1 John 1:9 If we confess our sins,
he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins,
and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Psalm 51:7 ...wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.

Isaiah 1:18 Come now, and let us reason together, saith the
LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white
as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.

By Mary E. Stephens
circa 2005, updated 2021

Simple Confession and Godlike Forgiveness

In 2 Samuel chapter 11 we read the ugly story of David's sin. The sweet psalmist, prophet, and king who was called a man after God's own heart by the Lord Himself (1 Sam. 13:14) proved what Jeremiah, the wise prophet, later declared. The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? Jeremiah 17:9 Not only did David descend to the folly of adultery, but he followed it up with murder.

God sent Nathan, the faithful prophet who loved David, to tell the king to his face that he was wicked. The parable was given. The king condemned himself in judging the selfish rich man worthy of death. Nathan spoke the judgment of the Lord clearly, Thou art the man...Wherefore hast thou despised the commandment of the LORD, to do evil in his sight? thou hast killed Uriah the Hittite with the sword, and hast taken his wife to be thy wife, and hast slain him with the sword of the children of Ammon. 2 Samuel 12:7 and 9. He then continues to describe the consequences that this sin will bring upon David and his family.

What follows would hardly qualify as a great revival among most professing Bible believers and Baptists. The Bible does not tell us that David went up to the altar to weep and pray. He did not even fall on his face before God and Nathan and beg for mercy. Instead we are told in 2 Samuel 12:13, And David said unto Nathan, I have sinned against the LORD. And Nathan said unto David, The LORD also hath put away thy sin; thou shalt not die.

Just a note in passing: I heard a preacher say once that if we sin, knowing that what we are doing is sin, we can't be forgiven of it. In other words, there is no forgiveness for presumptuous sins. He probably based this on Num. 15:30, Deut. 17:12 and like passages. There are at least three problems with this reasoning.
1) It is not New Testament teaching.
2) As we see in this text, though David certainly knew he was doing wrong in both the adultery and the murder, God still forgave him.
3) If there was no forgiveness for presumptuous sins, then Christians could lose their salvation, which is biblically impossible, John 10:28-29. The only other option this man leaves us is the heretical idea of some kind of purgatory to get rid of "unforgivable sins" after death.

Added to all that is the simple fact that much of what we do wrong, we know is wrong before we do it. By that man's own doctrine he's in as much trouble as the rest of us. He gave no solution to the problem, so it was nothing short of a scare tactic or foolish talking.

If someone has tried to threaten you with this false teaching, remember these things and take comfort.

The simplicity of it is almost shocking to minds that have been nurtured in the idea that only with great wrestlings, tears, and lamentations can we gain forgiveness from God. Yet, there it stands. Direct, plain, and with no frills. David said "I have sinned against the LORD," and immediately God not only put away his sin, but delivered him and Bathsheba both from the death penalty (see Lev. 20:10). Dear friends in Jesus, if we can grasp this thought what liberty in Christ we might enjoy!

Now, we know that David wrote Psalm 51 based upon this event, and it shows how contrite and broken he was over his sin. It shows us (and those he sinned against and his family) that it is good to seek God's mercy with sorrow and lamentation over our sinful state, coupled with a desire for restoration. Ultimately, it shows us what was in David's heart when he made the simple statement in 2 Samuel 12:13. But, God looked upon his heart and knew that in that simple confession was genuine sorrow and repentance, ...for the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart. 1 Samuel 16:7 David proved his repentant spirit in writing Psalm 51, but the forgiveness was already there.

The same simplicity greets us in 1 John 1:9, If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. Nothing complicated nor drawn out there. Simply confess and receive forgiveness and cleansing.

You see, a God that is big enough to create all things (Gen. 1:1, John 1:1) and to uphold them by the word of His power (Heb. 1:3), must offer forgiveness in keeping with this great power. In other words, He must possess a Godlike forgiveness - a forgiveness great enough to cover man's greatest stain. This great forgiveness must then come at a Godlike price, which we know is the blood of God Himself.

Hebrews 9:22 And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission.

Acts 20:28 ...feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.

This was given in the person of His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. Luke 22:20 ...This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you.

The Lord did not require David to prove or demonstrate that he deeply felt his guiltiness and was truly repentant by going forward at a meeting to weep and sob. He did not require him to inflict suffering upon himself in doing some penance or self-abuse. He did not deny him access to Himself. To receive forgiveness he did not have to DO some act to prove to others that he was a sinner. He was not "stubborn" or "wicked" because he did not get up off his throne and kneel down somewhere or fling himself at Nathan's feet. He simply confessed with his mouth (Rom. 10:9-10) that he had sinned against God. Uriah the Hittite was dead, so he could not confess to him. He was not required to drag all the ugly details out for Nathan or any courtiers standing around to hear. He did not have to go to a Roman Catholic, Anglican, Pentecostal nor Baptist altar or confessional to "get right with God." Rather, he had to acknowledge his sin and confess the most important offense, which was against the LORD. Thus, he knew the blessedness of true forgiveness. Romans 4:6-7 Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works, Saying, Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered.

