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Biblical Forgiveness
by Rabbi Nick Liebenberg


In This Lesson
Introduction | How Can We Experience YAHVEH's Forgiveness?
Why Should We Forgive One Another? | Will YAHVEH Forgive Any Sin?


The Bible commands us to forgive others when they have wronged us and to seek forgiveness when we have wronged others. We must do this to follow the example of YAHVEH, who extends to us the ultimate pardon — forgiveness for our sins.

Forgiveness is a pardon for an offense or a wrong, also called remission of sins. Because of the fall of man and our own actions, all humans are sinful. Our sin separates us spiritually from YAHVEH. However, YAHVEH forgives us through our faith in the sacrificial death of Yeshua.

YAHVEH continues to forgive us as we continue to confess our sins (see 1 John 1:9). The Bible tells us that YAHVEH "forgets" our sin when He forgives us. "And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, 'Know the LORD,' for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more." (Jeremiah 31:34)

It is as far from us as the east is from the west. Psalm 103:11-12—

Likewise, we are instructed to forgive one another. "Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in HaMashiach YAHVEH forgave you." (Ephesians 4:32)

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How Can We Experience YAHVEH's Forgiveness?
Although God's love is unconditional and Jesus died for the sins of the "world", forgiveness of our sins and offences against Him and others is conditional. Salvation is not a one-time thing that gives us a "free" pass to continue in His redemptive love. In order to receive and continue to experience His unmerited forgiveness, requires that we abide in Him and daily practice the following discplines.

Experiencing YAHVEH's Forgiveness Comes through Confession and Repentance
"For I recognize my shameful deeds; they haunt me day and night." (Psalm 51:3)

This psalm was David's written confession to YAHVEH after a particularly sinful episode in his life. David was truly sorry for his adultery with Bathsheba and for murdering her husband to cover it up. He knew that his actions had hurt many people. But because David repented of those sins, YAHVEH mercifully forgave him. No sin is too great to be forgiven!

Although YAHVEH forgives us, He does not always erase the natural consequences of our sin. David's life and family were never the same as a result of what he had done (see 2 Samuel 12:1-23).

We Can Be Confident That Our Sins Have Been Forgiven in HaMashiach
"If you forgive anyone's sins, they are forgiven. If you refuse to forgive them, they are un-forgiven." (John 20:23)

Yeshua was giving the disciples their Spirit-powered and Spirit-guided mission: to preach the Good News about Yeshua so people's sins might be forgiven. The disciples did not have the power to forgive sins (only YAHVEH can forgive sins), but Yeshua gave them the privilege of telling new believers that their sins have been forgiven because they have accepted Yeshua's message.

All believers have this same privilege. We can announce the forgiveness of sin with certainty when we find repentance and faith.

YAHVEH Consistently Forgives Us Each Time We Ask in Repentance
"Now I am giving you a new Commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other." (John 13:34)

John describes these few moments in clear detail. We can see that Yeshua knew exactly what was going to happen. He knew about Judas and about Peter, but He did not change the course of events, nor did He stop loving them.

In the same way, Yeshua knows exactly what you and I will do to hurt Him. Yet, He still loves us unconditionally and forgives us whenever we ask for it. Judas couldn't understand this and his life ended tragically. Peter understood and despite his shortcomings, his life ended triumphantly because he never let go of his faith in the One who loved him.

Forgiveness Is Complete Even When Confession Isn't
"If we confess our sins to Him, He is faithful and just to forgive us and to cleanse us from every wrong." (1 John 1:9)

Confession is supposed to free us to enjoy fellowship with HaMashiach. It should ease our consciences and lighten our cares. However, some Christians do not understand how it works. They feel so guilty that they confess the same sins over and over. Then they wonder if they might have forgotten something. Other Christians believe that YAHVEH forgives them when they confess, but if they died with unconfessed sins, they would be forever lost.

These Christians do not understand that YAHVEH wants to forgive us. He allowed His beloved Son to die just so He could pardon us. When we come to HaMashiach, He forgives all the sins we have committed or will ever commit. We don't need to confess the sins of the past all over again and we don't need to fear that YAHVEH will reject us if we don't keep our slate perfectly clean.

Of course, we should continue to confess our sins, but not because failure to do so will make us lose our salvation. However, we should confess our sins so we can enjoy maximum fellowship and joy with Him.

Honest Confession Includes Turning Away from Sin
True confession also involves a commitment not to continue in sin. We wouldn't be genuinely confessing our sins to YAHVEH if we planned to commit them again and just wanted temporary forgiveness. We should also pray for strength to defeat temptation the next time we face it.

Confession Re-establishes Relationship with YAHVEH
If YAHVEH has forgiven our sins because of HaMashiach's death, why must we confess our sins? In admitting our sins and receiving HaMashiach's cleansing, we are:

  1. agreeing with YAHVEH that our sin truly was sin and that we are willing to turn from it;
  2. ensuring we don't conceal our sins from Him and consequently, from ourselves; and
  3. recognizing our tendency to sin and relying on His power to overcome it.

Why Should We Forgive One Another and How Can We Do It?

Joseph Is a Model of Genuine Forgiveness
"Don't be angry with yourselves that you did this to me, for YAHVEH did it. He sent me here ahead of you to preserve your lives." (Genesis 45:5)

Joseph was rejected, kidnapped, enslaved, and imprisoned. Although his brothers had been unfaithful to him, he graciously forgave them and shared his prosperity with them. Joseph demonstrated how YAHVEH forgives us and showers us with goodness even though we have sinned against Him. The same forgiveness and blessings are ours if we ask for them.

Forgiveness Is a Mark of the Christian Life
"Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: 'It is mine to avenge; I will repay,' says the Lord. On the contrary: 'If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.' Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good." (Romans 12:17-21 NIV)

These verses summarize the core of Christian living. If we love someone the way HaMashiach loves us, we will be willing to forgive. If we have experienced YAHVEH's grace, we will want to pass it on to others. And remember, grace is undeserved favour. By giving an enemy a drink, we're not excusing his misdeeds; we're simply recognizing him, forgiving him, and loving him in spite of his sins . . . just as HaMashiach has done for us.

Forgiveness Is Contrary to the Pattern of the World
In this day of constant lawsuits and incessant demands for legal rights, Paul's command sounds almost impossible. When someone hurts you deeply, instead of giving him what he deserves, Paul says to befriend him.

Why does Paul tell us to forgive our enemies?

  1. Forgiveness may break a cycle of retaliation and lead to mutual reconciliation.
  2. It may make the enemy feel ashamed and change his or her ways.
  3. By contrast, returning evil for evil hurts you just as much as it hurts your enemy. Even if your enemy never repents, forgiving him or her will free you of a heavy load of bitterness.

Forgiveness Is an Act of the Will
Forgiveness involves both attitudes and actions. If you find it difficult to feel forgiveness toward those who have hurt you, try responding with kind actions. If appropriate, tell such people that you would like to heal your relationships. Give them a helping hand. Send them a gift. Smile at them. Many times you will discover that right actions lead to right feelings.

If We Expect to be Forgiven, We Need to Practice Forgiveness
"If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins." (Matthew 6:14-15)

Yeshua gives a startling warning about forgiveness: if we refuse to forgive others, YAHVEH will also refuse to forgive us. Why? Because when we don't forgive others, we are denying our common ground as sinners in need of YAHVEH's forgiveness. YAHVEH's forgiveness of sin is not the direct result of our forgiving others, but it is based on our realizing what forgiveness means.
Ephesians 4:32—

It is easy to ask YAHVEH for forgiveness, but sometimes difficult to grant it to others. Whenever we ask YAHVEH to forgive us for sin, we should ask ourselves, "Have I forgiven the people who have wronged me?"

Real Forgiveness Does Not Keep Track of Offenses
"Peter came to him and asked, 'Adonai, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?'" (Matthew 18:21)

The Rabbis taught that people should forgive those who offend them, but only three times. Peter, trying to be especially generous, asked Yeshua if seven (the "perfect" number) was enough times to forgive someone. But Yeshua answered, "Seventy times seven," meaning we shouldn't even keep track of how many times we forgive someone. We should always forgive those who are truly repentant, no matter how many times they ask.

Real Forgiveness Follows YAHVEH's Pattern
Because YAHVEH has forgiven all our sins, we should not withhold forgiveness from others. Realizing how completely HaMashiach has forgiven us should produce a free and generous attitude of forgiveness toward others. When we don't forgive others, we are setting ourselves outside and above HaMashiach's Law of love.

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Will YAHVEH Forgive Any Sin?
"Anyone who calls on the Name of Adonai will be saved." (Joel 2:32)

Mark 3:28-29—

Romans 8:38—

Forgiveness is not based on the magnitude of the sin, but the magnitude of the forgiver's love. No sin is too great for YAHVEH's complete and unconditional love. The Bible does, however, mention one unforgivable sin; an attitude of defiant hostility toward YAHVEH that prevents us from accepting His forgiveness. Those who don't want His forgiveness are out of its reach.

