY FOR HIM. Yet Jesus loved and prayed for the soldiers but did not invite them to paradise, did not reconcile with them, did not Justify them, did not forgive or remove their guilt. For any Biblical forgiveness to happen their must be an action, interaction, and transaction between God and sinner. There was no such thing with the solders. Not even a word between them. Jesus said, “No man can come to me except the father which hath sent me draw Him. ” Matthew 6:44 The thief was drawn, the soldiers were not. Jesus could not sin by forgiving the sins of the soldiers and contradicting His own words and His Father’s justice until they came drawn in repentance.

    • titorite

      I came here looking for answers because close loved ones have wronged me and believe they have done no wrong. In fact they continue to wrong not only myself but our child as well. They believe themselves justified in harming me and the minor and I don’t know how to forgive this. Especially since they do not want my forgiveness. So I am thankful for the sample prayer there. I shall pray this in christs name.

  • http://michaelcoughlin.net/ Michael Coughlin

    Well, in light of these thoughts, I really hope that all Christians discover confess and specifically repent of every sin they’ve ever committed before they die, or else!”

    But God demonstrated His love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

    I do appreciate you breaking it down into some component parts, but I think there’s more to it and I think the teaching is dangerous and breeds bitterness.

    • elainebitt

      Hello Michael! =)

      I agree with you in one point: “there’s more to it”. May I recommend you read Chris Brauns’ book, and then come back to Murray’s blog? ;)

      No where the biblical view of forgiveness would be dangerous and breed bitterness if truly understood and taught. You seem to be saying, in between the lines, that choosing to forgive all people all the time is ALWAYS the proper way for Christians to deal with offenses and transgressions, and that way will NEVER breeds bitterness.

      As Brauns makes clear in his book, we are never to withhold forgiveness, but always to be ready to forgive the repentant. The following is what I think is the thesis of the book:
      “God’s forgiveness is a commitment by the one true God to pardon graciously those who repent and believe so that they are reconciled to Him, although not all consequences are eliminated.” (p.54)

      Hence, “forgiveness is a commitment by the offended to pardon graciously the repentant from moral liability and to be reconciled to that person, although not all consequences are necessarily eliminated.” (p. 55)

      I believe you would agree with me that the purpose of forgiveness is reconciliation. Well, most Christians don’t believe that, and are even ignorant of that truth. The way they go about it, if we think forgiveness is always unconditional, is really a denial of the offense. That breeds bitterness. They try to deal with the emotional side of the problem, and not with what God teaches us about biblical forgiveness.

      • http://michaelcoughlin.net/ Michael Coughlin

        Thanks for your gracious comment Elaine.

        My argument would be that wrong theology has the potential to breed bitterness. Right theology would not, but sinful men may use it to justify ungodliness. So agreeing with me does not mean you will never be bitter. I’m not saying that.

        So I am, in essence, saying I disagree with the theology as stated, ERGO, it is potentially harmful. Although, I know GODLY people who ascribe to that theology who are not led toward evil necessarily.

        This needs much more space than is available, but here’s a few thoughts.

        1. I may agree with David more than it seems in the sense that I think we need more than one word. I see forgiveness and reconciliation as two separate things, although related.

        2. I believe that it is God’s forgiveness which leads to repentance. That is the basis of unconditional election. God didn’t potentially forgive the elect, hoping they’d repent.
        3. But they are conflated, are they not, because we also know the elect will repent. I see the repentance as the result of forgiveness, not the catalyst or final nail in the building of forgiveness.
        4. I believe that God has forgiven me of all my sins already, even though for which I have not specifically repented. I don’t see room for that with the above theology.
        5. I believe that there are times people can’t even agree on what happened. I’m not sure how the withhold-forgiveness crowd deals with that. I guess you just have to hold onto the hurt for those things. Even worse if someone you know dies…I guess you can just never forgive that.
        6. Thanks for pointing out Matthew 18 has NOTHING to do with dealing with an offense received from a nonChristian. I really don’t see how withholding forgiveness from a nonChristian, especially in matters where they may not even understand their sin is helpful to the relationship or to teaching them about Christ. In fact, it is the desire to take the offense upon myself that is most Christlike if I’m willing.

        Now, we may be closer than I think as what I call forgiveness may be what David outlined as points 1 & 2. But I still have trouble reconciling loving people (1 cor 13), overlooking offenses (proverbs), forgiving as Christ forgave me (without total understanding of even a fraction of how evil I really was) with the withhold forgiveness theology – and I’ve seen both ideas in action too often at this point to have any evidence to the contrary of how I’ve interpreted the scripture.

        But I’m also not as smart or a learned as David or many of the people who hold this view, so maybe I’m just needing to learn it better.

        • elainebitt

          Michael, the article suffers a little injustice when read by people who haven’t thought this issue through. I can only assume that Murray is a bit tired (as I am) of hearing Christians trying to deal with forgiveness in an emotional way, and not biblically, which is what really matters after all.

          It is a strong title for the article, and I kind of like it to be honest. I hope that makes people think biblically on this subject.

          I agree with you in a lot of points. However, it seems to me that you are looking at the concept of forgiveness as something “flat” (my inability to handle the English language shows now, I apologize). Like Murray said somewhere, there are more than one “kind” of forgiveness. Mostly he is talking about how we Christians should inform our minds about forgiveness and how we should practice it. He is not looking at election and such.

          When I read this: ” But I still have trouble reconciling loving people (1 cor 13),
          overlooking offenses (proverbs), forgiving as Christ forgave me (without
          total understanding of even a fraction of how evil I really was) with
          the withhold forgiveness theology”, I see not conflict at all in my mind. You love people when you love them biblically. Again I will say this: withholding “full” forgiveness is not the same as saying we should be bitter, not to talk to that person ever again, seek revenge, etc. When we have in mind that reconciliation is the purpose of forgiveness, we will seek that brother/sister’s repentance until it really happens.

          The problem I see, in practice, is that people have this tendency of taking theology to its extreme sometimes. That is why the subject of forgiveness needs to be properly and biblically taught. A congregation with no understanding of forgiveness/repentance/reconciliation has no unity at all.

          Get the book. ;)

          • http://michaelcoughlin.net/ Michael Coughlin

            With all due respect – to imply the issue hasn’t been thought through is offensive. I could, in fact, say the same about everyone who does not agree with me, but I won’t.

            But I forgive you, even if you never agree with me concerning the offense. :)

            And i agree, loving people means giving them the truth…but the problem here isn’t that I’m trying not to do that…the problem is that we are each interpreting the scripture differently.

            And, as always, I believe what I believe because I think it is right. So do you.

            I’d like to see you explain a circumstance when you’ve successfully withheld forgiveness. How did that relationship look while awaiting

            1. the offender to agree with you concerning the events
            2. the offender to agree with you that they sinned against you
            3. the offender to exhibit enough repentance to you that you would officially forgive.

            I’m interested in how that actually plays out.

