What does the Bible say about forgiveness?

I think it is safe to say all of us have had something happen to us that needs forgiveness. Most likely, we have all done something to someone else also that needs forgiving.

There are a lot of books out there on forgiveness. One of the latest books is by Katherine Schwarzenegger Pratt, the daughter of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Maria Shriver. She interviewed a lot of different people, and she concluded that forgiveness is different for every person. But what does the Bible say about forgiveness?

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What is the link between forgiveness in the Old Testament and forgiveness in the New Testament?

Is it OK to carry a grudge?

Are you familiar with the story of Joseph in the book of Genesis?

If anyone could have carried a grudge, it would have been Joseph. forgiveness Sold into slavery by his older brothers, the people who should have been protecting him. Thrown into prison by his employer for a crime he did not commit. Then God gave him an accurate interpretation of two dreams and the favorable dream that came true, that person was restored to their position serving Pharaoh, but he forgot about Joseph and Joseph remained in prison a few more years.

Forgiveness is first mentioned in the Bible in Genesis 50:17 when Joseph’s brothers asked him to forgive them for selling him into slavery because they were worried he was carrying a grudge.

Joseph was a type of Christ, but he still was not the Christ. When his brothers asked him to forgive them, he cried because he did not carry a grudge and he forgave them, but when they asked him to forgive them for sinning against God, he said he is not in God’s place, so that is between them and God. But, as far as them and Joseph, they were cool.

Throughout the rest of the Old Testament, 99% of the time, forgiveness is mentioned only when asking God to forgive His people. It is not really mentioned again in the Old Testament asking humans to forgive other humans.

The last time in the Old Testament forgiveness is mentioned, God Himself mentions it in Hosea 1:6. The KJV translates it as “I will no more have mercy upon the house of Israel; but I will utterly take them away.” Most of the other translations, NASB for example, translates it as “I will no longer take pity on the house of Israel, that I would ever forgive them.”

So, I was a little confused by the contrast in wording here because in the KJV it seems like God is saying He will take them away, and the other translations, it seems like God is saying He won’t forgive them. So I did some research.

It turns out the phrase “I will utterly” from the KJV and “I would ever” from the NASB both mean “I should ever” and it is one Hebrew word, a verb, an Infinitive absolute verb, which means it is prophetic.

God goes on to say in verse 7, “Yet I will have compassion on the house of Judah, and I will save them—not by bow or sword or war, not by horses and cavalry, but by the LORD their God.”

Both did happen. Assyria deported the 10 northern tribes of Israel, and then in 701BC, Assyria, under a different name,  advanced against Judah, but Assyria was defeated by the Death Angel.

Whether translating it is “I should ever forgive” or “I should ever take away” it is the same Hebrew word and it appears over 650 times in the Old Testament in different variations. Depending on the context, it means different things.

One time, it was used as the word forgive by Pharaoh in Exodus 10:17, when he asked Moses and Aaron to forgive his sin after the plague of locusts. It is also used 2 verses later, when the wind took up the locusts and carried them away, used as the word took up, which was God answering Pharaoh’s prayer and forgiving that sin.

It is also used when speaking of God’s Angel, when He led the children of Israel through the wilderness and God said the Angel would not pardon their transgression.

So, what about God’s forgiveness? We all know from Revelation 19:10, “The testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.” If you don’t know, you should know that Jesus is the Word of God. Jesus is the One who spoke through all the Old Testament prophets, prophesying about Himself, which is what Revelation 19:10 means.

So, forgiveness is first mentioned in the New Testament by Jesus during His ministry, when He was giving us The Lord’s prayer. The Lord’s Prayer is the tie between forgiveness in the Old Testament and forgiveness in the New Testament.

In the Old Testament, it was mainly about God’s people asking for forgiveness from God. The Lord’s Prayer is Jesus, God, answering all the times His people asked Him in the Old Testament to forgive them their sins. It is also Jesus beginning to tell us how to live life in a constant state of forgiveness, not only forgiveness from God, but from other people also and our forgiveness to other people as well.

The Lord’s Prayer

Our Father in heaven,
Hallowed be Your name.
Your kingdom come.
Your will be done
On earth as it is in heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread.

And forgive us our debts,
As we forgive our debtors.
And do not lead us into temptation,
But deliver us from the evil one.
For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.

“For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”

Most people do not know what Daily Bread means. It is one word and this was the only time this word was used in the Bible and researchers had no reference to translate the word. Recently, during excavations in Israel, archeologists found ancient shopping lists. On these shopping lists was the word Daily Bread.

This was bread with ingredients that would rot by the end of the day, just like Manna. It was known as Poor Man’s Bread. So, Jesus was saying we need to get fed fresh from God every day or our spiritual man will begin to decay.

