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[Note: The following verses have been selected from the many passages that use words such as "forgive" and "forgiveness." Add others to the outline as you see fit. The verse references given in parentheses provide the context in which the words are found.]


What Can or Cannot Be Forgiven?

Certain things CANNOT be forgiven.

1. CANNOT (not ever): "Blasphemy of the Spirit" (claiming - and truly believing - that the Holy Spirit's power is actually from the Devil) - Matthew 12:31-32; Mark 3:28-29; Luke 12:10 (v. 8-10).

2. CANNOT (at least until the person's attitude changes): A persistent attitude of rebellion and sin - Joshua 24:19 (v.19-28). [But if the attitude changes, then forgiveness can take place.]


Certain things CAN be forgiven.

1. CAN: All sins other than blasphemy of the Spirit (even words spoken against the Son) - Matthew 12:31-32; Mark 3:28-29; Luke 12:10 (v. 8-10).

2. CAN: Even hidden faults/sins need forgiven - Psalm 19:12 (v. 12-13). [Some translations use the word "cleanse."]


Things to think about:

There is an implied warning, however. We must be willing to let the Scriptures control our perspective on life, and to let it determine our values and actions. If we fail to do this, we are in danger of being deceived into viewing things "backwards"... and in danger of becoming guilty of this sin.


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God / Jesus and Forgiveness

The source of our forgiveness (for sins we committed against God)

1. God is the source of our forgiveness.

  1. He pardons sin and forgives transgression - Micah 7:18 (v. 14-20).
  2. This is why we should fear him - Psalm 130:4 (v. 3-4).
  3. God's forgiveness is in/through Jesus Christ - Ephesians 4:32.

2. Jesus' "blood of the covenant."

  1. His blood makes forgiveness possible - Matthew 26:28 (v. 26-28).
  2. Note that the shedding of blood is necessary for forgiveness - Hebrews 9:22. (This is the reason for many of the Old Testament sacrifices.)

The basis for our forgiveness of others (for sins they committed against us)

1. A command: Forgive the same way God forgave you.

  1. "Forgive as the Lord forgave you" - Colossians 3:13 (v. 12-14).
  2. "Forgive each other, just as in Christ God forgave you" - Ephesians 4:32 (4:31-5:2 and the surrounding verses).

2. An example: The way Jesus forgave those who killed him.

  1. "Forgive them because they do not know what they are doing" - Luke 23:34.
  2. Note: This verse shows Jesus' attitude, his willingness to forgive. However, the people themselves would not experience the forgiveness he desired them to have, unless they repented of their sins. See "Forgiveness, Part 3" (things associated with forgiveness).

Things to think about:

Your sin caused Jesus to die. Considering the seriousness of your sin and the judgment you deserve, how should God's willingness to forgive you influence your attitude toward him? (According to the Micah passage, even God's enemies, when they see his wonders, will turn to him "in fear" - verse 17. But they will do it with shame for what they have done.)

In the Old Testament, some (not all) of the sacrifices required blood. (You can read about some of them in the first part of Leviticus.) Two of the purposes for these sacrifices were:

> a temporary "covering" for sin, until Jesus came.
> a means for teaching us about the significance of what Jesus did on the cross.


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Forgiveness Is Associated With...

Our emphasis in this section is on human activity (actions or attitudes) that are associated with God's forgiveness. As you reflect on these passages, ask yourself the question: Can we be forgiven, if we are unwilling to have these attitudes and actions in our lives?


Forgiveness of people as INDIVIDUALS

1. Repentance - changing the way we think and act - Mark 1:4; Luke 3:3

2. Conversion - turning from darkness to light and from Satan to God - Acts 26:18 (v. 15-18)

3. Confession of sin - 1 John 1:9 (v. 8-10) [This verse focuses on our confession of sins we have committed against God (though in many respects, all sin is against God).]

4. Trust/faith in Jesus - Acts 10:43 (v. 39-43)

5. Love - Luke 7:47-48 (v. 36-48)

6. A willingness to forgive others - Matthew 6:12, 14-15. [This issue will be examined further in the next section.]


Forgiveness on the NATIONAL LEVEL

1. Humility, prayer, seeking God, turning from sin - 2 Chronicles 7:14 (v. 13-14) [There are many similarities to what people must do on an individual level.]