Forgiveness is given upon confession, and only God knows the heart. Jeremiah 17:10 I the LORD search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings. It is the Lord's business to decide if a person is heart-repentant or not, and to grant forgiveness if it is, or not grant forgiveness if it is not. Some Christians are altogether too quick to judge someone's repentance as false because the person did not DO just what they think should be done. But, there are also times when repentance done as a pretense and outward show is accepted as a "glorious restoring" simply because the person in the wrong jumped through the "correct" hoops - not because they truly were repentant before God Almighty. Again - only God knows the heart! As with David and Psalm 51, later events may give us more light on the subject, but ultimately the forgiveness is given by God on His terms.

God told the Jews in Malachi 2:13-14, And this have ye done again, covering the altar of the LORD with tears, with weeping, and with crying out, insomuch that he regardeth not the offering any more, or receiveth it with good will at your hand. Yet ye say, Wherefore? Because the LORD hath been witness between thee and the wife of thy youth, against whom thou hast dealt treacherously: yet is she thy companion, and the wife of thy covenant. Their "spiritual" demonstrations at the altar in the temple meant nothing to the Lord because they regarded iniquity in their heart. (Psalm 66:18 If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me:) They did not remain guilty because they could not be forgiven, but rather because they were making a show for man and were not confessing from genuine sorrow toward God. The demonstration does not prove the repentance is sincere, nor does the simplicity of a confession prove that the person is not sincere and therefore not forgiven. THE LORD judges the hearts.

1 John 3:20 For if our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things. Listen! Even when your own heart condemns you, God's forgiveness is still greater! If you have confessed your sin in sincerity, God has forgiven you no matter what your heart says. The heart is deceitful, but God is not. Romans 3:4 ...yea, let God be true, but every man a liar... Praise the Lord that even when our wicked hearts try to put us back under condemnation, in God's eyes we are still forgiven through Jesus Christ! We may need to ask for help to believe that we are forgiven, ...Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief. Mark 9:24 But, that does not change our forgiven state.


Forgiveness Does Not Remove Consequences

David still suffered the consequences of his sin. Forgiveness does not remove that. Do not make the mistake of thinking that because you are still dealing with the results of your sin therefore you are not forgiven. God forgives the sin and the penalty is removed because Jesus Christ paid it, but the results you may have to live with long afterwards. For example, someone who has had a baby through fornication or adultery will have to deal with the results and reminder of that sin the rest of their life. A woman who has had an abortion may have to deal with depression, infertility, or health problems for the rest of her life. A former drug addict may suffer mental, health, and other problems. Someone who viewed pornography may struggle with dreams, temptation, and evil imaginations. A pedophile will need to set safeguards for themselves and seek strict accountability in the church and their family and avoid being around children in any unsupervised situation. These results do not go away because we repent and receive forgiveness from God. But, the forgiveness is just as real.

The Lord dealt David an extra measure of consequences because of his position as king. 2 Samuel 12:9-12 Wherefore hast thou despised the commandment of the LORD, to do evil in his sight? thou hast killed Uriah the Hittite with the sword, and hast taken his wife to be thy wife, and hast slain him with the sword of the children of Ammon. Now therefore the sword shall never depart from thine house; because thou hast despised me, and hast taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be thy wife. Thus saith the LORD, Behold, I will raise up evil against thee out of thine own house, and I will take thy wives before thine eyes, and give them unto thy neighbour, and he shall lie with thy wives in the sight of this sun. For thou didst it secretly: but I will do this thing before all Israel, and before the sun. 2 Samuel 12:14 Howbeit, because by this deed thou hast given great occasion to the enemies of the LORD to blaspheme, the child also that is born unto thee shall surely die.

David was known among the enemies of God as a mighty man of valor who fought the Lord's battles. He was also the King of Israel. This should serve as a warning to those in prominent positions in the Lord's church. Beware. You will be forgiven upon your honest confession, but God may give you an extra measure of trouble for despising His word which you knew, and for giving the enemies of the Lord occasion to blaspheme and mock. Sadly, we've been seeing a lot this recently with prominent men in Christendom as they are exposed for their evil deeds.

Chastening and suffering are often viewed as a result of sin and this is the case sometimes (John 5:14), but sometimes these suffering is for the glory of God (John 9:2-3). When you are chastened do not assume that it means you are not forgiven. The Bible says that the Lord chastens every son whom He receives, not just the "bad" ones. Hebrews 12:6-7 For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not?

Hebrews 12 also says that God chastens us that we might be partakers of His holiness. Some chastening is not for specific sin, but to correct bad habits or behavior. Parents scold and chasten their children to teach them good manners and good life habits, not just for transgressions. Don't assume that your chastening is automatically related directly to some sin you committed, unless you know so.

Do not allow yourself to think that because God is chastening you, you must not be forgiven of your confessed sin. If you have not confessed the sin then confess it! But, if you have already confessed the thing, don't keep on confessing it thinking that you are not forgiven because you are being chastened. Take God at His word. He says if we confess we are forgiven (1 John 1:9). If you lack faith to believe in His forgiveness, ask for faith. If you have trouble believing you are forgiven, when you confess sin also ask God for faith to believe you are forgiven. Psalm 51:17 ...a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.