            And I hope you’re not implying in your last paragraph that someone who didn’t see forgiveness the way David has proposed “has NO UNDERSTANDING of…the topic.” That seems to be the extreme theology being presented.

            And remember, I have enjoyed liking your comments for years not on blogs and vice versa so I’m not being argumentative or rude so forgive me if my comment doesn’t convey the type of kind demeanor I feel as I discuss the wonderful forgiveness of God with you.

          • Tom

            When Elaine and I and others who have read the Brauns book recommend more carefully thinking the matter through, I believe it’s generally because we thought we understood forgiveness, too, and more have a better understanding than we used to. Elaine can correct me if I’m misrepresenting her view. Myself, I learned a lot by working through this issue – and the extremely Bible-based book by Chris Brauns – during the 34th year since the beginning of my walk in Christ. This old dog learned a new trick!

            To me the key is this. If God is willing to forgive all, but only actually forgives some, based on their seeking forgiveness through confession and repentance of all sin, we set ourselves up as being more forgiving than God if we insist that all believers forgive the unrepentant. And as for bitterness, I submit that there is a whole ocean of bitterness that has come from the misguided insistence that forgiveness must be immediate and unconditional. This effectively blocks all attempts to actually work through the conflict, because real forgiveness entails a promise to no longer bring up the matter. And the typical result is people who have been offended feeling that’s the end of what the Christian faith has in the way of conflict resolution, so they should feel like they’re easy to move on – nut since they don’t, they assume there’s something wrong with them. In this state of deep disappointment, many will simply abandon the faith.

            Back to the main observation though. What’s your take on the comparison between our forgiveness and God’s? Maybe you think God actually forgives without a requirement of repentance? If He does, are there tons of forgiven people who are headed for eternal punishment? If He doesn’t forgive without repentance, is He just our unjust in requiring that we do so? I’m not seeing traps here – these are the real issues we face in understanding Christian forgiveness.

          • http://michaelcoughlin.net/ Michael Coughlin

            Thanks, Tom. You’re thoughtful and honest and I appreciate that, brother.

            At this point, we are getting further than blog comments should allow and we are not actually discussing the scripture. So I don’t want to continue because I’m afraid we’ll talk past each other as we are all offering ideas which are conclusions drawn from differing foundations.

            Also, if it makes you feel better, a wonderful sister has offered to send me the book so that I’ll have a better understanding. God bless!

          • elainebitt

            =) I know you’re not being argumentative.

            “With all due respect – to imply the issue hasn’t been thought through is
            offensive. I could, in fact, say the same about everyone who does not
            agree with me, but I won’t.”
            I mispoke, I didn’t mean “you” personally. When I said “people” I certainly wasn’t including you or directing it at you just because you haven’t read Brauns’ book.

            The subject of forgiveness is particularly personal to me. I deal with having to “forgive” someone on a daily basis. I call that “overlooking an offense” instead of “withholding forgiveness” – I personally don’t like the word “withholding”. Since I understood the biblical teaching on this subject (and we disagree here, but that’s ok), I came to the point of understanding what “I” was doing wrong. I read Tom’s reply to you below, and this is worth quoting:

            “And as for bitterness, I submit that there is a whole ocean of
            bitterness that has come from the misguided insistence that forgiveness
            must be immediate and unconditional.”

            I was one of those people. For years and years I could not understand what was wrong with the entire forgiveness thing. Now, after confessing my sin, and since I’ve been always seeking to obey the Word, PLUS having my mind set (as much as possible) on the “future” that awaits for us, I am able to overlook offenses and wait until the offender repents – mind you, I don’t even know if that will happen one day. Don’t get me wrong, I haven’t achieved perfection. =)

            I learn about people by asking them questions. I’ve asked many people, even in my own church, and a lot of them make this puzzling face when I talk about forgiveness. For a moment they don’t get it, then they get it, then the question comes: “you’re saying I should hold it against the offender?” I usually wonder why would that be the logical conclusion for people? It’s a mistake in thinking, simple as that, there isn’t only two options, you see.

            To answer your questions though. It’s the Holy Spirit’s ministry to convict offenders. Not mine (although I’ve placed myself in that position many times, I confess). So prayer is really the basis for having a heart that waits while God works. The relationship, in the meantime, will be not be restored, but that also doesn’t mean that there isn’t some kind of relationship, right (provided the circumstances of the offense, of course)?

            Let’s use an example. A husband is unfaithful and the wife finds out it wasn’t the first time. She is willing to forgive him, but he feels he did what he did because he wasn’t happy. He is not convicted of his sin. He might somewhat agree with the event, but he disagrees he’s sinned. The wife should take that in prayer (it is after all not her job to bring him conviction to his heart), trust in God and do what’s expected of her biblically. Is that easy? No! But usually “easy” is not the way God uses to grow us.

            I think of it this way: when I am convicted of having offended anyone, I know that first and foremost I offended my God. I confess my sin to Him. And I seek forgiveness from the person I offended as soon as possible. A person convicted of having sinned against someone will do that, in my understanding. Other than waiting for the Holy Spirit to do His work, I cannot do anything, as the offended part, rather than wait and pray, without holding bitterness, anger and other sinful emotions.

            I agree with you that this topic merits many more words than the length of David’s blog article though.

        • PuritanD71


          Thanks for offering your thoughts on this issue. I am struggling with how this article lines up with the atonement. How does this work if God does not actually forgive my sin unless I repent first? Does this mean that Jesus is repeatedly having to be “crucified” for my atonement? Is atonement different from God’s forgiveness and if so how? Is God only positionally ready to forgive because of Christ’s death and yet God does not actually forgive until much later in time?

          Elain may be right that the categories may be where the major problem lies. I do not experience reconciliation with our God until repentance 1 John 1:9, speaks to this. Relationally, we don’t experience reconciliation until there is confession and repentance. Likewise, isn’t this the same we are to respond.

          I don’t think anyone who states a need to forgive is also claiming that the relationship is now whole. Those who do argue for the forgiveness agree that reconciliation happens when repentance is offered. The article to me offered more confusion than clarification in light of trying to fit the atonement within the two categories that Mr. Murray is expressing.

    • David Murray

      It is not possible for Christians to confess to every sin they’ve ever committed. It is possible for us, and something most of us do every day, to confess all our sins in general and receive general and complete forgiveness as well.

    • David Murray

      I think if steps 1&2 are carried out, it will minimize and hopefully eventually remove bitterness.

  • David Pitman


  • Tom

    Great summary of what might be the core fellowship issue of our times. I really like the “sample prayer.” It makes clear the heart’s desire to forgive at a moment when actual forgiveness is impossible, and demonstrates what one actually *does* while withholding forgiveness – we pray for the offender, for the opportunity to forgive and fully reconcile, and for God’s glory to be revealed in all its fullness.

    Paul said we have Ben given the ministry of reconciliation. Forgiveness is a critical means toward this end, but forgiveness is not an end in and of itself. We’ve misunderstood this in many ways, both in our horizontal relationships and in our vertical relationship: the gospel is God’s reconciliation of mankind into right relationship with our maker; we frequently present the gospel as simply getting forgiven of our sins. So pervasive. So critical that we get this right.

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  • Piotr

    Hello, interesting and thought provoking article. What about Luke 23:34: “Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. And they parted his raiment, and cast lots.”? Exception from the rule?

    • David Murray

      No, I think that’s a prayer for people to be forgiven, reflecting the positional forgiveness of steps 1&2. Only some at the cross went on to repent and enjoy full five step forgiveness.

      • James Scott Berry


    • delightinHim

      This is an excellent article on whether or not that was from the lips of Jesus or the hands of the scribes http://www.aomin.org/aoblog/index.php/2012/04/05/from-the-lips-of-jesus-or-a-scribal-hand-father-forgive-them-for-they-do-not-know-what-they-are-doing/

    • James Scott Berry

      Define the difference between an offer and a request. You offer me 10 million or request 10 million from me. Opposite concepts, true? Was Jesus offering to the soldiers, or requesting from His father because he could not offer? And Compare this to the one thief. Did Jesus offer forgiveness and paradise to Him, or did he simply pray and beg God and request forgiveness as he did for the soldiers? Why? Whats the difference? Why 2 different, opposite responses? We have believed and taught the opposite of what actually happened on the cross.

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  • Tim

    Forgive: 1a : to give up resentment of or claim to requital for
    b : to grant relief from payment of
    2 : to cease to feel resentment against (an offender)
    Forgiveness by definition seems pretty one sided to me, which lines up with my understanding of salvation (also one sided). Maybe we’re mixing the concepts of forgiveness and reconciliation?
    I’m not sure about the underlying theology presented in the first half of this article. Making the assumption that we’re working from the same soteriological framework, if I can put it this way:
    “God does not forgive those who do not want forgiveness.” –DM
    Total Depravity–No one wants forgiveness
    Unconditional Election–God forgives, regardless of our lack of desire for forgiveness
    “God offers forgiveness to everyone”–DM
    Limited Atonement–God does not “offer forgiveness to everyone”
    “God’s forgiveness is conditional on repentance”–DM
    Irresistible Grace–When God forgives our sins, we are forgiven. Period. Past, present, future. Forgiveness is the CAUSE of repentance, not conditional on it.
    Perseverance of the Saints–Our salvation does not depend on us seeking forgiveness for every sin.
    Eph 4:32 “And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.”–if that’s the model for forgiveness, I don’t see how we could possibly put any conditions on it.

    • nancy_green

      God’s irresistible grace, then regeneration; forgiveness is offered, but only those made alive by God’s sovereign, electing grace will receive it.

    • James Scott Berry

      Why did Stephen tell the Jews they had resisted the Grace of God? Also, we are told, we should not resist – or quench the Spirit of God. Webster is not Jesus and his definitions are unbiblical. Biblical forgiveness has absolutely nothing to do with getting rid of anger and bitterness. That happens through meekness, lowliness, trusting God and mourning to God. Never forgiveness. Aphiemi Forgiveness means to lift off, remove, send away, forsake, divorce the sin FROM THE SINNER. If they love or deny their sin, not even God can help them until He draws them to repentance. We are not more loving of forgiving or powerful than God.

  • http://www.sobovoy.com Dmytro Sobovoy

    David, these are very helpful distinctions. My question pertains to positional forgiveness. How is a Christian to feel during this step? If not the bitterness, frustration or anger, what exactly? In other words, what is right state of heart BEFORE granting forgiveness and reconciliation?

  • Alan Kurschner

    Please see my piece on Luke 23:34a that argues that it is most likely not original:


    I also have some comments why unconditional forgiveness is not a biblical transaction theory and some implications it has, for example, universalism.



    • Alan Kurschner

      I meant to say, “…is not a valid biblical transaction theory…”

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  • delightinHim

    Excellent! It would be helpful if you could address “reconciliation”. Are there different degrees? For example, date rape. What would reconciliation look like?

  • nancy_green

    thank you, David Murray! This is so helpful, as is the book you commend, Unpacking Forgiveness. It’s not conducive to reconciliation and peace to keep giving forgiveness to someone who does not think he needs it – the hurts just keep on coming, and no human being alive has enough cheeks to turn. Only God’s love, power, truth, and forgiveness will give me the strength/courage to call sin “sin”, offer forgiveness and seek to heal the relationship by helping the other person to come to terms with how he has sinned against God and against me. If I don’t do that, I am not truly loving the other person FOR HIS GOOD and for his progress in sanctification.

  • TracyJayne

    This is complicating God’s love which we could never completely understand. Forgiveness is for our own heart and is not dependent on reconciliation. It’s about obedience.

    • James Scott Berry

      Where in the Bible does God ever forgive without being reconciled to those whose sins he forgives? Forgive is never for us the giver any more than it is for Gods benefit, the giver. It is for our, the repentant sinners, benefit.

  • Gerri

    Ok…I’m reading this, looking at verses, processing….
    Here’s my difficulty with it…
    God is perfect and sinless.
    I am not.
    His holiness is offended by my sin.
    How can I compare my forgiveness of others with His forgiveness of me?
    HE paid the price and made the way for my forgiveness…. to forgive like Him would require the same of me for those that offend or wrong me.
    To set myself up in a position of needing repentance before giving forgiveness based on God’s forgiveness at this point doesn’t ring true.
    I’m going to get the book and read further…..but I don’t know…………..

    • James Scott Berry

      “How can I compare my forgiveness of others with His forgiveness of me?” Because He commanded you to forgive as He forgives To remove the confessed debt someone owes you. You cannot pay for sin. Only Jesus/God can do that. Nor can you remove someones debt to another person. But the Bible is clear- we are commanded to remove the debt someone owes us when they beg for their debt to be removed. You have no choice. Or, Jesus says, you will be turned over to the torturers. You are going to hell because you do no know, experience, or understand the love and forgiveness of God to those who beg him.

      • Nick

        Wait.. are you saying that Gerri is going to hell based on one paragraph on the internet in which he displayed theological confusion? Really? On another note, thank you – You’ve wrote some really good comments and have helped me to learn, especially talking about ‘apheimi’, and God’s love for all people versus His forgiveness for some people.

        • James Scott Berry

          Nick…THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU for pointing that out. sometimes the way we write things is not at all how we meant it in our heart. No, I was not saying .Gerri is going to hell hahahaha. actually it’s not funny it is terrible the way it came across… and again thank you for picking up on that. what I meant is that Jesus is saying that if we cannot forgive the offense of someone when they sin against us and are begging and pleading with us to remove their debt and sorrow for sin, then we do not know God who readily forgives us when we repent. That was the point of Jesus’ story in Matthew 18. The King had forgiven the great debt of the wicked servant because he begged and pleaded for forgivenes. but when that same wicked servant found someone who owed him a little bit and was begging and pleading for mercy and forgiveness, he was unwilling to remove or send away the small debt from the person begging him. jesus said he would be turned over to the torturers. Whenever someone begs, we are commanded to remove their guilt and sin. But if they love their sin or deny their sin, then we cannot help them. If they think the chains and handcuffs they have on are gold and want to keep them we cannot remove them from them no matter how much we love them . however we do not have to be angry or bitter and we can continue to love and pray for them.

