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What does the Bible say about Forgiveness? How many times should we forgive?

Forgiveness is one of the cornerstones of Christianity, emphasized in both the Old Testament and by Jesus in His teachings. Yet, many believers today find it difficult to forgive others and let go of their transgressions. But, what does the Word of God say about forgiveness? And how often should we forgive others according to the Bible? This and more will be explored in this article.

What is Forgiveness in the Bible?

The concept of forgiveness is well-understood, but it is often not executed properly or not executed at all. This is why Jesus made forgiveness a central point in His teachings, as we, as humans (before being born again), tend to hold onto the wrongs of others while neglecting our own faults. Thus, Jesus said in the Bible:

The Bible continually reminds us that we all need forgiveness, and none of us has earned it on our own. Therefore, it makes no sense to compare our transgressions with those of others.

This is particularly evident when reading the book of Romans, which states that all have fallen short of the glory of God, and therefore, all need forgiveness according to the Bible.

How often should we forgive according to the Bible?

People find various reasons to be upset with others, often saying things like, “I’ve forgiven too many times.” But according to the Bible, how often should we forgive? This question was also asked by Simon Peter to Jesus:

As seen in Jesus’ response, the frequency of forgiveness should be quite high. However, Jesus’ answer is not merely a mathematical calculation, indicating the point at which forgiveness should cease. Rather, He sets an example with the figure of “seventy times seven” to emphasize that we should forgive others until their repentance is complete.

We must forgive others to be forgiven by God

For those who might think this is too much, they should consider the number of their own sins against God and their fellow human beings and try to count them. Even if they only counted the sins they were aware of, the number would already be overwhelming. Yet, even though God knows all our errors, He shows us a way to obtain forgiveness.

Apart from confessing our sins according to the Bible, God gives us clear guidance on how to obtain His forgiveness. That is by forgiving others their sins. Jesus places significant emphasis on this fact in the New Testament.

Jesus also tells a parable in the New Testament to underscore this point:

Paul also places great emphasis on forgiveness:

We should forgive and seek peace with others before praying to God

The importance of forgiveness in the Bible becomes even more apparent when examining the following verses. The Bible doesn’t just say we should forgive our fellow humans, but it also says we should not even approach God in prayer if we haven’t reconciled with them.

Can all sins be forgiven according to the Bible?

The Bible makes it clear that nearly all sins can and should be forgiven. The only exception it mentions is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. This means that if someone speaks or acts out of the Holy Spirit, we should not blaspheme or speak ill of them.

Wherefore I say unto you, All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men: but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men. (Matthew 12:31, KJV)

The Jews answered him, saying, For a good work we stone thee not; but for blasphemy, and because that thou, being a man, makest thyself God. Jesus answered them, Is it not written in your law, I said, Ye are gods? If he called them gods, unto whom the word of God came, and the scripture cannot be broken; Say ye of him, whom the Father hath sanctified, and sent into the world, Thou blasphemest; because I said, I am the Son of God? (John 10:33-36, KJV)

The following example in the New Testament illustrates the severity of this sin through its consequences:

But a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession, And kept back part of the price, his wife also being privy to it, and brought a certain part and laid it at the apostles’ feet. But Peter said, Ananias, why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost, and to keep back part of the price of the land? Whiles it remained, was it not thine own? and after it was sold, was it not in thine own power? why hast thou conceived this thing in thine heart? thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God. And Ananias, hearing these words, fell down, and gave up the ghost: and great fear came on all them that heard these things. (Acts 5:1-5, KJV)

Forgiveness in the Old Testament – Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement)

Forgiveness is not a novelty of the New Testament, as in the Old Testament, God paved the way for forgiveness for the Israelites. The Bible says that He is a merciful God who forgives our transgressions and remembers them no more.

Even Moses, in addition to giving the people God’s commandments, provided a way for them to obtain forgiveness when they broke those commandments.

God has not only provided a way for individual cases of forgiveness but also instituted a special day, Yom Kippur, which means the Day of Atonement, during which people can obtain forgiveness for all their past sins. This day is an everlasting ordinance according to the Bible.

Jesus is the fulfillment of Forgiveness

Now, some may wonder how this relates to our Lord and Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth, as we are in a New Covenant.

The answer to this question is quite a lot. Today, it is no longer Aaron and his descendants who make atonement for us as high priests. Instead, it is our Messiah Jesus. He is not only our High Priest and mediator, but He also replaces the sacrificial lamb that was slain for the forgiveness of our sins, bearing all our sins.

So, on this special day (Yom Kippur or the Day of Atonement), we demonstrate our humility to God and place our trust in our High Priest, Jesus, who, on our behalf, makes atonement before God instead of the Levitical priest.

Forgiveness is not a license to sin

After all that we have learned about forgiveness in the Bible, it should still be clear that forgiveness is not a license to sin. In both the Old and New Testaments, genuine repentance and true repentance for transgressions are prerequisites for forgiveness and for claiming the benefits of the sacrificial Lamb, Jesus.

Conclusion – What does the Bible say about Forgiveness?

In summary, we learn from the Bible that we should always forgive our fellow humans, especially when we hope for God to forgive us and hear our prayers. The only exception is the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit, which cannot be forgiven. Both the Old and New Testaments make it clear that God is merciful and delights in forgiveness. He even established a special day, Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement), to emphasize its significance. Through our Lord Jesus, we have come to understand its true meaning, as He serves as our High Priest and allows us to obtain forgiveness in the present age.

If you want to find out more about forgiveness, you might want to read this article as well: Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do

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