By the way, someone has pointed out that when we do confess a forgiven sin over and over we are reminding God of something that He has forgotten. Isaiah 43:25 I, even I, am he that blotteth out thy transgressions for mine own sake, and will not remember thy sins. Hebrews 10:17 And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more. There is something to this, although it is true that God has given us the record of a lot of sins committed by His people through the scripture to serve as a warning to us, (1 Cor. 10).  To warn others is one thing, but to feel that we need to confess those sins repeatedly is not useful. Also, it is not a good sign when someone feels compelled to "share" the story of their sin over and over again with everyone they meet. That kind of behavior calls the motives and the spiritual condition into question. Jesus Christ is better than your sin, is He not?Why not talk more about Him?


God's Forgiveness Is Greater than Accusations

Now, when we have confessed and been forgiven the devil and the flesh (our own or someone else's) will often try to put us under condemnation again. When the devil, our flesh, or some other person reminds us of our sin and tries to put us under guilt for it again we ought to tell the offender, "I confessed that to God and He forgave me for Jesus Christ's sake." Ephesians 4:32 And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you.

If you have offended someone else and need to seek their forgiveness, do so, but do not accept being kept in bondage to your sin by others when God has forgiven you. Even if the offended party will not forgive you, remember that God's forgiveness is the most important, and it is not dependent upon theirs.

Our family knew a woman who had gotten into adultery at one time in her life. She said she had confessed the thing and went on with the Lord, but there were those in her family who wanted to remind her of her sin from time to time because they wanted to keep her beneath them (or equal to them, as the case may be). There was also a man who had fallen back into his sin of sodomy from pre-salvation days. He confessed the thing, and then strove with the help of the Lord and accountability to a brother in Christ to get the victory over it. It is cruel and wrong to try to keep believers like this feeling "unforgiven" for their past sins.

Thought from my dad, Steve Van Nattan.

I have heard several famous men, who were converted from terrible lives, give their testimonies of salvation at a public meetings. The object was to win souls and be convincing I think. They spoke far too eagerly of the wicked things they did. One was a wire tapper for Micky Cohen in Los Angeles. Another was a professional gambler in Las Vegas.

When you give a testimony please do not make a show of your past sins. You may talk of how God saved you from a wicked life, but leave the details under the Blood of Jesus Christ. I hope you do not get some morbid rush out of reliving your sins in story form.

God has forgiven their sins and they need to go on and walk with Him, not be reminded of how dirty they USED to be so that they will continue to feel useless or ashamed. 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God. [Note: A saved person is not a "recovering alcoholic" the rest of their life because they were once a drunk. In Christ they are washed, sanctified, and justified. Alcoholics Anonymous keeps people in bondage. Christians should have no part of this.]

Satan is the accuser of the brethren. Revelation 12:10 And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night. Beware when you lightly take on the job of accusing brethren. You might be making yourself a coworker with the devil! [This is not to say that there isn't a time to expose someone for certain sins that are unconfessed and unforgiven, especially if a crime is involved!] But, the forgiveness of God is greater than the accusations of man or devil! Thank the Lord. We are not in bondage to our own memory, to other people's memories, or to our adversary the devil! Through our Lord Jesus we are free. John 8:36 If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.


Do Not Continue In Sin

If you confess intending to continue in your sin, that does not bring forgiveness. Remember Psalm 66:18, If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me: Confess and forsake your sin. Do not continue in it. If you fall again, confess and forsake it again. But, don't plan on falling. God is the One that gives the strength to forsake the sin. Seek His help. Proverbs 28:13 He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy.

There is a trite saying that, "Forgiveness is easier to get than permission." This is presuming upon the mercy of God and therefore causing a double offense. Don't be surprised if your get a big helping of consequences with your forgiveness if you try this.

I'm reminded of the story of a man who kept falling in the area of pornography. This was pre-internet days and his temptation was around an adult bookstore. He went to his pastor and asked him to pray for him to get the victory over going into the adult bookstore. The pastor pointed out that he could walk another route to work and thus avoid passing the place that was so tempting to him. As we read in Proverbs 4:14, Enter not into the path of the wicked, and go not in the way of evil men. The man refused and said he had to walk that way. The other route was too long or out of the way. It was "out of the way" of sin, is what he really meant. That was the problem. The man was not serious about getting victory over his sin or he would have willingly taken another path to escape temptation. 1 Corinthians 10:13 There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.

[Note: If the internet is a problem to you, get rid of it. Better to not be connected than to walk in sin. Or, if you have a family, set the computer up in an area where others are present so that it is constantly being seen. Avoid being home alone with it. Programs to stop access to porn may help, but the truth is there are people who can find ways around them. You need to set up a system that will work for you and you need accountability. And get a flip phone with no internet. It can be done in at least the U.S.]