  • Grace

    Great article!! please get the recommended book. There is so much in there and it is well worth your time. Deals even with forgiving unrepentant abusers and it was very helpful to me.

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  • JB

    By your estimation, what this man did is un-godlike… I quite disagree.

    I most certainly disagree. Forgiveness is free to all. Whether it is received (in repentance) or not determines whether reconciliation with God and man happens, and whether the offender is freed from eternal punishment. But I will continue to walk in obedience and “un-godlike” forgiveness, as an offering of thanks to my Forgiver and an opportunity to express the mercy I myself have received!

  • soph

    On this point:
    4. We must forgive upon the condition of repentance: According to
    Matthew 18:15-17, if a person sins we must reprove them. If they do not
    respond with repentance, we must take it to another level. If they
    repent at any stage, we must forgive them, even if it’s the 490th time
    they’ve done it (Matt. 18:22)

    Isn’t that about the steps of church discipline rather than forgiveness?

    • elainebitt

      Yes, it is. In my opinion that point shouldn’t be part of the list, unless we are talking about only Christians. Matthew 18 is not applicable to unbelievers.

      • James Scott Berry

        Unbievers??? Jesus never said to forgive your enemy. He said love do good bless pray for turn the other cheek go the extra mile …but never something so ridiculous as to lift off or send away (forgive) the chains of sin from someone who loves or denies their sin.. This never happens in the. Bible that I can find. Do you have a example from the Bible?

    • James Scott Berry

      What do you mean “rather than forgiveness? ” no it is not about either or. They are both the same. It is about forgiving the sins of a repentant brother or holdinng the unrepentant bound in his chains and unforiven of his stubbornly uncomfessed sin just like we must treat yet love the heathen.

  • Soph

    An excerpt from John MacArthur’s book on forgiveness:

    “I don’t know
    whether Jim or the other fellow was at fault in the original dispute. It
    may well be that both of them were partly wrong. But even if the other
    fellow was totally at fault, I believe Jim is clearly wrong to hang on
    to his bitterness and justify his refusal to forgive on the ground that
    the offender has not repented. This is precisely the kind of situation
    in which we are supposed to turn the other cheek (Matt. 5:39).
    Those who keep account of such wrongs, constantly demanding redress of
    personal affronts, are violating the very spirit of Christ.


    • elainebitt

      MacArthur uses one word – forgiveness – to talk about different “types” of forgiveness.

      Read this:
      “It is obvious from Scripture that sometimes forgiveness must be
      conditional… There are times when it is necessary to confront an
      offender. In such cases, unconditional forgiveness is not an option.
      These generally involve more serious sins – not petty or picayune
      complaints, but soul-threatening sins or transgressions that endanger
      the fellowship of saints.”

      The above is by MacArthur, his book “The Freedom and Power of Forgiveness”.

      It is interesting that you quote just a small part of that article at gty. Here’s the beginning of it:

      “I know a young man (we’ll call him Jim) who believes he was mistreated by a fellow
      Christian several years ago. There was a dispute about who was wrong in
      the incident. Jim brought the matter to the elders of his church for
      resolution. The elders attempted to investigate the matter but
      ultimately concluded there was insufficient evidence to determine who
      was at fault. It was one person’s word against the other’s, with no
      other witnesses. The elders finally advised both Jim and the other party
      to forgive one another and put the dispute behind them.

      Jim refused to do that. He had read a popular Christian book on
      forgiveness, and the book taught that forgiveness can never be granted
      until the other party repents and seeks forgiveness. Jim now believes he
      is justified in withholding forgiveness from his brother as long as the
      other man refuses to admit he was wrong. Jim is determined to see that
      he gets justice, and he has already spent several years seeking someone
      who will take up his cause. But almost everyone has given him the same
      advice: “The issue is petty. It’s your word against the other fellow’s.
      This might not be resolved until Christ Himself sorts it out and you lay
      your differences aside in heaven. Give it up and move on. It is
      beginning to dominate your life and rob you of opportunities to bear the
      fruit of the Spirit.”

      and the following paragraph:

      “For years he has gone from counselor to counselor, desperately seeking someone who will
      agree with him and help him pursue justice against this other Christian
      who Jim says sinned against him. He believes he is obeying the biblical
      injunction of Colossians 3:13 (“Just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you”) because, after all, God does not forgive apart from the repentance of the offender.
      Thus he has twisted a commandment to forgive into an excuse for withholding forgiveness.”

      The issue was petty. He deliberately twisted Scripture.

  • Matt Paul

    “However, I’m not going to carry this pain around to burden and burn my mind and heart for years. I’m handing this over to you”

    “I hand that entirely over to you.”

    “I promise to not dwell upon this incident, but rather I transfer it all over to you,”

    What does this mean exactly? How does declaring we will hand our pain over to our invincible God going to help? He’s not going to feel our pain for us. It seems to me the best route is to simple try not to think about it as much as possible. Making a vocal declaration that we will put it out of our mind and not dwell on it may help, sure. However, God isn’t going to vanquish our pain simply because we tell him we’re giving it to him. If I were to make a prayer along those lines, it would be something more like, “I don’t want to carry this pain around to burden and burn my mind and heart for years. God, please help me dwell on it less so that I’m not in a constant state of anger or depression for lack of repentance from (person X).”

  • Gayle Brown

    I agree with your article 100 %. It always seemed odd to me to think that I had the power to forgive someone of their sin when God himself hadn’t forgiven them if they hadn’t repented and accepted His forgiveness. That we should forgive others using the same pattern of forgiveness as God does make much more sense.
    Thanks for a great article.

  • DRC

    There is an issue at the Church I pastor. Over a decade ago a man committee adultery and remains unreconciled to his, now divorced, wife. I have heard from others of this fellows opinion the Church should forget it, it was so long ago. I am ready to forgive, should he repent but I don’t believe time itself atones for sin.

  • Brian

    Thank you David. Forgiveness is such a huge and often misunderstood issue. I really appreciate your clear writing and just think it such a shame when so many have to find some some insignificant side issue to argue upon whilst missing the key message. Your book recommendation is excellent. Thank you again brother for writing a post that has been a real blessing to my own soul. I find my own position on conditional forgiveness necessitates my carefully guarding my own heart to avoid the sins of self-righteouness, bitterness and a condemning attitude.

  • soph

    From what I’ve been reading…forgiveness is a command that has to obeyed right away: “Don’t let the sun go down on your wrath” [Ephesians 4:26]
    “Forgive as the Lord has forgiven you” [Ephesians 4:32]
    “While we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son [Romans 5:10]
    As for the imprecatory Psalms… I read:
    Some scholars, such as Charles Spurgeon, contend that these Psalms are not so much imprecations as they are prophetic in nature.(6) In this view the Psalmist is not petitioning God’s wrath, he is merely predicting it.

