Forgive the Unrepentant?

Matthew 6:14-15, Page 1509
“14. “For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.
15. But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.”

       Jesus taught that we must all forgive others for their transgressions (Matthew 6:13, page 1509).  If we fail to forgive others, then our heavenly Father will not forgive us. 1In Matthew 6:15, page 1509, Jesus issued a sweeping statement about forgiveness. Some believers read that statement and conclude they must not be saved if they have not forgiven everyone. Before leaping to that conclusion, consider James teaching us about works and faith. In James 2:14-17, the Holy Spirit informs us that faith without works is dead. Notice, however, the precise language in James 2:17, page 1889: “Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself.” A complete absence of works shows no faith. In the same sense, a complete absence of forgiveness towards others indicates that you have not been forgiven by your heavenly Father, because you are not truly saved. But, if your life as a believer generally testifies to your forgiveness of others, even if you have notable exceptions of no forgiveness (like the prophet Jonah failed to forgive the people of Nineveh, even when God forgave them because of the preaching of Jonah), then you are disobedient, but saved because you have shown a predominant pattern of forgiveness. These blunt words remind us that we must forgive everyone who transgresses against us, even if they do not repent and seek forgiveness from us.  As believers, we have been forgiven by God. If we do not extend that same kind of forgiveness to other people, then we sin against God, and our salvation is not real.  Without forgiveness flowing out of our hearts, we must realize that God has not forgiven us (Matthew 6:15, page 1509).  The true believer knows that God’s forgiveness lives within the believer, and flows out to everyone, whether or not they ask for our forgiveness.   Please recall the words of Jesus upon the cross: “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34, page 1649). Jesus perfectly modeled this forgiveness that God demands in us. 

       If we must forgive everyone, then why did Jesus talk about forgiving seven times seven, and then only after they repent and seek forgiveness (Luke 17:1-4)?  Please recall that Jesus commanded us to forgive under all circumstances, even if the repentance does not seem real because they sin all day long and apparently repeat the sin.  Jesus never said in that passage that we do not forgive if they do not repent. We know from Matthew 6:14-15, page 1509, that we have no option but to forgive everyone whether they repent or not.

        So, if I must forgive with or without their repentance, then why do I rebuke them at all? Here we move on to a very important issue.  We rebuke brothers so that they may repent and turn away from sin.  We do not condition our forgiveness upon their repentance.  We are going to forgive them under all circumstances, because we know that God has already forgiven them of all their sins.  The point here centers upon repentance that restores our fellowship with them. We do not ignore their sin, and just forgive them without a word. Let us consider a passage about how we restore a sinner.

References │ Page Numbers Below Footnotes   [ + ]

1. In Matthew 6:15, page 1509, Jesus issued a sweeping statement about forgiveness. Some believers read that statement and conclude they must not be saved if they have not forgiven everyone. Before leaping to that conclusion, consider James teaching us about works and faith. In James 2:14-17, the Holy Spirit informs us that faith without works is dead. Notice, however, the precise language in James 2:17, page 1889: “Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself.” A complete absence of works shows no faith. In the same sense, a complete absence of forgiveness towards others indicates that you have not been forgiven by your heavenly Father, because you are not truly saved. But, if your life as a believer generally testifies to your forgiveness of others, even if you have notable exceptions of no forgiveness (like the prophet Jonah failed to forgive the people of Nineveh, even when God forgave them because of the preaching of Jonah), then you are disobedient, but saved because you have shown a predominant pattern of forgiveness.