God's Forgiveness Is Merciful

Notice that the Lord did not require that David put Bathsheba away. Even more than that, though David had other wives God sent the line of the Messiah through her (Matt. 1, Lk. 3:31, 1 Chron. 3:5). In reality many Fundamental Baptist and "holiness" preachers and others would probably condemn God for this if they could, though they wouldn't admit it. Some probably do resent His forgiveness in some situation they personally are acquainted with. Remember, though, God's forgiveness is bigger than the opinion of man.

And while we're at it, let's call things what they are. Bathsheba was David's victim. It was sexual abuse of an extreme sort because David was the king. He was the top of the pile in Israeli society and in the military where her husband served. She is represented by the poor little lamb in Nathan's parable, not a seductress as she has been portrayed by so many. No. God had mercy on Bathsheba by giving her a life of luxury, position, and four sons by David (1 Chron. 3:5). She was never blamed for anything, although she did lose that first baby along with him. This was David's sin and she was a victim along with her husband, Uriah. God's forgiveness and mercy directly affected her.

James 2:13 For he shall have judgment without mercy, that hath shewed no mercy; and mercy rejoiceth against judgment. God delights to show mercy.  

Psalm 103:12 As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us.

Paul was a murderer of the saints, Acts 26:10-11, yet the Lord forgave him and used him mightily for His glory.

Manasseh was the wickedest king that the nation of Judah ever had. Because of him, judgment was promised to Judah which could not be turned back nor erased. Yet, even though he had committed the most horrible sins, worshipped devils, practiced witchcraft (2 Ki. 21:6), and filled Jerusalem with innocent blood (2 Ki. 24:3), we are told that after he was taken into captivity he repented. 2 Chronicles 33:12-13 And when he was in affliction, he besought the LORD his God, and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers, And prayed unto him: and he was intreated of him, and heard his supplication, and brought him again to Jerusalem into his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the LORD he was God. This is truly amazing and a great comfort to those who have committed heinous sins!

[By the way, "humbling oneself greatly" before God and groveling for show to get human approval are two very different things. It is not wrong to act truly repentant and to demonstrate it, but neither are there biblical requirements as to what exhibit "must" be made - other than confessing and forsaking.]


No Sin Is Too Great

The Lord will forgive all sin. He knows every evil thing that has ever been done or will be done, yet He freely offers salvation to all. 2 Peter 3:9 The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. He is not willing that any should perish, so all can be forgiven. If you believe what John wrote in his gospel - that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, you are saved. John 20:31 But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name. If you get dirty and sin again, confess it; but don't make the mistake of thinking that you are not saved. God gave Christians 1 John 1:9 because He knows our weakness and that we will sin again, though He desires that we would not.

God knows all. Jesus Christ is ...Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending... (Rev. 1:8). Hebrews 4:13 Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do. He knew you before you were even born or had committed one sin, yet He said that He is not willing that any should perish. That means you, in spite of all your sins - past, present and future.

Do you realize that the Lord knows every sin that you haven't even committed yet?  But, He still loves you with an everlasting love. The Lord Jesus actually told Peter ahead of time that he would sin against Him by denying Him. Luke 22:34 And he said, I tell thee, Peter, the cock shall not crow this day, before that thou shalt thrice deny that thou knowest me. Yet He showed no animosity toward Peter, but rather told him that He had prayed for him, v. 31-32. This is truly humbling and awe-inspiring, Christian friend!

Peter was self-confident and fell. (1 Corinthians 10:12 Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.) But, when he did fall, the Lord Jesus, in the midst of His trial before His enemies, turned and looked upon Peter. Luke 22:61-62 And the Lord turned, and looked upon Peter. And Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said unto him, Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice. And Peter went out, and wept bitterly. Imagine the Lord Jesus Christ taking a moment to turn and look at Peter at a time like that, and thus remind Peter both of His prophecy and His prayer for him - because I think He wanted Him to remember both! What a beautiful picture to us that God is never too busy for His children, even those that deny Him! Surely it is a grievous sin to deny the Lord, the Creator of heaven and earth; yet God not only forgives, as with Peter, but He takes the time to intervene and bring the repentance that is needed for that forgiveness to happen.

Peter went out and wept bitterly. He was deeply grieved at his sin. Obviously, God accepted this repentance, and Peter remembered the love of the Lord for him because later, in John 21 when Jesus appeared to them on the seashore, Peter showed no guilty fear. After their huge catch of fish, John helped Peter realize that it was the Lord, v. 7, and Peter immediately put on his fisher's coat, cast himself into the sea and swam to Jesus on the shore. A man who was afraid that he was not forgiven would not have been so happy to see the Lord. He had already seen Him in the upper room and been told "Peace be unto you." (John 20:19). Peter believed Him. Have you?

When Peter first met the Lord Jesus in Luke 5, his response to Jesus' miracle of the great catch of fish was considerably different. Luke 5:8 When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus' knees, saying, Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord. At that point he did not have confidence that his sins were forgiven, and he had not learned the Lord's great love for him yet. Now, by John 21, he knew it, and he was no longer afraid.

James 4:8-10 Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded. Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up. Yes, there is a time to "Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep" but there is also a time to believe that the Lord has removed the sin as far as the east is from the west, Psalm 103:13.