    From Nancy Leigh DeMoss:

    Here are three biblical reasons why we should choose to forgive.

    First, Jesus said, “If you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matt. 6:14–15). One reason to forgive others is so that God will forgive us.

    Here’s the second reason. Paul told the believers in Corinth to forgive so they would not give Satan an advantage. When we don’t forgive, we give Satan a foothold in our lives and in the Body of Christ.

    Finally, Matthew 18 describes someone who refused to forgive. It says he was delivered “to the tormentors” (v. 34). When we refuse to forgive, we may start to experience spiritual, emotional, and even physical consequences of holding bitterness in our hearts.

    So if you want to be forgiven, protected, and free, then choose to forgive today.
    by Nancy Leigh DeMoss

    • Scott

      The cross didn’t forgive us. It enabled God to forgive us by Jesus’ sacrifice. The cross was universal, but forgiveness is conditioned on repentance. There is a distinction there. That’s how Jesus can die for the sins of the WHOLE world but it is applied to those who repent in belief.

      • Craig

        The bible doesn’t teach forgiveness as conditional outside whether or not you choose to believe in Christ.

      • Craig

        Please point me to the verses saying so.

  • Andrea

    Great article!!…couldn’t help but think how modern day psychology has hijacked the Christian term of “forgiveness” in an attempt to heal the victim without any thought or understanding of repentence from the offender. This belief only brings artificial, possibly short-lived, “healing”. This unbiblical forgiveness theology does nothing to restore genuine relationships, as well as places zero responsibility on the offender. Sadly this theology has infiltrated the church. We as God’s children have a responsibility to live out and teach true biblical repentence/forgiveness.

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  • ForgivenByGod

    If we truly may not forgive unless the offender asks forforgiveness, than everyone must have at least one unforgiven sin which they hold against me, because I often sin without realizing it. Should I be ending each conversation, each Bible study, etc by asking if I’ve offended anyone so that I can ask their forgiveness? Must I then remember everyone else’s sins until they ask for forgiveness? I cannot live like that, thinking that everyone has something against me because they may not forgive me until I ask forgiveness, and I don’t know I’ve offended them.

    I do believe there are times when repentance is necessary. I also believe that we must repent of the sins we are conscious of – always to God, since all sin is ultimately against Him, and usually to the one we’ve sinned against (sins of thought may be exceptions). But though we must always be ready to repent of all our sins as they are revealed to us, forgiveness is something we get to give to others out of love – some sins after they are repented of, and some which the offender may never even know he has committed against us.

    I know I am introverted and quite melancholic, and I cannot live if people may not forgiveme until I ask for it, knowing that I often offend without knowing it. I am grateful that my God is willing toforgive me, also for the many sins that I don’t even know I’ve committed.

    When I think of God’s forgiveness, I know that all my sins are washed away by Christ’s blood. When I come to Him asking for forgiveness, then I have the joy of the assurance of that forgiveness.

    Here are two links that I found helpful when deciding if we need to confront people over their sin or forgive it without their knowing they ever offended us.

    • James Scott Berry

      You are exactly right when talking about charizonai forgiveness which Paul speaks of (Jesus once) but this is never true of aphiemi forgiveness, the main word Jesus uses. Hope u can attend or host an “Overcoming Sorrow, Anger, and Bitterness seminar one day. http://Www.cleartruthministries.com

  • Guest

    I Do not normally Enter these Blogs but I do get scared when forgiveness is presented in this way. To forgive as God Forgives Is not conditional on Repentance. It is not By repentance that we are saved. In no way is repentance an Instrument for which I receive Forgiveness. If that is the case then I could not be forgiven of the sins that I do not know I commit. Nor could Infants ever be saved because they are unable to understand repentance. It is entirely a work of God. Secondly, Christ has accomplished my Salvation while I was still in Sin. He has marked me as Justified hence forgiven Before I ever turned to Him. We have forgotten that the Work of Christ on the Cross was accomplished before I was even Born, before I was Repentant. Salvation which includes forgiveness is accomplished on the cross for me not when I repent. I do Believe that someone who Is Forgiven will repent. How can we not desire to turn from our Sin (Repent) when we see the work of Christ and his Offering to me the Work done on the Cross.

    • James Scott Berry

      You cannot repent of that of which you are no longer guilty. You cannot say, I have already been freed from sin, now I must repent of my sin. You are confusing aphiemi -removal of sin -forgiveness which Jesus teaches clearly can ONLY happen through begging, and Charizomai forgiveness which means to be gracious to the sins or overlook non-egregioius sins – even without repentance . We have grown up ignorant of the incompatibility and uniqueness of these two uninterchangable biblical words for “forgive.”

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  • Soph

    This article has a tone of forgiveness, but then I find he contradicts himself and confuses the simple command to forgive by splitting it into different “levels”: offering it first and then giving it based on the offender repenting.
    For example:
    He states: “We must forgive upon the condition of repentance.”
    and he wrote: “Forgiving someone before they repent is un-godlike.”

    Then what are we suppose to do with biblical accounts of Joseph forgiving his brothers whey they sold him into slavery and he forgave them before knowing if his brothers repented or not or when Stephen was being stoned to death and he forgave them during the very act. Obviously they weren’t repenting and he said: ““Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” Acts 7:60

    Biblically, aren’t we commanded to fully forgive whether or not the offender has repented?.
    I find Murray’s way of teaching forgiveness leaves room for us to forgive only half heartedly and to leave room for bitterness to creep in.

    Forgiveness means to cease feeling resentment against an offender, to stop feeling anger toward the person, to relinquish the right to retribution.
    (How can this be split into two steps which is what Murray is promoting.
    It’s either all or nothing no middle ground.)

    ie) in Mark 11:25: The word: “Forgive” is an imperative. (And there are no exceptions in this verse)

    This is the first time for me ever hearing about forgiving someone based on their repenting and I can’t find any biblical verses to tell me to withhold forgiveness if the offending party hasn’t repented. (Speaking on behalf of horizonal forgiveness – fallen human vs. fallen human)

    Of course there’s the other aspect of vertical forgiveness between the offender and God – but that is between them.
    And I fully agree with what Murray writes there that God will only forgive us based on us repenting and placing our trust in Christ alone.

    • James Scott Berry

      What Scripture – before years and years later when Joseph’s father died, gives any indication that Joseph forgave the sins of his brothers? Is accusing them of lying, being spies, putting them in prison, binding Simon for prison before their eyes, sending to get Benjamin and leave their old dying father at home—-is any of this forgiveness? No. It is tough love. It is bringing his brothers to teshuva – acknowledgement, remorse, repentance, restitution, and confession of sin so that he could, hopefully and finally, remove their guilt of sin and shame that weighed them down. He was not angry. He was not in the place of God. But he loved them and held them accountable as Jesus tells us to do to our unrepentant brothers in Matthew 18. No difference.

