The necessity of forgiveness

Posted 6/30/18

Several years ago a brother giving the Wednesday evening invitation told a story about the greatest epitaph a person could have written on their tombstone. The remarks about the deceased simply read …

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The necessity of forgiveness


Several years ago a brother giving the Wednesday evening invitation told a story about the greatest epitaph a person could have written on their tombstone. The remarks about the deceased simply read “Forgiven.”

Is there any greater thing to hope for at one’s demise? A person who dies unforgiven in their sins cannot go to be with the Lord, John 8:21-24. I want to discuss in this article the biblical requirements for forgiveness. It is something we must have if we expect a home in heaven. 

Being forgiven of our sins and living a pure life is required if we want to see God, Matthew 5:8 and 1 John 3:2-3. Paul said that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, Romans 3:23. So, what must I do to be forgiven? 

Two parties are under consideration. Myself and others. What does my forgiveness have to do with others? We will discuss this later in this article. Let’s start with you and me. What do I have to do? 

Luke records several cases of conversions to Christ in the book of Acts. In Acts 2:37 we read the question, “Men and brethren what shall we do?” In Acts 9:6 we read, “Lord what do You want me to do?” and then in Acts 16:30 we read, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” 

In Acts 8:36, the Eunuch asked, “…what hinders me from being baptized?” In each case the person or persons asking the question wanted to know what they needed to do to be saved. They wanted to know how to be forgiven of their sins. 

How awesome and marvelous is the love and grace of God, that there is a way to be forgiven and be saved! Let’s take the totality of what they were told in these three cases and we will know what we need to do to be saved.  

In Peter’s sermon about Jesus, he had told them that whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved, Acts 2:21. Peter in Acts 2:38, told his audience to repent and be baptized to have remission of their sins. Here in Peter’s sermon, obeying the requirements of God for forgiveness is how they called on the name of the Lord to be saved. 

Saul’s conversion is described in Acts 9, Acts 22 and in Acts 26. In Acts 22:16, the God sent preacher Ananias told Saul to “arise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord.” Again, Saul had to obey the requirements from God in order to call on Lord and be saved.  

In Acts 16:30-34, the Philippian jailer was taught the word of the Lord. He was told to believe in the Lord. He and his household were baptized. Acts 16:34 says of him after he obeyed the gospel, “… and he rejoiced, having believed in God with all his household.”  

We also find in Acts 8 that in order for the Eunuch to be baptized, he confessed his faith in Christ to Philip the evangelist. This is a condition of salvation stated by Paul in Romans 10:9-10. 

Taking all these accounts of conversion together we know what they had to do. They had to believe in the Lord Jesus. They had to repent of their sins. They confessed their faith. Finally, they had to be baptized. Why? By doing these things required by God, a person is calling on the name of the Lord to be saved. 

They have obeyed the gospel of Jesus Christ. Were you taught to do this to be saved where you worship? This is what the bible teaches. 

 I have been forgiven of my past sins since I obeyed the gospel. But I am not perfect. Neither is anyone else who has become a New Testament Christian. John says if we say that we have no sin we lie and the truth is not in us, 1 John 1:8.  

 So what is the Christian, the child of God to do when they sin? Follow the pattern. 1 John 1:9 says “if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” This confessing of sin is based upon repentance, Acts 8:21-22.  

 Two laws of forgiveness are found in the New Testament. One for the person who has not obeyed the gospel and one for the child of God who sins. Both are possible because of the precious blood of Jesus, Ephesians 1:7 and Revelation 1:5.

So, what do others have to do with my being forgiven? In Matthew 6:14-15, I must forgive others if I expect to be forgiven of my sins. What does this involve and what does it mean to forgive others? 

Peter asked the Lord Jesus about this in Matthew 18:21. “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” Jesus answer was up to seventy times seven. Jesus here expresses the need to forgive a brother who sins against you as many times as needed. Forgiveness is to be granted as many times as one comes in repentance. 

Note Luke’s account in Luke 17:3-4. For each time the brother sinned, repented, and then came seeking forgiveness, Jesus says to forgive him. 

We want to be very clear about what Jesus is teaching here about forgiveness. Forgiveness is always based upon repentance. Other passages such as James 5:16 and 1 John 1:9 also require confession of the sins in order to be forgiven. You see, forgiveness is always conditional in the scriptures. The beginning of this article shows examples from the bible of how to be forgiven if you are not a Christian. The gospel of Jesus Christ has to be obeyed.

When a person sins against another, the conditions of pardon are different. This is why the apostle Paul could write Ephesians 4:32, “And be kind to one another, tender hearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.” Just as my forgiveness in Christ was conditional, so is the forgiveness I extend to others. It is based upon repentance of sins. 

Have you repented of your sins and obeyed the gospel of Jesus? Are you forgiving others who have wronged you when they come in godly sorrow asking for forgiveness? Our eternal destiny depends on it.

Robert Knowles is a member of McArthur Heights Church of Christ. He can be contacted at