Lovest Thou Me?

But, in John 21 we also find the famous questions of love. Three time Jesus asked Simon Peter "...lovest thou me...?" (vs. 15-17). Three times Peter answered the Lord that he did love Him. Three times Peter had denied the Lord Jesus. Peter was forgiven, and his actions and words proved it. But, the Lord made him state three times that he loved Him, and He commanded him to act upon that love. "...Feed my lambs...Feed my sheep...Feed my sheep," He told him.

Peter was grieved by the time the Lord asked him the third time, but Jesus had a reason. He was preparing Peter for the future, for the work that He had for him. If Peter might again be tempted to deny the Lord or if he were tempted to feel guilty and worthless because he denied his Lord in His most trying hour, he could also look back on this conversation and know he was forgiven, the Lord still loved him, and he had a God-given job to do.

After we have fallen, the Lord may put us through a question and answer time in our lives to declare our love, so to speak, to prepare us for some future work. This does not mean that we are not forgiven. We must see the profit and future blessing of it, knowing that it is not because we are guilty, but because He loves us and desires our loving service.

Peter said, "...Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee..." (v. 17). Jesus knew Peter would deny Him before it happened. He knew Peter's bitter sorrow for his sin (which, by the way, we are not told was seen or heard by any other human). Jesus knew that he was forgiven and that he loved Him much because he was forgiven much.(Luke 7:47 Wherefore I say unto thee, Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little.) But, the Lord wanted to hear Peter say he loved Him, He wanted Peter to hear himself say that he loved Him, perhaps He wanted the others to hear Peter say that he loved Him, and He wanted to direct that love into service. When God forgives us He expects us to love Him and then show that love to others, primarily His lambs and sheep, but also to the lost. Peter got the point. Have you?


Forgiving As Unto Christ

It is wrong to hold others in bondage, when we ourselves have been forgiven.

In Matthew 18, Jesus told us the parable of the man who owed his lord ten thousand talents. When the man had nothing to pay and was to be sold along with his family, he begged for mercy and his lord had compassion on him and loosed him and forgave the debt. This man then went out and found a man that owed him an hundred pence, a far less amount; yet the ungrateful wretch ...laid hands on him, and took him by the throat, saying, Pay me that thou owest. (v. 28). When the second man begged for patience to be shown him, the first man refused and had him cast into the debtor's prison. His fellowservants were very sorry at this, and went and related the story to their lord.

Matthew 18:32 Then his lord, after that he had called him, said unto him, O thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all that debt, because thou desiredst me: 33 Shouldest not thou also have had compassion on thy fellowservant, even as I had pity on thee? 34 And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due unto him. 35 So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses.

This is a fearful warning to those who will not forgive their brethren in the Lord. Those who will
General Oglethorpe once said to John Wesley, "I never forgive and I never forget." Wesley replied, "Then, Sir, I hope you never sin."
not forgive may expect severe chastening. God wants His children to forgive each other with the same forgiveness that He has extended to us through Jesus Christ. Colossians 3:13 Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye. If God so forgave us, then we ought to forgive one another. Ephesians 4:32 And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you.

James 3:14-15 But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth. This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish. The wisdom from below wants to keep others in bondage by remembering their sin and holding it against them. This keeps them beneath us and makes us feel "just" in our own sinful condition.

James 3:17 But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy. The wisdom that comes from God is easy to be entreated and full of mercy, ...and mercy rejoiceth against judgment. (James 2:13) God's wisdom in us will say, "God forgave me for Christ's sake, therefore I forgive you for Christ's sake." Is not Jesus Christ worthy of our forgiveness? That sounds like an odd thing to say, but He paid for the sin, so when the person confesses we must forgive as unto Christ. Sure the person is not worthy, but neither are we worthy of the forgiveness of God. It is Jesus Christ that is worthy, and so the forgiveness is for His sake (Rev. 5:9).

Isaiah 53:10-12 Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand. He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities. Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he hath poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.

When we confess our sin to God He does not see our unworthiness. He sees the death and travail of His Son to satisfy His righteous judgment against sin. Because Christ's sacrifice is complete, therefore He will completely forgive us. This is how we should view the sins of our brethren when they confess them. (This is also how we should view our own confessed sin.)

It is wrong to try to force them to make some outward demonstration on our terms to prove they are truly sorry, have received the Lord's forgiveness, and "deserve" to be forgiven by us. This can be played out in a number of ways, and some are more common in Bible believing churches than we might imagine. On the personal level this is often displayed by a superior attitude exhibited toward the person who has "fallen from grace." Another common tactic is holding old sins in view, especially when we imagine the person is falling again, when they have offended us personally, or when we don't like them dealing with a problem of ours.

In Galatians 2:11-14 Peter was influenced by the arrival of important Jews at Antioch. He separated from the Gentiles with whom he had been eating, and others of the Jews already there followed his bad example of dissimulation. Paul withstood him before them all and rebuked Peter. Paul did not say, "Oh, I see you haven't changed much. You're still influenced by the crowd. You'll probably deny the Lord next, won't you?" Paul did not go around to the other saints there and make little remarks in a gloomy, self-righteous voice either. "Well, you know Peter. He denied the Lord at His trial. I'm just not sure what's wrong with him. We'll have to watch him - and pray for him, of course." No, there is no reference to Peter's former sin here. In fact, though Paul rebuked him so pointedly, yet later we find Peter calling Paul, "our beloved brother Paul" in 2 Peter 3:15. Obviously there was not an unforgiving spirit between them!

Luke 17:3-4 Take heed to yourselves: If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him. And if he trespass against thee seven times in a day, and seven times in a day turn again to thee, saying, I repent; thou shalt forgive him.

[Note: It's important to remember that in the commands to the N.T. church we're told that we must break fellowship with anyone who is called a brother who lives in certain sins. 1 Cor. 5:9-11. There is also a problem when we are dealing with someone who is gaslighting or blame shifting while pretending to repent. True repentance owns sin without excusing or blaming someone else for it. Just to be clear. David didn't blame Bathsheba as Adam blamed Eve.]


Not To Be Held In Bondage

In too many assemblies of the believers it is all too common for people the think that someone must go forward to really "get right with God." In some churches there is a fetish relationship with the (misnamed) "altar." There are folks that really think they have to make it to the front of a church in order to be forgiven of their sins, and there are those that willingly encourage this attitude both from the pew and the pulpit. But the Bible does not say, If we confess our sins,....and go down to the front of the church....he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. Thank God it doesn't say that! Nor does confession of sin "last" better if done at "an old fashioned altar."

We can confess our sins immediately and anywhere, and receive God's forgiveness! God forgets confessed sin just as completely right after it was confessed in heavy traffic, or at school, or in the kitchen, or in the grocery store as He does if we wait to "go forward" at the "altar call" next Sunday morning. In fact, I believe that the Lord prefers us to "keep short accounts" rather than "saving it up" for an altar call!

A wise man will make haste to forgive, because he knows the true value of time, and will not suffer it to pass away in unnecessary pain.
Samuel Johnson

Mourning and excessive sorrow are also encouraged and expected by some. Because some in the Bible did at times show deep contrition for their own or their forefathers' sins (Daniel, Peter, Jeremiah, even David, and more), and because there are admonitions to show sorrow for sin, it must not be assumed that this is always necessary for forgiveness. There are folks who cannot accept that a person can be forgiven until they see them spend a goodly portion of time sorrowing, especially for sins that are particularly "ugly" to human minds. In their thinking, they expect sinners to be sad and sorrowful for a while before they are accepted back into the beloved. Paul said regarding the man at the church in Corinth who had been placed under church discipline for open and unconfessed fornication with is father's wife (1 Cor. 5:1), 2 Corinthians 2:6-8 Sufficient to such a man is this punishment, which was inflicted of many. So that contrariwise ye ought rather to forgive him, and comfort him, lest perhaps such a one should be swallowed up with overmuch sorrow. Wherefore I beseech you that ye would confirm your love toward him. Could you love that man again in Christ? What about your fellow believer now who has committed some terrible sin and repented?

Even worse, some cannot accept the mercy and forgiveness of God as taught in scripture and so, in order to justify themselves before God, they teach that people lose their salvation at some point (though who knows where the "bad enough" line is?), and thus they make it necessary for "losers" to "get saved again"- and again, and again - in order to receive forgiveness. Basically, they believe that man's sin can be greater than God's forgiveness to His child, so by becoming an "unsaved" person "again" they can seek it and find it "again." This is hogwash. Are you greater than GOD? Jesus Christ said you are not! John 10:28-29 And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand. [See "The Double Clasp".]

In the great revival in Judah under Hezekiah the king in 2 Chronicles 30 we read that the people, who had been in a grossly backslidden state, gathered in the second month and cleansed Jerusalem. Normally, the Passover was celebrated in the first month, but they were too late, so they observed it on the fourteenth day of the second month. Many were not sanctified nor cleansed, even among the Levites, but they went ahead and killed the Passover and ate it anyway; even those who came from ungodly Israel ate. Though the law said they must be cleansed and sanctified to participate in this yet God had mercy.

We read in 2 Chronicles 30:18-20, ...But Hezekiah prayed for them, saying, The good LORD pardon every one That prepareth his heart to seek God, the LORD God of his fathers, though he be not cleansed according to the purification of the sanctuary. And the LORD hearkened to Hezekiah, and healed the people. Before the event was over, they ended up celebrating the feast for 14 days instead of the usual 7 days, and we are told, So there was great joy in Jerusalem: for since the time of Solomon the son of David king of Israel there was not the like in Jerusalem. Then the priests the Levites arose and blessed the people: and their voice was heard, and their prayer came up to his holy dwelling place, even unto heaven. 2 Chronicles 30:26-27

Thanks be unto God for His complete and quick forgiveness! Had these Jews been required by Him to mourn in proportion to their transgression there would have been no Passover that year. But God, rich in mercy and forgiveness as He is, chose to pardon them and consequently a great and wonderful thing came to pass - God Almighty heard their prayers in His holy dwelling place, heaven! (There is something to shout "Glory!" about!)

