The Basis for Forgiveness
by Jay Adams
There is much error and false doctrine proprogating forgiveness when other works of God's Holy Spirit are called for, e.g. love, mercy, grace, self-control, etc. (Galatians 5:22-26). Often quoted are Luke 23:34, "Father forgive them..."; Colossians 3:13, "Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you."; Matthew 6:14-15, "For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins." among others as proof that whether a sinner repents or not--Christians are to forgive. But as is true of most doctrinal error the context and form are misplaced....
A quick note about forgiveness--Christians are to have a heart of forgiveness, such as Christ displayed upon the Cross (Luke 23:24) and God has toward us sinners (Colossians 3:13). But often Christians are told to GIVE forgiveness for their own health or so that their sins can be forgiven, even if the sinner is unrepentant--this is unbiblical and destructive to the individual believer, the sinner who is unrepentant, and to the body of Christ, HIS Church, as well as to the non-believer.
First, it is crucial to recognize that God's forgiveness isn't an overlooking of sin, a by-passing of liability or a winking at guilt. It is not a pardon that is easy to give and costs nothing. Forgiveness was purchased at the cost of Christ's life. Forgiveness cost God His only Son.
Forgiveness never ignores sin, or tolerates it (accepting the other person as he is); rather, forgiveness is forgiveness of sin (seen to be, acknowledged and repented of as sin). Forgiveness focuses on the fact that there was an offense; it does not turn away from this fact but deals with it.
"But didn't Jesus pray for His persecutors?" Yes. "Didn't He ask His Father to 'forgive them'?" Yes. "Did He?" Yes. "When? How?" Some were forgiven on the Day of Pentecost as the result of Peter's sermon; but not apart from conviction of sin (cf. Acts 2:37), and not apart from the message of salvation." They had to repent and believe the gospel. Forgiveness came to them as the result of the atonement; not apart from it."
Excerpted from an excellent article by Jay Adams. I highly recommend that you read the entire article here: http://www.peacemakers.net
John MacArthur was asked:
QUESTION: How can we know when it is best to forgive or confront?
ANSWER: That's a good question because most people seem to err on one side or the other. Some people think it is best to overlook every offense and take pride in their tolerance. However, Paul confronted the Corinthians for tolerating sin in the church and rebuked them for failing to deal with a man living in sin (1 Cor. 5).
Link to MacArthur's Q&A: