“There is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared”

(Psalm 130:4)

In dealing with the subject of forgiveness we should first of all consider what God does. The above quotation would help. If God did not forgive sins there would be no point in repenting or saying such things as “ O God, have compassion on me, the sinner” (Luke 18:13). We might as well live out our life saying: “Let us eat and drink; for to-morrow we die” (1 Corinthians 15:32). On the other hand if God just forgave sins automatically we would not have to bother whether we sinned or not because forgiveness would be easily obtainable. Neither of these extremes are right. The fact is, God does forgive sins, but there must be genuine repentance. We have no claim on God to forgive us: we cannot highhandedly demand forgiveness. Forgiveness is in God’s sovereign will: “To whom he will he shews mercy” (Romans 9:18; see also verse 15). We cannot demand mercy, though we may entreat God for it. All this should lead us to fear God.

In the above connection there is what is spoken of as the unforgivable sin, that is the sin (injurious speaking) against the Holy Spirit (Mark 3:29). This is a solemn warning to any that would call evil good and good evil (Isaiah 5:20). The Pharisees had called what was beyond question the Holy Spirit an unclean spirit (Mark 3:30). Practically it is almost impossible to reason with such persons. We should also notice 1 John 5:16 “There is a sin to death”. God will not be trifled with.

If we have been forgiven our sins we should similarly forgive those who sin against us as Paul says: “ Forgiving one another, so as God also in Christ has forgiven you” (Ephesians 4:32). However though we may be ready to forgive, there is no idea in Scripture that we should actually forgive others before there has been repentance on their part. God does not forgive unless there is repentance (2 Chronicles 6:26-31; Jonah 3:5-10; 1 John 1:9) and there is no idea that we should do so. If we did it might be said that we were more forgiving than God !

Christ Himself spoke of forgiveness. He said: “If thy brother should sin, rebuke him; and if he should repent, forgive him. And if he should sin against thee seven times in the day, and seven times should