      As far as Stephen. He obeyed what Jesus told all of us to do. Pray for those who persecute you because God promises he will never forgive your unrepentant enemy, He will repay them. (Hebrews 12:19) He cannot forgive and repay your enemies at the same time and God will never be so wicked or stupid as to command you to do something He cannot and promises he will never do. Chargers – not forgiveness – were coming. Stephen knew and believed it. therefore He begged God to have mercy. For Biblical forgiveness to transpire there MUST ALWAYS BE an action, interaction and transaction between God and sinner or offended and offender. There was no communication between Stephen and the stoners. Only between Stephen and God, and God answered his prayer much later by withholding charges and forgiving the repentant Saul and changing His name to Paul.

  • TJ

    But David, it seems to me that, according to reformed theology, God DOES forgive us before we repent. He has, in fact, forgiven all of his elect through Jesus. If anything, his eternal decree of election is an act of forgiveness, so I don’t think we can say at all that God does not forgive until we repent. You COULD say that God forgives those who will eventually repent. As Paul says, it is his kindness that leads us to repentance.

    I think on that basis it would be quite fair to say we should imitate that behavior, forgiving others in the hopes that our forgiveness will lead to true reconciliation. I think my problem with what you are saying is that you are conflating forgiveness and reconciliation. It is entirely possible to forgive someone whether they want your forgiveness or not. It is impossible to have reconciliation with someone who does not want it.

    • TJ

      Consider your example prayer where you write “Lord, you know I don’t want your vengeance executed on Jim, but with this prayer I’m promising no more vengeance on my part. I hand that entirely over to you.
      I promise to not dwell upon this incident, but rather I transfer it all over to you, and trust you to put right in your own time and way. You know I am ready to forgive Jim fully, freely, and forever, should it ever be asked for.”

      This IS forgiveness as most people understand it. I think you are redefining forgiveness as reconciliation in this post and my concern is that it may cause more confusion than help and perhaps even allow some to feel justified in their own unwillingness to forgive.

      • Nathan

        TJ, I agree. This is typically how we think of forgiveness. However, I suspect there is quite a bit of overlap between these two terms in Scripture.

        David, what do you do with Jesus’ request that the Father forgive those killing him on the cross?

      • James Scott Berry

        This IS forgiveness as most modern Christians define it, but this definition has NOTHING TO DO with Biblical forgiveness, rather it is what Jesus called meekness and loving your enemy…NEVER forgiveness. Biblical forgiveness has nothing to do with releasing yourself from anything or not being angry or bitter or vengeful. just look it up in Strongs or Youngs Concordance..it means to lift off, send away, forsake, divorce or let the debt or sin go from the offender, not from you or your heart. That is a rather foolish concept of forgiveness . God never forgives people He forgives sin from people and we are to immitate God and do the same. Yes we are to forgive debt and sin just like Jesus told us to. However we cannot pay for sIn.. only God can atone or pay for sin . But we are to remove the debt of those who are begging. God removes our debt from us only if we want Him too by begging and pleading. If we love or deny our sin He will not remove it from us. Unless we repent, Jesus said, we will perish We cannot remove the debts or sin owed to God or debts owed to other people. Only from those who want their chains of sin removed..not from those who consider their chains golden treasures.

    • James Scott Berry

      Jesus said, “He that believeth is not condemned, but he that believeth not is CONDEMNED ALREADY. ” Not forgiven already. Until Saul was drawn to repentance, he was NOT freed from his sin of continuing to murder Christians. If you are already forgiven you cannot repent of sin that does not exist. We must change our theology to fit the Bible. We must stop changing the Bible to fit our theology. Jesus said we are forgiven for only one reason: not simply because God loves us (He loved the rich young ruler but rejected him) but only because we BEG and DESIRE to be removed of our sin. (Matthew 18:32) “and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” Romans 10:10

      • Scott

        Amen on theology fitting the Bible.

      • Craig

        What about God’s sovereignty? And the fact that we were “chosen” even before our time?

        • James Scott Berry

          God exist without time and he is not bound by time like we are. therefore the Bible must express things in the way we understand. That God has called us before the foundation of the world does not negate any other truth that Jesus taught. Jesus taught that if we do not repent we will not be forgiven. we will perish. If we cannot forgive someone of their sin who is begging and pleading then Jesus says God will never forgive us even if we beg and plead and cry out for mercy. (Matthew 18). Don’t let the Calvinist/Biblical idea of predestination and calling nor the truth that it is God who draws us to Christ and leads us to repentance make you ignore the other truths of Scripture that repentance is necessary for salvation. The first command out of the mouth of John the Baptist and out of the mouth of Jesus when he began his ministry after temptation in the desert was to repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand. you must make your theology fit the Bible you can’t make the Bible fit your theology. You cannot negate the truth of the teaching of Jesus because your theology tells you something that may seem opposite. . Your theology may or may not be truth but God’s Word is truth. Your theology is simply your interpretation of God’s truth. the best way to know the theology is correct as if you take all of Scripture and balance all the truth is that seem to be opposite. again do not disregard on the gate the truth that Jesus teaches about the necessity of repentance in order to be saved. it’s why Jesus saved and justified and reconciled and invited the one thief to heaven but did not pray for him and yet prayed for the Roman soldiers but did not save them did not reconcile them, did not justify them, did not invite them to heaven and did not forgive their sin. He prayed for those who were persecuting him like he told us to do not because he was forgiving there sin but because he could not forgive their sin without repentance. No one can come unto me, jesus said, unless with all the draw him including the Roman soldiers.

          • Craig

            I’m going to take a shot at this.

            Repentance is not a requirement of salvation. It is a product of salvation. This is biblically sound.

            If repentance were a requirement for salvation, then that would insinuate we have control over our salvation. If then we can save ourselves we have no need of God or Jesus.

            But we most definitely do need Him.

            Works salvation is paradoxical and not biblically sound.

            I will post biblical references tomorrow, but as for tonight I am very tired. Thanks for the response and I hope we can continue this conversation.

            Grace be with you

          • James Scott Berry

            Thanks for sharing Craig. My belief is that if your sin is lifted off, sent away, totally separated from you, divorce from you then you do not need to repent in fact you cannot repent because you are guilty of nothing. there’s no way that a just God can remove your sin and guilt and then hold you accountable. This is what aphiemi forgiveness means. jesus and john the baptist commanded that men repent.
            there is no need of that if you can be saved without repentance. and as I said, if your sin is forgiven and sent away already, then you can not repent of something that does not exist any longer. What do you think?
            it just seems to me that you are desperately holding on to your theology regardless of what Jesus what the Bible says. Also, get a concordance and go through the word repentance in the New Testament. when jesus command that we do something whether you want to call it a work or not you just have to do it…whatever you call it.