Now, back to the last time in the Old Testament forgiveness is mentioned, Jesus Himself mentions it in Hosea 1:6, from the KJV, “I will no more have mercy upon the house of Israel; but I will utterly take them away.”

Yes, this was prophetic as far as events with Assyria that have already happened, but Jesus knew way back when He was giving Hosea his prophecies, 780 years before Jesus gave us The Lord’s Prayer, that Koine Greek would be the main language spoken while Jesus was giving His Sermon on the Mount.

The Hebrew word for forgiveness in Hosea 1:6 is the same Greek word for forgiveness in The Lord’s Prayer.

When Jesus said, “And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors,” That word forgive is the Greek word aphiēmi (ah-fee-a-me) and it means to send away, release, discharge; an example would be releasing any desire to punish, which is releasing any desire to take revenge. So, Jesus was picking back up where He left off in Hosea 1:6.

This word aphiēmi also means to let go, send away all bitterness, not carry a grudge, which is what Jesus was telling us in the Lord’s Prayer, “Father, release us from all Your desire to punish us, do not take revenge on us, nor carry a grudge against us, as we do the same to anyone we think has wronged us.”

For if you release others of their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also release you.

The wording Jesus used is, “And forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors.” When Jesus used the context as “have forgiven” that means it is something we all must do, at all times. Because Jesus used it as past tense, that means it is a done deal for those walking in His will, a policy God has decided for all situations.

For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

Jesus was saying unforgiveness is not an option, no matter the circumstances. We must release all desire to take revenge on all people who hurt us, without exception, never carry a grudge.

Forgiving someone does not mean you have to trust them anymore, nor do you have to reinstate the person to the same place they held in your heart, you just must choose not to personally prosecute the person. You must let go and release the person from your desire to take revenge because, if you do not release the person, you can very easily make the person an idol in your life.

Soon enough, unforgiveness can cause the person who offended you to take the place of God in your heart, receiving the attention God deserves and robbing God of first place in your heart. Unforgiveness also can start to make you think the person is beyond grace, cannot be saved.

Jesus talked about this in Matthew 5:21-22 when He was talking about murder begins in the heart. Jesus said, You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.’ But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, ‘Raca!’ shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be in danger of hell fire.

And this word brother is not referring to a close family member or a fellow Christian either, this word is referring to all people.

Raca is a word, when used, that shows such a large amount of deep-rooted anger toward the person that word is directed, that the person is no longer viewed as a brother (person), but is viewed as a symbol of hatred.

“You Fool!” is calling someone wicked, the way King Solomon often used this word when judging people. Using the word Fool in this way is judging someone’s spiritual state and judging where the person will spend eternity and is saying the person is beyond grace, cannot be saved, and saying the person will spend eternity in hell.

Jesus was talking about making someone a symbol of hatred, so much so, that the person is not even viewed as human anymore. Does that go on in the world today? Yes!

This is a time when the entire world is being offended, and that is the strategy of the enemy. Satan wants us all to practice unforgiveness so we cannot make it to Heaven, that is the end game.

Refusing to forgive puts ourselves on the throne of God because only God has the right to take vengeance on people. So, we must all forgive everyone who wrongs anyone, which means we must send away the desire to act as the final judge.

Just because you forgive someone, that does not mean that God forgives the person. Our forgiveness does not pardon the person, only God can pardon the person. Forgiveness does not mean we have to agree with the offender, or even acknowledge the offender may be right. We do not have to compromise our morals to find middle ground with the offender either. Forgiveness does not always mean forgetting, but it does mean keeping your heart right with God.

That word, forgive, in the Lord’s Prayer, is the same word Jesus used while on the cross.

So, what I want to focus on finally is Luke 23:34, when Jesus was being crucified, just before He died on the cross, where Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.

This is not Jesus being God forgiving sins, this is Jesus being human, showing us how we are to forgive others.

In the midst of the most evil anyone has ever done to us, we are still expected to keep our heart right with God, to not carry a grudge, to not wish evil on our offenders, but instead to love our enemies and bless those who curse us, do good to those who hate us and pray for those who spitefully use and persecute us, so that we may be sons of our Father in Heaven because at any time the most evil person you know can suddenly get right with God and begin that person’s walk with God, while your unforgiveness has caused you to stop walking with God, and possibly caused you to end up in hell.

So, forgiveness is a choice to follow God’s command to forgive, just like Adam and Eve had the choice to follow God’s command to not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. You can choose unforgiveness, but choosing forgiveness instead will open up your Garden of Eden to all the other choices God planted for you from the foundation of the world.

What Does The Bible Say About Forgiveness?


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