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Do We Need to Repent To Be Forgiven?

The question of forgiving one another has plagued me ever since I became a follower of Jesus.  I heard many pastors and Bible teachers comment on this subject, but I did not feel they were teaching the message of the biblical text.  Instead, what I was hearing was  helpful common sense advice and psychological healthy ways to look at the way we should forgive one another.

Recently a good friend of mine whom I deeply respect, challenged me on my beliefs regarding the need for repentance as a condition for forgiveness.

Where I agree on this issue with my friend is that we both are in harmony that for a person to be reconciled with God, there must be a display of contriteness or repentance to experience the eternal forgiveness of God.  This is designated “vertical forgiveness” because it takes place between man and God.

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Forgive One Another

Where my friend and I disagree is whether or not repentance is necessary when we as humans forgive one another.  If I offend another person, do I need to go to that person or have that person come to me so that I can confess my sin, state my intention to repent and ask for that person’s forgiveness?

My friend’s viewpoint is that we can forgive the other person through the forgiveness Jesus obtained for us through His death on the cross. The grace of God shown in the sacrificial death of Yeshua on the cross should so overwhelm us, that the natural outflow of our awe towards God’s love is to forgive others because God has shown His merciful forgiveness to us through His Son.

There is not always the need for repentance when there is “vertical forgiveness.”  On the basis of the atonement we have in the Messiah, we forgive one another. with or without any display of repentance. In the Sermon on the Mount, in the Lord’s prayer in Matthew 6:12, we read, “And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors (NIV).  (more…)

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