          • James Scott Berry

            So Craig, are you saying that the apostle Paul was already saved when he was going around torturing and killing Christians? When you are saved and forgiven you cannot be held guilty unless you sin again and need to repent which is why Jesus tells us to rebuke our brothers when they are in sin so that they can come to repentance and be forgiven. Do you disobey Jesus and say, “Oh, he’s already forgiven of this then there’s no need to rebuke him?

          • Craig

            I’m not a theologian. I’m a humble servant of Christ. I try take the word as it is without legalism, my own presuppositions, or trivialities interfering.

            Again I don’t have a lot of time for this but I’ll take a whack at it.

            Acts 2:38, the definition of remission is “the cancelation of a debt, charge, or penalty” it’s an act, singular meaning it happens once.
            Ephesians 2:8-10 says most of it
            “for by grace you have been saved through faith and this is NOT YOUR OWN DOING, it is the gift of God, NOT a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God has prepared BEFOREHAND, that we SHOULD (not must) walk in them.”

            And yes, Paul was already saved, even though he didn’t know it yet. God is almighty all powerful all knowing every where at once. God is sovereign. He is in control of everything at all times. We have free will, within the boundaries of whether or not we were chosen.

            I suggest you get on your knees and ask God to reveal this to you. If I’m wrong so be it, but I have earnestly sought the true answer to this question for years and years and I feel as if God has revealed the answer to me through His word.

            Pride is a dangerous game my brother. I will hear from you again I hope.



            Both of those describe my outlook. If those aren’t biblically sound please point me to what is.

            Grace and love to all.

    • Scott

      That’s one of the reasons I’m not a Calvinist, but that’s another topic. God forgives those who repent. When we start getting into “those who will eventually repent” we are going beyond Scripture. The Bible never says God forgives those who eventually repent. That’s an assumption made from another assumption.

  • chichi

    Hypothetical Situation:
    My dad severely abused me while growing up. But he died when I was 18 years old. I came to know the Lord at 25. I realize now that I have anger and bitterness issues with my late dad due to the past offenses he inflicted on me. How can I heal and have forgiveness if according to your teaching it won`t fully happen unless my dad repents – which is impossible because he`s dead.

    I don`t think God would have forgotten about this loophole…

    • elainebitt

      This is why hypotheticals are bad. You are using a fictious situation to try to disprove what the bible teaches. We can stay here discussing “ifs” until the cows come home. Let’s not.

      However, your story is not a loophole. It’s quite simple. If you have anger and bitterness issues, you have to deal with those biblically, regardless if the offender is alive, unrepentant, or unreachable. I wish David would have expanded more on his article, but he decided to keep it short. No where – no where, no one or the bible says that harbouring anger and bitterness is ok. It’s our responsibility to confess and deal with these sins biblically, regardless the circumstances.

      • chichi

        I don’t think you understood my example.
        But I agree with you. It’s a sin to harbor anger and bitterness.
        We need to forgive our offender whether s/he repents or not.

        ie) Joseph forgiving his brothers whey they sold him into slavery and he forgave them before knowing if his brothers repented or not
        or when Stephen was being stoned to death and he forgave them during the very act. Obviously they weren’t repenting and he said: ““Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” Acts 7:60

        • James Scott Berry

          Neither one of those examples is true. was just a forgiving his brothers when he bound member them in prison and bound simon before their eyes and spoke harshly to them? Was he forgiving when he accused him of being spies and spoke harshly to them and sent them to get Benjamin and leave their father at home knowing it might kill him? no it was not forgiveness it was love trying to bring them to repentance and the knowledge ment of their guilt. there is no mention of forgiveness until years and years later after their father died and they came to him lying because they were afraid he would kill them. if we cannot understand the differences between love and forgiveness we will never understand what Jesus was talking about. neither Jesus nor steven forgave their enemies nor did they give them any insurance of forgiveness or salvation or going to heaven. They loved their enemies and prayed for them because they could not assure sure them of heaven they could not remove their guilt, they could not sure the most paradise they could not invited to heaven

    • James Scott Berry

      Getting rid of anger and Bitterness is NEVER about forgiveness. It is about meekness, Jesus said. (Matthew 11:28-30) It is about going to God and responding to His Grace and His sovereignty in allowing you to be abused like he allowed Jesus, Paul, Joseph and many tortured and martyred saints to be abused. (Hebrews 12:15) Ask a Jew what they believe. What Jesus and Paul believed growing up and is true to this day. If you are bitter, you are bitter at God.
      If you are a Christian, truly, you are already like God. If your father had have come to you begging in tears and undeniable remorse, giving you everything he had and begging you to forgive/lift off/remove his handcuffs of sin, would you? If yes, forgiveness cannot be your issue. for you are already as forgiving as God is. “For thou O God art good and READY TO FORGIVE and plenteous in mercy TO ALL THAT CALL UPON YOU. ” Psalm 86:5 But never to those who do not call upon Him. Your problem is being bitter that God allowed the abuse. It is never through forgiveness but through trusting Him, mourning to him, and becoming meek, that you will receive God’s power to inherit the earth! http://www.cleartruthministries.com

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  • http://www.podcastfasttrack.com/ Carey Green

    My experience in dealing with this issue has convinced me that the issue is how we define “forgiveness.” We live in a culture that defines it as, “Let it go, release the person, etc., no matter the condition of their heart about the offense/sin.” Under that definition, everyone from Adolph Hitler to Osama Bin Laden should be forgiven by God simply because He needs to “let it go.” That’s not biblical. It’s not consistent with God’s justice. It’s not biblical for us to forgive in that way either. I view it as “sloppy” forgiveness. The main issue folks get hung up on (my experience again) is the bitterness that can so easily lodge in the heart of the one who was offended. People say, “If I don’t have to forgive (because the offender is unrepentant) then I could justify being bitter toward them.” 1 Peter 2:21-25 has been so helpful to me there. We, like Jesus, are to entrust ourselves and the unjust/wounding situation to God, the just Judge. That is where our attitude gets addressed. We trust God with the person who has hurt us, and allow Him to make the judgment about forgiveness.

    Great article David. I can see from the conversation here that it’s much needed.

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  • for

    Again, we are putting “my” understanding into the equation. Rationalizing not doing. Scripture interprets itself meaning thusly we must take all Scripture into context. To be obedient doesn’t mean answer with why. Only God is wise. Man’s wisdom is not man’s wisdom. Trust in the Lord with all your heart and NOT on your own understanding, acknowledge God and He shall direct your path. (Obedience, prayer, seeking His will and purposes.) He is the Author of forgiveness. Praise God for His wisdom and knowledge. AMAN

  • http://www.forgivingispossible.blogspot.com Agus B. Sadewa

    Hi David, I completely agree with you; forgiveness requires repentance. That’s how I understand it too. But I am still struggling to understand Jesus’ prayer of forgiveness for those who crucified him, “Father forgive them for they know not what they are doing.” How do you interpret this? I think Jesus is positioning himself as our mediator, or our advocate. But why did he say they know not what they are doing? Is it not an excuse?

