What Does the Bible Say About Forgiveness?


When we think of forgiveness in the Bible, the first thing that comes to mind is God’s forgiveness of sinners. While there are many examples of forgiveness in the Bible, God’s forgiveness is the greatest and most impactful to our everyday lives. Because of God’s forgiveness, we can live in a relationship with God. For this reason, forgiveness is an essential part of our Christian life which means it’s important for us to fully understand.

What is Forgiveness?

The Bible does not define forgiveness explicitly, but there are many examples of forgiveness throughout the Bible. In 1 John 1, we find that two essential things must occur for forgiveness to be present.

  1. There must be a confession
  2. There must be faith

1 John 1:8–10: “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us.”

While the word forgiveness isn’t explicitly used in Genesis 15:6 is one of the first examples of forgiveness in the Bible: Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness.” In this verse, Abram (who will be renamed Abraham in later chapters) is a sinner but has faith when God tells Abram that he will have a son. As this passage demonstrates, we believe that forgiveness cannot be earned, but is freely given by God through faith.

Mercy, Grace, and Forgiveness

Forgiveness goes hand and hand with mercy and grace. Mercy means to withhold something (like a punishment) that someone deserves. Whereas grace is to give someone something (like a second chance) when they don’t deserve it. 

Holistically, the Bible is a story about God’s grace, mercy, and forgiveness on us, His children. He has withheld punishment even when we deserve it, like in Amos 1:3-13. He has given us the gift of eternal life when we do not deserve it, like in John 3:16. Because of His grace and mercy, we are forgiven and able to be in the right relationship with him.

God and Forgiveness

Because of God’s forgiveness, we have been made members of the eternal Kingdom.

Psalm 103:8–12:The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever; he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.”

Think about “how high the heavens are above the earth.” That distance is immeasurable and unfathomable for our human understanding. Likewise, “so great is his love for those who fear him.” In Psalm 103, the writer talks about how the Lord forgives us:.“Praise the LORD, my soul, and forget not all his benefits— who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases.”

In Matthew 26:28, we see how we are forgiven through the blood of Christ: “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins”.). We can rest in peace knowing that we do not need to hide our deepest of sins because of the forgiveness paid on the cross. As Christians, the blood of Christ has covered a multitude of sins, the ones we committed yesterday, today, and tomorrow.

Take a moment to reflect on your own life. Have you confessed your sins to the Lord and accepted His ready forgiveness? 

Humans and Forgiveness

At this point, it is clear that forgiveness is part of God’s very nature. What does that mean for us? In Colossians 3, God gives us direction: “Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you”. Here are a few characteristics of how the Lord forgives and ways we can emulate this fruit in our lives:

    • Forgive constantly: Matthew 18:21–35: “Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, ‘Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?’ Jesus answered, ‘I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.’”
    • Forgive mercifully: Luke 6:36 – “Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.”
    • Forgive without judgment: Luke 6:37Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.

Forgiving others is hard, but we are called to forgive those who wrong us. It is not optional, but mandatory. ​​Mark 11:25 says “And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.” 

Have you forgiven everyone who has wronged you? We want to encourage you to take the time to reflect and consider forgiving those who have hurt you.

Draw Near to God and Forgive

Hebrews 4:16 specifically shows that in our action of drawing near to God, he gives mercy, grace, and forgiveness freely. “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Let us draw near to the Lord today and accept His constant, loving, ready forgiveness.

Have more questions about forgiveness? Whether you need to talk to someone or would like to get involved with a group of fellow believers, our church family is ready to welcome you. Reach out for more information today.


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