Monday, March 15, 2010

Is Forgiveness Based On Repentance?

I've been thinking over something for a while on the relationship between forgiveness and repentance. I'm going to write this here off the top of my head, using general but not specific references to Scripture. We often hear about forgiving others, and how it is a Christian virtue. But do we forgive others for wronging us as if nothing ever happened? Do we completely overlook a transgression? What role does repentance play in forgiveness?

In Jesus' story about the servant who was forgiven a great debt, then went out and strangled another servant who owed him a smaller amount, I remember that each debtor begged for mercy and asked for time to repay his debt. Each was asking his creditor for a chance to repent of his unpaid debt. Also, does God forgive us our sins without requiring repentance? Does this forgiveness extend to a complete lack of regard for owning up to our sin? Didn't Zaccheus offer to pay back fourfold any amount he took unrighteously? In Jesus' story about the tower of Siloam, doesn't he say, "unless you repent, you will likewise perish?"

Then again, in Matthew 18 on "church discipline," a sinning brother is to be confronted. If he refuses to listen to one, then two or three are brought to witness as to his sin. If he refuses to listen to them, it is told to the church. If then he refuses to listen, he is to be treated as a heathen. Where is forgiveness here? Is it not in his repentance? Isn't this what happened to the man in 1 Corinthians 5 who slept with his father's wife? He was put out of the church, but when he repented, Paul instructed the church in 2 Corinthians to forgive him and receive him.

Any thoughts on the relationship of forgiveness and repentance? Is forgiveness supposed to stand on its own?


  1. Steve,

    My wife and I have had to struggle with this same question only a year ago.

    I could say a lot here, but I will point you to another blog that addressed this same question and answered it, from the scriptures, as well as I have heard it stated.

    In Christ,

  2. I don’t think there is a black and white answer for every situation. Jay Adams says that we weren’t forgiven until we repented and I would disagree with him. Romans 5: 8&10 tells me that while I was yet a sinner God was reconciled to me through the death of His Son so that means I was forgiven, else there would have been no reconciliation. That is part of the beauty of forgiveness to me!

    If we couldn’t forgive until there had been confrontation and repentance we’d go about most of our lives in an unforgiving state. Love covers a multitude of sins, it was God’s love that in Christ that covered mine!