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  • Rob

    What a crock

  • L

    I am in the middle of a legal battle (civil and criminal) with my physically, verbally and sexually abusive husband. He is unrepentant, denying everything and manipulating those in the church. I have extended forgiveness, and in my heart I feel like I have truly done steps 1 & 2 (though I do experience moments of relapse!), yet I am waiting on him for full forgiveness — how can I forgive, like you say, a man who has accused me of things I have never done and is leading his church away with a false gospel? However, I don’t feel I can honestly say, “Lord, you know I don’t want your vengeance executed on Jim, but with this prayer I’m promising no more vengeance on my part. I hand that entirely over to you” when I am working with the police to uncover evidence to his abuse in order to protect and defend myself and our child. I am praying that the Lord convict him, that the law would be executed justly and and even that he be “handed over to Satan” for the salvation of his soul, and for the protection of the church. I am not sure this part right here can be applicable in this situation. I am ready, willing and eager to forgive him. In many ways, at different times, I have made it clear to him that if he confesses and repents, I would forgive him and even stop building a case against him in order to find a more peaceable solution to raising our child together. But he continues to manipulate and lie. So I *must* protect myself and my daughter, and right now that means contributing to the case that could put him (rightly) behind bars.

    • L

      My question is: how do we hand over retribution to God when seeking protection and safety in court? Could you please answer that?

    • James Scott Berry

      You are already as forgiving as God is see Psalm 86:5. Forgiveness means to remove sin and guilt and the torment of sorrow for what one has done. If he has no torment of sorrow how can you forgive / remove it from him? Your situation has absolutely nothing to do with forgiveness. However it requires great love. Loves seeks and prays for what is best for someone. What is best for your husband is to be excommunicated as Jesus said then thrown into prison at least for a while as Joseph did love his brothers and put them In prison for their own good. This is true love. Treat your husband as Jesus treated his unrepentant enemies the pharisees. Overturning their wickedness in church and driving them out. Said they were hypocrits and liars snd of their fsther the debil and doinf his dedires exsctly as your husband is doing.Biblically pray Gods mercy as God promises to repay….never forgive…any unrepentant husband. Be free of bitterness. God has allowed him to do this to you. Ask God to help u respond to His grace as he promises vengeance on him. Romans 12:29. Attck your husband as you wnemy with the weapons Jesus gives you. Love bless pray for do good. Again good may mean he needs to go to jail. http://www.cleartruthministries.com

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  • James Scott Berry

    I recently answered a question: “At what point do you stop forgiving someone?”
    Like God, if it is a serious offense, you can never even START forgiving
    someone’s guilt and sin if they love or deny their sin. The word
    “aphiemi-forgive” in the Bible means to “lift off” or
    “remove” their sin from them – like taking off their chains and handcuffs
    - like God does when we want our sins forgiven/removed.
    Our society has grown up with a definition of forgiveness Jesus never used-
    to release ourselves of anger and bitterness or to not hold a grudge. It is
    import to realize that Jesus and Paul say we must release anger and bitterness
    FIRST through MEEKNESS and LOWLINESS (Matthew 11:28-30) and TRUSTING GOD that
    HE ALLOWED THE EVIL TO HAPPEN (Hebrews12:15), never through
    “forgiveness” which IS ONLY for the offender, never for you. God’s
    forgiveness is for OUR benefit, not His benefit!
    God has paid for our sin but never removes it unless we want it removed. You
    and I may have a friend who has cancer. I am rich, you are a doctor. I announce
    I am paying you and all the hospital bills in advance to remove our friend’s
    cancer. But if the friend decides to just go home and die and does not want the
    cancer removed, my payment means nothing.
    Jesus said to love, do good, bless, pray for your enemy, but HE NEVER SAID
    forgive (the sin of) your unrepentant enemy!!! It is a stupid concept. How can
    God remove your chains of sin when you love and cling to them or deny you have
    them on??? And you and I, my friend, are not more loving or more
    forgiving than God.
    Plus, in the Greek, God never forgives people, He forgives sin FROM people.
    It is very clear in the Greek, a person is NEVER the direct object of God’s
    forgiveness, it is ALWAYS the Sin that is lifted off and removed from those who
    beg for it. (Matthew 18:32 The King, speaking as God is Jesus’ story)
    You are not cast into the sea, your sin is cast into the sea. You are not separated
    as far as the east is from the west, it is your sin from you – and from God.
    You are never bitter because of what someone did to you, you are bitter because
    you do not trust that God allowed the person to hurt you. He did not cause it,
    but he did allow it and can work all things together for your eternal good and
    His glory. Job said, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him.” Job
    See Forgiveness Test and Exam at http://www.cleartruthministries.com
    Unforgiveness in your heart can NEVER make you angry and bitter because you
    are already bitter from the moment you are hurt, rejected, betrayed, etc. It is
    never unforgiveness that makes you bitter, it is always the opposite. It is
    bitterness (a lack of meekness and trust) that makes you unwilling to forgive!
    We MUST learn the Biblical Differences between love, which God always does,
    and forgiveness (aphiemi), which God never does without our requesting and desiring it. Charizomai Forgiveness is another method and another subject!!

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  • Craig

    You all seem to be in agreement yet arguing over trivialities; which is another reason the church is in its current state.
    Bottom line here: love the Lord thy God with all your heart mind soul and spirit, and love your neighbor as yourself. AND THEN go out and preach the Gospel to all…ALL!
    We should probably not waste time debating when there are souls to be won.

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  • Stevie

    According to the above (which contradicted itself), if a person does not ask for forgiveness, you will only experience “temporary and superficial relief”. I feel you have misused scripture, and are leading many to a life of bitterness and unforgiveness.
    How can one even say that without full forgiveness a person will live with only a temporary and superficial relief then just a few sentences down say, “But, if by God’s grace you are enabled to take these first two steps, to work through positional forgiveness, you will experience wonderful load-lightening relief.” Which is it?
    Jesus’ forgiveness is conditional upon our repentance because he is giving eternal life in heaven as part of the condition. We are not able to give eternal life. But we MUST forgive! This blog is steering believers in the wrong way… beware.

  • Stevie

    To “forgive the way Jesus forgave” would require us to die on a cross. Where is that stated above?
    To “forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors” I can forgive a person’s debt without them asking for it to be forgiven… I just say, “Don’t pay”. And they don’t pay. They never had to ask. I simply can not agree. And it’s harmful to think this way, to hold back forgiveness for any reason is not biblical.


    Hi David, I have a question for a verse I read but now I can’t find it. Jesus said that no matter how many times a person does you wrong you must forgive them, then right after he says however you do not need to place yourself in a position where you need to forgive the person if they repeatedly do you wrong. Where do I find this verse?

    Kind Regards

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  • Mike

    I asked him for forgiveness and he says he forgives me for the way I communicated with him. But yet when ever I see him he avoids me by walking a different direction or avoids talking to me. Are these acts of forgiveness? What does the bible say?