Things to think about:

> We are created beings. By nature, our understanding is limited (not infinite).
> We are sinners. Sin has affected every part of us; it has distorted the way we understand things.

God has given us the Scriptures, so that we can grow in our understanding of these issues. But read Psalm 111:10 and Proverbs 1:7. What attitude is a prerequisite for having wisdom and knowledge? Until this attitude becomes ours, even the best of our wisdom will be superficial.

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How Important Is It for Us to Forgive Others?

(The Relationship Between God's Forgiveness of Us
And Our Forgiveness of Others)

The basic fact: What God does for us will parallel what we do for others

1. If you forgive other people, God will forgive you; if you don't, he won't - Matthew 6:14-15.

2. Further explanation:

  1. The type of forgiveness we receive ("measured out" to us) will be comparable to the forgiveness we give ("measure out") to others - Luke 6:37 (v. 37-38).
  2. Illustrated by the parable of the unmerciful servant - Matthew 18:35 (v.23-35).


Forgiveness and prayer

1. The Lord's prayer affirms this fact: Forgive us... as we also forgive others - Matthew 6:12 (v. 9-13); Luke 11:4 (v. 2-4).

2. Don't pray until you have forgiven anyone you may hold something against. Then your Father in heaven will be able to forgive you - Mark 11:25.

Some of the "technical details" about our forgiving of others

1. The method: How should we forgive people?

  1. Follow God's / Jesus' example, as seen previously (in Part 2 of this study).

2. The frequency: How often should we forgive them?

  1. "77 times" - Matthew 18:21-22 (v. 21-35). (Some interpret this as meaning "70 times 7.")
  2. "7 times a day" - Luke 17:3-4 (v. 1-4).
  3. The intent of these passages is: "Keep on doing it."


> From God's perspective, he saves us for the sake of his own glory and grace, not because of our works or actions. (See Ephesians 2:1-10.) But when he saves us, he also changes our hearts, which results in changed values and actions (Philippians 2:13). Because of this, the person who has a changed life will want to learn and do what pleases God!

> From the perspective of what we see and experience, the attitude we have toward others parallels what will happen to us at the coming Day of Justice, because it indicates the condition of our heart.

Only then will your prayer be accompanied by a clean heart and conscience. And you will be able to have genuine praise and thanks to God, for what he has done in your life.


Remember: My sins against God = "BIG"; their sins against me = "LITTLE."

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What happens to those who are forgiven?

1. They are the recipients of God's blessings - Psalm 32:1 (v. 1-2).

2. This is reaffirmed in the New Testament - Romans 4:7 (v. 7-8).


Things to think about:

> If YES, then these verses apply to you.

> If NO, then what do you need to do in order to make them apply? (Do it!)


Thinking deeper :

> We may have sinned against someone; but when we ask the person to forgive us, he is unwilling to do so.

> Or, someone may have sinned against us, and needs to ask forgiveness of us; but for whatever reason, he is unwilling to do so.

(There are many possible reasons for this. He might not care about dealing with his sin; or he may truly believe that he did nothing wrong. But in some cases, we may have misinterpreted his actions and mistakenly think that he sinned, when he really didn't.)

Regardless of what the other person does, what is your obligation?




(Many of the topics learned in previous sections will be applicable here.)

1. Sometimes a person may commit a sin that leaves him so embarrassed or ashamed, that he says he will never be able to "forgive himself."

(Some people may think that they have committed the sin of "blasphemy against the Holy Spirit," and that God won't forgive them; and so they conclude that they shouldn't forgive themselves. Yet this sin is of such a nature that the person who commits it will not consider it a sin. This specific sin does not apply, when examining the issue of "forgiving oneself.")


2. Concerning all other sins (besides "blasphemy against the Holy Spirit," which cannot apply to this situation):


 3. When a person has an "unforgiving" attitude toward himself, it is very likely that the real issue is something other than forgiveness. (What hinders him from forgiving? It is not God!)

Consider this:


4. Are there any "unforgivable" sins that you have committed in the past, and you are still carrying the guilt, like a heavy weight tied on your back? Take care of the matter today! Jesus has offered to remove that burden of guilt, so there is no reason for you to continue hanging onto it.


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Dennis Hinks © 1998-2013