Penance is common in Roman Catholicism, yet it can reach into many other churches as well. Instead of allowing a forgiven person to serve the Lord because they love Him and appreciate His forgiveness, there are no doubt those who use the "forgiven much/love much" teaching to beat people into mandatory service. They require people to do certain things in order to prove that they truly do love the Lord. Not allowing the Spirit of God to lead a person to service, they will "convict" others of the things they "should be doing for the Lord". [I suspect that often this is because the things the Lord leads His children to do are not always the things that are on the agenda of the "superior."]

Let's remember that forgiveness is not the same as reconciliation. The offended party may forgive, but reconciliation is something that involves effort from both sides. In some situations, particularly those where a sacred trust is broken - child molestation, adultery, alcoholism or drug abuse, railing, abuse, etc. - the offended party may forgive, but the offender will need to make an effort to be reconciled. This may take time and effort on both sides. In very severe situations it may not be fully accomplished this side of heaven. Sometimes the offender does not behave in a way that will bring trust and reconciliation. The person offended should forgive them, but they are not obligated to reconcile alone. The offender must show a godly effort as well.

On the flip side, if the offended party refuses to be reconciled despite the honest efforts of the repentant offender, there may still not be reconciliation.
Another way penance is demanded by some is that if a person has committed a "bad enough" sin, they are required to show a sorrowful spirit over it the rest of their lives. They will be counted as "unworthy" for certain things, such as marrying a "pure" person, ministering in certain capacities and so forth. They may be encouraged to repeatedly repent with tears to the offended party or parties in order to be believed and continue to receive forgiveness.

On the opposite end, there are churches that will not allow someone to serve at all if they have committed certain sins. My family once knew a brother who was married to a divorced woman - he himself had not been divorced. His church wouldn't let him teach, then they told him he could no longer sing "specials" or in the choir. He was eventually demoted to doing janitorial work only. The day he decided he needed to leave that church was when he was leaving after cleaning the church building and found a deacon's son making out with his girlfriend in the back seat of the deacon's car in the church parking lot. In case you're wondering, that is called hypocrisy. That church had a unjust measure for what was "ok" sin and what was not. Proverbs 11:1 A false balance is abomination to the LORD... Just sayin'...

Yes, there are certain sins that disqualify one from specific ministries. A person who has molested children obviously should never work with kids, nor expect family members to entrust them with the care of their children. A man who is divorced is biblically not qualified to be the pastor, but that doesn't mean he can't teach upon occasion or be the church treasurer. There are still many things that a person can do to serve the Lord and they should not be compelled to either serve in specific ways or to not serve at all based on their forgiven past.

Psalm 86:5 For thou, Lord, art good, and ready to forgive; and plenteous in mercy unto all them that call upon thee.

When we deny a person their forgiven state in the Lord's church we are taking upon ourselves the responsibility and power of God. When we count a person forgiven only when they have met our requirements we are doing what the Catholic and Anglican churches do with their confessional and acts of penitence. We are reserving to ourselves the right to forgive and "absolve" sin. If we need some allegedly superior person to say, "Your sins are forgiven," we have a inserted another mediator other than Jesus Christ (1 Tim. 2:5). When someone is excluded from serving the Lord or is put in a "second-class" state in the assembly because of some past sin that God has forgiven, they are being held in a bondage to their brethren in Christ that God does not require.

Divorce brings a biblical exclusion from certain positions in the Lord's church, but men usually either ignore God's requirements altogether, or carry them too far and exclude the person from things God has not excluded them from. (1 Tim. 3, Titus 1 and so forth). [Note: Being single also brings some of these exclusions, but it is not for sin. Beware how you judge people.]

Luke 5:21 And the scribes and the Pharisees began to reason, saying, Who is this which speaketh blasphemies? Who can forgive sins, but God alone? 22 But when Jesus perceived their thoughts, he answering said unto them, What reason ye in your hearts? 23 Whether is easier, to say, Thy sins be forgiven thee; or to say, Rise up and walk? 24 But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power upon earth to forgive sins, (he said unto the sick of the palsy,) I say unto thee, Arise, and take up thy couch, and go into thine house.

The scribes and Pharisees knew that only God has power to forgive sin. Do you?


Free Indeed

Romans 4:7 Saying, Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered.

John 8:36 If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.

There is a wonderful freedom that comes from being forgiven. To truly know that God has forgiven our sins brings great liberty to serve Him. This is why the devil and some people want to keep us guilty - so we won't serve the Lord as HE would have us to.

A true understanding of salvation that cannot be lost, forgiveness of sin and the tremendous price Christ paid for these, will not lead us to live in sin as some so wrongfully assume. It will bring greater love and greater service. David desired to have the joy of God's salvation (not the actual salvation which he hadn't lost) restored to him for, Then will I teach transgressors thy ways; and sinners shall be converted unto thee. Psalm 51:13 His desire was to reach others in sin and bring them to God's marvelous ways.