What Does It Really Mean to be "Forgiven"?
"And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister." (Colossians 1:21-23)

Isaiah 1:18—

Forgiveness means that YAHVEH looks at us as though we have never sinned. We are blameless before Him. "Repent of this wickedness and pray to the Lord. Perhaps he will forgive you for . . . I see that you are . . . captive to sin." (Acts 8:22-23)

Forgiveness frees us from slavery to sin. Matthew 5:44—

Forgiveness paves the way for harmonious relationships, even with our enemies. Romans 4:7—

Forgiveness brings great joy.

How Do I Experience Forgiveness When I Have Done Wrong?
"Against You and You alone, have I sinned; I have done what is evil in Your sight." (Psalm 51:4)

We must realize that it is YAHVEH whom we have wronged by our sin.

"Confess your sin to Adonai, the Elohim of your ancestors and do what He demands." (Ezra 10:11)

2 Chronicles 7:14—

1 John 1:8-9—

We will receive YAHVEH's forgiveness when we confess our sins to Him, stop doing what is wrong, and turn to Him with our whole heart. "This is My blood, which seals the covenant between YAHVEH and His people. It is poured out to forgive the sins of many." (Matthew 26:28) Yeshua died so that YAHVEH's forgiveness would be freely available to us.
Acts 10:43—

"In this man Yeshua there is forgiveness for your sins." (Acts 13:38)

We receive YAHVEH's forgiveness by trusting in HaMashiach.

What Can I Do to Activate YAHVEH's Loving Forgiveness?
"If my people . . . will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins..." (2 Chronicles 7:14 emphasis added)

"If we confess our sins to Him, He is faithful and just to forgive us." (1 John 1:9 emphasis added)

Confessing sin is the first step to forgiveness.

Why Would YAHVEH Want to Forgive Me?
"Please pardon the sins of this people because of Your magnificent, unfailing love." (Numbers 14:19) YAHVEH's love is His motivation for His forgiveness.

Do I Have to Forgive Others Who Hurt Me?
"If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins." (Matthew 6:14-15) We will receive YAHVEH's forgiveness only when we are willing to forgive others who have wronged us.

"And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins. [But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father who is in heaven forgive your sins.]" (Mark 11:25-26)

"If another believer sins, rebuke him; then if he repents, forgive him. Even if he wrongs you seven times a day and each time turns again and asks forgiveness, forgive him." (Luke 17:3-4)

Forgiveness is not cheap. Just as YAHVEH forgives us without limit, we should forgive others without counting how many times.

"Peter came to Him and asked, 'Adonai, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?' 'No!' Yeshua replied, 'seventy times seven!'" (Matthew 18:21-22)

Yeshua forgave those who mocked Him and killed Him. Luke 23:34—

"You must make allowance for each other's faults and forgive the person who offends you. Remember, Adonai forgave you, so you must forgive others." (Colossians 3:13)

YAHVEH wants us to respond to others' sins by blessing them. "Don't repay evil for evil. Don't retaliate when people say unkind things about you. Instead, pay them back with a blessing. That is what YAHVEH wants you to do and He will bless you for it." (1 Peter 3:8-9)

Is There a Limit to How Much YAHVEH Will Forgive Me?
"Come now, let us argue this out [reason], says Adonai. No matter how deep the stain of your sins, I can remove it. I can make you as clean as freshly fallen snow. Even if you are stained as red as crimson, I can make you as white as wool." (Isaiah 1:18)

Joel 2:32—

No matter how sinful or disobedient we have been, we can receive YAHVEH's forgiveness by turning to Him in repentance. Psalm 86:5-

Psalm 103:3—

Ezekiel 18:22—

YAHVEH is ready, waiting and willing to forgive us. "The Kingdom of Heaven can be compared to a king who decided to bring his accounts up to date . . . one of his debtors was brought in who owed him millions of dollars. He couldn't pay . . . Then the king was filled with pity for him and he released him and forgave his debt." (Matthew 18:23-27 paraphrased)

YAHVEH is merciful toward us, even though our debt is so great. "With My authority, take this message of repentance to all the nations, beginning in Jerusalem: 'There is forgiveness of sins for all who turn to Me.'" (Luke 24:47)

YAHVEH will forgive every sin because HaMashiach has already paid the penalty for all sin by His death.
Ephesians 1:7-

Colossians 1:14—

Those who harden themselves against YAHVEH's Ruach (Spirit) and reject Him utterly will never experience His forgiveness.

"...all the sins and blasphemies of men will be forgiven them. . . . anyone who blasphemes against Ruach HaKodesh will never be forgiven. It is an eternal sin." (Mark 3:28-29)

Does love have a limit? Neither does forgiveness! Luke 17:4—

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