Forgiveness also frees the saints to minister to the forgiven. When a public sin has been publicly confessed the sinner is then open to receive the ministrations of the saints. I once knew a young couple who got into fornication. The young man, desiring to do the right thing confessed this public sin to the assembly of the believers. Since they had sinned against their church in bringing this shame upon the assembly, it was confessed before them. The confessing was verbally accepted by the assembly in the Spirit of God and the young people were restored. This not only ruined the "fun" for any gossips in the assembly, it also ruined it for believers in other churches and for the lost at the bridge games, barber shops, and bars. When the story came up, anyone who knew of their confession could squelch it by simply saying, "I heard he publicly confessed that sin and the church forgave them."

Even more than that, though, it opened up the way for the saints to minister to the needs of this young couple as they were joined in marriage some time later. The shame was removed and they were able to receive help and encouragement in the right way from those, who like Peter, were also forgiven of sins and desired to be a blessing to the Lord's sheep. The beauty and sweetness of that forgiveness, an example of God's, was profoundly displayed one night when that trembling young couple voluntarily got up before the assembly and sang a duet - "I gave My life for thee, My precious blood I shed, That thou might'st ransomed be, And quickened from the dead; I gave, I gave My life for thee, What hast thou given for Me?" [Frances Havergal]

Christian friend, if you too have been forgiven, what are you doing for the Lord?


Confessing To God And Others

James 5:15-16 And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him. Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much. Notice we are to confess our faults one to another. This does not mean we are to confess every secret sin or sinful thought to others as the Oxford Movement in England taught, and as the Roman Catholics and Anglicans have practiced in their confessionals. Confess your sins to the Lord as it says in 1 John 1:9, and if you have directly sinned against someone who needs to be repented to (as it says in Lk. 17:4), then confess to them. Confessing and admitting our faults is another matter.

Beware of groups that teach we should confess our secret sins to each other, or to people other than the offended parties. A man we knew was at a Promise Keepers meeting where they were teaching that if a man was unfaithful to his wife that he should confess it to another man. Our brother in Christ realized at that point that something was seriously wrong with Promise Keepers. He rightly said, "If I sin against my wife, I need to confess it to her, not some other man." If a man has a fault of being repeatedly unfaithful to his wife (pornography, flirtations, thought life, adultery, etc.) he may want to tell another godly man about it and ask for his prayer and accountability in overcoming that, but confessing every secret sin is not the point.

God may send trouble for unconfessed sin as we read above, but if your sin is confessed, the trouble is for some other reason. I have a friend that went through 12 years of depression. She told me that when it was at its worst she was confessing every sin she could think of and some she never committed to try to get peace and healing. Her depression was not chastening for sin. It was that the glory of God might be revealed in her and to prepare her to minister to others. Her kind Father desired that she should partake of His holiness through that means (Heb. 12:10).


In Conclusion

Just because you cannot forgive yourself does not mean God has not forgiven you. Jesus Christ is greater than your sin, and God forgives for Jesus' sake, not based on your worthiness or the severity of the sin you committed. If forgiveness were based upon our worthiness, or if it depended on how bad the sin is in God's sight, no one could be saved.

Psalm 130:3-4
If thou, LORD, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand?
there is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared.

Thanks be unto God that our Saviour is greater than our sin, and that His sacrifice will cover every stain! Praise the Lord that His forgiveness is Godlike because the payment was Godlike!

...let God be true, but every man a liar; Romans 3:4. When we feel unforgiven after we have confessed, it is the devil or our sinful, deceitful heart (Jer. 17:9) that is telling us that, not God. We must seek the Lord's assurance and help at times like this. As with David, our desire should be to know and rejoice in being forgiven by God. Psalm 51:14 Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God, thou God of my salvation: and my tongue shall sing aloud of thy righteousness. 15 O Lord, open thou my lips; and my mouth shall shew forth thy praise. 16 For thou desirest not sacrifice; else would I give it: thou delightest not in burnt offering. 17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.

Do you believe what God says? To say that you are still guilty of your sin when you have confessed it is to call God a liar. It would be much wiser to admit that your heart is lying to you and allow God to give His peace that passeth understanding (Philp. 4:7)

We ought to be Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son: In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins: Colosians 1:12-14.

We are not come to Mt. Sinai that burned with fire, where there was blackness and a tempest, a trumpet and the voice of words (Hebrews 12:19)...which voice they that heard intreated that the word should not be spoken to them any more: 20 (For they could not endure that which was commanded, And if so much as a beast touch the mountain, it shall be stoned, or thrust through with a dart: 21 And so terrible was the sight, that Moses said, I exceedingly fear and quake:) They could not keep those laws for righteousness nor to earn forgiveness from God.

Hebrews 12:22 But ye are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, 23 To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect, 24 And to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel. The blood of Jesus Christ speaks better things for it speaks of a completed work, a sanctifying of the inner man, eternal salvation, and a faithful and just forgiveness offered upon simple confession.

Ephesians 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: 4 According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: 5 Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, 6 To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved. 7 In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace;


No Greater Love


 photographs, & graphics by Mary Stephens
Original painting in artwork by Joseph Farquharson.
Painted in 1903. With verse, framed.

Updated Sept. 2021